What God Wills (part two)

Mathnawi V: 3131-3164

And as with (the saying of the Prophet Muhammad), "Truly,
the Pen has dried."1 It means that the Pen has dried and wrote:
"Obedience (to God) and rebellion are not equal; honesty and
theft are not equal." The Pen has dried (and wrote): "Gratitude
(toward God) and ingratitude are not equal." The Pen has dried
(and wrote): "For God does not allow the reward of those who
do good to be lost." 2

3130 Just as the explanation of (the saying of the Prophet
Muhammad), "The Pen has dried," (is that it) is for the
sake of urging the most important work [in life].3

So the Pen wrote that for every action there is
an effect and recompense4 suitable to it.

(If) you go and act crookedly, crookedness will come
to you-- the Pen has dried (concerning that). (But if)
you act honestly, (Heavenly) joy will appear to you.5

(If) you act unjustly, you are unfortunate (in the
Hereafter)6 -- the Pen has dried (and wrote that).

(And if) you act justly, you will enjoy good fortune7--
the Pen has dried (concerning that).

3135 If (someone) steals, his hand has gone-- the Pen has
dried (and wrote that).8 (If) he drinks wine, he became
drunk-- the Pen has dried (concerning that).9

Do you hold it to be suitable, (or) could it be right,
that God should become like a person dismissed
(from a position of authority) [who is asked] about a
prior command,

(And) say, "The matter has gone out of My control,
(so) don't come before Me in this manner (and) don't
bother (Me) like this"?

No, rather the meaning is: "The Pen has dried (in
regard to the distinction) that justice and injustice are
not the same thing to Me.10

"I have established the difference between good and
bad (actions); I have also established (the difference)
between bad and worse (actions)."

3140 Even if there is within you an atom's increase of
courteous respect11 compared to your friend, the Lord's
Wisdom will know,12

(And) will give you the (reward for the) amount of
that atom's increase; (the increase of) the atom will
step forth13 (on the Day of Judgment) like (the size of) a

Any king for whom, in the presence of his throne,
there is no distinction between a trustworthy person and
one who seeks injustice,

(Or between) one who trembles from fear of his
disapproval and one who mocks (him) because of
[envying] his wealth (and kingdom),15

(So that) both are one to him (and) there is no
distinction-- he is not a (real) king. (May) dark soil be
put) on his head!

3145 Even if your effort is an atom greater,16 it will be
weighed in God's Scales.

(Yet) you constantly agonize (your) soul in the
presence of these (worldly) kings, (but) they (are) unaware
of (the distinction between) treachery and the light (of

The words of a slanderer who speaks badly about
you (to the king) will cause your years of service to be

(But) the speech of slanderers will not find a
dwelling-place in the presence of a King who is
All-Hearing and All-Seeing.18

(Therefore), because of Him, all the slanderers
become despairing. (But) they come to us and
increase (their bad) advice.19

3150 They speak very unjustly about the King to us,
saying, "Go (away)! The Pen has dried (concerning your
fate). (So) don't act (so) faithfully.20

Can this be the meaning of "the Pen has dried"--
that injustices are the same thing as (acts of)
faithfulness and devotion?21

No, rather injustice (will be paid) equally for
injustice-- the Pen has dried (concerning that). And
those (acts of) faithfulness (will be paid) equally for
faithfulness-- the Pen has dried (and wrote that).

(Although) there may be (Divine) forgiveness
(for sinners), yet (for him) there is no magnificent hope22
that the servant (of God) may become illumined of face
from (practicing) pious reverence.23

Even if a thief is forgiven (and) he wins his life (back),
he'll never become (the king's) prime minister or

3155 Come, O godly Trustworthy one of the Faith,24 for
every crown and (royal) banner has appeared because
of trustworthiness.

If the son of the Sultan becomes a rebellious traitor
toward him, his head will be removed from (his) body
because of this.

And if a Hindu slave shows faithfulness (to a
king), good-fortune will incline toward him,25 (saying),
"(May his life be) long and enduring!"

Why (compare) a slave? If a dog is faithful
(keeping guard) at a door, there are a hundred approvals
concerning him in the heart of the master (of the

(And) if he gives a kiss on the dog's mouth
because of this, if it is a lion (instead of a dog) what a
(celebration of) victory he will give him!

3160 (There is) an exception, perhaps: a thief who does
acts of service (in repentance to God),265 whose sincerity
tears out the roots of (his former) lack of kindness--

Such as Fuzayl, a highway robber,27 who was
honest and just, since he raced toward repentance (with
the strength of) ten men.

(And) such as the magicians who made Pharaoh's
face blackened (of reputation) from (their) patience (in
suffering) and devotion (to God).28

They gave (their) hands and feet for a
punishable offence.

That [quality of repentance] can't be (reached
even) with a hundred years of worship and service (to

3164 You, who have been serving (God) for fifty years,
have never offered sincerity like this!

--From "The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî" [Rhymed Couplets of
Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi.
Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with
gratitude for R. A. Nicholson's 1934 British translation)
Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration)
First published on "Sunlight" (yahoogroups.com),1/11/01

Notes on the text, with line number:

1. (Heading) "Truly, the Pen has dried": refers to what God
has "written" = ordained will happen-- which Rumi interprets
allows for human free will. "Bukhárí [= the most respected
collection of the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad]
gives two Hadíths: 'qad jaffa'l-qalam bi-má anta láq-in' and
'jaffa 'l-qalamu `alá `ilmi 'lláhi.'" [= Truly, the Pen has dried
concerning what is fitting for you; The Pen has dried
according to the knowledge of God] (Nicholson, Commentary)
"'O fatalist [jabr" = a believer in total predestination]... the
meaning of compulsion also doesn't come from this saying. Rather,
this noble saying has been spoken for the sake of encouraging and
urging to obedience and worship of God Most High, and it has
been told for the sake of avoiding disobedience and bad actions.'"
(Translated here from a Persian translation of Anqaravi's famous
17th century Turkish commentary on the Mathnawi/Masnavi)

2. (Heading) "For God does not allow the reward of those
who do good to be lost": Qur'an 9:120.

3. (3131) for the sake of urging the most important work
[in life]: "It means, 'O fatalist, don't hold the opinion
that the saying "Truly the Pen has dried concerning what is fitting
for you" has been said for the sake of (your) becoming weak in
obedience to God and abandoning His commands. Rather,
these words are for the sake of encouraging and urging the
doing of what is (most) important and necessary." (Anqaravi,

4. (3132) recompense [jazâ]: means a payment of reward or
punishment. "The sufi shaykhs [= masters] say, 'The Tablet
(of Destiny is) erased or fixed,' (meaning) that God Most
High erases whatever He wishes on that Tablet, or whatever He
wishes to confirm. If a servant acts wrongly, it will be
written on that Tablet. And if he changes his mind about those
wrong actions and does good actions, in application of the noble
verse, 'Truly those good things remove the bad ones' [Qur'an
11: 114]-- the good actions of that one will erase the bad
actions previously written, and the good actions will be
fixed (in place on the Tablet) in place of those." (Anqaravi,

5. (3133) (Heavenly) joy will appear to you: Nicholson
translated, "The Pen has dried (after writing) that if you
do wrong (in this world) you will suffer wrong (in the
next), and that if you act rightly (here) the result will be your
felicity (there)."

6. (3134) unfortunate [mudbir] (in the Hereafter): Nicholson
translated, "damned."

7. (3134) you will enjoy good fortune: Nicholson translated
more literally here, "you will eat the fruit (of

8. (3135) his hand has gone-- the Pen has dried (and wrote
that): means his stealing hand is punished by being
amputated. "I.e. his right hand is cut off. Cf. Qur'án V,
42)." (Nicholson, Footnote)

"And regarding the male thief or the female thief, cut
off their hands as a compensation for what they have earned as a
warning from God (for their crime). And God is All-Mighty,
Wise. But whoever repents after his crime and makes amends,
God will turn to him in forgiveness. Truly, God is
Most-Forgiving, Merciful." (Qur'an 5:41-42) This punishment
is usually carried out for repeated theft only, and is not
enforced during periods of extreme hunger and famine among the
people. Making amends means to return the stolen articles prior to
arrest. The punishment is severe because the rights of the
community to be protected from theft are established in Islam as
primary (in contrast, in this case, to modern Western views about
the rights of the individual to be protected from being marked for
life because of theft).

9. (3135) he became drunk-- the Pen has dried (concerning
that): refers to the punishment on the Day of Judgment,
since drinking wine (and therefore all alcoholic drinks) is
forbidden in Islam (Qur'an 5:93), as well as to the punishment for
public drunkenness. "If someone does not drink wine and doesn't
become drunk, the Pen will not write the penalty for
drunkenness for his sake." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

10. (3138) justice and injustice are not the same thing to
Me: "Is one who was a believer like the one who was an
impious wrongdoer? They are not equal." (Qur'an 32:18)

11. (3140) courteous respect [adab]: means good manners,
due reverence, self-discipline, self-control. In sufism, it
means the mode of conduct, reverence, and discipline of
dervishes toward God, toward their shaykh [= spiritual
master, guide], toward each other, and toward other people in

12. (3140) the Lord's Wisdom [faZl-é rabb] will know:
Nicholson translated, "the grace of the Lord will know." "It means,
'O one who is holding on to the (hem of the) robe of Fatalism
[jabr] and are lazy in doing good works! As an example: if
you have an amount (of good) on the sufi path [Tarîqat] and the
way of the Law [sharî`at], and there is within you an
increased amount of (just) a single atom of reverent respect,
Divine Wisdom and Generosity will know it and will not allow
(the reward of) it to be lost.'" (Anqaravi, Commentary)
13. (3141) (the increase of) the atom will step forth: "For
the one who has done an atom's weight of good will see it."
(Qur'an 99:7)

14. (3141) like (the size of) a mountain: "And this noble
saying (of the Prophet Muhammad) also confirms this
meaning: 'He-- may God bless him and give him peace--
said, "The one who has given (even) half a date (to the
needy) in acquiring goodness on the path of God-- since God
will not accept other than goodness-- certainly God will
accept that (good action). Then He will make it grow large
for the owner (of that good action), just as you make a
young donkey or colt big (by feeding it) so it will become
as big as a mountain."'" (Anqaravi, Commentary) This
tradition is included in Faruzanfar, "Al-HadîS-é Masnavî,"
p. 176.

15. (3143) and one who mocks (him) because of [envying] his
wealth (and kingdom): Nicholson translated, "and him who
intrigues against his fortune (empire)..." "(It means)...
one who mocks his good fortune and wealth (of kingdom) and
opposes his command." (Anqaravi, Commentary)

16. (3145) Even if your effort is an atom greater: Nicholson
translated, "If your (devotional) labour exceed (that of
another) by a single mote..." "Truly God will not allow the
reward to be lost of those who do good." (Qur'an 9: 120)

17. (3146) the light (of truthfulness): Nicholson
translated, "You continually work yourself to death in the service
of these (worldly) kings, (yet) they are ignorant of (the difference
between) treachery and honesty." And he explained about his
rendering of "work yourself to death": "Literally, 'you give
up the ghost (in the death-agony).'" (Footnote)
18. (3148) a King who is All-Hearing and All-Seeing: "Truly,
He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing." (Qur'an 17: 1; and other

19. (3149) increase their (bad) advice [pand]: Nicholson
translated, "increase (our) bondage." Nicholson read
"bondage" [band] here, but noted that the earliest
manuscript has "pand."

20. (3150) (So) don't act (so) faithfully: means, "Don't
bother to exert yourself to devotional acts to please God, since
your fate has already been unchangeably fixed."

21. (3151) that injustices are the same thing as (acts of)
faithfulness and devotion? "Shall We treat those who believe
and do good works the same way as those who spread
corruption on the earth? Should We treat those who are
piously reverent the same way as those who are sinful?"
(Qur'an 38:28) Rumi has word-plays between "faithfulness
and devotion" [wafâ], "injustices" [jafâ-hâ], and "has
dried" [jaffa].

22. (3153) there is no magnificent hope: means that a sinner
might end up receiving the forgiveness of God on the Day of
Judgment, but he shouldn't expect to be among the chosen
saints in Paradise. "Though God may pardon the sinner, His
supreme favours are enjoyed by those alone who serve Him
with entire devotion and self-abandonment. " (Nicholson,
Commentary) In regard to God's supreme favors, Nicholson
referred to a famous (non-Qur'anic) Divine saying [Hadîthu
'l-qudsî]: "God said, 'My servant does not draw near to Me with
anything more loved by Me than the religious duties [farâ'iD] I
have imposed upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to
Me with voluntary works of devotion [nawâfil] so that I shall love
him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his
seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes,
and his foot with which he walks.'" Nicholson added: "While
in qurb-i fará'id [= nearness through obligatory acts of
worship] the mystic is fání [= annihilated in God] and God
acts through him...., in qurb-i nawáfil [nearness through
voluntary acts of worship] he is báqí [enduring in God] and
acts through God." (Commentary)

23. (3153) pious reverence [taqwâ]: often translated as
"fear of God," this Qur'anic term means reverential awe of God. It
leads to pious attitudes and actions, because the worshipper loves
God so much that he or she dreads doing anything which might
increase separation from the Only Beloved.

24. (3155) O godly Trustworthy one of the Faith [Amînu
'ddîn] "WM [= the commentary of a Muslim from India, 1864]
says that Am'nu'ddín is a title of Husámu'dd'n [= Rumi's disciple to
whom he dictated the verses of the Mathnawi]; but I think
Rúmí is apostrophising [= personifying] 'the faithful servant',
i.e. the Perfect Man in general, as 'the Vizier and Keeper of the
King's treasury.'" (Nicholson, Commentary)

25. (3157) good-fortune will incline toward him: Nicholson
translated, "sovereignty will applaud him..." Slavery in
Islamic cultures was different than in European-dominated ones.
Slaves were able to buy their freedom, and the favorite
slaves of kings were sometimes rewarded with positions of great
power and wealth.

26. (3160) Except, perhaps, a thief who does acts of service
(in repentance to God): Nicholson translated, "(Robbers get
nothing but pardon), except, to be sure, the robber who
performs acts of service (to God)..."

27. (3161) Such as Fuzayl, a highway robber: "Fudayl ibn
`Iyád, a celebrated Súfí of Khurásán, who died in A.H. 187"
[= 803] (Nicholson, Footnote) "Before his conversion to
Súfism, he is said to have been a highwayman." (Nicholson,
Commentary) "The story of his repentance is this [=quoted
from `Attar's "Memoirs of the Saints"].... Early on, he was
in love with a woman. And he brought her everything gained
from robbery. He was climbing over walls, in the (late)
evenings and (early) mornings, weeping out of love for that
woman. One night a caravan was passing, and in the middle
of the caravan someone was reciting the Qur'an. This (verse)
came to the ear of Fuzayl: 'Hasn't the time come for the
believers, that their hearts should be humbled in the
remembrance of God?" (57:16)

28. (3162) from (their) patience (in suffering) and devotion
(to God): refers to the story of Pharaoh's magicians, who
after being defeated by Moses, dared to defy Pharaoh (and his
claim to divinity) by repenting and declaring their faith in
"the Lord of the worlds, the Lord of Moses and Aaron" and who
were executed (by having their hands and feet cut off on
opposite sides and crucified) for this (Qur'an 7: 119-126).


wa ham-chon-în tâ'wîl-é "qad jaffa 'l-qalam," ya`nî jaffa
'l-qalamu wa kataba lâ yastawî 'T-Tâ`atu wa 'l-ma`Siyah, lâ
yastawî 'l-amânatu wa 's-sariqah, jaffa 'l-qalamu an lâ
yastawî 'sh-shukru wa 'l-kufrân, jaffa 'l-qalamu "anna
'llâha lâ yuZî`u ajra 'l-muHsinîn

3131ham-chon-în tâ'wîl-é qad jaffa 'l-qalam
bahr-é taHrîZ-ast bar shughl-é aham

pas qalam be-n'wesht ke har kâr-râ
lâyiq-é ân hast tâ'Sîr-o jazâ

kazh raw-î jaffa 'l-qalam kazh ây-ad-at
râstî âr-î sa`âdât zâyad-at

Zulm âr-î mudbir-î, jaffa 'l-qalam
`adl âr-î, bar -khwar-î jaffa 'l-qalam

3135chûn be-dozd-ad, dast shod, jaffa 'l-qalam
khwar-ad bâda, mast shod, jaffa 'l-qalam

tô rawâ dâr-î, rawâ bâsh-ad ke haq
ham-chô ma`zûl ây-ad az Hukm-é sabaq?

ke ze-dast-é man berûn raft-ast kâr
pêsh-é man chand-în ma-y-â, chand-în ma-zâr?

bal-ke ma`nî ân bow-ad jaffa 'l-qalam
nêst yak-sân pêsh-é man `adl-o setam

farq be-n'hâd-am meyân-é khayr-o shar
farq be-n'hâd-am ze-bad ham az batar

3140Zarra'yê gar dar tô afzûnî adab
bâsh-ad az yâr-at, be-dân-ad faZl-é rab

qadr-é ân Zarra to-râ afzûn deh-ad
Zarra chûn kûhê qadam bêrûn neh-ad

pâd-shâhê ke ba-pêsh-é takht-é ô
farq na-b'w-ad az amîn-o Zulm-jô

ân-ke mê-larz-ad ze-bîm-é radd-é ô
w-ân-ke Ta`na mê-zan-ad dar jadd-é ô

farq na-b'w-ad, har dô yak bâsh-ad bar-ash
shâh na-b'w-ad, khâk-é tîra bar sar-ash

3145Zara'yê gar jahd-é tô afzûn bow-ad
dar tarâzûy-é khodâ mawzûn bow-ad

pêsh-é în shâh-ân hamâra jân kan-î
bê-khabar îshân z-ghadr-o rôshanî

goft-é ghammâzê ke bad-gôy-ad to-râ
Zâyi` âr-ad khidmat-at-râ sâl-hâ

pêsh-é shâhê ke samî`-ast-o baSîr
goft-é ghammâz-ân na-bâsh-ad jây gîr

jumla-yé ghammâz-ân az-ô âyis shaw-and
sôy-é mâ ây-and-o afzây-and pand

3150bas jafâ gôy-and shah-râ pêsh-é mâ
ke be-raw, jaffa 'l-qalam, kam kon wafâ

ma`niy-é jaffa 'l-qalam kay ân bow-ad
ke jafâ-hâ bâ wafâ yak-sân bow-ad?

bal jafâ-râ ham jafâ, jaffa 'l-qalam
w-ân wafâ-râ ham wafâ, jaffa 'l-qalam

`afw bâsh-ad, lêk kû farr-é omêd
ke bow-ad banda ze-taqwà rô-sapêd?

dozd-râ gar `afw bâsh-ad, jân bar-ad
kay wazîr-o khâzan-é makhzan shaw-ad?

3155ay amînu 'ddîn-é rabbânî, be-y-â
k-az amânat rost har tâj-o lawâ

pûr-é sulTân gar bar-ô khâyin shaw-ad
ân sar-ash az tan ba-d-ân bâ-yin shaw-ad

w-ar gulâmê hendowî âr-ad wafâ
dawlat ô-râ mê-zan-ad Tâla baqâ

che ghulâm, ar bar darê sag bâ-wafâ-st
dar del-é sâlâr ô-râ Sad riZâ-st

z-în chô sag-râ bôsa bar pûz-ash deh-ad
gar bow-ad shêrê che pêrôz-ash kon-ad?

3160joz magar dozdê ke khidmat-hâ kon-ad
Sidq-é ô bîkh-é jafâ-râ bar kan-ad

chûn fuZayl-é rah-zanê, k-ô râst bâkht
z-ân-ke dah marda ba-sôy-é tawba tâkht

w-ân-chon-ân-ke sâHir-ân fir`awn-râ
rô-seyah kard-and az Sabr-o wafâ

dast-o pâ dâd-and dar jurm-é qawad
ân ba-Sad sâla `ibâdat kay shaw-ad?

3164tô ke panja sâl khidmat karda-î
kay chon-în Sidqî ba-dast âwarda-î

(mathnawi meter: XoXX XoXX XoX)