Bismillaah ir Rahmaan ir Rahiim
In the name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate
Moulana Rumi's Masnavi: Book II
The Story of Moses and the Shepherd
By Fleur Nassery Bonnin
How Moses, on whom be peace, took offence at the prayer of the shepherd.
In this story Moulana Rumi has shared his view and his belief about the difference between people who have the love of God in their heart and those like the theologians and jurisprudents who are involved with and interested in the outer layers of the religion and hence not so much in the connection of the heart with God.
Moses saw a shepherd on the way,
who was saying, "O God and O Creator
Masnavi II: 1720
Where are You, that I may be Your servant,
sew Your shoes and comb Your head?
Masnavi II: 1721
That I wash Your clothes and kill Your lice,
bring milk to You, O worshipful One;
Masnavi II: 1722
That I may kiss Your little hand and rub Your little foot,
when bedtime comes I may sweep Your little place,
Masnavi II: 1723
O You to whom all my goats be a sacrifice,
O You in remembrance of whom are my cries of ay and ah!"
Masnavi II: 1724
The shepherd was speaking foolish words in this way,
Moses said, "To whom is this addressed O Man?"
Masnavi II: 1725
He answered, "To the One who created us,
by whom this earth and sky were brought to sight."
Masnavi II: 1726
Said Moses, "Hay! You have become very obstinate indeed,
Not having become a thorough Moslem, you have become an infidel.
Masnavi II: 1727
What babble is this? What blasphemy and raving?
Stuff some cotton into your mouth!
Masnavi II: 1728
The stench of your blasphemy has made the world stinking,
your blasphemy has turned the silk robe of religion into rags.
Masnavi II: 1729
Shoes and socks are fitting for you,
how are such things right for a Sun?
Masnavi II: 1730
If you do not stop your throat from uttering these words,
a fire will come and burn up the people.
Masnavi II: 1731
If a fire has not come what is this smoke?
Why has your soul become black and your spirit rejected?
Masnavi II: 1732
If you know that God is the Judge,
how do you believe you can do this impertinence?
Masnavi II: 1733
Truly, the friendship of a witless man is enmity,
the mighty God is not in want of suchlike service.
Masnavi II: 1734
To whom are you saying this? To your uncle and aunt?
Are the body and its needs among the attributes of the Lord of glory?
Masnavi II: 1735
The one who drinks milk is one who is waxing and growing,
He who is in need of feet puts on shoes.
Masnavi II: 1736
And if these words of yours are meant for His servant,
of whom God said, 'He is I and I myself am he'.
Masnavi II: 1737
Of whom He said, 'verily, I was sick and you did not visit Me',
'I became ill, so he was not alone;
Masnavi II: 1738
These two verses allude to the prophetic Hadith and are also said to be a Hadith from Moses. It is said that on resurrection day God says "O children of Adam, when I got sick you didn't come to my Ayadat" (the word Ayadat means going to see a person who is sick). And the response was "O Mighty God, how could You get sick and how could I have come to see You since You are the Creator of existence and the world"? God says "Didn't you know that so and so who was one of My servants was sick and you didn't go to see him? Didn't you know that if you had gone you would have seen Me there".
Or about he, whose seeing and hearing is by Him (God),
even in regard to that servant, still this talk is foolish and useless.
Masnavi II: 1739
The verse refers to a Hadith Qudsi, when God is the speaker. Part of the Hadith is:
"And My servant does not cease to approach Me through supererogatory acts until I love him. And when I love him, I become his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees…"
To speak irreverently to the chosen one and friend of God,
causes the heart to perish and keeps one's record black.
Masnavi II: 1740
Which means that even if you are talking to one of God's special servants or friends, it is still very important to be aware and keep your place in relation to them, otherwise there will be consequences from God who is their Protector.
One of the Masnavi specialists says that when Moulana Rumi refers, in several places of the Masnavi, to the heart perishing or to the fire which burns the heart leaving a layer of smoke on the heart (also verse 1732 above) it is not as though the heart will be set on fire. Instead, it refers to the way God punishes a person and shows His dismay. It may be experienced when one feels sadness, weariness and darkness inside them.
He begat not, He was not begotten are appropriate to Him:
He is the Creator of begetter and begotten.
Masnavi II: 1745
Birth is the attribute of everything that is bodily
therefore, whatever is born is on this side of the river (existence),
Masnavi II: 1746
It is said that both connecting the attributes of form to God and referring to God's need for such things are considered blasphemy.
He said, "O Moses, you have closed my mouth,
and you have burned my soul with repentance."
Masnavi II: 1748
He rent his garment and heaved a sigh,
and hastily turned his head towards the desert and went.
Masnavi II: 1749
How the high God rebuked Moses, on whom be peace, on account of the shepherd.
A revelation came to Moses from God;
"You have separated My servant from Me.
Masnavi II: 1750
You come in order to unite,
you did not come to sever
Masnavi II: 1751
Since the most important task of the prophets, as well as bringing the law, is connecting the hearts of the people to God.
So far as you can, do not set foot in separation:
of things the most hateful to Me is divorce.
Masnavi II: 1752
I have bestowed on every person a nature
I have given to every person a form of expression.
Masnavi II: 1753
His expression in regard to him is praise, and in regard to you it is blame;
in regard to him honey, and in regard to you poison.
Masnavi II: 1754
It is a part of the responsibility of the prophets to teach the right conduct and right attitude. In this story Moses was acting according to those rules but he was unfamiliar with the state of a lover of God and the burning heart. God needed to teach Moses that too, so that he does not treat every servant according to the same rule. God was letting him see that there are different created beings who have a different pattern and different ways, and, as we are going to see in the following verses, Moses learnt that, and learnt it well.
I am beyond all purity and impurity,
of all slothfulness and alacrity.
Masnavi II: 1755
I did not ordain so that I might make any profit;
but rather that I might do a kindness to my servants.
Masnavi II: 1756
In the above verse, the word "Amre", meaning 'ordain' or 'to order', alludes to the Qura'nic ayat in which God orders "Be" and creation becomes. The Qur'an says:
Whenever We will anything to become, We but say unto it Our word "Be" - and it becomes.
The following interpretation of the rest of the verse is from Dr. M. Estelami, the author of one of the most read commentaries on the six volumes of Rumi's Masnavi.
So creation was My kindness to My servants so that they come to this world and find their way to servanthood of their creator so that they can cleanse and purify themselves from contamination and corruption of the earthy world.
In the Hindus the idiom of Hind is praiseworthy;
in the Sindians the idiom of Sind is praiseworthy.
Masnavi II: 1757
Here Rumi is building up one of his favourite themes, which is that God has created people differently and they can have a relationship with Him according to their different languages and different ways to Him.
I am not sanctified by their glorification;
it is they that become sanctified, pure and radiant like pearls.
Masnavi II: 1758
We don't look at the tongue and the speech;
We look at the inner soul and the inner state.
Masnavi II: 1759
We gaze into the heart if it be lowly
even though the words uttered be not lowly.
Masnavi II: 1760
Because the heart is the substance, speech the accident;
therefore accident is subservient, substance is the object.
Masnavi II: 1761
How much of these phrases and conceptions and metaphors?
I want burning, burning with the one who is familiar with that burning!
Masnavi II: 1762
Light up a fire of love in your soul,
burn away thought and expression entirely!
Masnavi II: 1763
O Moses, those who know the conventions are of one sort,
those with burnt soul and spirit are of another sort.
Masnavi II: 1764
Again here Rumi is making the distinction between the theologians and jurisprudents who are good with their speech and sermons, who know how respectful talk should be, and the lovers whose souls are on fire. There is very little doubt, from Rumi's point of view, which one God prefers!
If he speaks faultily, do not call him faulty;
and if he be full of blood, do not wash and bathe the martyrs.
Masnavi II: 1766
The religion of Love is apart from all religions:
for lovers, the nation and the religion is God.
Masnavi II: 1770
How the revelation came to Moses, on whom be peace, excusing that shepherd.
After that God placed in Moses' inner secret,
secrets that cannot be spoken of.
Masnavi II: 1772
Words were poured upon his heart,
vision and hearing were intertwined.
Masnavi II: 1773
At times he went out of himself and at times returned to himself!
at times he flew from Eternity to Everlastingness!
Masnavi II: 1774
To expand more after this is foolishness,
because the explanation of this is beyond understanding;
Masnavi II: 1775
And if I were to say more, it would root out the minds,
and if I were to write, many pens would get shattered.
Masnavi II: 1776
When Moses heard these reproaches from God
he ran into the desert in quest of the shepherd.
Masnavi II: 1777
He pushed on over the footprints of the bewildered man
he scattered dust from the skirt of the desert.
Masnavi II: 1778
The footstep of a man distraught,
is distinct from the footsteps of others:
Masnavi II: 1779
One step like the rook from top to bottom;
one step he goes crossways like the bishop;
Masnavi II: 1780
Rumi is likening the footsteps of the distraught man to movements in the game of chess, as they move one step straight and the next step across.
At last he overtook and beheld him;
said good tiding! You have been granted permission.
Masnavi II: 1783
Do not seek any rules or method;
say whatsoever your distressed heart desires.
Masnavi II: 1784
Your blasphemy is religion, and your religion is the light of the spirit,
you are saved, and through you a world is in salvation.
Masnavi II: 1785
Rumi says for those who are connected with God there are no 'rules and methods' and even if what they say is blasphemous, still they are the words of 'religion'. The religion of the lovers throws light to their soul and the lovers of God are like a safe refuge and sanctuary for people.
O you who are made secure by God does whatever He wills,
go ahead without fear and let your tongue loose.
Masnavi II: 1786
He said, "O Moses, I have passed beyond that,
I am now bathed in heart's blood.
Masnavi II: 1787
The shepherd is saying to Moses that I have now passed the stage of rules and methods of talking and of how to call and remember God. The language and tongue is of no value any more since my heart has disappeared and I am drowned in the remaining blood of my heart.
I have passed beyond the Lote-tree of the farthest limit,
I have gone a hundred thousand years' journey on the other side.
Masnavi II: 1788
You lashed, and my horse shied, made a bound,
and passed beyond the celestial sphere.
Masnavi II: 1789
Keeping in mind that the shepherd was a man in love and in search of God, he says; O Moses my being is like a horse whom with your lashing took such a leap that it reached the celestial realm. It leaped from the realm of matter (Nasoot) to the realm of "Lahoot" which is the inner realm and the Divine realm.
The Divine Nature (Lahoot) now is intimate with my human nature (Nasoot).
blessings be on your hand and on your arm (that lashed me)!"
Masnavi II: 1790