Moses and the Shepherd

One my favorite stories from the Masnavi, its dialectic is brilliant and dizzying…

yazd cieling


How Moses, on whom be peace, took offence at the prayer of the shepherd.

1720. Moses saw a shepherd on the way, who was saying, “O God who choosest (whom Thou wilt),
Where art Thou, that I may become Thy servant and sew Thy shoes and comb Thy head? That I may wash Thy clothes and kill Thy lice and bring milk to Thee, O worshipful One; That I may kiss Thy little hand and rub Thy little foot, (and when) bedtime comes I may sweep Thy little room,
O Thou to whom all my goats be a sacrifice, O Thou in remembrance of whom are my cries of ay and ah!”


1725. The shepherd was speaking foolish words in this wise. Moses said, “Man, to whom is this (addressed)?”
He answered, “To that One who created us; by whom this earth and sky were brought to sight.”
“Hark!” said Moses, “you have become very backsliding (depraved); indeed you have not become a Moslem, you have become an infidel.
What babble is this? what blasphemy and raving? Stuff some cotton into your mouth!
The stench of your blasphemy has made the (whole) world stinking: your blasphemy has turned the silk robe of religion into rags.


1730. Shoes and socks are fitting for you, (but) how are such things right for (One who is) a Sun?
If you do not stop your throat from (uttering) these words, a fire will come and burn up the people.
If a fire has not come, (then) what is this smoke? Why has your soul become black and your spirit rejected (by God)?
If you know that God is the Judge, how is it right for you (to indulge in) this doting talk and familiarity?
Truly, the friendship of a witless man is enmity: the high God is not in want of suchlike service.


1735. To whom are you saying this? To your paternal and maternal uncles? Are the body and (its) needs among the attributes of the Lord of glory?
(Only) he that is waxing and growing drinks milk: (only) he that has need of feet puts on shoes.
And if these words (of yours) are (meant) for His servant, of whom God said, ‘He is I and I myself am he’;
(For him) of whom He (God) said, ‘Verily, I was sick and thou didst not visit Me,’ (that is), ‘I became ill, not he (the sick man) alone’;
(For him) who has become seeing by Me and hearing by Me— this (talk of yours) is foolish nonsense even in regard to that servant.


1740. To speak irreverently to one chosen of God causes the heart (spirit) to perish and keeps the page (record) black.
If you should call a man ‘Fátima’—though men and women are all of one kind—
He will seek to murder you, so far as it is possible (for him), albeit he is good-natured and forbearing and quiet.
(The name) Fátima is (a term of) praise in regard to women, (but) if you address it to a man, ’tis (like) the blow of a spearhead.
Hand and foot are (terms of) praise in relation to us; in relation to the holiness of God they are pollution.


1745. (The words) He begat not, He was not begotten are appropriate to Him: He is the Creator of begetter and begotten.
Birth is the attribute of everything that is (a) body: whatever is born is on this side of the river,
Because it is of (the world of) becoming and decay and (is) contemptible: it is originated and certainly requires an Originator.”
He (the shepherd) said, “O Moses, thou hast closed my mouth and thou hast burned my soul with repentance.”
He rent his garment and heaved a sigh, and hastily turned his head towards the desert and went (his way).


How God rebuked Moses, on whom be peace, on account of the shepherd.

1750. A revelation came to Moses from God—“Thou hast parted My servant from Me.
Didst thou come (as a prophet) to unite, or didst thou come to sever?
So far as thou canst, do not set foot in separation: of (all) things the most hateful to Me is divorce.
I have bestowed on every one a (special) way of acting: I have given to every one a (peculiar) form of expression.
In regard to him it is (worthy of) praise, and in regard to thee it is (worthy of) blame: in regard to him honey, and in regard to thee poison.


1755. I am independent of all purity and impurity, of all slothfulness and alacrity (in worshipping Me).
I did not ordain (Divine worship) that I might make any profit; nay, but that I might do a kindness to (My) servants.
In the Hindoos the idiom of Hind (India) is praiseworthy; in the Sindians the idiom of Sind is praiseworthy.
I am not sanctified by their glorification (of Me); ’tis they that become sanctified and pearl-scattering (pure and radiant).
I look not at the tongue and the speech; I look at the inward (spirit) and the state (of feeling).
1760. I gaze into the heart (to see) whether it be lowly,
though the words uttered be not lowly, Because the heart is the substance, speech (only) the accident; so the accident is subservient, the substance is the (real) object.
How much (more) of these phrases and conceptions and metaphors? I want burning, burning: become friendly with that burning!
Light up a fire of love in thy soul, burn thought and expression entirely (away)!
O Moses, they that know the conventions are of one sort, they whose souls and spirits burn are of another sort.”


1765. To lovers there is a burning (which consumes them) at every moment: tax and tithe are not (imposed) on a ruined village.
If he (the lover) speak faultily, do not call him faulty; and if he be bathed in blood, do not wash (those who are) martyrs.
For martyrs, blood is better than water: this fault (committed by him) is better than a hundred right actions (of another).
Within the Ka‘ba the rule of the qibla does not exist: what matter if the diver has no snow-shoes?
Do not seek guidance from the drunken: why dost thou order those whose garments are rent in pieces to mend them?


1770. The religion of Love is apart from all religions: for lovers, the (only) religion and creed is God.
If the ruby have not a seal (graven on it), ’tis no harm: Love in the sea of sorrow is not sorrowful.


How the (Divine) revelation came to Moses, on whom be peace, excusing that shepherd.

After that, God hid in the inmost heart of Moses mysteries which cannot be spoken. Words were poured upon his heart: vision and speech were mingled together.

How oft did he become beside himself and how oft return to himself! How oft did he fly from eternity to everlastingness!


1775. If I should unfold (his tale) after this, ’tis foolishness (in me), because the explanation of this is beyond (our) understanding;
And if I should speak (thereof), ’twould root up (men’s) minds; and if I should write (thereof), ’twould shatter many pens.
When Moses heard these reproaches from God, he ran into the desert in quest of the shepherd.
He pushed on over the footprints of the bewildered man, he scattered dust from the skirt of the desert.
The footstep of a man distraught is, in truth, distinct from the footsteps of others:


1780. (At) one step, (he moves) like the rook (straight) from top to bottom (of the chessboard); (at) one step he goes crossways, like the bishop;
Now lifting his crest like a wave; now going on his belly like a fish;
Now writing (a description of) his state on some dust, like a geomancer who takes an omen by drawing lines (on earth or sand).
At last he (Moses) overtook and beheld him; the giver of glad news said, “Permission has come (from God).
Do not seek any rules or method (of worship); say whatsoever your distressful heart desires.


1785. Your blasphemy is (the true) religion, and your religion is the light of the spirit: you are saved, and through you a (whole) world is in salvation.
O you who are made secure by God doeth whatso He willeth, go, loose your tongue without regard (for what you say).”
He said, “O Moses, I have passed beyond that: I am now bathed in (my) heart’s blood.
I have passed beyond the Lote-tree of the farthest bourn, I have gone a hundred thousand years’ journey on the other side.
Thou didst ply the lash, and my horse shied, made a bound, and passed beyond the sky.


1790. May the Divine Nature be intimate with my human nature— blessings be on thy hand and on thine arm!
Now my state is beyond telling: this which I am telling is not my (real) state.”
You behold the image which is in a mirror: it is your (own) image, it is not the image of the mirror.
The breath which the flute-player puts into the flute—does it belong to the flute? No, it belongs to the man (the flute-player).
Take good heed! Whether you speak praise (of God) or thanksgiving, know that it is even as the unseemly (words) of that shepherd.

-Translation by R.A. Nicholson



دید موسی یک شبانی را براه
کو همی‌گفت ای گزیننده اله
تو کجایی تا شوم من چاکرت
چارقت دوزم کنم شانه سرت
جامه‌ات شویم شپشهاات کشم
شیر پیشت آورم ای محتشم
دستکت بوسم بمالم پایکت
وقت خواب آید بروبم جایکت
ای فدای تو همه بزهای من
ای بیادت هیهی و هیهای من
این نمط بیهوده می‌گفت آن شبان
گفت موسی با کی است این ای فلان
گفت با آنکس که ما را آفرید
این زمین و چرخ ازو آمد پدید
گفت موسی های بس مدبر شدی
خود مسلمان ناشده کافر شدی
این چه ژاژست این چه کفرست و فشار
پنبه‌ای اندر دهان خود فشار
گند کفر تو جهان را گنده کرد
کفر تو دیبای دین را ژنده کرد
چارق و پاتابه لایق مر تراست
آفتابی را چنینها کی رواست
گر نبندی زین سخن تو حلق را
آتشی آید بسوزد خلق را
آتشی گر نامدست این دود چیست
جان سیه گشته روان مردود چیست
گر همی‌دانی که یزدان داورست
ژاژ و گستاخی ترا چون باورست
دوستی بی‌خرد خود دشمنیست
حق تعالی زین چنین خدمت غنیست
با کی می‌گویی تو این با عم و خال
جسم و حاجت در صفات ذوالجلال
شیر او نوشد که در نشو و نماست
چارق او پوشد که او محتاج پاست
ور برای بنده‌شست این گفت تو
آنک حق گفت او منست و من خود او
آنک گفت انی مرضت لم تعد
من شدم رنجور او تنها نشد
آنک بی یسمع و بی یبصر شده‌ست
در حق آن بنده این هم بیهده‌ست
بی ادب گفتن سخن با خاص حق
دل بمیراند سیه دارد ورق
گر تو مردی را بخوانی فاطمه
گرچه یک جنس‌اند مرد و زن همه
قصد خون تو کند تا ممکنست
گرچه خوش‌خو و حلیم و ساکنست
فاطمه مدحست در حق زنان
مرد را گویی بود زخم سنان
دست و پا در حق ما استایش است
در حق پاکی حق آلایش است
لم یلد لم یولد او را لایق است
والد و مولود را او خالق است
هرچه جسم آمد ولادت وصف اوست
هرچه مولودست او زین سوی جوست
زانک از کون و فساد است و مهین
حادثست و محدثی خواهد یقین
گفت ای موسی دهانم دوختی
وز پشیمانی تو جانم سوختی
جامه را بدرید و آهی کرد تفت
سر نهاد اندر بیابانی و رفت


وحی آمد سوی موسی از خدا
بندهٔ ما را ز ما کردی جدا
تو برای وصل کردن آمدی
یا برای فصل کردن آمدی
تا توانی پا منه اندر فراق
ابغض الاشیاء عندی الطلاق
هر کسی را سیرتی بنهاده‌ام
هر کسی را اصطلاحی داده‌ام
در حق او مدح و در حق تو ذم
در حق او شهد و در حق تو سم
ما بری از پاک و ناپاکی همه
از گرانجانی و چالاکی همه
من نکردم امر تا سودی کنم
بلک تا بر بندگان جودی کنم
هندوان را اصطلاح هند مدح
سندیان را اصطلاح سند مدح
من نگردم پاک از تسبیحشان
پاک هم ایشان شوند و درفشان
ما زبان را ننگریم و قال را
ما روان را بنگریم و حال را
ناظر قلبیم اگر خاشع بود
گرچه گفت لفظ ناخاضع رود
زانک دل جوهر بود گفتن عرض
پس طفیل آمد عرض جوهر غرض
چند ازین الفاظ و اضمار و مجاز
سوز خواهم سوز با آن سوز ساز
آتشی از عشق در جان بر فروز
سر بسر فکر و عبارت را بسوز
موسیا آداب‌دانان دیگرند
سوخته جان و روانان دیگرند
عاشقان را هر نفس سوزیدنیست
بر ده ویران خراج و عشر نیست
گر خطا گوید ورا خاطی مگو
گر بود پر خون شهید او را مشو
خون شهیدان را ز آب اولیترست
این خطا را صد صواب اولیترست
در درون کعبه رسم قبله نیست
چه غم از غواص را پاچیله نیست
تو ز سرمستان قلاوزی مجو
جامه‌چاکان را چه فرمایی رفو
ملت عشق از همه دینها جداست
عاشقان را ملت و مذهب خداست
لعل را گر مهر نبود باک نیست
عشق در دریای غم غمناک نیست


بعد از آن در سر موسی حق نهفت
رازهایی گفت کان ناید به گفت
بر دل موسی سخنها ریختند
دیدن و گفتن بهم آمیختند
چند بی‌خود گشت و چند آمد بخود
چند پرید از ازل سوی ابد
بعد ازین گر شرح گویم ابلهیست
زانک شرح این ورای آگهیست
ور بگویم عقلها را بر کند
ور نویسم بس قلمها بشکند
چونک موسی این عتاب از حق شنید
در بیابان در پی چوپان دوید
بر نشان پای آن سرگشته راند
گرد از پرهٔ بیابان بر فشاند
گام پای مردم شوریده خود
هم ز گام دیگران پیدا بود
یک قدم چون رخ ز بالا تا نشیب
یک قدم چون پیل رفته بر وریب
گاه چون موجی بر افرازان علم
گاه چون ماهی روانه بر شکم
گاه بر خاکی نبشته حال خود
همچو رمالی که رملی بر زند
عاقبت دریافت او را و بدید
گفت مژده ده که دستوری رسید
هیچ آدابی و ترتیبی مجو
هرچه می‌خواهد دل تنگت بگو
کفر تو دینست و دینت نور جان
آمنی وز تو جهانی در امان
ای معاف یفعل الله ما یشا
بی‌محابا رو زبان را بر گشا
گفت ای موسی از آن بگذشته‌ام
من کنون در خون دل آغشته‌ام
من ز سدرهٔ منتهی بگذشته‌ام
صد هزاران ساله زان سو رفته‌ام
تازیانه بر زدی اسپم بگشت
گنبدی کرد و ز گردون بر گذشت
محرم ناسوت ما لاهوت باد
آفرین بر دست و بر بازوت باد
حال من اکنون برون از گفتنست
اینچ می‌گویم نه احوال منست
نقش می‌بینی که در آیینه‌ایست
نقش تست آن نقش آن آیینه نیست
دم که مرد نایی اندر نای کرد
درخور نایست نه درخورد مرد
هان و هان گر حمد گویی گر سپاس
همچو نافرجام آن چوپان شناس

nasr-i molk cieling

Bright Night, Dark Day



The Rose Garden of Mystery (verses 122-130)

Reason’s light applied to the Essence of Lights
is like the eye of the head looking at the brilliance of the Sun
when the object seen is very close to the eye
The eye is darkened so that it cannot see it

This blackness, if you know it, is the very light of Being

in the land of darkness is the fountain of life
Since the darkness destroys the light of vision
Give up loooking, for this is no place for looking
What connection has dust with the pure world?
Its perception is the inability to perceive perception
What shall I say? since this saying is fine,
“A bright night in the midst of a dark day”
In this place of witnessing, which is the light of manifestation
 I have much to say, but silence is best.


Spain 2003 6 Alhambra Palace (4)



بود نور خرد در ذات انور              به سان چشم سر در چشمه خور
چو مبصر با بصر نزدیک گردد              بصر ز ادراک آن تاریک گردد
سیاهی گر بدانی نور ذات است              به تاریکی درون آب حیات است
سیه جز قابض نور بصر نیست               نظر بگذار کین جای نظر نیست
چه نسبت خاک را با عالم پاک        که ادراک است عجز از درک ادراک
سیه رویی ز ممکن در دو عالم                       جدا هرگز نشد والله اعلم
سواد الوجه فی الدارین درویش                 سواد اعظم آمد بی کم و بیش
چه می‌گویم که هست این نکته باریک              شب روشن میان روز تاریک
در این مشهد که انوار تجلی است           سخن دارم ولی نا گفتن اولی است




Ibn al-Fāriḍ


If he should visit one day, o my heart, tear yourself to shreds in love for him
            and if he should leave, o eye, pour out tears
But there is no harm in distance, for the one I love is with me
             For if he be absent from the pupil of my eye, yet still he is in me



إنْ زارَ، يوماً ياحَشايَ تَقَطَّعي،     كَلَفاً بهِ، أو سارَ، يا عينُ اذرِفي
ما للنّوى ذّنْبٌ، ومَنْ أهوى مَعي،       إنْ غابَ عنْ إنسانِ عيني فهوَ في





Sonnet 43

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
       All days are nights to see till I see thee,
       And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.