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(Masnavi Book 2: 18) Dhul-Nun and the friends who came to visit him in the mad-house










How friends came to the madhouse for Dhu ’l-Nún—may God sanctify his honoured spirit!


It so happened to Dhu ’l-Nún the Egyptian that a new agitation and madness was born within him.

His agitation became so great that salt (bitterness) from it was reaching (all) hearts up to above the sky.

Beware, O (You of) salty soil, do not put your agitation beside (in comparison with) the agitation of the holy lords (saints).

The people could not endure his madness: his fire was carrying off their beards.


1390. When (that) fire fell on the beards of the vulgar, they bound him and put him in a prison. There is no possibility of pulling back this rein, though the vulgar be distressed by this way.
These (spiritual) kings have seen (themselves in) danger of their lives from the vulgar; for this multitude are blind, and the kings (are) without (a visible) mark.
When authority is in the hands of profligates, (a) Dhu ’l-Nún is inevitably in prison. The great king rides alone! Such a unique pearl in the hands of children!


1395. What pearl? (Nay), the Sea hidden in a drop, a Sun concealed in a mote. A Sun showed itself as a mote, and little by little uncovered its face.
All motes vanished in it; the (whole) world became intoxicated by it and (then) became sober. When the pen (of authority) is in the hand of a traitor, unquestionably Mansúr is on a gibbet.
When this affair (dominion) belongs to the foolish, the necessary consequence is (that) they kill the prophets.


1400. Through folly the people who had lost the (right) way said to the prophets, Lo, we augur ill from you.” See the ignorance of the Christian appealing for protection to the Lord who was suspended (on the Cross)!
Since, according to his (the Christian's) belief, He was crucified by the Jews, how then can He protect him?

Inasmuch as the heart of that King (Jesus) bleeds on account of them (the Christians), how should there be (for them) the inviolable defence of whilst you art amongst them?

To the pure gold and to the goldsmith the danger from the false counterfeiter is greater (than from any one else).


1405. Josephs are concealed on account of the jealousy of the ugly, for because of enemies the beautiful live in the fire (of tribulation).

Josephs are in the pit through the guile of (their) brethren, who from envy give Joseph to the wolves. What happened to Joseph of Egypt on account of envy? This envy is a big wolf in covert.
Of necessity, kind Jacob always had fear and dread for Joseph because of this wolf.

The outward (visible) wolf, indeed, did not prowl about (approach) Joseph; (but) this envy has actually surpassed wolves (in malignity).


1410. This wolf dealt its wound, and by way of specious excuse came (the words), Lo, we went to compete with one another.
Hundreds of thousands of wolves have not this cunning; (but) this wolf will at last be put to shame—stop (and see)!— Because on the Day of Bale the envious will without doubt be (raised from the dead and) brought together (to Judgement) in
the shape of wolves.
The resurrection of the greedy vile eater of carrion (unlawful food) will be in the shape of a hog on the Day of Reckoning. Adulteris (erit) foetor membri latentis; wine-drinkers will have stinking mouths.


1415. The hidden stench that was reaching (only) to (people's) hearts will become sensible and manifest at the Resurrection. The being of Man is a jungle: be on your guard against this being, if you are of that (Divine) Breath.
In our being there are thousands of wolves and hogs; (there is) goodly and ungodly and fair and foul.

To the disposition that is preponderant belongs the decision (as to what you are): when the gold is more than the copper, it (the mixture) is gold.

The manner of acting that preponderates in your nature—in that same form you must needs rise (from the dead).


1420. At one hour a wolf enters into Man, at another hour a moon-like beauty with the face of Joseph. Good and hateful qualities pass from bosoms into bosoms by a hidden way;
Nay, indeed, wisdom and knowledge and excellence pass from Man into the ox and the ass.

The stumbling (restive) horse becomes smooth-paced and docile; the bear dances, the goat also salaams.

Volition has passed from human beings into the dog, so that he has become a shepherd or a hunter or a guardian (of the house).


1425. Into the dog of the Companions (of the Cave) there passed from those Sleepers a (moral) disposition, so that he had become a seeker of God.

At every moment a (different) species bursts up in the breast: now a devil, and now an angel, now wild beasts.

From that marvellous Jungle with which every lion is acquainted, there is a hidden way to the breasts which ensnare (the spiritual prey).

O you who are less than a dog, steal the spiritual pearl from within—from within (the breasts of) them that know God.

As you (must) steal, at any rate (let it be) that lovely pearl; as you are going to bear a burden, at any rate (let it be) a noble one.



How the disciples understood that Dhu ’l-Nún had not become mad, (but) had acted with intention.


1430. The friends went to the prison (to inquire) about the story of Dhu ’l-Nún, and expressed an opinion concerning it,

Saying, “Perchance he does this purposely, or there is some (deep) wisdom (in it): he is an exemplar and a shining light in this religion.

Far, far be it from his sea-like (profound) intelligence that madness should prompt him to folly!

God forbid, in view of the perfection of his (spiritual) attainments, that the cloud of sickness should cover his moon!

He has gone into the house (and taken refuge) from the wickedness of the vulgar: he has become mad on account of the infamy of the sane.


1435. From (feeling) the disgrace of the dull body-serving intellect, he has purposely gone and become mad, Saying, ‘Bind me fast and with the tail of a cow smite me on head and back, and do not dispute this (matter),
That from the stroke of the part (of the cow) I may gain life, as the murdered man (gained life) from the cow of Moses, O
trusty ones;

That I may be made happy by the stroke of a part of the cow; (that I may) become well (whole), like the murdered man (by means) of the cow of Moses’.”

The murdered man was revived by the stroke of the cow's tail: he became pure gold (in spirit), even as copper (is transmuted)
by the elixir.


1440. The murdered man sprang up and told the secrets: he revealed that bloodthirsty gang.

He said plainly, I was killed by these people who are now disturbed (with anger) in contending against me.” When this gross body is killed, the essence that knows (spiritual) secrets is brought to life.
Its spirit beholds Paradise and Hell-fire and discerns all the mysteries.

It reveals the devilish murderers, it reveals the snare of deceit and guile.


1445. To kill the cow (the fleshly soul) is the stipulation of (imposed by) the (Súfí) Path, in order that the spirit may be restored to consciousness by the stroke of her tail.

Kill most quickly the cow, your fleshly soul, so that the hidden spirit may become alive and conscious.



Resumption of the story of Dhu ’l-Nún, may God sanctify his spirit!



When those persons arrived near him, he shouted, “Hey, who are ye? Take care!

They said respectfully, “We are some of your friends: we have come hither in devotion to ask after you.

How art thou, O Sea of manifold intelligence? What aspersion on your intelligence is this (alleged) madness?


1450. How should the smoke of the bath-stove attain unto the Sun? How should the ‘Anqá be crushed by the crow? Do not withhold (the truth) from us: explain this matter; we are lovers (of you): do not behave to us in this fashion. One ought not to drive lovers away or dupe them by mask and false pretence.
Communicate the secret, O King: do not hide your face in the cloud, O Moon!

We are loving and true and with wounded (bleeding) hearts: in the two worlds we have fixed our hearts on you (alone).”


1455. He began (to use) foul words and bad names recklessly: he spoke gibberish like madmen. He jumped up and let fly stones and sticks; the whole party fled for fear of blows.
He laughed loudly and tossed his head (in scorn). “Look,” said he, “at the vain bluster of these friends! See the friends! Where is the sign of (true) friends? To (true) friends pain is as (dear as) life.”
How should a friend turn aside from the pain inflicted by his friend? Pain is the kernel, and friendship is (only) as the husk to it.


1460. Has not joy in tribulation and calamity and suffering become the sign of (true) friendship? A friend is like gold, tribulation is like the fire: the pure gold is glad in the heart of the fire.

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