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(Masnavi Book 2: 19) The sagacity of Luqman ؑ












How Luqmán's master tested his sagacity.



(Was it) not (the case) that (this happened) to Luqmán, who was a pure (unselfish) slave, and day and night was brisk in service?
His master used to prefer him (to all others) in the work (of service) and deem him better than his own sons, Because Luqmán, though he was slave-born, was the master (of himself) and was free from sensual desire.


1465. A certain king said to the Shaykh (spiritual Director) in conversation, “Ask me to bestow some bounty upon you.” He answered, “O King, are not you ashamed to say such a thing to me? Come higher!
I have two slaves, and they are vile, and those two are rulers and lords over you.
Said the King, “What are those two? That is a mistake.” He replied, “The one is anger and the other is lust.” Regard as a king him that is unconcerned with kingship, him whose light shines forth without moon or sun.


1470. (Only) that one whose essence is the treasury (of spiritual truths) possesses the treasury: (only) he that is an enemy to
(his own) existence possesses (real) existence.

Luqmán's master (was) like a master outwardly; in reality his (Luqmán's) master (was) Luqmán's slave. In the topsy-turvy world there is many a one of this (kind): a pearl is less than a straw in their sight.
Every desert has been named mafáza (place of safety): a name and specious form has ensnared their understanding.

In the case of one class of people, the dress makes (a man) known: (if he is dressed) in a qabá, they say that he belongs to the vulgar.


1475. In the case of one class of people (the distinguishing mark is) the hypocritical appearance of asceticism; (but) light is needed, that (any one) may be a spy on asceticism (and detect its true character).

Light is needed, (a light) purged of cant and noxiousness, that he may know a man without (the evidence of) deed or word, And enter into his heart by way of the intellect, and behold his real state and not be confined to tradition.
The chosen servants of (God) the Knower of things unseen are, in the spiritual world, the spies on hearts.

He (such a one) enters within the heart like a fancy: the mystery of the (real) state is unveiled to him.


1480. In the body of the sparrow what power and faculty is there that is hidden from the intellect of the falcon?

He who has become acquainted with the secrets of (God), what to him is the secret (inmost consciousness) of created beings?

He whose walk is on the spheres, how should it be hard for him to walk on the earth?

Since iron became wax in the hand of David, what should wax be in his hand, O man of iniquity?

Luqmán was a slave in appearance, a master (in reality): servitude was (only) a frontispiece on his outside.


1485. When the master goes to a place where he is not known, he puts (his own) clothes on his slave. He (himself) puts on the slave's clothes and makes his slave the leader.
He goes behind him on the road, as slaves do, lest any one should recognise him (as the master).
O slave,” says he, “go you and sit in the place of honour: I will take (your) shoes, like the meanest slave. Treat (me) roughly and revile me; do not bestow any respect on me.


1490. I hold neglect of service to be your (proper) service, since I have sown the seed of contrivance by dwelling in a foreign land.”

Masters have performed these slavish offices in order that it might be thought that they were slaves.

They saw their fill of masterdom and were sated (with it): (hence) they have made ready for (doing) the work (of slaves). On the contrary, these slaves of sensuality have represented themselves as masters of intellect and spirit.
From the master (the spiritual man) comes the practice of self-abasement; from the slave (the sensual man) comes naught but slavishness.


1495. So topsy-turvy, then, are the arrangements between that world and this world. Know this (for sure). Luqmán's master was aware of this hidden state (of Luqmán); he had seen signs (thereof) in him.
That traveller (Luqmán's master) knew the secret, (but) quietly pursued his way for the sake of the good (which he had in view).

He would have set him free at the first, but he sought to content (comply with the wish of) Luqmán,

Because it was Luqmán's desire (to remain a slave), in order that none might know the secret of that brave and generous youth.


1500. What wonder (is it) that you should hide your secret from the evil (one)? The wonder is this, that you should hide the secret from yourself.

Hide your work from your own eyes, that your work may be safe from the evil eye.

Yield yourself up to the snare of the (Divine) reward, and then, (being) beside yourself, steal something from yourself. They give opium to the wounded man, in order that they may extract the point (of a spear or arrow) from his body.

At the hour of death he is torn with pain; he becomes preoccupied with that, and (meanwhile) his spirit (life) is taken away.


1505. Inasmuch as, to whatsoever thought you give up your mind, something will secretly be taken away from you,

(And inasmuch as) whatsoever you may cogitate and (whatsoever) acquisition you may make, the thief will enter from the side where you feel safe,

Become occupied, therefore, with that which is better, in order that the thief may take away from you something that is less (in worth).

When the trader's bales fall into the water, he lays his hands upon the better merchandise.

Since something will (certainly) be lost in the water, take leave of the less (worse) and gain (possession of) the better.



How the excellence and sagacity of Luqmán became manifest to those who made trial (of him).


1510. Whatever food they brought to him (Luqmán's master), he would send some one to Luqmán after (receiving it), That Luqmán might put his hand to (partake of) it, on purpose that the master might eat his (Luqmán's) leavings.
He would eat his remnants and be enraptured: any food that he (Luqmán) did not taste, he (the master) would throw away; Or if he ate (of it), (’twould be) without heart and without appetite: this is (the sign of) an affinity without end.
They had brought a melon as a present. “Go,” said he, “call (hither) my son, Luqmán.


1515. When he cut it and gave him a slice, he ate it as if it were sugar and honey.

On account of the pleasure with which he ate (it), he gave him a second (slice), (and went on) till the slices (given him)
reached the seventeenth.

One slice remained. He said, “I will eat this (myself), so that I may see what a sweet melon this is.
He (Luqmán) eats it with such pleasure that from his delight (all) natures have become eager and craving the morsel.” As soon as he (the master) ate it, by its sourness there was kindled fire (which) blistered his tongue and burnt his throat.


1520. He became beside himself for a while on account of its sourness; after that, he said to him, “O (you who are) soul and world,

How did you make all this poison an antidote? How did you deem this cruelty to be kindness?

What patience is this? For what reason is this great fortitude? Or, perchance, in your opinion this life of yours is an enemy
(which you would fain destroy).
Why did not you cunningly bring (forward) a plea, saying, I have an excuse (for declining to eat): desist for a while’.” Luqmán said, “From your munificent hand I have eaten so much that I am (bent) double with shame.


1525. I was ashamed not to eat one bitter thing from your hand, O you who art possessed of knowledge. Since all parts of me have grown from your bounty and are plunged in your bait and snare—
If I make outcry and complaint because of one bitter thing, may the dust of a hundred roads be on (all) parts of me!

It (the melon) had the enjoyment of your sugar-bestowing hand: how could it (such enjoyment) leave any bitterness in this melon?”

By love bitter things become sweet; by love pieces of copper become golden;


1530. By love dregs become clear; by love pains become healing; By love the dead is made living; by love the king is made a slave.
This love, moreover, is the result of knowledge: who (ever) sat in foolishness on such a throne?

On what occasion did deficient knowledge give birth to this love? Deficient (knowledge) gives birth to love, but (only love) for that which is (really) lifeless.

When it sees in a lifeless being the colour (appearance) of a desired one, (it is as though) it heard the voice of a beloved in a whistle.


1535. Deficient knowledge cannot discriminate: of necessity it deems the lightning to be the sun.

When the Prophet called the “deficient” (man) accursed, (his meaning) as interpreted was “deficiency of mind,”

Because one whose body is deficient is the object of (Divine) mercy: cursing and repulse (directed) against the object of
(Divine) mercy are improper.
It is deficiency of mind that is the bad disease: it is the cause of (God's) curse and merits banishment (from His presence), Forasmuch as the perfecting of minds is not remote (impossible), but the perfecting of the body is not within our power.


1540. The miscreance and Pharaoh-like pride of every infidel who is far (from God) have all been produced by deficiency of mind.

Relief for bodily deficiency has come in the (words of the) Qur’ánit is no crime in the blind man.

Lightning is transient and very faithless: without clearness (of mind) you will not know the transient from the permanent. The lightning laughs: say, at whom is it laughing? At him that sets his heart upon its light.
The lights of the sky are hamstrung (feeble and imperfect): how are they like (that Light which is) neither of the east nor of the west?


1545. Regard the lightning as (what) taketh away the sight; regard the everlasting Light as entirely Helpers (to the attainment of vision).

To ride (your) horse upon the foam of the sea, to read a letter in a flash of lightning,

Is, to fail, because of covetousness, to see the end; it is, to laugh at your own mind and intellect.

Intellect, by its proper nature, is a seer of the end (consequence); It is the fleshly soul that does not see the end.

The intellect that is vanquished by the flesh becomes the flesh: Jupiter is checkmated by Saturn and becomes inauspicious.


1550. Still, turn this gaze (of yours) upon this inauspiciousness, look on that One who made you ill-starred. The gaze (of him) that surveys this ebb and flow pierces from the inauspicious influence to the auspicious.
He (God) continually turns you from one state (of feeling) to another, manifesting opposite by means of opposite in the change,

For the purpose that fear of the left hand side may bring to birth in you the delight of “the (blessed) men are led to hope for the right hand side,”

So that you may have two wings (fear and hope); for the bird that has (only) one wing is unable to fly, O excellent (reader).


1555. (O God), either let me not come to speech (at all), or give me leave to tell (the whole) to the end.

But if you willest neither this nor that, It is yours to command: how should any one know what you intendest?

One must needs have the spirit of Abraham to see in the fire Paradise and its palaces by the light (of mystic knowledge); And mount step by step above the moon and the sun, lest he remain like the door-ring fastened on the door;
And, like the Friend, pass beyond the Seventh Heaven, saying, I love not them that set.


1560. This bodily world is deceptive, save to him that has escaped from lust.

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