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(Masnavi Book 2: 22) Moses and the shepherd

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 you wilt), Where art Thou, that I may become your servant and sew your shoes and comb your head?
That I may wash your clothes and kill your lice and bring milk to you, O worshipful One;
That I may kiss your little hand and rub your little foot, (and when) bedtime comes I may sweep your little room, O you to whom all my goats be a sacrifice, O you 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 you didst not visit Me,’ (that is), I became ill, not he (the sick man)

(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, It is (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, you have closed my mouth and you have burned my soul with repentance.” He rent his garment and heaved a sigh, and hasily turned his head towards the desert and went (his way).

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

1750. A revelation came to Moses from God—“You have parted My servant from Me. Didst you come (as a prophet) to unite, or didst you come to sever?
So far as you 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 you it is (worthy of) blame: in regard to him honey, and in regard to you 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); It is 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

Light up a fire of love in your 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 do you 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), It is no harm: Love in the sea of sorrow is not

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, It is foolishness (in me), because the explanation of this is beyond (our)

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.

You 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 your hand and on yours 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

1795. Though your praise is better in comparison with that, yet in relation to God it too is maimed (feeble). How often will you say, when the lid has been raised, “This was not what they were thinking (it was)!”
This acceptance (by God) of your praise is from (His) mercy: it is an indulgence (which He grants), like (the indulgence granted in the case of) the prayers of a woman suffering from menorrhagia.

Her prayers are stained with blood; your praise is stained with assimilation and qualification.

Blood is foul, and (yet) it goes (is washed away) by a (little) water; but the inward part (the inner man) has impurities

1800. Which fail not (are not removed) from the interior (the heart) of the man of works except by the water of the grace of the Maker.

Would that in your bowing low in prayer you would turn your face (to attentive consideration) and apprehend the meaning of
“Glory to my Lord!

Saying, “Oh, my prostration (in prayer), like my existence, is unworthy (of You): do you give good in return for evil!” This earth has the mark of God's clemency, in that it got filth and gave flowers as the produce;
In that it covers our pollutions, (and that) buds grow up from it in exchange.

1805. Therefore, when the infidel saw that in giving and lavishing he was meaner and unwealthier than the earth,

(That) flowers and fruit did not grow from his being, (and that) he sought (and achieved) nothing but the corruption of all purities,

He said, “I have gone backwards in (my) course. Alas! would that I had (still) been earth!
Would that I had not chosen to travel away from earthiness, (and that) like a clod of earth I had gathered some grain! When I travelled, the Way tried me: what was the present I brought (home) from this travelling?”

1810. It is from all that propensity of his towards earth that he sees before him no profit in the journey.

His turning his face back is that greed and cupidity (of his); his turning his face to the Way is sincerity and supplication. Every herb that has a propensity for (moving) upwards is in (the state of) increase and life and growth;
When it has turned its head towards the earth, (it is) in (the state of) decrease and dryness and failure and disappointment.

When the propensity of your spirit is upwards, (you are) in (the state of) increase and that (lofty) place is the place to which you will return;


But if you are upside down, (with) your head towards the earth, (then) you are one that sinks: God loves not them that sink.

How Moses, on whom be peace, asked the high God (to explain) the secret of the predominance of the unjust.

Moses said, “O Bounteous Disposer, O you whom to commemorate for one moment is (worth) a long life,

I have seen the crooked, misshapen image in (the mould of) water and clay, and like the angels, my heart has raised an objection,

As to what is the purpose of making an image and casting therein the seed of corruption.

To kindle the fire of iniquity and corruption; to burn the mosque and those who bend low in prayer;

1820. To set boiling the source of bloody tears for the sake of (receiving) humble entreaties (from the suffering and oppressed)—

I know for certain that it is the essence of wisdom (on your part), but my aim is (to know this by) actual seeing and vision. That certainty (of mine) says to me, ‘keep silence’; the craving for vision says to me, ‘Make a stir (and outcry).’
You have shown your secret to the angels, (namely) that such honey as this is worth the sting.

You have displayed the Light of Adam manifestly to the angels, (so that all) the difficulties were explained.

1825. your Resurrection declares what is the secret of death: the fruits declare what is the secret of the leaves.” The secret of blood and seed is the excellence of Man; after all, inferiority is antecedent to every superiority.
The ignorant (child) first washes the tablet, then he writes the letters upon it.

(So) He (God) turns the heart into blood and abject tears, then He writes the (spiritual) mysteries upon it.

At the time of washing the tablet (of the heart) one must recognize that it will be made into a book (of mysteries).

1830. When they lay the foundation of a house (to rebuild it), they dig up the first foundation.

(Also), people first fetch up clay from the depths of the earth in order that at last you may draw up flowing water.

Children weep piteously at cupping, for they know not the secret of the matter;

(But) a man, in sooth, gives the cupper gold and fondles the blood-drinking lancet.

The porter runs to the heavy load: he snatches the load from others.

1835. Behold the struggle of the porters for the load! Such is the endeavour of him that sees (the truth of) things, Inasmuch as burdens are the foundation of ease, and bitter things, too, are the forerunners of enjoyment.
Paradise is compassed about with the things we dislike (to do); the fires (of Hell) are compassed about with our lusts.

The seed (source) of the substance of your fire (of torment) is the fresh bough (of lust); (but) he that is burned by the fire (of renunciation) is the comrade of Kawthar.

Whosoever is the comrade of affliction in prison—that is the retribution for a mouthful (of unlawful food) and a lust.

1840. Whosoever is the comrade of a high fortune in a palace— that is the reward for some battle-field and sore trial. Whomsoever you have seen unrivalled in (his store of) gold and silver—know that he has been patient in earning.
When the (spiritual) eye has become piercing, he (the owner) sees without causes. You who are in (the bondage of) sense- perception, pay you heed to causes!

He whose spirit is beyond (the world of) natural properties— to him belongs the position of power to rive (the chain of)

The (spiritual) eye regards the fountain of the miracles of the prophets as (being) without cause, not as (arising) from water and herbage.

1845. These causes are (linked together) like the physician and the sick: these causes are like the lamp and the wick. Twist a new wick for your night-lamp, (but) know that the lamp of the sun transcends these things.
Go you and make plaster for the roof of your house, (but) know that the roof of the sky is undefiled by plaster.

Alas that, after our Sweetheart had burned (utterly destroyed) our pain, the night-time of being alone (with Him) passed away and became day!

Except at night there is no unveiling of the moon: except through heartache do not seek your heart's desire.

1850. Forsaking Jesus, you have fostered the ass: of necessity, like the ass, you are outside of the curtain. Knowledge and gnosis are the fortune of Jesus; they are not the fortune of the ass, O you asinine one!
You listen to the moaning of the ass, and pity comes over you; then you know not (that) the ass commands you to be asinine. Have pity on Jesus and have no pity on the ass: do not make the (carnal) nature lord over your intellect.
Let the (carnal) nature weep sore and bitterly: do you take from it and pay the debt of the (rational) soul.

1855. For years you have been the ass's slave. It is enough, for the ass's slave is behind (even) the ass.

The thing meant by (the Prophet's words) “put them (the women) behind” is your fleshly soul; for it must be last, and your intellect (must be) first.
This base intellect has become of the same temperament as the ass: its (only) thought is how it shall get hold of fodder. The ass of Jesus took (to itself) the temperament of the (rational) spirit: it took its abode in the place of the intelligent, Because (in Jesus) intellect was ruling, and the ass (was) weak —the ass is made lean by a strong rider—

1860. While from the weakness of your intellect, O you who have (no more than) the value of an ass, this worn-out ass has become a dragon.

If through Jesus (the spiritual guide) you have become heart-sick, (yet) health too comes from him: do not leave him.

How art you as to affliction, O you Jesus who have the (healing) breath of Jesus? For there never was in the world a treasure without a snake.
How art you, O Jesus, at the sight of the Jews? How art you, O Joseph, in respect of the envious plotter? Night and day for the sake of this foolish people you, like night and day, art a replenisher of life.

1865. Alas for those bilious ones who are without excellence! What excellence is born from bile? Headache.

Do you the same thing that the sun of the east does with (our) hypocrisy and craft and thieving and dissimulation.
You art honey, we are vinegar in (the affairs of) this world and in religion; the (means of) removing this bile is oxymel. We folk who suffer from colic have added more and more vinegar; do you add more and more honey, withhold not your

This was meet in us; such (acts naturally) issued from us: what is increased by sand in the eye? Blindness.

1870. (But) It is meet in you, O precious collyrium, that every nothing should gain from you something.

Your heart is roasted by the fire of these unrighteous men, (yet) all your appeal (to God) has been, “Guide my people!” you art a mine of aloes-wood: if they set you afire, they will fill this world with otto of roses and sweet basil.
You art not that aloes-wood that is minished by the fire: you art not that spirit that is made captive by grief.

Aloes-wood burns, (but) the mine of aloes-wood is far from burning: how should the wind (of evil words) assail the source of (spiritual) light?

1875. Oh, It is from you the heavens have (their) purity; oh, your unkindness is better than kindness, Because if an unkindness come from the wise it is better than the kindness of the ignorant.
The Prophet said, “Enmity (proceeding) from wisdom is better than the love that comes from a fool.”

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