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(Masnavi Book 3: 00) Preface (in prose)


In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful.

Reynold A. Nicholson
April 1930

The sciences of (Divine) Wisdom are God's armies, wherewith He strengthens the spirits of the initiates, and purifies their knowledge from the defilement of ignorance, their justice from the defilement of iniquity, their generosity from the defilement of ostentation, and their forbearance from the defilement of foolishness; and brings near to them whatever was far from them in respect of the understanding of the state hereafter; and makes easy to them whatever was hard to them in respect of obedience (to Him) and zealous endeavour (to serve Him). And they (these sciences) are amongst the evidences and proofs of the prophets, giving information concerning the mysteries and sovereignty of God, (the knowledge whereof is) bestowed on the gnostics exclusively, and how He causes the revolution of the Luminous Sphere appertaining to the
Rahmán and the Pearl, (the Sphere) which rules over the vaporous globular sphere, even as the intellect rules over the bodies (created) of dust and (over) their external and internal senses; for the revolution of that spiritual Sphere rules over the vaporous sphere and the gleaming meteors and the radiant lamps (of heaven) and the fostering winds and the outspread earths and the flowing waters. May God benefit His servants thereby (by these sciences) and increase their understanding! Now every reader understands according to the measure of his intelligence, and the devotee practises devotion according to the measure of his power to exert himself (therein), and the mufti decides questions of law according to the amount of judgement he possesses, and the alms-giver gives alms in proportion to his ability, and the donor is generous in proportion to
his means, and the recipient of generosity obtains (only) so much of his bounty as he (the donor) approves. But (nevertheless) he who searches for water in the desert will not be prevented from seeking it by his knowledge of what is (contained) in the seas, and he will be earnest in seeking the Water of this (spiritual) life ere he is cut off from it by preoccupation with the means of subsistence and hindered by illness and want, and ere (other) objects come between him and that (goal) to which he is hastening, since none who prefers vain desire or is inclined to ease or turns back from his search or has fears for himself or feels anxiety about his means of livelihood will ever attain unto Knowledge, unless he take refuge with God and prefer his spiritual affairs to his temporal and take from the treasure of Wisdom the great riches, which neither lose their value nor are inherited like riches (of this world), and the majestic lights and noble jewels and precious estates (of Wisdom), giving thanks for His bounty, glorifying His dispensation, magnifying His allotment; and unless he seek refuge with God from the vileness of (worldly) interests and from an ignorance (so blind) that he makes much of the little which he sees in himself and makes little of the much and great (which he finds) in others, and admires himself on account of that (self-conceit) for which God hath not given him permission. But it behoves one who hath knowledge and is seeking (God) that he should learn whatever he does not know, and
teach (others) what he knows already, and deal gently with those of weak intelligence, and heither be made conceited by the stupidity of the stupid nor harshly rebuke him that is dull of understanding. Such were ye aforetime, but God hath been gracious unto you. Transcendent is God and exalted above the sayings of the blasphemers, and the belief of those who attribute partners (to Him), and the imputation of defect (to Him) by those deficient (in knowledge), and the comparison (of Him) by the comparers, and the evil conceptions of the thinkers, and the descriptions (of Him) by those who vainly imagine. And to Him be the praise and the glory for the composition of the Divine, Lordly Book of the Mathnawí, since He is the Helper to success and
the Giver of bounty, and to Him belongs the (power of) conferring abundant benefits and favours, especially upon His servants, the gnostics, in despite of a party who desire to extinguish the Lights of God with their mouths—but God will bring His Light to completion, even if the unbelievers are loth. Verily, We have sent down the Warning (the Qur’án) and verily We will guard it. And whoever shall alter it after he hath heard it, surely the guilt thereof is upon those who alter it: verily, God is Hearing and Knowing. And praise be to God, the Lord of all created beings!

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