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(Masnavi Book 3: 30) Knowledge and Opinion





Explaining that Knowledge has two wings, and Opinion (only) one: Opinion is defective and curtailed in flight”; and a comparison illustrating opinion and certainty in knowledge.

1510. Knowledge has two wings, Opinion one wing: Opinion is defective and curtailed in flight.
The one-winged bird soon falls headlong; then again it flies up some two paces or (a little) more. The bird, Opinion, falling and rising, goes on with one wing in hope of (reaching) the nest.
(But) when he has been delivered from Opinion, Knowledge shows its face to him: that one- winged bird becomes two-winged and spreads his wings.
After that, he walks erect and straight, not falling flat on his face or ailing.

1515. He flies aloft with two wings, like Gabriel, without opinion and without peradventure and without disputation.
If all the world should say to him, You are on the Way of God and (are following) the right religion,”
He will not be made hotter by their words: his lonely soul will not mate with them;
And if they all should say to him, You are astray: you think (you are) a mountain, and (in reality)
you are a blade of straw,”
He will not fall into opinion (doubt) because of their taunts, he will not be grieved by their departure (estrangement from him).

1520. Nay, if seas and mountains should come to speech and should say to him, You are wedded to perdition,”
Not the least jot will he fall into phantasy or sickness on account of the taunts of the scoffers.

Parable of a man's being made (spiritually) ill by vain conceit of the veneration in which he is held by the people and of the supplication addressed to him by those seeking his favour; and the (following) story of the Teacher.

The boys in a certain school suffered at the hands of their master from weariness and toil.
They consulted about (the means of) stopping (his) work, so that the teacher should be reduced to the necessity (of letting them go),


(Saying), “Since no illness befalls him, which would cause him to take absence for several days,

1525. So that we might escape from (this) imprisonment and confinement and work, (what can we do?). He is fixed (here), like a solid rock.”
One, the cleverest (of them all), planned that he should say, “Master, how are you (so) pale? May it be well (with you)! Your colour is changed: this is the effect either of (bad) air or of a
fever.”
(He continued), “At this he (the master) will begin to fancy a little (that he is ill): do you too, brother, help (me) in like manner.
When you come in through the door of the school, say (to him), ‘Master, is your state (of health)
good?’

1530. (Then) that fancy of his will increase a little, for by a fancy a sensible man is driven mad.
After us let the third (boy) and the fourth and the fifth show sympathy and sorrow likewise,
So that, when with one consent thirty boys successively tell this story, it may find lodgement (in his mind).”
Each (of the boys) said to him (the ringleader),Bravo, O sagacious one! May your fortune rest
on the favour (of God)!”
They agreed, in firm covenant, that no fellow should alter the words;

1535. And afterwards he administered an oath to them all, lest any tell-tale should reveal the plot.
The counsel of that boy prevailed over all (the others), his intellect was going in front of the
(whole) flock.
There is the same difference in human intellect as (there is) amongst loved ones in (their outward) forms.
From this point of view, Ahmad (Mohammed) said in talk, “The excellence of men is hidden in the
tongue.

People's intellects differ in their original nature, (though) according to the Mu‘tazilites they are (originally) equal and the difference in intellects arises from the acquisition of knowledge.

You must hear (and believe) in accordance with the Sunnís (that) the difference in (people's)
intellects was original,

1540. In contradiction to the doctrine of the Mu‘tazilites, who hold that (all) intellects were originally equal,
(And who maintain that) experience and teaching makes them more or less, so that it makes one
person more knowing than another.
This is false, because the counsel of a boy who has not experience in any course of action— From that small child sprang up a thought (which) the old man with a hundred experiences did
not smell out (detect and apprehend) at all.
Truly, the superiority that is from (any one's) nature is even better than the superiority that is
(the result of) endeavour and reflection.

1545. Tell (me), is the gift of God better, or (is it better) that a lame person should (learn to)
walk smoothly (without stumbling)?


How the boys made the teacher imagine (that he was ill).

Day broke, and those boys, (intent) on this thought, came from their homes to the shop (school).

They all stood outside, waiting for that resolute fellow to go in first,
Because he was the source of this plan: the head is always an Imám (leader and guide) to the foot.
O imitator (follower of convention and tradition), do not you seek precedence over one who is a
source of the heavenly light.

1550. He (the boy) came in and said to the master “Salaam! I hope you are well. Your face is yellow in colour.”
The master said, I have no ailment. Go and sit down and don't talk nonsense, hey!
He denied (it), but the dust of evil imagination suddenly struck a little (made a slight impression)
upon his heart.
Another (boy) came in and said the like: by this (second suggestion) that imagination was a little increased.
(They continued) in like manner, until his imagination gained strength and he was left marvelling
exceedingly as to his state (of health).

How Pharaoh was made (spiritually) ill by vain imagination arising from the people's reverence (for him).

1555. The people's prostrating themselves—women, children, and mensmote the heart of
Pharaoh and made him ill.
Every one's calling him lord and king made him so tattered (infamous) from a vain imagination, That he dared to pretend to divinity: he became a dragon and would never be sated.
Imagination and opinion are the bane of the particular (discursive) reason, because its dwelling- place is in the darkness.
If there be a path half an ell wide on the ground, a man will walk safely without imagining;

1560. (But) if you walk on the top of a high wall, you will stagger even if its width be two ells; Nay, through (the force of) imagination and from trembling of heart, you will be (on the point of) falling. Consider well and understand the fear that is due to imagination.

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