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(Masnavi Book 3: 63) The Man who asked Moses to teach him the language of Beasts and Birds















How a certain man demanded of Moses (that he should teach him) the language of the beasts and birds.

A young man said to Moses, Teach me the language of the animals,
That perchance from the voice of animals and wild beasts I may get a lesson concerning my religion.
Since the languages of the sons of Adam are entirely for the sake of (acquiring) water and bread and renown,
It may be that the animals have a different care, (namely), that of taking thought for the hour of
passing away (from this world).”

3270. Begone, said Moses; “abandon this vain desire, for this (desire) holds (involves) much danger before and behind.
Seek the lesson and the (spiritual) wakefulness (which you want) from God, not from books and speech and words and lips.”
The man became more eager in consequence of the refusal which he (Moses) made to him: a
man always becomes more eager from being refused (what he craves).
He said, O Moses, since your light has shone forth, whatever was a thing has gained (its)
thinginess from you.
It is not worthy of your bounty, O generous one, to disappoint me of this object of desire.

3275. At this time you art the vicegerent of God: it will be despair (for me) if you prevent me.”
Moses said, “O Lord, surely the stoned (accursed) Devil has subdued this simple man.
If I teach him, it will be harmful to him; and if I do not teach him, he will become faint-hearted.” He (God) said, Teach him, O Moses, for We in our loving-kindness never have rejected (any
one's) prayer.”
He (Moses) said, O Lord, he will feel repentance and gnaw his hands and rend his garments.

3280. Power is not suitable to every one: weakness is the best stock-in-trade for the devout.” For this reason poverty is everlasting glory, since the hand that cannot reach (to objects of desire) is left with fear of God (and nothing else).
Riches and the rich are spurned (by God) because acts of self-denial are relinquished by power. Weakness and poverty are security for a man against the tribulation of the covetous and anxious
(fleshly) soul.

That anxiety arises from the wanton desires to which that (man who falls a) prey to the ghoul has become habituated.

3285. The eater of clay has a desire for clay: rose-flavoured sugar is indigestible for that wretched man.

How Revelation came from God most High to Moses that he should teach him the thing demanded by him, or part of it.

God said, “Do you grant his need: let him have a free hand to choose (good or evil).” Choice (free-will) is the salt of devotion; otherwise (there would be no merit): this celestial sphere revolves involuntarily;
(Hence) its revolution has neither reward nor punishment, for free-will is (accounted) a merit at the time of the Reckoning.
All created beings indeed are glorifiers (of God), (but) that compulsory glorification is not wage- earning.

3290. “Put a sword in his hand, pull him away from weakness (incapacity to choose), so that he may become (either) a holy warrior or a brigand,
Because We have honoured Man by (the gift of) free-will: half (of him) is honeybee, half is snake.”
The true believers are a store of honey, like the bee; the infidels, in sooth, are a store of poison, like the snake,
Because the true believer ate choice herbs, so that, like a bee, his spittle became (a means of giving) life;
(While), again, the infidel drank sherbet of filthy water: accordingly from his nourishment poison
appeared in him.

3295. Those inspired by God are the fountain of life; those allured by the enticements of sensuality are the poison of death.
In the world this praise and “well done! and “bravo! are (bestowed) in virtue of free-will and watchful attention.
All profligates, when they are in prison, become devout and ascetic and invokers of God.
When the power (to act freely) is gone, the work becomes unsaleable (worthless). Take heed lest
Doom seize the capital (which you have).
The power (of free action) is your profit-earning capital. Hark, watch over the moment of power and observe (it well)!

3300. Man rides on the steed ofWe have honoured (the sons of Adam): the reins of free- will are in the hand of his intelligence.
Once more did Moses admonish him kindly, saying, “The thing you desirest will make your face pale.
Abandon this vain passion and be afraid of God: the Devil has schooled you for the purpose of
deception.”

How that seeker was content to be taught the language of domestic fowls and dogs, and how Moses, on whom be peace; complied with his request.

He said, “At any rate (teach me) the language of the dog which is at the door and the language of the domestic fowl which has wings.”
“Hark, said Moses, you knowest (best)! Go, it (the fulfillment of your wish) has arrived: the language of both of these will be revealed to you.

3305. At daybreak, in order to make trial, he stood waiting on the threshold.
The maid-servant shook the table-cloth, and a piece of bread, the remnants of last night's meal, fell out.
A cock snatched it up as (though it were) the stake (in a race). The dog said, You have done
injustice-to me. Begone!
You can eat a grain of corn, while I am unable to eat grains in my abode.
You can eat corn and barley and the rest of the grains, while I cannot, O jubilant one.

3310. This crust of bread, the bread which is our portion—you are taking away from the dogs such a (small) quantity (of food) as this!”

The cock's answer to the dog.

Then the cock said to him, “Be silent, do not grieve, for God will give you something else instead of this.
The horse of this Khwája is about to die: to-morrow eat your fill and be not sorrowful.
The horse's death will be a feast-day for the dogs: there will be abundant provender without toil or earning.”
When the man heard (this speech), he sold the horse. That cock of his was disgraced in the eyes
of the dog.

3315. Next day the cock carried off the bread in the same fashion (as before), and the dog opened his lips at him,
Saying, O beguiling cock, how long (will you tell) these lies? You are unrighteous and false and without lustre.


Where is the horse that you said would die? You are (like) a blind man who tells of the stars and you are deprived of truth.”
That knowing cock said to him, His horse died in another place.
He sold the horse and escaped from loss: he cast the loss upon others;

3320. But to-morrow his mule will die: that will be good fortune for the dogs, (so say) no more.”
The covetous man immediately sold the mule and at that instant obtained deliverance from grief
and loss.
On the third day the dog said to the cock, O prince of liars with your drums and kettledrums!” He (the cock) said, “He sold the mule in haste, (but), said he, to-morrow his slave will be
stricken down,
And when his slave dies, the next of kin will scatter pieces of bread upon the dogs and beggars.”

3325. He (the master) heard this and sold his slave: he was saved from loss and his face was lit up (with joy).
He was giving thanks and making merry, saying, I have been saved from three calamities in the world.
Since I learned the language of the fowl and the dog I have pierced the eye of evil destiny.” Next day the disappointed dog said,O drivelling cock, where are the sundries (you promised me)?

[How the cock became abashed before the dog on account of being false in those three promises.]

How long, pray, how long (will) your falsehood and deceit (continue)? Truly, nothing but falsehood flies out of your nest.”

3330. He said, Far be it from me and from my kind that we should become afflicted with falsehood.
We cocks are veracious like the muezzin: we are observers of the sun as well as seekers of the
(right) time.
We are watchers of the sun inwardly, though you may turn a basin upside down over us.”
The watchers of the Sun (of Reality) are the saints: in the flesh (they are) acquainted with the
Divine mysteries.
“God gave our family as a gift to Man to call (him) to the ritual prayer (and) in preparation (for that purpose).

3335. If a mistake be committed by us in (giving) the call to prayer at the wrong time, it will become the cause of our being killed.
To say at the wrong time Come to welfare will make our blood of no account and licit (liable to be shed with impunity).
It is only the (spiritual) cock, the Soul of (Divine) inspiration, that is protected (by God from sin)
and purged of error.
His (the master's) slave died in the house of the purchaser: that was the purchaser's loss entirely.
He saved his money, but he shed his own blood. Understand (this) well!

3340. One loss would have prevented (many) losses: our bodies and money are the ransom for our souls.
In the presence of kings, in (the hour of their) dispensing punishment, you offer money and purchase your head (life):

How (then) have you become, in (the case of Divine) destiny, (like) a churl withholding your money from the (Supreme) Judge?

How the cock foretold the death of the Khwája.

But to-morrow he will certainly die: his heir, in mourning (for him), will slaughter a cow.
The owner of the house will die (and) depart (from this world): lo, to-morrow a great deal of food will reach you.

3345. High and low will get pieces of bread and dainty morsels and viands in the midst of the street.
(The flesh of) the sacrificed cow and thin loaves of bread will be scattered quickly over the dogs
and the beggars.
The death of the horse and mule and the death of the slave were bringing round the doom of this foolish deluded man.
He fled (escaped) from the loss of wealth and from grief thereat: he increased his wealth and
shed his own blood.
These austerities of dervishes—what are they for? (The reason is) that that tribulation (imposed)
on the body is (in effect) the everlasting life of spirits.

3350. Unless a (mystic) traveller gains the everlasting life of his (spiritual) self, how should he make his body a sick and perishing (thing)?
How should he move his hand to (acts of) altruism and (devotional) work unless he sees (the
salvation of) his soul in exchange for what is given (by him)?
That one who gives without expectation of (any) gains—that one is God, is God, is God,
Or the friend of God (the saint), who has assumed the nature of God and has become luminous and has received the Absolute Radiance;
For He is rich, while all except Him are poor: how should a poor man say “Take without
compensation?

3355. Till a child sees that the apple is there, it will not give up from its hand the stinking onion.
All these market-folk, for the sake of this (worldly) object, are seated on the benches (in the
shops) in the hope of (receiving) compensation:
They offer a hundred fine articles of merchandise, and within their hearts they are intent on compensations.
O man of the (true) Religion, you will not hear a single salaam (blessing) whereof the end will not pluck your sleeve (and demand something of you).
I have never heard a disinterested salaam from high or low, O brother—and (I give) the salaam
(to thee)—

3360. Except the salaam of God. Come, seek that (salaam) from house to house, from place to place, and from street to street!
From the mouth of the man who has a good scent (for spiritual things) I heard both the message and the salaam of God;
And in the hope of that (salaam) I am listening with my heart to the salaams of (all) the rest (as though they were) sweeter than life.
His (the saint's) salaam has become the salaam of God because he has set fire to the household of self.
He has died to self and become living through the Lord: hence the mysteries of God are on his
lips.

3365. The death of the body in self-discipline is life: the sufferings of this body are (the cause of) everlastingness to the spirit.
That wicked man had lent ear: he was hearing from his cock the news (of his death).

How that person ran to Moses for protection when he heard from the cock the announcement of his death.

When he heard these things, he started running in hot haste: he went to the door of Moses, with whom God conversed.
He was rubbing his face in the dust from fear, saying, “Save me from this (doom), O Kalím!”
He (Moses) said, Go, sell yourself and escape! Since you have become expert (in avoiding loss), jump out of the pit (of death)!

3370. Throw the loss upon true believers! Make your purses and scrips double (in size)! I beheld in the brick this destiny which to you became visible (only) in the mirror.
The intelligent man sees with his heart the end (final result) at the first (in the beginning); he
that is lacking in knowledge sees it (only) at the end.”
Once more he (the doomed man) made lamentation, saying,O you who have goodly qualities, do not beat me on the head, do not rub into my face (the sin I have committed).
That (sin) issued from me because I was unworthy: do you give good recompense to my unworthy (action).

3375. He (Moses) said, “An arrow sped from the (archer's) thumb-stall, my lad: it is not the rule that it should come back to the source (the place whence it started);
But I will crave of (God's) good dispensation that you mayst take the Faith away with you at that time (of departing from the world).
When you have taken the Faith away (with thee), you art living: when you goest with the
Faith, you art enduring (for ever).”
At the same instant the Khwája became indisposed, so that he felt qualms, and they brought the basin.
It is the qualms of death, not indigestion: how should vomiting avail you, O foolish ill-fortuned man?

3380. Four persons carried him to his house: he was rubbing (one) leg on the back of (the other) leg.
(If) you hearken not to the counsel of (a) Moses and show disrespect, you dash yourself against
a sword of steel.
The sword feels no shame (to restrain it) from (taking) your life: this is your own (fault), O
brother, your own (fault).

How Moses prayed for that person, that he might depart from the world (die) in the
Faith.

At dawn Moses began (his) orison, saying, O God, do not take the Faith from him, do not carry it away!
Act in royal fashion, forgive him, for he has erred and behaved with impudence and transgressed exceedingly.

3385. I said to him,This knowledge is not meet for you, (but) he deemed my words a thwarting (of his desire) and vain.
That one lays hands on the dragon (and that one alone) whose hand makes the rod a dragon. To learn the secret of the Unseen is fitting for him (alone) who can seal his lips (and refrain) from speech.

None but the water-fowl is proper for the sea. Understand (this)—and God best knoweth the right course.
“He (the obstinate man) went into the sea, and he was not a water-fowl: he sank. Take his hand
(succour him), O Loving One!

How God most High answered favourably the prayer of Moses, on whom be peace.

3390. He (God) said, Yes, I bestow the Faith upon him, and if you wish I will bring him to life at this moment;
Nay, I will at this moment bring to life all the dead in the earth for your sake.”
Moses said, This is the world of dying: raise (them to) that (other) world, for that place is resplendent.
Inasmuch as this abode of mortality is not the world of (real) Being, the return to a borrowed
(impermanent) thing is not much gain.
Strew a gift of mercy upon them even now in the secret chamber of assembled in Our presence.

3395. (I have related this story) that you may know that loss of the body and of wealth is gain to the spirit and delivers it from bane.
Therefore be a purchaser of (ascetic) discipline with (all) your soul: you will save your soul when
you have given up your body to service (of God).
And if the discipline come to you without free choice (on your part), bow your head (in resignation) and give thanks, O successful one.
Since God has given you that discipline, render thanks: you have not done (it); He has drawn you
(to it) by the command, Be!”

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