Search Poetry


(Masnavi Book 4: 76) The Egyptian and the Israelite

How the Egyptian entreated the Israelite, saying, “Of yours own intention fill a jug from the Nile and put it to my lips, that I may drink. (I beseech thee) by the right of friendship and brotherhood; for the jug which ye Israelites fill from the Nile for yourselves is pure water, while the jug which we Egyptians fill is pure blood.

I heard that an Egyptian, on account of thirst, came into the house of an Israelite. He said, I am your friend and kinsman: to-day I have become in need of you,
Because Moses wrought sorcery and enchantments, so that he made the water of the Nile to be
blood for us.
The Israelites drink pure water from it, (but) to the Egyptians the water has become blood from the spell laid on our eyes.

3435. Look, the Egyptians are dying of thirst in consequence of their ill-fortune or their evil nature.
Fill one cup with water for yourself, that this old friend may drink of your water.
When you fillest that cup for yours own sake, ’twill not be blood, twill be water pure and free
(from taint).
I too will drink the water as your parasite; for a parasite, in following (his host), is relieved from anguish.
He (the Israelite) said,O (you who art to me as) soul and world, I will do (this) service (for thee); I will pay (you) regard (in this matter), O (you who art as) my two bright eyes!

3440. I will do according to your desire, I will rejoice (to serve thee); I will be your slave, I will act (generously) as a freeman.”
He filled the cup with water from the Nile, put it to his lips, and drank one half (of the water).

(Then) he tilted the cup towards him who craved the water, saying, Drink you too! That
(water) became black blood.
Again he tilted it on this side (towards himself): the blood became water (once more). The
Egyptian was enraged and incensed.
He sat down awhile till his anger departed; after that, he said to him, O mighty sword (of the

3445. O brother, what is the expedient for (loosing) this knot? He (the Israelite) said, “(Only)
he that is God-fearing drinks this (water).”
The God-fearing man is he that has become quit of (has renounced) the way of Pharaoh and has become like unto Moses.
Become (as) the people of Moses and drink this water; make peace with the Moon and behold
the moonbeams.
There are a hundred thousand darknesses in yours eye (which arise) from your wrath against the servants of God.
Extinguish wrath, open the (spiritual) eye, rejoice, take a lesson from (true) friends, become a
teacher (of the Truth).

3450. How wilt you become my parasite (follower) in scooping up (the water) when you have an unbelief (as great) as Mount Qáf?
How should a mountain go into the cavity (eye) of a needle, unless indeed it become a single thread?
By asking forgiveness (of God) make the mountain (like) a straw, and (then) take joyously the
cup of the forgiven and drain (it) joyously!
Inasmuch as God has made it unlawful to the unbelievers, how wilt you drink of it (whilst you art endued) with this imposture?
How should the Creator of imposture buy (accept) your imposture, O fabricator of fiction?

3455. Become (like) the kinsfolk of Moses, for deceit is useless: your deceit is (like) measuring the empty wind.
Will the water dare to turn aside from the command of the Lord and bestow refreshment on the unbelievers?
Or do you suppose that you art eating bread? You art eating snake-venom and (that which
causes) wasting away of the spirit.
How should bread restore to health the spirit that averts its heart from the command of the
Beloved Spirit?
Or do you suppose that when you readest the words of the Mathnawí you hearest them gratis (without giving aught in return)?

3460. Or that the discourse of wisdom and the hidden mystery comes easily into your ear and mouth?
It comes in, but, like fables, it shows (only) the husk, not the kernel of the berries,
(As) a sweetheart who has drawn a veil over her head and face and has hidden her face from yours eye.
By reason of contumacy the Sháhnáma or Kalíla seems to you just like the Qurán.
The difference between truth and falsehood is (visible) at the moment when the collyrium of
(Divine) favour opens the eye;

3465. Otherwise, dung and musk are both the same to one whose nose is obstructed (by disease), since (in him) there is no sense of smell.
His aim is to divert himself from ennui (by reading such books), and neglect the Word of the

That by means of that (entertaining) discourse he may quench the fire of distress and anxiety and provide a cure (for his malady).
For the purpose of quenching this amount of fire, pure water and urine are alike in skill (are equally serviceable).
Both this urine and (this) water will quench the fire of distress, just as (it is quenched) during sleep.

3470. But if you become (really) acquainted with this pure water, which is the Word of God and spiritual,
All distress will vanish from the soul, and the heart will find its way to the Rose-garden, Because every one who catches a scent of the mystery of the (Divine) scriptures flies into an orchard with a running brook.
Or do you suppose that we see the face of the Saints as it is (in reality)?
Hence the Prophet remained in astonishment, saying, “How are the true believers not seeing my face?

3475. How are the people not seeing the light of my face, which has borne away the prize from the orient sun?
And if they are seeing (it), wherefore is this perplexity? until a revelation came (to him from
God), saying, That face is in concealment.
In relation to you it is the moon, and in relation to the people it is the cloud, in order that the infidel may not see your face for nothing.
In relation to you it is the bait, and in relation to the people it is the trap, in order that the
vulgar may not drink of this chosen wine.
God said, You seest them looking, (but) they are (like) the pictures in a bathhouse: they do not see.

3480. The form appears, O worshipper of form, as though its two dead eyes were looking. You art showing reverence before the eye of the image, saying, I wonder why it pays no regard to me.
Wherefore is this goodly image (so) very irresponsive that it does not sayalayk (on you be peace!) in reply to my salaam?
It does not nod its head and moustache generously in regard for my having made a hundred
prostrations before it.
God, though He does not nod the head outwardly, (yet) in regard for that (worship of Him)
bestows an inward delight,

3485. Which is worth two hundred noddings of the head: in this fashion, after all, do Intellect and Spirit nod the head.
(If) you serve Intellect in earnest, the regard of Intellect (for thee) is (shown by this), that it
increases (your) righteousness.
God does not nod the head to you outwardly, but He makes you a prince over the princes (of the world).
To you God gives secretly something (of such power) that the people of the world bow down before you,
Just as He gave to a stone such virtue that it was honoured by His creatures: that is to say, (it became) gold.

3490. (If) a drop of water gain the favour of God, it becomes a pearl and bears away the palm from gold.
The body is earth; and when God gave it a spark (of His Light) it became adept, like the moon, in taking possession of the world.

Beware! this (worldly empire) is a talisman and a dead image: its eye has led the foolish astray from the (right) path.
It appears to wink: the foolish have made it their support (have put their trust in it).

How the Egyptian besought blessing and guidance from the Israelite, and how the Israelite prayed for the Egyptian and received a favourable answer to his prayer from the Most Gracious and Merciful (God).

The Egyptian said, Do you offer a prayer (for me), since from blackness of heart I have not the mouth (fit for offering an acceptable prayer),

3495. For it may be that the lock of this heart will be opened and that a place will be
(granted) to this ugly one at the banquet of the beauteous.
Through you the deformed may become endowed with beauty, or an Iblís may again become one of the Cherubim;
Or, by the august influence of Mary's hand, the withered bough may acquire the fragrance of
musk and freshness and fruit.
Thereupon the Israelite fell to worship and said, O God who knowest the manifest and the hidden,
To whom but you should Thy servant lift his hand? Both the prayer and the answer (to prayer)
are from Thee.

3500. You at first givest the desire for prayer, and You at last givest likewise the recompense for prayers.
You art the First and the Last: we between are nothing, a nothing that does not come into
(admit of) expression.”
He was speaking in this wise, till he fell into ecstasy and his heart became senseless.
(Whilst engaged) in prayer, he came back to his senses (and witnessed the effect of his prayer):
Man shall have nothing but what he has wrought.
He was (still) praying when suddenly a loud cry and roar burst from the heart of the Egyptian,

3505. (Who exclaimed), “Come, make haste and submit (the profession of) the Faith (for my acceptance), that I may quickly cut the old girdle (of unbelief).
They have cast a fire into my heart, they have shown affection with (all) their soul for an Iblís
(like me).
Praise be to God! Thy friendship and (my) not being able to do without you have succoured me at last.
My consortings with you were (as) an elixir: may your foot never disappear from the house of my
You wert a bough of the palm-tree of Paradise: when I grasped it, it bore me to Paradise.

3510. That which carried away my body was a torrent: the torrent bore me to the brink of the
Sea of Bounty.
I went towards the torrent in hope of (obtaining) water: I beheld the Sea and took pearls, bushel on bushel.
He (the Israelite) brought the cup to him, saying, “Now take the water! “Go, he replied; “(all)
waters have become despicable in my sight.
I have drunk such a draught from God has purchased that no thirst will come to me till the
Congregation (at the Last Judgement).
He who gave water to the rivers and fountains has opened a fountain within me.

3515. This heart, which was hot and water-drinking—to its high aspiration water has become vile.

He (God), for the sake of His servants, became (symbolised by) the (letter) káf of Káfí (All- sufficing), (in token of) the truth of the promise of Káf, Há, Yá, ‘Ayn, d.
(God saith), I am All-sufficing: I will give you all good, without (the intervention of) a secondary cause, without the mediation of another's aid.
I am All-sufficing: I will give you satiety without bread, I will give you sovereignty without soldiers and armies.
I will give you narcissi and wild-roses without the spring, I will give you instruction without a book and teacher.

3520. I am All-sufficing: I will heal you without medicine, I will make the grave and the pit a
(spacious) playing-field.
To a Moses I give heart (courage) with a single rod, that he may brandish swords against a multitude.
(Such) a light and splendour do I give to the hand of Moses that it is slapping the sun (in
I make the wooden staff a seven-headed dragon, which the female dragon does not (conceive and) bring to birth from the male.
I do not mingle blood in the water of the Nile: in sooth by My cunning I make the very essence
of its water to be blood.

3525. I turn your joy into sorrow like the (polluted) water of the Nile, so that you wilt not find the way to rejoicings.
Again, when you art intent on renewing your faith and abjurest Pharaoh once more,
You wilt see (that) the Moses of Mercy (has) come, you wilt see the Nile of blood turned by him into water.
When you keepest safe within (you) the end of the rope (of faith), the Nile of your spiritual
delight will never be changed into blood.’
I thought I would profess the Faith in order that from this deluge of blood I might drink some water.

3530. How did I know that He would work a transformation in my nature and make me a
(spiritual) Nile?
To my own eye, I am a flowing Nile, (but) to the eyes of others I am at rest.”
Just as, to the Prophet, this world is plunged in glorification of God, while to us it is heedless
To his eye, this world is filled with love and bounty; to the eyes of others it is dead and inert. To his eye, vale and hill are moving swiftly: he hears subtle discourse from clod and brick.

3535. To the vulgar, all this (world) is a bound and dead (thing): I have not seen a veil (of blindness) more wonderful than this.
To our eye, (all) the graves are alike; to the eyes of the saints, (one is) a garden (in Paradise), and (another is) a pit (in Hell).
The vulgar would say, Wherefore has the Prophet become sour (of visage) and why has he
become pleasure-killing?”
The elect would say, “To your eyes, O peoples, he appears to be sour; (But) come for once into our eyes, that ye may behold the laughs (of delight described) in (the Súra beginning with the words) Hal atá (Did not there come?).

3540. That appears (to thee) in the form of inversion (illusion) from the top of the pear-tree:
come down, O youth!
The pear-tree is the tree of (phenomenal) existence: whilst you art there, the new appears old. Whilst you art there, you wilt see (only) a thorn-brake full of the scorpions of wrath and full of snakes.

When you comest down, you wilt behold, free of cost, a world filled with rose-cheeked
(beauties) and (their) nurses.

No comments:

Post a Comment