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(Masnavi Book 5: 02) Parable of the Four Birds





Commenting on Take four birds and turn them towards you.

O you whose intelligence is (resplendent) as the Sun, you art the Khalíl (Abraham) of the time: kill these four birds that infest the Way,
Because each of them, crow-like, is plucking the eye from the intellect of the intelligent.
The four bodily qualities resemble the birds of Khal: their slaughter makes way for the soul (to ascend).
O Khalíl, in (accomplishing) the deliverance of good and bad (alike), cut off their heads that the feet (of the people) may escape from the barrier (which confines them).

35. you art all, and they all are parts of you: open (the prison), for their feet are your feet.
By you the (whole) world is made a place abounding in spirit: a single cavalier becomes the support of a hundred armies.
Inasmuch as this body is the abode (nest) of (these) four dispositions, they are named the four mischief- seeking birds.
If you wish the people to have everlasting life, cut off the heads of these four foul and evil birds, (And then) revive them again in another sort, so that afterwards no harm will be done by them.

40. The four immaterial birds which infest the Way have made their home in the hearts of the people. Since in this epoch you, O Vicegerent of God, art the commander of all righteous hearts,

Cut off the heads of these four live birds and make everlasting the creatures that are not enduring for ever. There is the duck and the peacock and the crow and the cock: these are a parable of the four (evil) dispositions in (human) souls.
The duck is greed, and the cock is lust; eminence is like the peacock, and the crow is (worldly) desire.

45. His (the crow's) object of desire is this, that he forms hopes and wishes for immortality or long life. The duck is greed, for her bill is always in the ground, seeking what is buried in the wet and dry.
That gullet (of hers) is never idle for a moment: it hearkens unto naught of the (Divine) ordinance save the command Eat ye!
It is like the looter who digs up (ravages) the house and very quickly fills his bag, Cramming into the bag good and bad (indifferently), single pearls and chickpeas,

50. Cramming dry and wet into the sack, for fear lest another enemy should arrive.
Time presses, the opportunity is small, he is terrified: without delay he heaves it under his arm as speedily as possible.
He has not (such) confidence in his Sovereign (as to believe) that no enemy will be able to come forward
(against him).
But the true believer, from his confidence in that (Divine) Life, conducts his raid in a leisurely manner and with deliberation.
He has no fear of missing his chance or of the enemy, for he recognises the King's dominion over the enemy.

55. He has no fear of the other fellow-servants coming to jostle him and gain the advantage,
(For) he perceived the King's justice in restraining his followers so that none durst do violence to any one. Consequently he does not hurry and is calm: he has no fear of missing his (appointed) portion.
He has much deliberation and patience and long-suffering; he is contented and unselfish and pure of heart, For this deliberation is the ray of the Merciful (God), while that haste is from the impulse of the Devil,

60. Because the Devil frightens him (the greedy man) away from poverty and kills the beast of burden, patience, by stabbing.
Hear from the Qur’án that the Devil in menace is threatening you with hard poverty,
That in haste you mayst eat foul things and take foul things, (having in you) no generosity, no deliberation, no merit acquired by good works.
Necessarily (therefore) the infidel takes his food in seven bowels: his religion and spirit are thin and lean, his belly fat.

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