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(Masnavi Book 5: 32) The repentance of Nasuh














Story explaining the repentance of Nasúh. As milk that flows from the teat never returns to the teat, so he who has repented like Nasúh will never think of that sin in the way of desire; nay, his loathing will increase continually, and that loathing is a proof that he has experienced the delight of being accepted (as a sincere penitent), and that the old lust has ceased to give delight, and that the former (delight) has established itself in the place of the latter, as it has been said (in verse): “Nothing breaks off (one) love except another love: why don't you take a friend (who is) fairer than he? And when his (the penitent's) heart desires to sin again, it is a sign that he has not experienced the delight of acceptance, and that the delight of acceptance has not superseded the delight of sin, and that he has not (yet) become (like the
righteous of whom God saith), “We will surely dispose him to ease,” but that the (sinful) delight (spoken)
of (in the text), We will surely dispose him to hardship, is still remaining in him.

There was aforetime a man named Nasúh: he earned his livelihood by shampooing women. His face resembled a female countenance: he was disguising his manliness.

2230. He was a shampooer in the women's bath, and very active in (contriving) fraud and deceit.
For (many) years he went on shampooing, and no one suspected the (real) nature and secret of his fondness
(for that employment).
(’Twas) because, (though) his voice and countenance were woman-like, yet his lust was at full strength and wide-awake.

He wore the chádar and snood and veil, (but he was) a man lustful and in the prime of youth. In this fashion that enamoured man was massaging and washing the daughters of emperors,

2235. (And though) he often resolved on repentance and was turning his back (on sin), the miscreant carnal soul would always tear his repentance to pieces.
That evil-doer (Nah) went to a gnostic and said, “Remember me in a prayer.
The holy man knew his secret but, (acting) like the forbearance of God, he did not divulge it;
(For) on his (the gnostic's) lips is a lock, while his heart is full of mysteries: his lips are silent, though his heart is filled with voices.
Gnostics, who have drunk of the cup of God, have known the mysteries and kept them hidden.

2240. Whosoever has been taught the mysteries of the (Divine) action, his lips are sealed and closed.
He (the holy man) laughed softly and said, O evil-natured one, may God cause you to repent of that which you knowest!”

Explaining that the prayer of the gnostic who is united with God and his petition to God are like the petition of God to Himself, for “I am to him an ear and an eye and a tongue and a hand.” God has said, And you didst not throw when you threwest, but God threw; and there are many Verses (of the Qur’án) and Traditions and Narrations on this subject. And (what follows is) an exposition of the way in which God devises means in order that, taking hold of the sinner's ear, they may lead him to the repentance of Nasúh.

That prayer traversed the Seven Heavens: the fortune of the miserable wretch (Nasúh) at last became good; For the prayer of a Shaykh (Spiritual Director) is not like every prayer: he is naughted (fání) and his words are the words of God.
Since God asks and begs of Himself, how, then, should He refuse to grant His own prayer?

2245. The action of the Almighty produced a means that delivered him (Nasúh) from execration and woe.
(Whilst) he was filling a basin in the bath, a jewel belonging to the King's daughter was lost.
A jewel was lost from her ear-rings, and every woman (in the bath began to take part) in the search (for it). Then they bolted the door of the bath (and made it) fast, in order that they might first look for the jewel in the folds of the furniture.
They searched (all) these articles, but it was not brought to light (there), nor was any person who had stolen the jewel discovered either.

2250. Then they began to search incontinently with all their might in the mouths and ears (of the bathers)
and in every cleft.
In rima inferiore et superiore and everywhere they searched for the pearl belonging to a beauteous oyster-
shell.
Proclamation was made: Strip, all (of you), whoever ye are, whether ye are old or young!
The lady-in-waiting began to search them, one by one, (in the hope) that the marvellous pearl might be discovered.
Nasúh, (stricken) with fear, went into a private place: his face (was) yellow (pale) and his lips blue on account of a (great) terror (which possessed him).

2255. He saw death before his eyes: he went (to hide himself), trembling like a leaf.
He cried, O Lord, many a time have I turned away (from evil courses) and (then) broken my vows of penitence and my promises.
I have done the (foul) things that were fit to be done by me, so that such a black flood (of calamity) has arrived.
If my turn to be searched shall come, oh, what cruel sufferings must my soul endure!
A hundred sparks of fire have fallen on my heart: perceive in my orisons the smell of my (burning) heart.

2260. May anguish like this not be the infidel's (portion)! I clutch the skirt of (your) mercy. Help, help!

Would that my mother had not borne me, or that a lion had devoured me in the pasture!
O God, do you what is worYour to be done by You, for from every hole a snake is biting me.
I have a soul of stone, and my heart is of iron, otherwise they would have turned into blood in this sorrow and lamentation.
The time presses and I have (only) one moment (left): act in kingly fashion, come to my aid!

2265. If you wilt cover me up (conceal my sin) this time, (henceforth) I repent of everything that ought not to be done.
Accept my repentance this once more, that I may gird myself with a hundred belts for repentance.
If I commit any fault (in keeping my vow) this time, then do not hearken again to my prayer and words (of entreaty).
Thus was he moaning while a hundred tears flowed (from his eyes). I have fallen, he cried, “into the hands of the executioner and policeman.
Let no Frank die such a death: may no mulhid (Ismáílí or Assassin) have (cause to make) this
lamentation!

2270. He was uttering cries of mourning over his soul, (for) he saw the face of Azrael (coming) nearer and nearer.
He cried O God, O God so often that door and wall joined with him (echoed his words).
He was deep in O Lord” and O Lord” (when suddenly) from amidst the (people engaged in) search came the (following) announcement.

[How the turn came for Nasúh to be searched, and how a voice proclaimed“We have searched them all, (now) search Nasúh; and how Nasúh became senseless from terror, and how after extreme oppression of spirit the way of deliverance was opened to him, as the Prophet of Godmay God bless and save him! used to say, whenever sickness or anxiety overtook him, O distress, become severe: then you wilt pass away.]

“We have searched them all: come forward, O Nasúh.Thereupon he lost his senses, his spirit took wing. He fell like a broken wall: his consciousness and understanding departed, he became like lifeless matter.

2275. When his consciousness went without delay from his body, at that moment his inmost soul was united with God.
When he was emptied (of self) and his (self-) existence remained not, God called the falcon, his soul, into
His presence.
When his ship was wrecked and every hope had failed, he was cast on the seashore of (Divine) Mercy.
His soul became united with God: at the moment when he lost consciousness the waves of Mercy began to surge.
When his soul was freed from the disgrace of the body, it went rejoicing towards its Origin.

2280. The soul is like a falcon, and the body is its fetter: (’tis) a foot-bound broken-winged creature; (But) when its self-consciousness is gone and its foot untied, that falcon flies towards the King.
When the seas of Mercy begin to surge, even stones drink the Water of Life.
The frail mote becomes stout and strong; the carpet of earth becomes (like) satin and cloth of gold.
He that has been dead a hundred years comes forth from the grave; the accursed devil becomes an object of envy to the houris on account of his beauty.

2285. The whole face of this earth becomes verdant; the dry wood buds and becomes flourishing. The wolf becomes the cup-companion of the lamb; the despairing become courageous and valiant.

The finding of the jewel, and how the ladies-in-waiting and handmaids of the princess begged Nah to exonerate them.

After that soul-destroying fear, came the good news—“Here is the lost (jewel)!”
Suddenly rose a shout“The danger is past: the single pearl that was missing has been found.

It is found, and we are penetrated with joy: give us the reward, for we have found the pearl.”

2290. The bath-house was filled with clamour and screams and clapping of hands (because) sorrow had disappeared.
Nasúh who had gone (out of himself) came to himself again: his eye saw in front (of him) the splendour of a hundred (shining) days.
Every one was begging him to exonerate them and giving his hand many a kiss.
(They said), “We had evil thoughts (of you), and (we pray you to) exonerate us. We were backbiting you in our talk”;
For the suspicion of all (the women) against him had been increased by the fact that he was in higher favour (with the princess) than all (the rest of them).

2295. Nasúh was her private shampooer and confidant; nay (they were) as two bodies with one soul. (Hence the women had said), If (any one) has taken the pearl, only he can have taken it: none is more closely attached to the Lady than he.
At first she wished to search him forcibly, (but) from respect for his reputation she delayed,
In the hope that he might drop it (the pearl) somewhere and (thus) save himself during the respite.” They were begging him to grant these absolutions and were rising up to excuse themselves.

2300. He replied, “It was the grace of God, who deals justice; else I am worse than what has been said
(of me).
Why should absolution be begged of me? for I am the most sinful of (all) the people in the world.
The evil they spoke of me is (but) a hundredth part (of that which I have committed): this is clearly known to me, if any one has a doubt (concerning it).
What does any one know of me but a little(what but) one of my thousand sins and evil deeds?
I know, and He who draws a veil (of concealment) over me (knows) my sins and the wickedness of my conduct.

2305. At first an Ibs was my teacher; afterwards Ibs was (mere) wind in comparison with me.
God saw all that (iniquity), (but) made as though He saw it not, lest I should be openly dishonoured by its exposure.
Moreover, (the Divine) Mercy exercised the furrier's craft on me and bestowed on me a repentance sweet as life.
Whatever (ill deeds) I had done, it took them as not having been done; and my undone (acts of) obedience
it took as having been performed.
It made me free (pure and noble) as the cypress and the lily; it made me glad of heart as fortune and felicity.

2310. It inscribed my name in the register of the righteous: I was one doomed to Hell; it gave me
Paradise.
(When) I cried Alas, my Alas became a rope, and the rope was let down into my well. I clutched that rope and climbed out: I became glad and strong and stout and rosy.
(Formerly) I was lying in misery at the bottom of a well: now I am not contained in the whole world. Praises be unto You, O God! you didst suddenly put me afar from sorrow.

2315. If the tip of every hair of me should gain a tongue (power to speak), (yet) the thanks due to you are inexpressible.
Amidst these gardens and fountains I am crying to the people, Oh, would that my folk did but know!’”

How the princess again invited Nasúh to shampoo her, after his repentance had taken firm hold and was accepted (by God), and how he made an excuse and refused to comply.

Afterwards some one came (to Nasúh), saying,The daughter of our sovereign graciously invites you. The King's daughter invites you: come and wash her head now, O devout one.
Her heart desires no shampooer except you to massage her or wash her with clay.


2320. He answered, “Begone, begone! My hand is not in practice, and your (friend) Nasúh is now fallen sick.
Go, look for some one else hastily and speedily, for by God my hand has gone out of business.”
(Then) he said to himself, My sin passed beyond (all) bounds: how should that terror and anguish (ever)
go from my mind?
I died (to self) once (and for all), and (then) I came back (to spiritual life): I tasted the bitterness of death
and non-existence.
I have turned to God with real repentance: I will not break (that vow) till my soul shall be parted from my body.

2325. After such a tribulation, whose foot should move towards danger a second time, unless it be (the foot of) an ass?

Story demonstrating that (when) a person repents and feels remorse and then forgets his feelings of remorse and tries again what he has tried (before), he falls into everlasting perdition. Unless his repentance be reinforced by a (great) firmness and strength and by a (great) sweetness and acceptance (experienced inwardly), it is like a rootless tree, more faded and withered every day. We take refuge with God (from that).

(Once) there was a washerman, who had an ass with a sore on its back and empty-bellied and lean.
(He kept it) in ground covered with stones, where no grass grew: from morning till night it went without food and shelter.
Except water, there was nothing for it to eat or drink: the ass was in that miserable state by day and by night.
In the neighbourhood was a reed-bed and a jungle, where a lion lived whose occupation was hunting.

2330. A battle took place between the lion and a fierce elephant: the lion was wounded and disabled from going to hunt.
On account of his weakness he was unable to hunt for some time, and the (smaller) wild animals were deprived of their morning-meal;
For they used to eat the lion's leavings: when the lion became ill they suffered distress.
The lion gave orders to a fox, saying, “Go and hunt an ass for me.
If you find an ass round about the meadow, go, charm him with specious talk, beguile him, and bring him
(here).

2335. As soon as I gain some strength from (eating) the flesh of the ass, then afterwards I will seize another victim.
I will eat (only) a little, ye (shall have) the rest: I am the means (appointed) for you as regards (your supply of) food.
Procure for me either an ass or an ox: address (to them) some of the charming words that you know (how to use).
Deprive him of his wits by flatteries and fair words and bring him here.

Parable of the Qutb (Pole), who is the gnostic united with God, in respect of his dispensing to the people their rations of forgiveness and mercy in the order and degree which God inspires him to observe; and a comparison of him with the lion, for the (smaller) wild animals partake of the lion's rations and eat his leavings in proportion to their nearness to him—not nearness in space but nearness in quality. The details of this (subject) are many, and God is the (best) Guide.

The Qutb is (like) the lion, and it is his business to hunt: (all) the rest, (namely), these people (of the world), eat his leavings.

2340. So far as you can, endeavour to satisfy the Qutb, so that he may gain strength and hunt the wild beasts.

When he is ailing, the people remain unfed, for all food provided for the gullet comes from the hand of reason,
Since the ecstasies (spiritual experiences) of the people are (only) his leavings. Keep this (in mind), if your heart desires the (spiritual) prey.
He is like the reason, and the people are like the members of the body: the management of the body depends on the reason.
The weakness of the Qutb is bodily, not spiritual: the weakness lies in the Ship (Ark), not in Noah.

2345. The Qutb is he who turns round himself, (while) round him is the revolution of the celestial spheres.
Lend some assistance in repairing his (bodily) ship, if you have become his favourite slave and devoted servant.
Your assistance is (really) advantageous to you, not to him: God has said,If ye help God, ye will be helped.
Hunt like the fox and sacrifice your prey to him (the Qutb), that you may gain in return a thousand preys and more.
The prey caught by the (obedient) disciple is (presented alive) after the manner of the fox, (but) the froward hyena catches prey (that is already) dead.

2350. If you present the dead (prey) to him (the Qutb), it will become living: filth (when placed) in the orchard will produce (fruit).

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