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(Masnavi Book 1: 67) Ali ؓ and the infidel who spat in his face

How an enemy spat in the face of the Prince of the Faithful, ‘Alí, may God honour his person, and how ‘Alí dropped the sword from his hand

Learn how to act sincerely from ‘Alí: know that the Lion of God (‘Alí) was purged of (all) deceit.

In fighting against the infidels he got the upper hand of (vanquished) a certain knight, and quickly drew a sword and made hase (to slay him).

He spat on the face of ‘Alí, the pride of every prophet and every saint;

He spat on the countenance before which the face of the moon bows low in the place of worship.

3725. ‘Alí at once threw his sword away and relaxed (his efforts) in fighting him.

That champion was astounded by this act and by his showing forgiveness and mercy without occasion. He said, “You lifted your keen sword against me: why have you flung it aside and spared me?
What did you see that was better than combat with me, so that you have become slack in hunting me down?

What did you see, so that such anger as yours abated, and so that such a lightning flashed and (then) recoiled?

3730. What did you see, that from seeing (only) the reflexion thereof a flame appeared in my heart and soul? What did you see, beyond (material) existence and space, that was better than life?— and (so) you gave me life. In bravery you are the Lion of the Lord: in generosity who indeed knows who (what) you are?
In generosity you are (like) Moses' cloud in the desert, whence came the dishes of food and bread incomparable.”

The clouds give wheat which man with toil makes cooked (easy to digest) and sweet as honey.

3735. (But) Moses' cloud spread the wings of mercy and gave cooked and sweet food that was (ready to be eaten) without trouble.

For the sake of those (beggars) who partook of its bounty, its (the cloud's) mercy raised a banner (displayed itself) in the world. During forty years that ration and largesse did not fail the hopeful people (of Israel) for a single day,
Until they too, because of their vileness, arose and demanded leeks and green herbs and lettuce.

O people of Ahmad (Mohammed), who are of the noble, (for you) that food is continuing till the Resurrection.

3740. When (the Prophet's saying), “I pass the night with my Lord,” was uttered, (the words) “He gives (me) food” and “He gives (me) drink” referred metaphorically to (spiritual) food (and drink).
Accept this (saying) without any (perverse) interpretation, that it may come into your throat (as agreeably) as honey and milk. Because interpretation (alteration of the meaning) is a rejection of the gift, since he (the interpreter) regards that real (original)
meaning as faulty.

The view that it is faulty arises from the weakness of his understanding: Universal Reason is the kernel, and our reason is like the rind.

Alter yourself, not the Traditions (of the Prophet): abuse your (dull) brain, not the rose garden (the true sense which you cannot apprehend).

3745. “O ‘Alí, you who art all mind and eye, relate a little of that which you have seen!

The sword of your forbearance has rent my soul, the water of your knowledge has purified my earth.

Tell it forth! I know that these are His (God's) mysteries, because It is His work (way) to kill without sword.

He that works without tools and without limbs, He that bestows these profitable gifts,

Causes the intelligence to taste myriads of wines in such wise that eyes and ears are unaware.

3750. Tell it forth, O falcon of the empyrean that findest goodly prey, that (I may know) what you have seen at this time from the Maker.

Yours eye has learned to perceive the Unseen, (while) the eyes of bystanders are sealed.” One man is beholding a moon plainly, while another sees the world dark,
And another beholds three moons together. These three persons (beholders) are seated in one place, yea (verily).

The eyes of all three are open, and the ears of all three are sharp (attentive); (they are) fastened on you and in flight from me.

3755. Is this an enchantment of the eye? (Or) is it a marvellous hidden grace? On you is the form of the wolf, and on me is the quality (beauty) of Joseph.

If the worlds are eighteen thousand and more, these eighteen (thousand) are not subject (accessible) to every eye.

Reveal the mystery, O ‘Alí, you who art approved (by God), O you who art good fate after evil fate. Either do you declare that which your reason has found, or I will tell that which has shone forth on me.
From you it shone forth on me: how shouldst you hide it? Without tongue you art darting rays of light, like the moon.

3760. But if the moon's orb come to speech, it more quickly leads the night-travellers into the (right) way. They become safe from error and heedlessness: the voice of the moon prevails over the voice of the ghoul. Inasmuch as the moon (even) without speech is showing the way, when it speaks it becomes light upon light. Since you art the gate of the city of Knowledge, since you art the beams of the sun of Clemency,
Be open, O Gate, to him that seeks the gate, so that by means of you the husks may reach the core.

3765. Be open unto everlasting, O Gate of Mercy, O Entrance-hall to None is like unto Him.

Every air and mote is indeed a place for vision (of God), (but so long as it is) unopened, who says “Yonder is a door? Unless the Watcher open a door, this idea never stirs within.
When a door is opened, he (on whom this idea has dawned) becomes amazed, grows wings, and begins to fly on (the wings of)
the idea.

A careless man suddenly found the treasure in the ruin: after that, he was hasening to (search in) every ruin.

3770. Till you gain the pearl from one dervish, how should you seek the pearl from another dervish? Though opinion run with its own feet for (many) years, it will not pass beyond the cleft of its own nostrils. Say, are you seeing aught except your nose? Say, how will you see if you turn up your nose (in self-conceit)?

How that infidel asked ‘Alí, may God honour his person, saying, “Since you wert victorious over such a man as I am, how didst you drop the sword from your hand?”

He said, “Speak, O Prince of the Faithful, that my soul may stir within my body, like the embryo.

How has the embryo the means (of stirring) during the period when it is ruled (by the stars)? It comes (turns) from the stars towards the sun.

3775. When the time comes for the embryo to receive the (vital) spirit, at that time the sun becomes its helper.

This embryo is brought into movement by the sun, for the sun is quickly endowing it with spirit. From the other stars this embryo received only an impression, until the sun shone upon it.
By which way did it become connected in the womb with the beauteous sun?

By the hidden way that is remote from our sense-perception. The sun in heaven has many ways:

3780. The way whereby gold receives nourishment, and the way whereby the (common) stone is made a jacinth, And the way whereby it makes the ruby red, and the way whereby it gives the lightning-flash to the (iron) horse-shoe, And the way whereby it ripens the fruit, and the way whereby it gives heart to one distraught (with fear).
Say it forth, O falcon with shining wings who have learned (to be familiar) with the King and with his fore-arm.

Say it forth, O royal falcon that do catch the ‘Anqá, O you that do vanquish an army by yourself, not with (the aid of) an army.

3785. you alone art the (whole) community, you art one and a hundred thousand. Say it forth, O you to whose falcon your slave has fallen a prey.

Wherefore this mercy in the place of vengeance? Whose way is it to give the hand to a dragon?”

How the Prince of the Faithful made answer (and explained) what was the reason of his dropping the sword from his hand on that occasion.

He said, “I am wielding the sword for God's sake, I am the servant of God, I am not under the command of the body. I am the Lion of God, I am not the lion of passion: my deed bears witness to my religion.
In war I am (manifesting the truth of) you didst not throw when you threwest: I am (but) as the sword, and the wielder is the
(Divine) Sun.

3790. I have removed the baggage of self out of the way, I have deemed (what is) other than God to be non-existence. I am a shadow, the Sun is my lord; I am the chamberlain, I am not the curtain (which prevents approach) to Him.
I am filled with the pearls of union, like a (jewelled) sword: in battle I make (men) living, not slain. Blood does not cover the sheen of my sword: how should the wind sweep away my clouds?
I am not a straw, I am a mountain of forbearance and patience and justice: how should the fierce wind carry off the mountain?

3795. That which is removed from its place by a wind is rubbish, for indeed the contrary winds are many.

The wind of anger and the wind of lust and the wind of greed swept away him that performed not the (ritual) prayers.

I am a mountain, and my being is His building; and if I become like a straw, my wind (the wind that moves me) is His wind. My longing is not stirred save by His wind; my captain is naught but love of the One.
Anger is king over kings, and to me it is a slave: even anger I have bound under the bridle.

3800. The sword of my forbearance has smitten the neck of my anger; the anger of God has come on me like mercy.

I am plunged in light although my roof is ruined; I have become a garden although I am (styled) Turáb (the father of dust). Since (the thought of something) other than God has intervened, it behoves (me) to sheathe my sword,
That my name may be he loves for God's sake, that my desire may be he hates for God's sake,

That my generosity may be he gives for God's sake, that my being may be he withholds for God's sake.

3805. My stinginess is for God's sake, my bounty is for God's sake alone: I belong entirely to God, I do not belong to any one (else);

And that which I am doing for God's sake is not (done in) conformity, it is not fancy and opinion, it is naught but intuition. I have been freed from effort and search, I have tied my sleeve to the skirt of God.
If I am flying, I behold the place to which I soar; and if I am circling, I behold the axis on which I revolve;

And if I am dragging a burden, I know whither: I am the moon, and the Sun is in front of me as the guide.”

3810. There is no means (possibility) of communicating more than this to the people: in the river there is no room for the

I speak low according to the measure of (their) understandings: It is no fault, this is the practice of the Prophet.

I am free from self-interest: hear the testimony of a freeman, for the testimony of slaves is not worth two barleycorns.” In the religious law the testimony of a slave has no value at (the time of) litigation and judgement.
(Even) if thousands of slaves bear witness on your behalf, the law does not accept their testimony as worth a straw.

3815. In God's sight the slave of lust is worse than menials and slaves brought into servitude,

For the latter becomes free at a single word from his master, while the former lives sweet but dies sour and bitter. The slave of lust has no (means of) release at all except through the grace of God and His special favour.
He has fallen into a pit that has no bottom, and that is his (own) sin: it is not (Divine) compulsion and injustice.

He has cast himself into such a pit that I find no rope capable of (reaching) its bottom.

3820. I will make an end. If this discourse go further, not only hearts but rocks will bleed.

(If) these hearts have not bled, It is not because of (their) hardness, It is (because of) perplexity and preoccupation and ill- fatedness.

They will bleed one day when blood is no use to them: do you bleed at a time when (your) blood is not rejected.
Inasmuch as the testimony of slaves is not accepted, the approved witness is he that is not the slave of the ghoul (of sensuality). (The words) We have sent you as a witness came in the Warning (the Qur’án), because he (the Prophet) was entirely free from
(creaturely) existence.

3825. “Since I am free, how should anger bind me? Nothing is here but Divine qualities. Come in! Come in, for the grace of God has made you free, because His mercy had the precedence over His wrath.
Come in now, for you have escaped from the peril: you wert a (common) stone, the Elixir has made you a jewel. you have been delivered from unbelief and its thorn-thicket: blossom like a rose in the cypress-garden of (God).
You art I and I am thou, O illustrious one: you wert ‘Alí— how should I kill ‘Alí?

3830. you have committed a sin better than any act of piety, you have traversed Heaven in a single moment.” Very fortunate (was) the sin which the man committed: do not rose-leaves spring from a thorn?
Was not the sin of ‘Umar and his attempt on (the life of) the Prophet leading him to the gate of acceptance?

Was not Pharaoh because of the magic of the magicians drawing them (to himself), and did not (spiritual) fortune come to their aid?

Had it not been for their magic and denial (of Moses), who would have brought them to rebellious Pharaoh?

3835. How would they have seen the rod and the miracles? Disobedience (to God) became obedience, O disobedient people.

God has smitten the neck of despair, inasmuch as sin and disobedience have become obedience.

Since He changes evil acts (into good), He makes it (the disobedience) an act of obedience in despite of slanderers (devils). By this (mercy of God) the stoned (accursed) Devil is driven away and bursts with envy and is cloven asunder.
He strives to foster a sin (in us) and by means of that sin bring us into a pit;

3840. When he sees that the sin has become an act of obedience (to God), there comes round for him an unblest hour.

Come in! I open the door to you. you spattest (on me) and I give you a present.

Such things I am giving to the doer of iniquity: (You seest) in what fashion I lay my head before the left foot. What then do I bestow on the doer of righteousness? Know thou, (I bestow) treasures and kingdoms everlasting.

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