It Is What It Is!

Chapter 4   


Someone said: “There is something I have forgotten.”

Rumi replied: There is one thing in this world that must never be forgotten. If you were to forget all else, but did not forget that, then you would have no reason to worry. But if you performed and remembered everything else, yet forgot that one thing, then you would have done nothing whatsoever.

     It is just as if a king sent you to the country to carry out a specific task. If you go and accomplish a hundred other tasks, but do not perform that particular task, then it is as though you performed nothing at all. So, everyone comes into this world for a particular task, and that is their purpose. If they do not perform it, then they will have done nothing. Verse (Koran [33:72]):

“We did indeed offer the Trust [1] to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it;- He was indeed unjust and foolish”

     All things are assigned a task. The heavens send rain and light for the herbs of the field to germinate and spring into life. The earth receives the seeds and bears fruit, it accepts and reveals a hundred thousand marvels too numerous to tell. The mountains give forth mines of gold and silver. All these things the heavens, the earth and the mountains do, yet they do not perform that one thing; that particular task is performed by Mankind, Verse (Koran [17:70]):

We have honored the sons of Adam” but It (Allah) did not say, “We have honored the heaven and earth”. Therefore there is a task the Mankind is empowered to do which the heavens, planets and mountains can never perform.  Once they (men) perform this task all their sinfulness and foolishness is dissolved.

     Even if you say, “I do not perform that task although many others I do accomplish”, indeed you weren’t created for those other tasks! It is just as if you were given a sword of priceless Indian steel, such as can only be found in the treasuries of kings, and you were to treat it as a butcher’s knife for cutting up putrid meat, saying, "I am not letting this sword stand idle, I am using it in so many useful ways." Or it is like taking a solid gold bowl to cook turnips in, when a single grain of that gold could buy a hundred pots. Or it is as if you took a Damascene dagger of the finest temper to hang a broken gourd from, saying, "I am making good use of it. I am hanging a gourd on it. I am not letting this dagger go to waste." How foolish that would be! The gourd can hang perfectly well from a wooden or iron nail whose value is a mere farthing, so why use a dagger valued at a hundred pounds?

Allah has priced you at indeed a huge price; verse (Koran [9:111]):

Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise)”


You are more precious than heaven and earth.

What more can I say?

You do not know your own worth.

God says, "I will buy you...your moments, your breaths, your possessions, your lives. Spend them on Me. Turn them over to Me and in return I will pay you back with Eternal Paradise. Your full price with Me (Allah) is like this (i.e. huge sum) but if you sell yourself (cheap) to the Hell Fire: Like the person who hammered the dagger, worth a hundred pounds into the wall to hang a gourd upon, their great fortune was reduced to a nail.

     Still you offer another excuse, saying, "But I apply myself to lofty tasks. I study law, philosophy, logic, astronomy, medicine and the rest." Well, for whose sake but your own do you study these? If it is law, it is so nobody can steal a loaf from you, strip you of your clothes, or kill you - in short, it is for your own security. If it is astronomy, the phases of the spheres and their influence upon the earth, whether they are light or heavy, portending tranquility or danger, all these things are concerned with your own situation, serving your own ends. If it is medicine, it is related to your own health and also serves you. When you consider this matter well, the root of all your studies is yourself. All these lofty tasks are but branches of you.

     If these subjects are filled with so many marvels and worlds of knowledge without end, consider what worlds you pass through who are the root! If your branches have their laws, their medicines, their histories, think of what transpires within you who are the source; what spiritual laws and medicines affect your inward future and fate, what histories portray your struggles of the heart!

     For Soul there is other food besides this food of sleeping and eating, but you have forgotten that other food. Night and day you nourish only your body. Now, this body is like a horse, and this lower world is its stable. The food the horse eats is not the food of the rider. You are the rider and have your own sleeping and eating, your own enjoyment. But since the animal has the upper hand, you lag behind in the horse’s stable. You cannot be found among the ranks of kings and princes in the eternal world. Your heart is there, but since your body has the upper hand, you are subject to its rule and remain its prisoner.

     When Majnun [3], as the story goes, was making for his beloved Laily’s home, as long as he was fully conscious he drove his camel in that direction. But when for a moment he became absorbed in the thought of Laily and forgot his camel, the camel turned in Sits tracks toward the village where its foal was kept. On coming to his senses, Majnun found that he had gone back a distance of two day’s journey. For three months he continued this way, coming no closer to his goal. Finally he jumped off the camel, saying, "This camel is the ruin of me!" and continued on foot, singing:

My camel’s desire is now behind,

My own desire is before.

Our purposes were crossed,

We can agree no more.

     Burhan al-Din was once greeted by someone, who said, "I have heard praises of you sung by friends." Burhan al-Din answered, "Wait until I meet your friends to see whether they know me well enough to praise me. If they know me only by word of mouth, then they do not truly know me. For words do not endure. Syllables and sounds do not endure. This body, these lips and this mouth will not endure. All these things are mere accidents of the moment. But if they know me by my works, and they know my essential self, then I know they are able to praise me, and that praise will go where it belongs."


     This is like the story they tell of a certain king. This king entrusted his son to a team of learned scholars. In due course, they taught him the sciences of astrology, geomancy, and the interpretation of signs, until he became a complete master, despite his utter stupidity and dullness of wit.

     One day the king took a ring in his fist and put his son to the test.

     "Come, tell me what I am holding in my fist."

     "What you are holding is round, yellow, inscribed and hollow," the prince answered.

     "You have given all the signs correctly," the king said. "Now say what it is."

     "It must be a sieve." the prince replied.

     "What?" cried the king. "You know all the minute details, which would baffle the minds of anyone. How is it that out of all your powerful learning and knowledge, the small point has escaped you that a sieve will not fit in a fist?"

     In this same way, the great scholars of the age split hairs on details of all matters. They know perfectly and completely those sciences that do not concern Soul. But as for what is truly of importance and touches us more closely than anything else, namely our own Self, this your great scholars do not know. They make statements about everything, saying, "This is true and that is not true. This is right and that is wrong." Yet, they do not know their own Self, whether it is true or false, pure or impure.

     Now being hollow and yellow, inscribed and circular, these features are accidental; cast the ring into the fire and none of them will remain. It becomes its essential self, purified of all appearances. So it is with the knowledge of scholars; what they know has no connection with the essential reality that alone exists when all these "signs" are gone. They speak wisely, expound at great length, and finally pronounce that what the king has in his hand is a sieve. They have no knowledge about the root of the matter: life’s purpose.

     I am a bird. I am a nightingale. If they say to me, "Make some other kind of sound," I cannot. My tongue is what it is. I cannot speak otherwise. However, those who learn the song of birds are not birds themselves - on the contrary, they are the enemies of birds and their captors. They sing and whistle so others will take them for birds. Ask them to produce a different sound and they can do so, because that sound is merely assumed by them. It is not truly their own. Like the scholars, they are able to sing other songs because they have learned to rob those songs, and to show off a different tune stolen from every breast.



Translator’s Note: The Rumi text ends at ‘End.’. The underlined text is what was missing or erroneous in Arberry’s translation. This is a process of improving there is no one with absolute truth and mistakes are made by all human beings. No one should read this as my attempt to show falsehood of Arberry’s text, may Allah rest his soul in peace.


[1] What is this “Trust”? I grabbed the answer from Ansaari’s Kashfol Asrar (Unearthing The Secrets):


It has been narrated from the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him that when Adam accepted this trust he asked the Lord, “What is my responsibility for this trust?” Lord replied, “If you commit good deeds there will be reward and if you commit evil deeds there will be punishment! If you do accept (this trust) I will help you therefore cover your eyes upon glancing at Haram (Unlawful) and tie your tongue from evil speech and expose not your private parts (for inappropriate sexual acts), these are all indeed My Trust and do not betray them”.


Latifah (Subtlety): The Lord leavened a fist full of mud and burnt it with the fire of Mahab-bat (Divine Love) i.e. Mankind and placed it upon the platform of expansiveness blessings  and offered it as a Trust to the Realm of Shapes & Forms (physical world). Heavens, planets and mountains they all declined to accept the responsibility of this trust. But Adam like a brave man stepped forward and stretched his arm to accept this Trust. “Adam this Trust was not offered to you why do you burden yourself” Many asked him. “I am the burnt one and I should embrace the burnt ones  (bunt by the fire of Divine Love like baked clay)” replied Adam and then added, “That day when the trust was loaned to the flint-stone, a covenant was made with the stone to only give this trust away only when it sees a (prospect) burnt one (meaning when the flint-stone sees a cotton ball i.e. “to be burnt“ then it sparks to burn it) Do you think it is the force of your arms that brings the fire into the desert i.e. by hitting the flint-stones together to spark? No! No! The flint-stone goes to intercede for a burnt one i.e. spark to burn it.”


The people when they loan a trust away they usually place a seal on the object in order to make sure the seal is not broken at the time of retrieval. When they return to claim the trust they examine this seal first. If the seal is not broken then the trustee is appreciated with commendation for maintaining the integrity of the trust. Therefore be a righteous trustee in order for the angels to praise you with commendations. (And the seal is what follows)


O Righteous Man! When the Alasto (Am I not) Trust was loaned to you the seal of “Yea” was placed on it:


“When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): "Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?"- They said: "Yea! We do testify!" (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: "Of this we were never mindful"” Koran [7:172]


And when your life is over and you are carried towards the grave the angel comes to you and asks, “Who is your Lord?” indeed the angel is examining the seal “Yea” to see if it was tampered with or broken! Know O Miserable Self that you have such a seal from the follicles of your hair to your toenails. Be assured that seal is placed where the love is, if someone loves something very much seals it for protection and leaves it to safekeeping of a trustee while in absence. O my smoldered heart, upon you is the seal of Divine Love—I am your seal and you are my seal. (The Beloved Creator placed the seal of Divine Love because infinitely loves the Mankind and the Trust was given to the man because he volunteered not because he was asked)


This Trust’s crushing burden could not be bore by mountains, planets, angels or anything else in the universe! But this pathetic creature with a bit of skin on few bones fearlessly carries the Trust’s burden and no one can ever see him even straining? How? Because the human being is the owner of the heart and the heart can carry what the body cannot! (The human heart is not simply an ensemble of few emotions it is far more vast than that of the cosmos, but very little of this heart we are able to see and comprehend)


[2] Again I am pulling the Sufi Tafsir (Koranic Exegesis) from Kashfol Aasrar (The Unearthing of Secrets) by Ansaari:


In Azal (Sempiternity), the Lord prior to the creation of the Man bought him outright. It sold him and It bought him back and the Man was not even in existence. This was done as such, because the Creator knew that Man is weak and subject to desires and might object, later on, against this purchase & sales, therefore this transaction i.e. Man in return for Paradise commenced prior to Man’s creation so he could not voice any objection.


In the verse,” Allah hath purchased of the believers their Nafs (persons) and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise)” Allah used the word Nafs (Soul, Psyche) and not the word Qalb (Heart) which is the place for loving!? Because heart is endued with love and perception of the Divine Beloved and it is really not suitable for trade & transaction (heart waves). On the other hand Nafs (Psyche, Soul) is the gatekeeper for the heart it is there as a proxy servant while the heart is a king busy with loving, worship and Divine Perception. All Nafs (Soul, Psyche) has to do is to fulfill the terms of the transaction with the Beloved Creator and buy back the Paradise for his King.


Pir (Old Sage) i.e. Ansaari has said, “A diamond was thrown upon a dusty road. The world passed by and no one noticed the value of this gem. Until a poor person with no wealth realized the value of this diamond and picked up and found an eternal kingdom. The tree of love is planted by such a person with such graces and understanding.” Indeed the human being is such a gem but his value is not to be discovered unless by his own Self though his heart may suffer from the throes of love & loving.


[3] Research from Prof. Froozanfar: Laily is a famous female beloved of a man called Majnun whose love is the manifest of a perfected love and has been chosen as the icon of true love by Farsi poets. She was the daughter of Mehdi Ibn Sa’d (or Rabi’h) and Majnun or Ibn Qays Ibn Malookh was in love with her and lost his mind and wandered the deserts and suffered much in love & absence of Laily.


In Sufi Farsi literature, Laily is the epitome of Divine ‘Ishq (Unrestrained Love) and Majnun is the manifestation of the unrest of a man’s soul vexed by the pains and sufferance chipping at his life & sanity, wandering the desert of mania & brokenhearted-ness seeking eternally after the reunion with the Divine Beloved in the valley of Divine Love. While thirsts to reach the closeness of Its Divine Beloved he fails until such time when manumitted from the cage of his body by emancipation of death.  

Background: Vietnam Veteran...     

© 2004-2002,  Dara O.  Shayda