The Sufi Guide

Their beauty’s covered like the thorn’s own shame:
You can’t tell them apart, they look the same,
So autumn gives it life instead of spring––
Then stones and rubies look like the same thing;
God’s gardener spots it in the autumn too,
His glance sees more than the whole world can view:
That person has the whole world in his soul:
Celestial stars are part of the moon’s whole,
And thus each image is now beckoning,
‘Glad tidings everyone, here comes the spring!’
When blossom’s radiant like a coat of mail,
How then can fruits their charming form unveil?
When blossom falls, that’s when fruit takes its place,
When bodies are destroyed souls lift their face––
Fruit is the spirit, blossom is its form,
Blossom’s good news, fruit ripens when it’s warm:
When blossom’s shed, fruit then begins to show,
When one’s decreased, the other starts to grow;
How can bread nourish till it’s broken up?
Can uncrushed grapes become wine in your cup?
Unless some healing herbs are ground with it
How can a medicine give benefit!
On the nature of the Sufi guide and obedience to him
Hosamoddin, please fetch a sheet or two
And write about the guide what I tell you;
Although you’re frail, lack strength and energy,
Without the sun there is no light for me,
Though you’ve become the lamp and glass, my friend,
You lead the hearts which follow the thread’s end:
You hold the thread’s end, from which you won’t part;
Your bounty gave the pearls strung round my heart!
Write down about the guide what I now say
And choose him––he’s the essence of the way,
The guide’s the summer, others autumn’s blight,
He’s like the moon, while they’re the dark at night.

I’ve called young fortune, my Hosam, ‘old sage’
For he’s mature with God, though not in age:
Without beginning he’s extremely old,
A rare pearl whose description can’t be told:
He grows more potent just like vintage wine,
Especially the drink that is divine.
Don’t try this path alone, first choose a guide!
Its dangerous trials will leave you petrified!
Even on routes which numerous times you’ve used
Without a guide you’re hopelessly confused––
Beware then of this new, uncharted way,
Keep focused on your guide, don’t turn away!
If you’re not safe in his protective shade,
The monster’s wails will leave you stunned, afraid,
Diverting you straight into further harm––
Much shrewder men than you could not keep calm.
Heed the Koran on those who went astray
And how the wicked Satan made them pay:
He lured them all a thousand miles from here,
Reducing them to nakedness and fear––
Look at their bones and hair, and now take heed!
Don’t be an ass, don’t let your passions lead!
Grab hold of its thick neck and pull it back
Towards the knowing guide’s specific track,
If left alone this donkey’s bound to stray
Across the field towards the mounds of hay;
Don’t you forget to hold with force its leash
Or it will bolt for miles to find hashish!
A donkey drugged––what greater enemy!
That donkey’s ruined countless––can’t you see?
If you don’t know the proper path, just do
The opposite of what it wants you to:
Consult them, then do just the opposite!
Or else you’ll always be regretting it.
A friendship with desire you can’t afford,
It leads you off the path towards the Lord,
But nothing conquers passion better than
The company of fellow travellers can:

The messenger of God advises Ali, ‘Since everyone seeks proximity
to God by means of an act of worship, seek proximity through
companionship with the special sage and servant of God, so
that you can excel all the rest’
The Prophet called Ali once to his side,
‘Lion of God, brave hero of my pride!
Don’t count on courage on its own to cope,
Take refuge too beneath the tree of hope:
Enter the realm of that pure intellect
Whom no opponent can from truth deflect.’
His shadow is just like Mount Qaf in size,
His spirit like the phoenix soars the skies,
We could continue with this man’s applause
Until the end of time without a pause,
He is the sun, though human in our sight,
Please understand that God knows best what’s right.
‘Of all the good deeds on the path, Ali,
You choose God’s special slave as sanctuary,
Others perform each single righteous deed
So from their carnal souls they might be freed.
Instead step in the shade of this true sage
To flee that hidden enemy’s tight cage;
Of all the acts of worship it’s the best,
It makes you that much better than the rest.’
If he accepts, surrender to the guide
Like Moses with his master Khezr once tried,
Stay calm, don’t question what he should commit,
So he won’t say, ‘Enough! Here’s where we split!’
If he destroys their boat, don’t you go wild,
Don’t tear your hair out if he kills a child!
Since God has said, ‘His hand is as my own’,
And ‘Up above their hands rests God’s alone,’
With God’s own hand he slays the helpless boy,
To let him live with pure, eternal joy.

From the Mathnavi of Maulana Jalal Ad-din Rumi.

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