The Path – July 1886

SUFISM: III — C. H. A. Bjerregaard

In Two Parts: — Part I, Texts; Part II, Symbols.

The spirit of Sufism is best expressed in the couplet of Katebi:

"Last night a nightingale sung his song, perched on a high cypress, when the rose, on hearing his plaintive warbling, shed tears in the garden, soft as the dews of heaven."




I remember one night lying sleepless in bed,
That I heard what the moth to the fair candle said:
"A lover am I, if I burn it is well!
Why you should lie weeping and burning, do tell."
"Oh my poor humble lover!" the caudle replied,
"My friend, the sweet honey away from we hied.
When sweetness away from my body departs,
A fire-like Farhads (1) to my summit then starts."
Thus she spoke, and each movement a torrent of pain
Adown her pale cheeks trickled freely like rain.
"Oh, suitor! with love you have nothing to do,
Since nor patience, nor power of standing have you.
Oh, crude one! a flame makes you hasten away;
But I, till completely consumed, have to stay.
If the burning of love makes your wings feel this heat,
See how I am consumed, from the head to the feet!"
But a very small portion had passed of the night
When a fairy-fated maiden extinguished her (2) light.
She was saying while smoke from her head curled above,
"Thus ends, oh my boy, the existence of love!"
If the love-making science you wish to acquire,
You're more happy extinguished than being on fire.
Do not weep o'er the grave of the slain for the friend:
Be glad! for to him lie will mercy extend.
If a lover, don't wash the complaint from your head!
I have told you: don't enter this ocean at all!
If you do; yield your life to the hurricane squall!

The above translation is from the hand of G. S. Davie but since this story is representative of Sufi love, I add another made by S. Robinson.

I remember that one night, when I could not close my eyes in sleep, I heard the moth say to the taper.

"I am a lover, therefore it is right that I should be burnt, but wherefore shouldst thou be lamenting and shedding tears?"

It replied: "O my poor airy friend, my honey-sweet Shirin is going away;

"And since my Shirin hath left me, like Ferhad's (3) my head is all on fire."

So spoke the taper, and each moment a flood of sorrow flowed down over its pale cheek.

Then it continued: "O pretender, love is no affair of thine: for thou hast neither patience nor persistency.

"Thou takest to flight before a slight flame; I stand firm till I am totally consumed.

"Thou mayest just singe a wing at the fire of love; look at me, who burn from head to foot."

A part of the night was not yet gone, when suddenly a Peri-faced damsel extinguished the light.

Then said the taper: "My breath is departed, the smoke is over my head; — such my son, is the ending of love!"

If thou wouldst learn the moral of the story, it is this: Only will the pangs of burning affection cease, when life's taper is extinct.

Weep not over this monument of thy perished friend — rather praise Allah, that he is accepted by Him.

If them art indeed a lover, wash not the pains of love from thy head; wash rather, like Saadi, thy hand from all malevolence.

The man who volunteereth a service of peril will not withdraw his grasp from his purpose, though stones and arrows rain down upon his head.

I have said to thee: "Take heed how thou goest to the sea; but if thou wilt go, resign thyself to its billows."

Jelaluddin Rumi (Mevlana — Our Lord — Jelalu-'d-din, Muhammed, Er Rumi of Qonya) usually called Jelal or Mulla (4) Born A. D. 1195, he died 1273.

Jelal is the greatest poet among the Sufis and is their Grand Master of spiritual knowledge. His name means "Majesty of Faith." He instituted the order of the Mevlevi, the "dancing or whirling dervishes," of which we shall speak more later on. This order is a realization of Jelal's father's prophecy about his son: "The day shall come, when this child will kindle the fire of divine enthusiasm throughout the world."

Jelal is truly the greatest Sufi saint, for marvelous were his powers. In the Menaqibu'l Afifin (the Acts of the Adepts) by Shemsu-'d-din Ahmed, el Eflaki the following acts are recorded against his name. "When five years old, he used at times to become extremely uneasy and restless, so much so that his attendants used to take him into the midst of themselves. The cause of these perturbations was that spiritual forms and shapes of the absent (invisible world) would arise before his sight, that is, angelic messengers, righteous Genii, and saintly men — the concealed ones of the bowers of the True One (spiritual spouses of God), used to appear to him in bodily shapes: * * * His father used on these occasions to coax and soothe him by saying: "These are the Occult Existences. They come to present themselves before you, to offer unto you gifts and presents from the invisible world." These ecstasies and transports of his began to be publicly known and talked about. The honorific title of Khudavendgar (5) was conferred upon him at this time by his father, who used to address him as "My Lord." — "It is related that when Jelal was six years old, he one Friday afternoon was taking the air on the terraced roof of the house, and reciting the Quran, when some other children of good families came in and joined him there. After a time, one of these children proposed that they should try and jump from thence on to a neighbouring terrace, and should lay wagers on the result. Jelal smiled at this childish proposal, and remarked: "My brethren, to jump from terrace to terrace is an act well adapted for cats, dogs, and the like, to perform; but is it not degrading to man, whose station is so superior. Come now, if you feel disposed, let us spring up to the firmament, and visit the regions of God's realm." As he yet spake, he vanished from there sight. Frightened at Jelal's sudden disappearance, the other children raised a shout of dismay, that some one should come to their assistance, when lo, in an instant, there he was again in their midst; but with an altered expression of countenance and blanched cheeks. They all uncovered before him, fell to the earth in humility, and all declared themselves his disciples. He now told them that, as he was yet speaking to them, a company of visible forms, clad in green raiment, had led him away from them, and had conducted him about the various concentric orbs of the spheres, and through the signs of the Zodiac, showing him the wonders of the world of spirits, and bringing him back to them so soon as their cries had reached his ears.

At that age, he was used not to break his fast more often than once in three or four, and sometimes even seven, days.

When Jelal went to Damascus to study, he passed by Sis in Upper Cilicia. There, in a cave, dwelt forty Christian monks, who had a great reputation for sanctity, but in reality were mere jugglers. On the approach of Jelal's caravan to the cave, the monks caused a little boy to ascend into the air, and there remain standing between heaven and earth. Jelal noticed this exhibition, and fell into a reverie. Hereupon, the child began to weep and wail, saying that the man in the reverie was frightening him. The monks told him not to be afraid, but to come down. "Oh!" cried the child, "I am as though nailed here, unable to move hand or foot." The monks became alarmed. They flocked around Jelal, and begged him to release the child. After a time, he seemed to hear and understand them. His answer was: "Only through the acceptance of Islam (6) by yourselves, all of you, as well as by the child, can he be saved." In the end they all embraced Islam, and wished to follow Jelal as his disciples, but he recommended them to remain in their cave, as before, to cease from practising jugglery, and to serve God in the spirit and in truth. So he proceeded on his journey.

To prove that man lives through God's will alone, and not by blood, Jelal one day, in the presence of a crowd of physicians and philosophers, had the veins of both his arms opened and allowed them to bleed until they ceased to flow. He then ordered incisions to be made in various parts of his body; but not one drop of moisture was anywhere obtainable. He now went to a hot bath, washed, performed an ablution, and then commenced the exercise of the sacred dance.

(To be continued.)


1. Farhad was the youthful lover of Sairin. (return to text)

2. Her refers to the candle. The moth is the lover and the candle the beloved. (return to text)

3. See note above. (return to text)

4. Mulla is the Persian form of the Arabic Maulawi, "a learned man," "a scholar." (return to text)

5. Khudawand is a Persian word signifying "lord," "prince," "master." A professor: a man of authority. It is used as a title of the Deity and by Christian missionaries in India it is generally employed as a translation of the Greek Kyrios, "Lord." (Hughes Dic.) (return to text)

6. Islam means the resigning or devoting one's self entirely to God, and his service. (return to text)

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