All men try to describe the mystery
of truth, each one of them so differently:
Philosophers describe it in one way,
while theologians counter what they say;
another one refutes them both, and he
whose soul is blind tries to refute all three.
About the true path each informs a bit,
such that you might think they belong to it.
They are not all correct in what they say
and neither are they totally astray.
Without the real one there would be no fake:
false gold for real gold simple men mistake.
If in this world there weren’t authentic gold,
how could a counterfeit of it be sold?
Without truth, how can there be a lie?
All falsehoods on the true facts must rely.
Men buy a bent thing, thinking that it’s straight:
poison appeared like sugar, so they ate.
Were there no wheat which men prefer to eat,
none would then pass mere barley off as wheat.
Don’t say all talk is wholly counterfeit!
False talk attracts since some see truth in it;
It’s all mere fantasy you might insist—
without truth, fantasy would not exist:
Truth’s like the Night of Power, which makes your soul
check each night to tell which fulfils the role—
not all nights are the Night of Power, just one,
neither are they all void of power, my son.
Among those who wear dervish garb today
just one is true—find him without delay!
Where’s the discriminating, faithful sage
to tell the base from great men in this age?
If nothing flawed or counterfeit were made,
simple men too would try their hand at trade;
choosing the best goods would be easy then,
so who’d know competent from useless men?
Knowledge won’t help if everything’s flawed too—
why bother then perfection to pursue?
The stupid man says everything is true;
a man who says all’s false is foolish too.
Those who trade with the prophets gain in kind,
while those who seek material things turn blind.
In eyes which seek wealth, snakes will soon appear—
rub well your eyes so this will be made clear!
If you think profits will bring happiness,
remember Pharaoh’s and Thamud’s distress!
Keep looking at the sky above your head,
For ‘Turn your gaze back there!’ God clearly said.
Take more than one glance at the dome of light—
Look often! Are there any flaws in sight?
He has told you to look frequently
like someone seeking flaws, not leniently;
Like when we must inspect dark earth in full,
to make sure that it is approvable.
A huge amount our intellects endure
as to tell the dregs from men who’re pure.
The trials faced in winter and in fall,
the summer’s warmth, spring’s gift of life to all,
Winds, clouds, and lightening—all from God come here,
so that all differences can be made clear.
So that dust-coloured earth will then make known
what it contains: a ruby or mere stone?
So many things dark earth grabs stealthily
from Bounty’s Ocean and God’s treasury.
Gods viceroy, providence, says, ‘Earth, admit
what you have pilfered! Every bit of it!
That robber, earth, claims, ‘Not a thing, I swear!’
The viceroy grabs it and wrings it like a bear.
This viceroy may speak like a sweet, kind man,
then later speak as harshly as one can,
so that all hidden things, through wrath and grace—
fear and hope’s flames—reveal to us their face.
Spring sends God’s kindness, but lest men forget,
autumn shows them God’s terror and His threat;
the winter is the inner crucifixion,
when, hidden thief, truth is made clear from fiction.
At times the holy warrior feels expansion,
at other times pain, torment, and contraction.
Our earthly bodies try with all their might
denying and then stealing our soul’s light.
God places grief and pain, hot things and cold,
upon our bodies, so you must be bold!
Poverty, hunger, handicaps, and fear
are sent so the soul’s nature is made clear.
He has made promises and threats of terror,
due to the good and bad He’s mixed together;
The truth and falsehood have been muddled up,
like putting real and false gold in one cup.
Poem by Rumi (Mowlana)
Translation by Jawid Mojaddedi