Rumi: Signs of the Unseen - Self-reflection

Someone said, "We are imperfect."

The very fact that someone thinks this and reproaches himself, saying, "Alas, what am I about? Why do I act like this?" is a proof of God's love and favor. "Love persists as long as reproach persists," because one rebukes those one loves, not strangers. Now there are different kinds of reproof. To suffer pain while aware of it is a proof of God's love and favor. One the other hand, when a type of reproof is inflicted and the reproved does not experience pain, there is no proof of love (as when one beats a carpet to get the dust out), and such is not called rebuke by the intelligent. If, on the other hand, one rebukes one's child or beloved, a proof of love does arise in such a case. Therefore, so long as you experience pain and regret within yourself, it is proof of God's love and favor.

When you see a fault in your brother, the fault really lies in yourself but you see it reflected in him. Likewise, the world is a mirror in which you see your own image. "The believer is a mirror to the believer." Rid yourself of your own fault because what distastes you in another is really in yourself.

You are not offended by any bad qualities you have in yourself such as injustice, rancor, greed, envy, insensitivity, or pride. Yet when you see them in another, you shy away, offended. No one is revolted by a scab or abscess of his own; anyone will put his own sore finger into the stew, lick that finger, and not feel squeamish in the least. If, however, there is a minor abscess or cut on someone else's hand, you would never be able to stomach the stew that hand had been in. Bad moral qualities are just like those scabs and abscesses: no one is offended by his own; yet everyone suffers distress and is horrified at seeing only a bit in another. Just as you shy away from another, you must excuse him for shying away when offended by you. Your distress is his excuse because your distress comes from seeing something he also sees. The believer is a mirror to the believer. The Prophet did not say that the infidel is a mirror to the infidel―not because the infidel does not have the quality to be a mirror, but because he is unaware of the mirror of his own soul .

A king was sitting by a brook, dejected. The princes were terrified of him while he was in such a state, and no matter what they did they couldn't cheer him up. The king had a jester who was extremely privileged. The princes undertook to reward him if he would make the king laugh. The jester went to the king, but try as he might, the king would not even look up at him so that he could make a face and cause the king to laugh. All the king did was stare at the brook with his head down.

"What does the king see in the water?" asked the jester.

"I see a cuckold," said the king.

"Sire," the jester replied, "your servant is not blind either."

So it is when you see in another something that distresses you. That person is not blind. He sees the same thing you do.

With God there is no room for two egos. You say "I," and He says "I." In order for this duality to disappear, either you must die for Him or He for you. It is not possible, however, for Him to die―either phenomenally or conceptually―because "He is the Ever-living who dieth not." He is so gracious, however, that if it were possible He would die for you in order that the duality might disappear. Since it is not possible for Him to die, you must die that He may be manifested to you, thus eliminating the duality.

You can tie two birds together; but, although they may be of the same species and their two wings have become four, l they will not be able to fly because duality still pertains. If, however, you tie a dead bird to a live one, it will be able to fly since there is no duality.

The sun is so gracious that it would die for a bat if it were possible. "My dear bat," the sun would say, "my grace touches everything. I would like to do something of beneficence for you too. Since it is possible for you to die, die that you may enjoy the light of my splendor and, shedding your "bat-ness," become the phoenix of the Mount Qal of proximity to me."

One of God's servants was capable of annihilating himself for the sake of a beloved. He asked God to give him such a beloved, but this was not acceptable to Him. A voice came, saying, "I do not desire that you should see such a one."

The servant of God, however, insisted and would not cease his entreaty, saying, "O Lord, you have placed the desire for such a one within me, and it will not go away!"

Finally a voice came, saying, "If you want this to come about, then sacrifice yourself and become nought. Tarry not in departing from the world."

"O Lord," he said, "I am content." And thus he did, sacrificing his life for the sake of that beloved so that his desire was fulfilled.

If a servant of God can possess the grace to sacrifice his life, one day of which is worth more than the life of the whole world from beginning to end, could the Author of Grace be less gracious? That would be ludicrous. Since, however, His annihilation is not possible, you must be annihilated.


A dullard came and sat himself above a saint. The saint said, "What difference does it make whether one is above or below a lamp? If the lamp is inclined to be above, it does not do so for its own sake. Its only purpose is to benefit others so that they may enjoy its light. Otherwise, wherever the lamp may be, high or low, it is still a lamp. It is the eternal sun."

If the saints seek status and exalted position in this world, they do so because people are unable to perceive their exaltedness. They want to ensnare worldly people with their trap of this world so that they may find their way to that other exaltedness and fall into the snare of the next world. Similarly, the Prophet conquered Mecca and the surrounding countries, not because he needed them but in order to bestow life and light on all. "This hand is accustomed to give; it is not accustomed to take." The saints deceive men in order to give to them, not in order to take anything from them.

When someone traps little birds by means of trickery in order to eat them or sell them, that is called deception. When, however, a king lays a trap to catch a rough, worthless falcon that does not know its own essence and then trains it to his arm so that it becomes noble, tutored, and polished, that is not called deception. Although outwardly it appears to be fraudulent, it is considered the essence of straightforwardness and munificence. It is like reviving the dead, turning base stone into ruby, turning inanimate sperm into a living human being, and more. If the falcon knew why he was being captured, he would not need grain as an enticement but would search for the snare with all his heart and soul and fly to the arm of the king.

People look only at the literal meaning of the saints' words and say, "We've heard all this talk many times before. We've had enough of such words. Our hearts are uncircumcised: but God hath cursed them with their infidelity [2:88]. The infidels say, "Our hearts are full of such talk." God answers them thus: "Woe betid them that they be full of these words. They are full of temptations of the devil and vain imaginings. They are full of hypocrisy and doubt―nay, they are full of damnation." God hath cursed them with their infidelity. Would that they were free of those ravings, for then they would be capable of receiving these words. But they are not even capable of that. God has plugged up their ears and eyes and hearts so that they see the wrong color. They perceive Joseph as a wolf. Their ears hear the wrong sound. They heart wisdom as nonsense and raving. And their hearts, having become repositories for temptation and vain imaginings, perceive falsely. Having been knotted up with compounded imaginings, their hearts have frozen solid like ice in winter. God hath sealed up their hearts and their hearing; a dimness covereth their sight [2:7]. How then can they be full? In their whole lives neither they nor those on whom they pride themselves have ever sensed or perceived. They are not blessed by the jug that God gives to some full in order that they may drink to their fill. He gives it to some empty, and then why should they render thanks? The person who receives a full jug render thanks.

When God made Adam of clay and water, "He kneaded the clay of Adam for forty days." He completed Adam's shell and left it for a period of time on the earth. Iblis [Editor's Note: Satan] came down and went into Adam's shell. Going through and inspecting every vein, he saw that it was full of blood and humors. Adam said, "Ugh! It is a wonder if this be not the very Iblis who, at the foot of God's Throne, I saw would appear. If that Iblis exists, this must be he."

Peace be with you!

Excerpted from Chapter Six of Signs of the Unseen by Jalaluddin Rumi. Published by Threshold Books (1994), translated from the Arabic by W.M. Thackston, Jr.

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