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Volume 6, No 3, Fall 1996 [back]

From Jalaluddin Rumi


"We proposed The Trust unto the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains; and they refused to undertake the same, and were afraid thereof; but man undertook it: verily he was unjust to himself, and foolish." [Qur'an, al-Ahzab 72]

Consider how many mind-boggling things they perform: they turn rocks into rubies and emeralds; they turn mountains into mines of gold and silver; they cause the plants of the earth to burst forth; they give life; and they create a Garden of Eden. The earth too receives the seed and gives forth fruit; it covers up blemishes and does innumerable miraculous things. The mountains also produce various minerals. All these things they do, but one thing they cannot do: that one thing is for mankind to do. "And We have honored the children of Adam..." [Qur'an Ban-i Israil 70] Since God did not say , "We have honored the heavens and the earth," it is therefore for mankind to do that which heavens, the earth, and the mountains cannot do. If man accomplishes his task, his injustice to himself and his folly are cancelled out. You may object and claim that, although you do not accomplish that task, you do nonetheless perform many other deeds. It is as though you were to use a priceless blade of Indian steel, of the sort found in kings' treasuries, as a cleaver for rotten meat and then justify your act by saying, "I am not letting this blade stand idle. I am putting it to good use." It is as though you were to use a golden bowl to cook turnips in. One fraction of that bowl could buy a hundred pots. It is as though you were to use a gem-encrusted dagger to hang a broken gourd and say, "I'm putting it to use by hanging the gourd from it. I'm not letting the dagger stand idle." Is it not both pitiful and ludicrous? When the gourd could be as well served by a wooden peg or an iron nail, the worth of which can be measured in pence, what is the logic in using a dagger worth a hundred dinars to such a purpose? God has fixed a high price on you, as He has said: "Verily God has purchased of the Believers their persons and their goods; for theirs is the Paradise...." [Qur'an, Tauba 111]

[From Fihi ma fihi, translated by W. M. Thacktson, Jr. under the title of Signs of the Unseen, Threshold Books, 1994]

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