Bedouin and His Wife

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1 The Tale of The Bedouin and His Wife From the Mathnawi of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi Excerpted from The Pocket Rumi, Edited by Kabir Helminski, story version by Kabir Helminski OnenightaBedouinwomansaidtoherhusband:Wearesufferinghardship andpoverty,whilealltheworldisbetteroffthanus,andwealoneareunhappy.We havenobreadandouronlycondimentisenvy.Wehavenojugandouronlywateris ourtears.Ouronlyclothingbydayistheburningsunshine,andatnightonlythe moonbeams cover us. We imagine the moon to be a loaf of pita bread and we stretch our handstowardthesky.Thepoorestofthepoorareembarrassedbeforeourpoverty... What gifts can we give? We are such beggars we would slit the vein of a gnat in the air. Ifanyguesteverarrivedhere, IswearIwouldgofor his tattered coat inthemiddleof the night. Herhusbandansweredher:Howlongwillyouseekmoneyandseedtosow? Whatisleftofourlives?Mostofitispast.Asensiblepersondoesntdwellongetting moreorhavingless,becausebothwillpasslikeatorrent,andwhetherthetorrentis limpid and clear or just a turbid flood, dont speak of it for it passes in a moment. . . Thedoveonthetreeissingingpraiseseventhoughitseveningmealisnotyet prepared. The falcon has made the Kings pleasure his joy and is disinterested in carrion. Every animal, from the gnat to the elephant, knows it is part of Gods family and what nourishment does God provide! All of the worries that arise within our breast arise from the dust and wind of our existence.Sorrowuprootslikeascythe,andeverypainisapieceofdeath.Expelthis deathifyoucan,andifyoucannotescapeapartofdeath,knowthateventuallythe whole of it will be poured upon your head. But if that part of death has become sweet to you, know that God will make the whole of it sweet. Whoever lives sweetly dies bitterly; whoever serves only the body loses the soul. Sheepareherdedfromthefieldstothetown.Thefattertheyare,thefastertheyare killed.Nightisgoneanddawnhascome.Howlongwillyoutellthesameoldtaleof gold. You were young and contented once. Now you want gold. Once you yourself were the gold. Youaremywife.Husbandandwifemustbeequalsforthingstogowell.Ifa pairofshoesmustmatcheachother,marriagepartnersmustalsomatcheachother.If one of the shoes is tight, the pair is of no use. Have you ever seen a pair of folding doors ofunequalsize?Orawolfmatedtoalionofthejungle?Oronecamelsbagmuch heavier than the other. Iamgoingtowardcontentmentwithastrong heart,whileyouarecomplaining more and more. Thenthewifeanswered:Youhypocrite.Reputationisyourreligion.Iamnot underyourspellanymore.Ivehadenoughofyourpretensionandnonsense.Your pompouswordsareunfortunatelyaccompaniedbyyouractions.Ifyoucouldsee yourselfyoudbeashamed.Whendidyoueverknowrealcontentment,exceptforthe 2 word?TheProphetsaid,Contentmentisatreasure,butyouhaveconfusedthepain with the gain. Contentment is the souls treasure. Dont boast of possessing it, O pain of mysoul.Dontcalyourselfmyhusband.Dontdisplayyourfraudulentaffection.My partnerisjusticenotfraudulence.Dontlookat mewithyourcoldcontempt,orIlltell everyonewhatflowsinyourveins.Youthinkyouresosuperior.Haveyoureally known what is inside of me? YouhavetriedtobeguilemewiththeNameofGod.ButifIwasbeguiledby Gods Name, you certainly deserve no credit for it. You tried to make the Name of God yourtrap.DontbesurprisedifthatNametakesitsvengeanceonyouformysake.I surrendermybodyandsoultothenameofGod.Andsoshecontinuedtorecite volumes of this kind of abuse. O woman, he said, Are you a woman or the father of sorrow? Poverty is my pride,butpovertyisbeyondyourcomprehension.Becausedervishesarebeyond propertyandwealth,theypossessanabundantportionfromtheAlmighty.Godthe MostHighisjust.HowcouldHebetyrannicaltowardthepoorandweak.Idesire nothingfromcreatedbeings.ThroughcontentmentIhavefoundaworldwithinmy heart.Butyou,asifsittingonthehighbranchofapeartree,seethingsinyourown distortedway.Whydontyoucomedowntothegroundwhereyoumayloseyour strangewayofthinking.Ifsomeonespinsroundandround,itlooksasifthewhole world is spinning, but really you are the one who is revolving. Whenthewifesawhowfierceherhusbandhadbecome,shebegantoweep. Tears are a womans lure. I never imagined you would talk to me like this. I hoped for somethingelsefromyou.Sheadoptedthestrategyofdeference.Iamyourdust,an unworthywife.Mysoulandmybody,everythingIamisyours.Ifpovertyhasdriven metodesperation,itisnotformyownsake,butforyours.Youhavealwaysbeenthe remedyformyafflictions.Iamunwillingtoseeyoupenniless.Bymysouland conscience,thiswasnotformysake,butallmysorrowwasforyoursake.ByGod,I would die for you. Since I have earned your displeasure, my own body and soul tire me. Goldandsilverarelessthandirttomenow.Youaretheonlycomfortofmysoul. RememberwhenIwasasbeautifulasanidol,andyouweretheidolworshipper?I, your slave, have kindled my heart to comply with you. . . I am your spinach, so cook me any way you wish. My blasphemy has turned to faith. Let your own conscience plead on my behalf. I leave the outcome to your own noble nature. While she spoke these words through her own tears--she who was a charmer even without tearslightning flashed in themidstofthisdownpour,asparkoffirethatenteredthelonelymansheart.What hope is there when a woman whose beauty is enough to enslave a man becomes herself hisslave?Awomanwhosehaughtinesscouldcauseamantotremblefallsweepingat hisfeet.Godhasarrangedthatthebeautyofwomanisdeckedoutforman.Howcana man escape from what God has arranged? Inasmuch as He created woman as a comfort toman,howcanAdamescapefromEve?Ifoutwardlyamanseemstodominatehis wife,inwardlyheisdominatedandisseekingherlove.Thisisahumancharacteristic; animalsdonotpossessthislove.TheProphetsaidthatWomanprevailsoverthewise man, while, on the other hand, the ignorant man prevails over her. Andsohebegantofeelsorryforherandallthethingsthathehadsaid.He began to wonder how he could have ever been critical of her who was the life of his soul. Themansaid,Mydearwife,Iamsorry.Ihavebeenfaithless,butnowIam surrendered. If I have sinned against you, dont dig me up by my roots. 3 Andso,ifyouareseekingsomemoralfromthestoryoftheargumentbetween the Bedouin and his wife, consider it an analogy of your own flesh and reason. The man andthewifearebothnecessaryforthemanifestationofgoodandevil.Thiscoupleis engaged day and night in this argument in this house of earth. The wife is craving things for the household: bread and other morsels, good name and the approval of society. Like thewife,yourfleshhasrecoursesometimestohumilityandsometimesdomination. Reason, however, is unaware of all these desires and in its brain is nothing but the love of God. Now listen to this tale in its entirety. If a spiritual explanation were enough, the creation of this whole world would have been an idle undertaking. If love consisted only of spiritual meaning, the forms of fasting and prayer would notbenecessary.Thegiftsthatloversgivetoeachotherare,comparedtoloveitself, nothingbutforms.Andyetthesegiftsaretestimonytothesecretoflove.Maywebe given the discernment to know the false indication from the true.The man said, I wont oppose you any longer. Whatever you ask me to do, I will do. I dissolve my existence in yours, because I am your lover. Love makes me blind and deaf. Thewifesaid,Iwonderifyourwordsaretrue,orwhetheryouaretryingto seduce me and learn my secret. No,byGod,hesaid,WhoknowswhatismosthiddenandWhocreated Adampureandplacedinhimallthatthetabletsofdestinyandtheworldofspirits contain. When the angels saw and heard Adam and his knowledge of the divine names, theysaid,Beforethistime,wehadafriendshipwiththedustoftheearthandwere plantingtheseedsofsacredness.Weoftenaskedourselves,whydowewhoarepure lighthavethisfriendshipwithdarkness?Adam,thatfriendshipwasinexpectationof the scent of you, because that dust formed the warp and woof of your body. When God firstaskedustocomehere,itwasabitterrequest,andweargued:willyousellthe splendorofourpraiseforthisearthlybanterandnonsense?ButGodsdecreewasan invitationtobebold.Hesaid,"IsntMyMercysomuchgreaterthanmywrath?"In ordertomakethesuperiorityofmyMercyevenclearerIhavetoallowthisperplexity anddoubt.Imustallowyoutospeakandnottakeoffenseatwhatissaid.Withinthis Mercyahundredmothersandfathersappearandvanish.Themerciesofallthese parentsareonlythefoamontheseaofMymercy.Theirmercycomesandgoes,while Mineremainsforever.Bythetruthofthatfoamandthatpuresea,Iswearthatmy wordsarenotmeanttotestyou.Mywordsarefromsincerityandhumbleness.Ifyou think my words might not be true, put me to the test. Reveal you secret desire, so I may showyoumyinnersecret.Askmetodoanything,sothatIamacceptwhateverIam capable of doing. Thesunhasbeguntoshine,saidthewife,IntheformofagreatCaliphin Baghdad.IfyoucangainaccesstothatKing,youyourselfwillbecomeaking. Otherwise you will only continue to dwell amidst misfortune. Companionship with the fortunate is like an elixir. How shall I approach this Caliph? What pretext may I present? God has said, Come, ye in order to dispel our feelings of shame. WhatcanIshowtohimthatwillmakemyownlackofmeansclear?Because the Caliph requires truth, not pretension. Whenanyonestandsup,purifiedofself-existence,thatistheunpretentious truth. Take this jug of rainwater as a gift and depart for the presence of the Caliph. Tell 4 him, There is no more precious gift in the desert than this. Even if his treasury is full of gold and jewels, he doesnt get water like this. Whatisthisjugifnotthislimitingbodyofours,filledwiththebrinywaterof oursenses.Wehavebeentold,Godhasboughtthebelieverslivesinreturnfor paradise.Itsajugwithfivespouts;keepitpure,sothatyoucancarryittotheKing, andtheKingwillpurchaseitfromyou.Closeyoureyestovaindesire.Stopupits spouts, and keep it filled with water from the Sea of Reality. Yes, I am sure the Caliph has never received a gift like this before. Stop up the mouth of the jug, and sew a felt covering for it, so that it may arrive safely to the Caliph and he may use it to break his fast. There is no water like this in the world. How could he know what the Caliphs circumstances might be, since he had never escaped his own fleetingcaravansary?HishandstrembledallthewaytoBaghdadashecarriedhis precious gift. Meanwhile, his wife unrolled the prayer carpet and prayed to her Lord for thewaterssafejourneytotheSea!Myhusbandisquiteclever,shethought,butour treasurewillfacemanyenemies.WhenhedidfinallyarriveinBaghdadhesawbefore himabountifulCourtwithmanywhowereseekinghelp.Highandlow, theywereall quickened with life, like the whole world arising to the trumpet of the Resurrection. He heardaloudcall:Come,seekers.Abundanceisseekingbeggars,justa beautyseeksa mirror.BeggarsarethemirrorsofGodsabundance,andthosewhohaveunitedwith God become that abundance. ThecourtofficersoftheCaliphwereatthePalacesprinklingrosewateronall comers. It was their duty to assess the need of each and fulfill it even before being asked. O chief of the Arabs, how has your journey been? Iam astranger,hesaid,andIhavecome fromthedesertin hopeof gaining thegraceoftheSultan. His fragrance has spreadthrough thedesertandeverygrainof sand was touched by his soulfulness. I came to this court in quest of wealth, but as soon asIenteredtheporticoIbecametheseatofhonor,andnowImovearoundthiscourt freed of any desire, like the revolving spheres of heaven. Everything in existence moves in order to gain some benefit except the bodies and souls of Gods lovers.Hepresentedthejugofwaterandsaid,TakethisgifttotheSultan,Itissweet water in a new green jug. The officials smiled, but accepted it as if it were as precious as lifeitself,becausethesecourtiershadbecomeimbuedwiththegraciousnessofthe Sultanhimself.RegardtheSultanasareservoirwithpipesrunningineverydirection, everyoneofwhichgiveswatersweettotaste.Butifthewaterinthereservoiris brackish and dirty, every pipe will produce the same.Consider how the grace of that dimensionless Spirit has produced effects on the whole body, and how Intelligence brings the whole body into discipline, and how Love, restlessanduncontrolled,throwsthewholebodyintomadness.Forwhatever knowledgeamasterisrenowned,youwillgetthesamefromhispupils.Theologians, lawyers, grammarians all produce students imbued with their knowledge, and again the master absorbed in the way of Sufism will produce students absorbed in God. And of all thesedifferentkindsofknowledge,thebestequipmentandprovisiononthedayof death is the knowledge of spiritual poverty. When the Caliph saw the gift and heard the story of the Bedouin, he filled the jug with gold and added other presents, and told his courtiers to help him return by way of the Tigris river: Since he has come here through the desert, it will be shorter for him to return by way of the river. 5 WhentheArabembarkedontheboatandsawtheTigrisforthefirsttime,he prostratedhimselfinhumilityandthankfulness.TheCaliphissogenerous,andhow wonderful that he took my gift of water. Everythingintheuniverseisajugfilledtothebrimwithwisdomandbeauty. ThiswholeuniverseisadropoftheTigrisofHisbeauty.Hisbeautywasahidden treasure, which burst forth and made this earth more resplendent than the heavens. And if the Arab had seen just a branch of the Tigris, he would have destroyed the jug. But the jugisonlyimprovedbybeingshattered:everypieceofitdancesinecstasy,thoughto the limited mind this sounds absurd.