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The Chickpea

Mathnawi  III, 4159-4211

translated by Reynold A Nicholson

Look at a chickpea in the pot, how it leaps up when it is subjected to the fire. At the time of its being boiled, the chickpea comes up continually to the top of the pot and raises a hundred cries, Saying, "Why are you setting the fire on me? Since you bought (and approved) me, how are you turning me upside down?"

The housewife goes on hitting it with the ladle. "No!" says she: "boil nicely and don't jump away from one who makes the fire. I do not boil you because you are hateful to me: nay, 'tis that you may get taste and savour, So that you may become nutriment and mingle with the (vital) spirit: this affliction of yours is not on account of (your) being despised. You, when green and fresh, were drinking water in the garden: that water-drinking was for the sake of this fire."

His (God's) mercy is prior to His wrath, to the end that by (God's) mercy he (the afflicted person) may suffer affliction. His (God's) mercy (eternally) preceded His wrath in order that the stock-in-trade, (which is) existence, should come to hand (be acquired);

For, without pleasure, flesh and skin do not grow; and unless they grow, what shall the love of the Friend consume? If, because of that requirement, acts of wrath come to pass, to the end that you may give up that stock-in-trade, (Yet) again (afterwards) the Grace (of God) will come in order to excuse it (the act of wrath), saying, "(Now) thou hast washed thyself (clean) and hast leaped forth from the river (of tribulation)."

She (the housewife) says, "o' chickpea, thou didst feed in the springtime: (now) Pain has become thy guest: entertain him well, That the guest may return (home), giving thanks (for his entertainment), and may relate thy generosity in the presence of the King, So that the Bestower of favour may come to thee instead of the favour, and that all favours may envy thee.

I am Khalil (Abraham), and thou art my son: lay thy head before the knife: lo, I see (in a dream) that I shall sacrifice thee. Lay thy head before (my) wrath, with heart unmoved, that I may cut thy throat, like (that of) Isma'il (Ishmael).

I will cut off thy head, but this head is the head that is immune from being cut off and (from) dying; Yet thy giving thyself up is the object of (God's) eternal purpose: o' Moslem, thou must seek to give thyself up.

Continue, o' chickpea, to boil in tribulation, that neither existence nor self may remain to thee. If thou hast (formerly) laughed in that (earthly) garden, (yet) thou art the rose of the garden of the spirit and the (spiritual) eye.

If thou hast been parted from the garden of water and earth, (yet) thou hast become food in the mouth and hast entered into the living. Become nutriment and strength and thoughts! (Formerly) thou wert milk (sap): (now) be a lion in the jungles!

By God, thou grewest from His (God's) attributes in the beginning: go back nimbly and fleetly into His attributes. Thou camest from the cloud and the sun and the sky; then didst thou become (diverse) attributes and ascend to heaven.

Thou camest in the form of rain and heat: thou wilt go into the goodly (Divine) attributes. Thou wert a part of the sun and the cloud and the stars: thou becamest soul and action and speech and thoughts."

The existence of the animal arose from the death of the plant: (hence the command) "slay me, o' trusty friends" is right. Since there is such a victory for us after the checkmate (of death), (the words) "verily, in my being slain there is a life " are true.

Action and speech and sincerity became the food of the angel, so that by means of this ladder he mounted to heaven, Just as (when) that morsel became the food of Man, it mounted from (the state of) inanimateness and became possessed of soul...

"The caravan (of spirits) is incessantly arriving from heaven, that they may traffic (on the earth) and go back again. Go, then, sweetly and gladly with free-will, not with bitterness and loathing, like a thief.

I am speaking bitter words to thee, in order that I may wash thee (clean) of bitternesses. The frozen grape is thawed by cold water and lays aside its coldness and congealment.

When, from (having endured) bitterness (self-mortification), thy heart is filled with blood (like the grape), then thou wilt escape from all bitternesses.  (If) a dog is not (kept) for hunting, he has no collar: the raw and unboiled is naught but the insipid."

The chickpea said, "Since it is so, o' lady, I will gladly boil: give me help in verity! In this boiling thou art, as it were, my architect: smite me with the skimming-spoon, for thou smitest very delightfully.

I am as the elephant: beat and brand my head, that I may not dream of Hindustan and (its) gardens;
So that I may yield myself (submit) to the boiling, to the end that I may find a way to that embrace (of the Beloved);

Because Man, in (the state of) independence, grows insolent and becomes hostile, like the dreaming elephant. When the elephant dreams of Hindustan, he does not hearken to the driver and displays viciousness."

The dame says to it, " Formerly I, like thee, was a part of the earth. After I had drunk a (cup of) fiery self-mortification, then I became an acceptable and worthy one. For a long while, I boiled in (the world of) Time; for another long while, in the pot of the body.

By reason of these two boilings I became (a source of) strength to the senses: I became (animal) spirit: then I became thy teacher. (Whilst I was) in the inanimate state I used to say (to myself), 'Thou art running (to and fro in agitation) to the end that thou mayst become (endued with) knowledge and spiritual qualities.'

Since I have become (animal) spirit, now (let me) boil once more and pass beyond animality."

Beseech God continually that you may not stumble over these deep sayings and that you may arrive at the (journey's) end, For many have been led astray by the Qur'an: by (clinging to) that rope a multitude have fallen into the well.

There is no fault in the rope, O perverse man, inasmuch as you had no desire for (reaching) the top.

masnavi, jelaluddin rumi