The Man Who Claimed To Be A Prophet - Poem by Rumi

Story of the person who claimed to be a prophet. They said to him, “What hast thou eaten that thou hast become crazy and not talking in vain?” He replied, “If I had found anything to eat, I should not have become crazy and talked in vain”; for whenever they (the prophets and saints) speak goodly words to people unworthy to hear them, they will have talked in vain, although they are (divinely) commanded to talk thus in vain.”

A certain man was saying, “I am a prophet: I am superior to all the prophets.”

They bound his neck and took him to the king, saying, “This man says he is a prophet sent by God.”

The people (were) gathered round him (thick) as ants and locusts, crying, “What deceit and imposture and trap is (this)?

If he that comes from (the realm of) non-existence is a prophet, we all are prophets and grand (in spiritual eminence). We (too) came hither as strangers from that place (realm). Why shouldst thou be specially endowed (with prophecy), accomplished one? “ (He replied), “Did not ye come like a sleeping child? Ye were ignorant of the way and the destination.

Ye passed through the (different) stages asleep and intoxicated, unconscious of the way and (its) ups and downs; (But) we (prophets) set out in wakefulness and well (aware) from beyond the five (senses) and the six (directions) to (this world of) the five and six.

Having perceived (all) the stages from the source and foundation, possessed of experience and knowing the way like (skilled) guides.” They said to the king, “Put him to the rack, that a person of his sort may never (again) speak such words.”

The king saw that he was very thin and infirm, so that such an emaciated man would die at a single blow. (He thought to himself), “How is it possible to torture or beat him, since his body has become as (fragile as) a glass? But I will speak to him kindly and say, “Why dost thou boast of (this) high estate? For here harshness is of no use: ’tis by gentleness that the snake puts forth its head (is induced to come forth) from the hole.”

He caused the people to withdraw from around him (the claimant): the king was a gracious man, and gentleness was his way. Then he bade him be seated, and asked him concerning his dwelling-place, saying, “Where hast thou thy means of livelihood and refuge? ” He replied, “O king, I belong to the Abode of Peace: I have come from the road (after having journeyed) to this Abode of Blame. I have neither home nor any companion: when has a fish made its home on the earth?”

Again the king answered him, saying by way of jest, “What (food) hast thou eaten and what provision hast thou (made) for the morning meal? Hast thou appetite? What didst thou eat at daybreak that thou art so intoxicated and boastful and blustering?” He replied, “If I had bread, (whether) dry or moist, how should I lay claim to prophecy? To claim to be a prophet amongst these people is like seeking a, heart from a mountain.

No one (ever) sought intellect and heart from mountains and rocks: none sought (from them) understanding and apprehension of a difficult point of discourse. Whatever you say, the mountain replies the same: it makes a mock (of you) like the scoffers. What relation exists between this folk and the (Divine) message? Who can hope for (spiritual) life from a soulless thing?

If you bring (them) a message concerning a woman or gold, they will all lay before you their money and lives (in entire devotion). (The message), ‘A sweetheart in such and such a place invites thee (to come to her): she is in love with thee, she knows thee.’ But if you bring (them) the honey-like message of God, ‘Come to God, O thou who hast a good covenant’ (with Him); Go from the world of death towards the (eternal) provision: since everlastingness is possible, do not be perishing’ they will seek (to shed) thy blood and (take) thy life, not in zeal for religion and (spiritual and moral) excellence.

The reason why the vulgar are at enmity with, and live in estrangement from, the saints of God who call them unto God and the Water of Life everlasting. Nay, but on account of their sticking to house and goods ’tis bitter (hateful) to them to hear this exposition (given by the prophets).

(Suppose) a rag is stuck fast upon the donkey’s sore: when you wish to tear it off, bit by bit, the donkey, because of the pain (inflicted on him), will certainly kick: happy the man who abstained from (touching) him! Especially (when there are) fifty sores, and a soaked rag stuck on the top of them in every case.

House and goods are like the rag, and this greed (of thine) is the sore: the greater the greed, the greater the sore. The wilderness alone is the house and goods of the owl: he (the owl) will not listen to descriptions of Baghdad and Rabas. If a royal falcon come from the road and bring to these owls a hundred reports of the King, (With) a full account of the imperial city and the orchards and the rivers, then a hundred enemies will jeer at him, saying, ‘What has the falcon brought? An old story. He is weaving words of vanity and idle brag. ‘Tis they (that) are old and rotten unto everlasting; otherwise (they would know that) that breath (of prophetic inspiration) makes the old new. It gives life to the old dead (spirits): it gives the crown of reason and the light of faith.

Do not steal thy heart away from the spirit-bestowing heart – no ravisher, for he will mount thee on the back of Rakhsh. Do not steal thy head away from the crown-giving one whose head is exalted, for he will untie a hundred knots from the foot of thy heart. Whom shall I tell? Where in the village is any (spiritually) living one? Where is any one that runs towards the Water of Life? Thou art seeing from Love because of a single humiliation: what dost thou know of Love except the name?


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