Muhammad and the Huge Eater
By by Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks
"Delicious Laughter, Rambunctious Teaching Stories from the
Mathnawi" by Coleman Barks. 1990 Paypop Books, 196 Westview Drive,
Athens, GA 30606.
(Note: Husam was Rumi's much loved assistant. Rumi teases
Husam demands that we
begin Book V.
Ziya-Haqq, the Radiance of Truth,
Master to the Pure Masters,
if my human throat were not
I would praise you as you should be praised,
language other than this word-language,
but a domestic fowl is not a
We must mix the varnish we have
and brush it on.
I'm not talking to materialists. When I mention Husam,
I speak only
to those who know spiritual secrets.
Praise is simply drawing back the
to let his qualities in.
from what I say.
What the sayer of Praise is really praising is himself, by saying
implicitly, "My eyes are clear."
Likewise, someone who criticizes is criticizing
implicitly, "I can't see very well
with my eyes so inflamed."
Don't ever feel sorry for someone
who wants to be the Sun, that
the One that makes rotten things fresh.
And don't ever envy someone
who wants to be this world.
Husam is the Sun I mean.
He can't be understood with the mind, or
but we'll stumble and stagger trying to.
Just because you
can't drink all that falls
doesn't mean you give up taking sips
rain water. If the nut
of the mystery can't be held,
at least let me
touch the shell.
Husam, refresh my words, your words.
My words are only a husk to
an earth-atmosphere to your enormous spaces.
What I say is meant only to point to that, to You,
so that whoever
ever hears these words will not grieve
that they never had a chance to
Your Presence draws me out from vanity
and imagination and opinion.
Awe is the salve
that will heal our eyes.
And keen, constant listening.
Stay out in the open like a date
lifting its arms. Don't bore mouse-holes
in the ground, arguing
That intellectual warp and woof keeps you wrapped
in blindness. And
four other characteristics
keep you from loving. The Qur'an calls
four birds. Say Bismillah, and chop the heads
The rooster of lust, the peacock of wanting
to be famous, the crow
of ownership, and the duck
of urgency, kill them and revive them
another form, changed and harmless.
There is a duck inside you.
Her bill is never still, searching
and wet alike, like the robber in an empty
cramming objects in his sack, pearls, chickpeas,
Always thinking, "There's no time!
I won't get another chance!"
A True Person is more calm and deliberate.
He or she doesn't worry
But that duck is so afraid of missing out
that it's lost all
generosity, and frighteningly expanded
its capacity to take in food.
A large group of unbelievers
once came to see Muhammad,
he would feed them.
Muhammad told his Friends,
"Divide these guests among you and tend
Since you are all filled with me,
it will be as though I am
Each Friend of Muhammad chose a guest,
but there was one huge person
he sat in the entrance of the mosque
like thick dregs
in a cup.
So Muhammad invited the man to his own household,
where the enormous
son of a Ghuzz Turk ate everything,
the milk of seven goats and enough
for eighteen people!
The others in the house were furious.
When the man went to bed, the
maid slammed the door
behind him and chained it shut, out of
and resentment. Around midnight, the man
strong urges at once.
But the door! He works it
puts a blade through the crack.
The urgency increases. The room contracts.
He falls back
into a confused sleep and dreams
of a desolate place, since he himself
such a desolate place.
So, dreaming he's by himself,
he squeezes out a huge amount,
another huge amount.
But he soon becomes conscious enough
to know that the covers he
gathers around him
are full of shit. He shakes with spasms of the
that usually keeps men from doing such things.
He thinks, "My sleep is worse than my being awake.
The waking is
just full of food.
My sleep is all this."
Now he's crying, bitterly embarrassed,
Waiting for dawn and the
noise of the door opening,
hoping that somehow he can get
without anyone seeing him as he is.
I'll shorten it. The door opens. He's saved.
Muhammad comes at dawn.
He opens the door
and becomes invisible so the man won't feel
so he can escape and wash himself
and not have to face the
Someone completely absorbed in Allah like Muhammad
can do this.
Muhammad had seen all that went on
in the night, but he held back from
letting the man out,
until all happened as it needed to happen.
Many actions which seem cruel
are from a deep Friendship.
demolitions are actually renovations.
Later, a meddlesome servant
brought Muhammad the
"Look what your guest has done!"
Muhammad smiles, himself a mercy given to all beings,
"Bring me a
bucket of water."
Everyone jumps up, "No! Let us do this.
We live to serve you, and
this is the kind of hand-work
we can do. Yours is the inner
"I know that, but this is an extraordinary occasion."
A Voice inside him is saying, "There is great wisdom
these bedclothes. Wash them."
Meanwhile, the man who soiled the covers and fled
is returning to
Muhammad's house. He has left behind
an amulet that he always carried.
He enters and sees the Hands of God
washing his incredibly dirty
He forgets the amulet. A great love suddenly enters him.
his shirt open. He strikes his head
against the wall and the door.
pours from his nose.
People come from other parts of the house.
He's shrieking, "Stay
He hits his head, "I have no understanding!"
himself before Muhammad.
You are the Whole. I am a despicable
meaningless piece. I can't look at You."
He's quiet and
quivering with remorse.
Muhammad bends over and holds him and caresses him
and opens his
The cloud weeps, and then the garden sprouts.
The baby cries, and
the mother's milk flows.
The Nurse of Creation has said, Let them cry a
This rain-weeping and sun-burning twine together
to make us grow.
Keep your intelligence white-hot
and your grief glistening, so your
life will stay fresh.
Cry easily like a little child.
Let body-needs dwindle and soul-decisions increase.
you give your physical self.
Your spiritual eye will begin to open.
When the body empties and stays empty,
God fills it with musk and
That way a man gives his dung and gets purity.
Listen to the Prophets, not to some adolescent boy.
and the walls of the spiritual life
are made of self denials and
Stay with Friends who support you in these.
Talk with them about
and how you're doing, and how they're doing,
your practices together.
- Mathnawi, V, 1-149,