Peace, one and all…
We begin our exploration with the opening dedication of Book One. As with most Islamic texts, the Masnavi opens with a dedicatory prologue, in which God and the Prophet (as) are extolled. I think this is an important place to start, mostly because it is how Mevlana himself chose to begin his magnum opus. As will become clear, the prologue makes numerous direct quotations from the Quran. As will also become clear, there are also numerous allusions to Quranic stories, characters and imagery.
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MERCIFUL, THE COMPASSIONATE
‘This is the book of the Masnavi, and it is the roots of the roots of religion in respect of revealing the secrets of attainment and of certainty, and it is the greatest knowledge of God, and it is the most radiant way of God and the clearest proof of God; the likeness of its light is ‘like a niche in which there is a lamp shining’ (Quran 24:35) with a radiance brighter than the dawn. It is the paradise of the heart with springs and boughs, among which there is one which the followers of this way call Salsabil (a reference to Quran 76:18), and among the possessors of the stations and graces it is ‘best as a station and fairest place of repose’ (paraphrasing Quran 25:24). The virtuous eat and drink there, and the free are gladdened and overjoyed by it. And like the Nile of Egypt it is a drink to the patient and an affliction to the people of Pharaoh and the unbelievers, as He has said, ‘In this way He causes many a one to go astray and in this way He guides many a one aright’ (2:26). It is a ‘cure for hearts’ (a reference to 10:57) and remover of sorrows and uncoverer of the Quran, source of abundance of boons and healer of characters, ‘by the hands of messengers, noble and most virtuous’ (80:11-16) who forbid, saying ‘none but the pure can touch it,’ (56:77-79) a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds; ‘falsehood cannot reach it from before of from behind,’ (41:41) and God oberves it and watches over it, and ‘He is the best of guardians and He is the most merciful of the merciful’ (12:64). And it has other titles by which God has honoured it. And we have constrained ourselves to this little, for the little is a sample of the much, and a mouthful is a sample of the pool, and a handful is a sample of the great threshing floor.
The feeble slave, who is need of the mercy of God Most High, Mohammed ibn Mohammed ibn al-Hosayn of Balkh, may God accept this from him, says, I have exerted myself in the composing of the poem of the Masnavi which contains marvels and rarities, the finest treatises and brilliant guidance and the way of the asceitcs and the garden of the devotees, brief in expression, copious in meaning, at the request of my master and support and dependable one, the location of the spirit in my body and the treasure of my today and my tomorrow, namely the sheikh, the model of the knowers of God, the leader of hearts and minds, entrusted by God among His creatures, the quintessence of His creation, and His orders to His Prophet and his secrets to the chosen favourite, the key of the celestial treasuries, custodian of the riches of the earth, the father of virtues, Hosam [Sword] of Truth and religion, Hasan ibn Mohammed ibn Hasan, known as Ibn Akhi Tork, the Abu Yazid of the time, Jonayd of the age, seddiq son of the seddiq, son of the seddiq, may be God be pleased him and with them, originally of Urmiya, descended from the sheikh who was endowed with miraculous grace inasmuch as he said, ‘In the evening I was a Kurd and in the morning an Arab.’ May God sanctify his soul, and the soul of his successors, how blessed is the ancestor, how blessed is the successor! He has a lineage upon which the Sun has cast its mantle and an esteem of ancestry before which the stars have dimmed their radiance. Their courtyard has always been the qibla of good fortune, to whom the sons of sovereign power turn, and the Ka`bah of hopes which those who come for favour circumambulate, and may it always be so long as the star rises and a sun in the east rises resplendent over the horizon, so that it may be a refuge for those possessors of insight, godly, spiritual, heavenly, celestial, enlightened ones, those who are silent in their contemplation, the absent ones who are present, those who are kings beneath their tattered clothes, the nobles of the nations, the masters of virtues, the lights of divine witness. Amen, O Lord of the Worlds!
This is a prayer that will not be refused, for it is a prayer that includes all species of creation. Praise be to God alone, and blessings upon our Master Mohammed and his family and progeny. And God is sufficient – how excellent a Protector’. (Translated by Alan Williams; see here)