Description of Love – Mystery of Love – Rumi Mathnavi 1, 109

A true lover is proved such by his pain of heart;

No sickness is there like sickness of heart.

The lover’s ailment is different from all ailments;

Love is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries.

A lover may hanker after this love or that love,

But at the last he is drawn to the KING of love.

However much we describe and explain love,

When we fall in love we are ashamed of our words.

Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear,

But love unexplained is clearer.

When pen hasted to write,

On reaching the subject of love it split in twain.

When the discourse touched on the matter of love,

Pen was broken and paper torn.

In explaining it Reason sticks fast, as an ass in mire;

Naught but Love itself can explain love and lovers!

None but the sun can display the sun,

If you would see it displayed, turn not away from it.

Shadows, indeed, may indicate the sun’s presence,

But only the sun displays the light of life.

Shadows induce slumber, like evening talks,

But when the sun arises the ‘moon is split asunder.’

In the world there is naught so wondrous as the sun,

But the Sun of the soul sets not and has no yesterday.

Though the material sun is unique and single,

We can conceive similar suns like to it.

But the Sun of the soul, beyond this firmament,

No like thereof is seen in concrete or abstract.

Where is there room in conception for His essence,

So that similitudes of HIM should be conceivable?

Original Persian Poem by Rumi

Translation of Persian Poem of Rumi by Raficq Abdullah via His book “Words of Paradise: Selected Poems of Rumi”

Same poem translated by R.A. Nicholson and Ibrahim Gamard

Being in love is made manifest by soreness of heart: there is no sickness like heartsickness.

The lover’s ailment is separate from all other ailments: love is the astrolabe of the mysteries of God.

Whether love be from this (earthly) side or from that (heavenly) side, in the end it leads us yonder.

Whatsoever I say in exposition and explanation of Love, when I come to Love (itself) I am ashamed of that (explanation).

Although the commentary of the tongue makes (all) clear, yet tongueless love is clearer.

Whilst the pen was making haste in writing, it split upon itself as soon as it came to Love.

In expounding it (Love), the intellect lay down (helplessly) like an ass in the mire: it was Love (alone) that uttered the explanation of love and loverhood.

The proof of the sun is the sun (himself): if thou require the proof, do not avert thy face from him!

If the shadow gives an indication of him, the sun (himself) gives spiritual light every moment.

The shadow, like chat in the night-hours, brings sleep to thee; when the sun rises the moon is cloven asunder.

Translation of the Same Persian Poem of Rumi by Ibrahim Gamard

Only Love Can Understand the Secrets of God

Mathnawi I: 109-116

109 Love sickness1 is clearly shown by the heart’s misery. There
isn’t any sickness like the sickness of the heart.

110 The “sickness” of the lover is distinct from other illnesses. Love is
the astrolabe2 of the secrets of God.

Whether being a lover is from this or that origin, eventually it is
our guide to that (Divine) Origin.3

Whatever I say about Love, (in regard to) description and
explanation, when I reach Love (itself) I am ashamed of that
[inadequate description].

(For) although the explanation of the tongue is (an excellent)
illuminator,4yet Love (expressed) without the tongue is (much)

When the pen was hurrying in writing [descriptions], when it
reached Love, it shattered against itself.

115 In (attempting) its explanation, the intellect lay down5 like a
donkey (stuck helplessly) in the mud. (Only) Love (itself) spoke
(the real) explanation of both love and being in love.

116 The sun is the demonstration of the sun:6if you need proof,
seek it) from (the sun)– (and) don’t turn (your) face away!

–From “The Mathnawî-yé Ma`nawî” [Rhymed Couplets of Deep Spiritual Meaning] of Jalaluddin Rumi. Translated from the Persian by Ibrahim Gamard (with gratitude for R.A. Nicholson’s 1926 British translation) © Ibrahim Gamard (translation, footnotes, & transliteration) First published on “Sunlight” (, 5/18/00

Notes on the text, with line number:

  1. (109) Love sickness [`âshiqî]: also means “being a lover,”
    “loverhood,” “being in love.” Nicholson translated, “Being in love
    is made manifest by soreness of heart…”

Just prior to this line is the opening section of Rumi’s first story
in the Mathnawi, about a king who fell in love with a maiden.
However,she was unhappy with him and began to look and act
sickly. A wise physician came and discovered that she was actually
physically healthy, but heart-sick from being in love with someone
else, whom she grievously missed: “Her suffering was not from (an
excess of) yellow or black bile. The scent of every (kind of)
firewood is made evident from the (type of) smoke (it produces).
He saw from her (type of) misery that it was the misery of the
heart; (her) body was well, but she was the prisoner of the heart”
(I: 107-08). Nicholson commented here: “i.e. the hidden nature and
quality of a thing is indicated by the effects which it produces.”
(Commentary) The present line then follows (“Love sickness is
clearly shown by the heart’s misery”).

  1. (110) Love is the astrolabe: means that only love can “measure”
    and understand the depths of Divine mysteries– not the intellect.
    The astrolabe is an ancient astronomical device, “an instrument for
    measuring the altitude of the stars and solving the problems of
    spherical astronomy.” (Nicholson, Commentary) Nicholson also
    made a reference to a related verse, which he translated, “Hence
    you and your intellect are like the astrolabe: by this means you
    may know the nearness of the Sun of existence” (IV: 3685).
  2. (111) to that (Divine) Origin: means that being a lover eventually
    guides us to the Source of Love which is God, the Only Beloved.
    Nicholson translated, “Whether love be from this (earthly) side or
    from that (heavenly) side, in the end it leads us yonder.” Nicholson
    said about this line: “The poet explains that what was said of love
    in the preceding verse bears a general application. Love, whether
    its immediate object be Divine or human, real or phenomenal,
    leads ultimately to knowledge of God and union with Him. All
    earthly beauty is but the reflexion of Heavenly Beauty, and as the
    reflexion fades away we turn our eyes towards the Light whence it
    came.” (Commentary)
  3. (113) illuminator: literally, “polisher.” The meaning is that the
    nature of Love is revealed much more brightly and clearly when
    expressed in a non-verbal way. Nicholson explained that this term
    means “polisher” and “elucidator”: “In I 3350 it is used of the
    angels, who keep their hearts pure and unsoiled with sin.”
    (Commentary) Nicholson translated this particular line as, “God
    said to them, ‘If ye are enlightened’…” And he explained that
    “enlightened” literally means “polishers.” (Footnote) He explained
    the meaning of “Love (expressed) without the tongue is (much)
    clearer”: “i.e. the signs of love, such as agitation, pallor, and tears,
    speak for themselves. Cf. the saying, lisánu ‘l-hál antaqu min lisáni
    ‘l-maqál, ‘the tongue of inward feeling is more eloquent than the
    tongue of discourse’.” (Commentary)
  4. (115) the intellect lay down: “The discursive reason (aql-i maásh), which maintains a distinction between the subject and
    object of thought, cannot possibly comprehend or describe the
    nature of mystical union. This is a mystery that Love reveals to the
    lover by immediate experienced (man lam yadhuq lam yadri)”
    [= He who doesn’t taste doesn’t know] (Nicholson, Commentary)
  5. (116) The sun itself is the demonstration of the sun: Nicholson
    explained that this is “A famous and oft-quoted verse” (of Rumi’s),
    and related it to a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad: ‘I
    know my Lord through my Lord’ (`araftu Rabbí bi-Rabbí). To
    mystics their ‘inner light’ is its own evidence.” (Commentary)

For more in-depth and true Persian to English translation of Rumi’s poems, try these books;

Maryam Mafi’s Rumi: Hidden Music
Raficq Abdullah’s Words of Paradise – Selected Poems of Rumi

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