A Deaf Man Visits His Sick Neighbor

Bijan Khazai, May 22, 2021 in Wisdom of Rumi

[Below is one of the poems that Jawid shared from his vast Rumi translation vault. It's from his first volume of the Masnavi.]

A partially deaf man heard someone say
    That his own neighbour had got sick that day,
He thought, 'I'm deaf—what will I comprehend 
    Of sentiments expressed by my sick friend, 
For he's now ill and might have lost his voice? 
    But I'm obliged to go, I have no choice. 

When I see this friend's lips move, then I'll guess 
    The sentiments he's trying to express: 
When I ask him, 'How are you, dearest friend?' 
    He'll say, 'Alright', or 'I am on the mend.' 
I'll ask, 'What have you had for lunch today?' 
    `Some bean soup and some tonic,' he will say, 
`To health!' I'll say. 'To whom do you now go 
    For treatment?' He'll say, 'Doctor so-and-so', 
I'll say, 'He's very talented and blessed 
    So everything will turn out for the best; 
I've seen myself his power and skilfulness, 
    Whatever he's tried he has met success.' 

He thus rehearsed such comments in his head, 
    Then went to see his sick friend in his bed: 
`How are you?'—`Almost dead!'—`The Lord be praised!' 
    The sick friend grew offended and amazed, 
Thinking, 'Praise God? Does this man want a fight?' 
    The deaf man's guesses hadn't turned out right! 
He asked, 'What have you had?'—`A poisonous drink!' 
    He said, 'To health!'—The sick man reached the brink. 
The deaf man asked 'Which doctor's coming then 
    To treat you so that you'll feel well again?' 
`The Angel of Death—so just go away!' 
    The deaf man said, 'Rejoice! He'll save the day!' 

His visitor left, thinking this inside: 
    `Thank God I came!' He was self-satisfied. 
The sick man thought, 'He's my worst enemy; 
    I never knew he could act spitefully!' 
He then thought of expletives in his mind 
    To write to him swear words of every kind! 
When someone swallows soup that has turned bad, 
    He soon feels ill and vomits what he's had: 
Suppress your rage, don't spew it out like this! 
    You'll be rewarded with the sweetest bliss. 
He had no patience, so he grew irate, 
    Saying, 'Where are you, bastard? You just wait! 
I'll ram your words back down your throat again, 
    My lion-like consciousness was sleeping then. 

Visiting sick men is to bring relief, 
    Not to antagonize and pile on grief; 
You wanted just to see your foe distressed 
    So that your filthy mind could find some rest.' 
In acts of worship many go astray 
    With thoughts of their rewards on Judgment Day. 
Truly, their worship's just sin in disguise 
    Although their vileness seems pure to your eyes. 

The deaf man thought he'd done a righteous act 
    But it led to the opposite in fact, 
Content, he thought, 'I did well, I feel thrilled! 
    My duty to my neighbour I've fulfilled.' 
But as we've seen a fire was made to start—
    He burnt himself thus in his sick friend's heart: 
Beware of ever kindling such a fire, 
    The sum of all your sins will just rise higher! 

The Prophet told pretentious men one day, 
    `Repeat your prayers—you didn't truly pray!' 
Our remedy for such pretentiousness 
    Is begging Him in every prayer 'Guide us! 
Dear God, don't mix this prayer of ours today 
    With those of show-offs who have gone astray!' 

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