The Tale of Majnun and Layla’s Dog

Majnun saw Layla’s dog and began kissing it,
running around like a hajji* circling the Kaaba,
bowing to its paws, holding its head, scratching
its stomach, giving it sweets and rosewater.

“You idiot,” said someone passing by.
“Dogs lick their privates and sniff excrement on the road.
This is insane, the intimate way you treat that dog.”

“Look though my eyes,” said the lover.
“See the loyalty, how he guards the house of my Friend,
how he’s so glad to see us.
Whatever we feel, grief, the simple delight
of being out in the sun,
he feels that with us completely.
Don’t look too much at surface actions.
Discover the lion, the rose of his real nature.
Friend, this dog is a garden gate into the invisible.”

Anyone preoccupied with pointing out what’s wrong
misses the unseen. Look at his face!

— Mathnawvi, III, 567-575
Coleman Barks
Rumi-Say I Am You
Maypop, 1994

*”Majnun and Layla” — figures in a traditional and archetypal Persian tale of love and separation. *”hajji” — a Muslim pilgrim who is making the haj — pilgrimage — to Mecca.


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