If you have lost a camel and sought it busily, how could you not know, when you find it, that it is yours?

What is that straying camel?

You have lost a she-camel: she has fled from your herd into a veil of concealment. The caravaneers have begun to load, but your camel is lost and has disappeared from the midst of the caravan. You are running to and fro with parched lips; the caravan is now far away and the night is near. Your baggage is left on the ground, lying on the road of peril, whilst you are running about in search of the camel.

You cry “Oh Moslems, who has seen a camel which this morning escaped from my stable? Whoever will give me a clue to finding my camel, I will give so many dirhems as a reward.”

You are requesting clues from everyone; every rascal is making a mockery of you on this account. One says, “We saw a camel going in this direction, a reddish camel going to yonder pasture.” Another one says, “It was crop-eared,” and another says, “Its saddlecloth was embroidered.” One says, “The camel had only one eye.” and another says, “It was suffering from mange and had no hair.”

For the sake of a reward, every rascal at random sets forth a hundred clues.

You have lost a camel, Oh friend, and everyone is offering you a clue to the camel. You know not where the camel is, but you know that these clues are wrong.

And he that has not lost a camel—he too in envy seeks a camel just like him who has really lost it, saying, “Yes; I too have lost a camel; I have brought a reward for anyone who may find it.”

He says this so that he may take a partner’s share with you in the lost camel; he plays this trick on you because he covets the camel. If you say to anyone, “That clue was false,” that base imitator says the same. He does not know wrong clues from right, but your words are a cue to him.

When one mentions a true clue, then to you comes the certainty in which there is no doubt. That clue becomes balm to your sick soul; it brings color to your face and health and strength to you. Your eye becomes bright, your foot nimble; your body becomes soul and your soul becomes spirit.

Then you will say, “Oh trusted friend, you have spoken the truth: these clues are a clear deliverance. Within there are manifest signs, sure information, distinct evidence: this is a title deed and an ordainment of salvation.”

When he has given this clue, you will say, “Go before me! It is time for the enterprise: be thou the leader! I will follow thee Oh truth-teller; thou hast got scent of my camel: show me where it is.”

But to that person who has not lost his camel, and who is engaged in this quest for the camel for envy’s sake, his certainty is not increased by this right clue, save through reflection from the camel seeker. From the true seeker’s earnestness and ardor, the imitator gets an inkling that these wild outcries are not mere babble. The imitator had no just claim to this camel, but he too has lost a camel: yes he has.

Desire for another’s camel has become a veil to him, so that he has forgotten what he himself has lost. Wherever the owner runs, the imitator runs: from cupidity, he becomes a partner in the owner’s pain. When a liar sets out with a truthful man, his falsehood suddenly turns to truth. In the desert, whither that camel had wandered, the imitator also found his own camel.

As soon as he saw it, he remembered his own camel and ceased to covet the camels of friend and kinsman. That imitator became a true seeker when he saw his camel browsing there. Only at that moment did he become a seeker of the camel: he was never truly seeking it till he saw it in the desert. After that, he began to go alone: he opened his eyes and went towards his own camel.

The sincere seeker says, “You have left me although till now you were paying regard to me.”

He replies, “Hitherto I have been an idle scoffer and, from cupidity, have been engaged in flattering thee. But now as I have become parted from thee in the search, I have become sympathetic with thee in spirit. I was stealing the camel’s description from thee; but when my spirit saw its own camel, it had its eye filled with seeing. Till I found it, I was not seeking it; now the copper is overcome, the gold overpowers it.

My evil deeds have become pious acts entirely—praise be to Allah!

Jest is vanished and earnestness is realized – praise be to Allah!

Since my evil deeds have become the means of my attaining unto Allah, do not, then, throw blame on my evil deeds. Thee, thy sincerity had made a seeker; for me, toil and search opened the way to sincere feeling. Thy sincerity led thee to seek; my seeking led me to a feeling of sincerity. I was sowing the seed of fortune in the earth, though I fancied it was labor without wages and hire. Twas not labor without hire; t’was an excellent earning: for every grain that I sowed a hundred grew.”

“The thief went by stealth to a certain house: when he entered he saw that it was his own house.”

Be hot, Oh cold one, that heat may come: put up with roughness, that ease may come.

The subject of my discourse is not two camels: it is a single camel. Verbal expression is confined, the meaning to be expressed is very full. The expression always fails to reach the meaning: hence the Prophet said, “Whoso knows Allah, his tongue falters.”

Speech is like an astrolabe in its reckoning: how much does it know of the sky and the sun?

Especially, of that Sky whereof this heaven is no more than a blade of straw; that Sky of whose Sun the terrestrial sun is but a mote?

Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi