The Story Of The Grammarian And The Sailor

The Story of the Grammarian and the Sailor


In the Mathnawi, Maulana Rumi (Rahmatullah Alaihe) tells the story of a grammarian.

A certain man noted for his knowledge of grammar once boarded a boat for a voyage.

The captain of the boat asked him, “Sir, in which subject are you an expert?”

He replied, “I am an expert in the knowledge of grammar. It is a great pity that you have spent your whole life learning to sail a boat but did not learn anything about grammar”. At this reply, the boatman remained silent. It so happened that according to the decree of Allah Ta’ala, the boat was caught up in a storm in the middle of the ocean. The captain told the grammarian: “Sir, make use of your knowledge of grammar and save yourself from drowning. The boat is in danger of sinking”.

The grammarian remained silent. Of what use was grammar in such a situation? The sailor also said, “This is not a time for grammar. It is time to be a swimmer. There is, at this time, no use of expert knowledge of grammar. It is time to swim your way out of trouble.

“The water of the ocean carries a corpse on its head while living ones it drowns”

In other words, by annihilating your ‘self’ the road to Allah Ta’ala is discovered. Those who act proudly and arrogantly are destroyed.

Hence, in the path of Allah Ta’ala, self-annihilation is most useful. It is of no great benefit to become involved with arguments and debates. Sometimes these debates create arrogance, which prevents one from building a close contact with the saintly ones. May Allah Ta’ala protect us against such deprivation and grant us perfect annihilation of the self, Ameen!

I, once, asked my Shaikh and Murshid, “What is annihilation?” He replied, “The meaning of the term ‘destruction of the self’, and to ‘annihilate yourself’ and to become ‘annihilated to Allah Ta’ala’ means that a person will discard all his pleasures and desires which are against the commands of Allah Ta’ala, that is called ‘annihilation of the self’. When a person initially takes the first steps on the path of sulook, this annihilation is accomplished through strenuous spiritual exercises and great difficulty. But in the end, the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala and the acquisition thereof becomes like second nature to a person – much easier to attain.”

Originally posted 2017-08-11 18:10:30.