I really like this quote but didn't get its correct meaning.

My deduction is - One is asking God that what should he do when he didn't know himself at first.

What is the meaning of Rumi's quote "Lo, for I to myself am unknown, now in God's name what must I do?"

  • Downvoters, please tell me the reason ?
    – Napolean
    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:17
  • They probably think it's obvious - it looks like the quote is saying I don't even know who I am. Now what on earth am I supposed to do?
    – Mithical
    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:29
  • @Mithrandir Thank you. I also deduced the same and have written the same in the question. I was seeking some other unconventional meaning if there was any. And if there was not any, then they should have simply answered "You deduction is correct". End of story. But anyways I did learn something.
    – Napolean
    Sep 4, 2017 at 12:38
  • 1
    It's worth noting that this line has been translated from the original Persian in a number of different ways. Your version can be found here, but some English translations render it simply as "What is to be done, O Moslems? For I do not recognize myself."
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 15, 2018 at 8:23

1 Answer 1


I think there's actually a deeper meaning to this quotation. It touches upon the crucial link between identity and morality. In essence, Rumi is saying, how can I know what to do if I don't know who I am? In my opinion, the larger meaning depends on whether it is viewed as a rhetorical question or not.

If it is viewed as rhetorical, then Rumi is implying that morality depends on identity. We cannot know how we must act until we figure out who we are, or at least who we want to be in this world. If we are or want to be compassionate, then we must be kind to others. If we are or want to be honest, then we should refrain from lying or misleading others.

On the other hand, if the quotation is viewed as a question whose answer Rumi does not himself know, then I see it as pointing to a paradox of human existence, that we are often forced to make decisions and take action in this world without first knowing who we really are or what we really stand for.


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