84636C4D-FDB5-4AE0-AF86-E3DEEBEDF97B
Hans Braxmeier / Pixabay

“We are all returning.”
~ The Koran

 

“On the seeker’s path, wise men and fools are one.
In His love, brothers and strangers are one.
Go on! Drink the wine of the Beloved!
In that faith, Muslims and pagans are one
.”
~ Rumi, Quatrain 305

6BFFE2AC-01F8-45DD-8892-0D968690B787

در راه طلب عاقل و دیوانه یکی است
در شیوه‌ی عشق خویش و بیگانه یکی است
آن را که شراب وصل جانان دادند
در مذهب او کعبه و بتخانه یکی است

 

Rumi is a giant. Somebody whose words resonate with the perfume of truth, but about whom we paradoxically know very little. At least I didn’t. Quoted far beyond the small circle of spiritual seekers, he is taken for granted, like a distant angular stone of spirituality. His verses are shared, loved as so many gems of human history, but without showing off. And yet, what depth of understanding they convey! In what subtle and intricate ways they describe the torturous alleys of spiritual endeavour! And with what simplicity!

 

Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in always 
widening rings of being
.”
~ ’The Essential Rumi’ (Translated by Coleman Barks)

 

Rumi was a Sufi. He was born Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, in 1207, in Balkh in present day Afghanistan, in a family of Sufi tradition. Sufism, which could be defined as ‘the inward dimension of Islam’, has its origins shrouded in mystery. How did it suddenly grow, nobody knows. The word comes from ‘sūf’ which refers to the woollen garment worn by the first mystics who broke away from the mainstream Islamic religion. Sufism didn’t grow in opposition to Islam, the religion that gave it birth around the 9th century, but as a deepening, a going back to the very source and meaning behind traditional Muslim orthodoxy. The Sufi devotee wanted to feel, to know God as the true presence in the heart, not putting an illusory figure at a distance to be worshipped. That’s how Sufism placed love, the love of god, at the centre and expressed it in the most exquisite poetry. That’s how music and dance were allowed and praised. Sufism is understanding and living this primary statement of faith in Islamic religion: ‘There is no god but god.”

 

‘Tis Love and the Lover that live to all Eternity;
Set not thy heart on aught else; ’tis only borrowed,

How long wilt thou embrace a dead beloved? 
Embrace the Soul which is embraced by nothing
.”
~ The Divan

 

Rumi was a scholar. His father was a learned man, theologian, jurist, and a mystic who has greatly influenced the young Rumi. The whole family and community had to flee westward to escape the invasion of the mongols’ army. They finally settled in Konya, in present day Turkey, which was part of the Roman world, hence the name ‘Rumi’. At his father’s death, Rumi took over his role as a religious teacher and scholar, giving sermons, and as a jurist, helping the community, settling conflicts. He was married and had two sons. He helped founding the Mevlevi Order, also known as the ‘whirling dervishes’, dedicated to practicing a danced meditation, where the devotee spins in circles with the aim of remembering and praising god’s presence within.

 

7F5EF9E9-091B-4F7C-BF71-0C090BA57D70
Shams of Tabriz / Wikimedia Commons

You came into the tavern, O most exalted Shaykh,
and in consequence of your coming all the wine have turned to honey
.”
~ The Masnavi

 

Rumi was a mystic. His life totally changed when he met a mysterious friend and mentor, Shams of Tabriz. Who was Shams, and how did they meet? There are various stories, but all refer to the infinite beauty and impact of this friendship in Rumi’s life. It was a sacred encounter, a meeting whose essence was love. Their bond was such that hey became inseparable. And yet, one day, Shams left as mysteriously as he had appeared, leaving Rumi devastated. His longing became the core of his life, and an inestimable gift. He came to see and understand that Shams was to be found inside himself, or rather, as his very self which is the essence of God. “I gazed into my own heart; There I saw Him; He was nowhere else.”

 

Why should I seek? I am the same as 
He. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself!

~ The Divan

 

O Soul of my own Soul, my I as I am Thou: Thou art the All, and I in thee have all I sought.”
~ The Divan

 

The Prophet said that God has declared, 
‘I am not contained in aught above or below, 
I am not contained in earth or sky, or even 
In highest heaven. Know this for a surety, O beloved! 
Yet am I contained in the believer’s heart! 
If ye seek Me, search in such hearts!’

~ The Masnavi

 

Rumi was a poet. His encounter with Shams left him with an ache and a longing so vast that it gave rise to a formidable outpouring of poetry. “What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.” wrote Rumi. The sheer size and scope of his poetical work, as well as his discourses, sermons, letters, have brought fascination among translators and scholars alike. In his quest for the beloved, he wrote a collection of poems called the ‘Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi’, recognised to be one of the greatest works of Persian Literature. Later on, he dictated a series of six books of poetry which he named ‘The Masnavi’, which means ‘spiritual Couplets’, and is considered to be the ‘Persian Koran’. Rumi discovered that longing, pain, hid a great secret which he endeavoured to describe through a series of popular tales, plots, anecdotes and commentaries. He wrote as a preamble: “This is the book of the Masnavi, and it is the roots of the roots of the roots of the (Islamic) Religion and it is the Explainer of the Koran.”

 

Hearken to the reed-flute, how it complains,
Lamenting its banishment from its home:
‘Ever since they tore me from my osier bed,
My plaintive notes have moved men and women to tears. 
I burst my breast, striving to give vent to sighs,
And to express the pangs of my yearning for my home
.”
~ The Masnavi (Opening Verses)

 

He who has led thee thus far will lead thee further also.
How pleasant are the pains 
He makes thee suffer while 
He gently draws thee to Himself!

~ The Divan

 

Pain is a treasure, for it contains mercies; 
The kernel is soft when the rind is scraped off. 
O brother, the place of darkness and cold 
Is the fountain of Life and the cup of ecstasy. 
So also is endurance of pain and sickness and disease. 
For from abasement proceeds exaltation.
The spring seasons are hidden in the autumns, 
And the autumns are charged with springs
.”
~ The Masnavi

 

Rumi is a lover. Behind his outpouring of words, he made clear that, in his view, “Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear, But Love unexplained is better.” Poem after poem, Rumi gives Love the place of prominence, describing it in countless ways, in every form. He maintains: “Love is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries.” He knows well that a true lover loses himself in the object of his or her love. Love is all. “This is Love: to fly heavenward, To rend, every instant, a hundred veils.”

 

The Beloved is all in all, the lover only veils Him;
The Beloved is all that lives, the lover a dead thing
.”
~ The Masnavi

 

Eternal Life is gained by utter abandonment of one’s own life. 
When God appears to His ardent lover the lover is absorbed in 
Him, and not so much as a hair of the lover remains. 
True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory the shadows vanish away. 
He is a true lover to God to whom God says, ‘I am thine, and thou art Mine!’

~ The Masnavi

 

With Thy sweet Soul, this Soul of mine— 
Hath mixed as Water doth with Wine. 
Who can the Wine and Water part, 
Or me and Thee when we combine? 
Thou art become my greater Self; 
Small Bounds no more can me confine. 
Thou hast my Being taken on, 
And shall not I now take on Thine? 
Me Thou for ever hast affirmed, 
That I may ever know Thee mine. 
Thy Love has pierced me through and through, 
Its Thrill with Bone and Nerve entwine. 
I rest a Flute laid on Thy Lips; 
A Lute I on Thy Breast recline. 
Breathe deep in me that I may sigh; 
Yet strike my Strings, and Tears shall shine
.”
~ The Divan

 

07D4C0D8-C6E0-4855-9171-F9F79207FA8E
Persian Miniature by Hossein Behzad / Wikimedia Commons

 

Rumi was intoxicated. After his encounter with Shams, he wanted to celebrate the happiness that is contained in knowing the presence of god in his heart. “When the human spirit, after years of imprisonment in the cage and dungeon of the body, is at length set free, and wings its flight to the Source whence it came, is not this an occasion for rejoicings, thanks, and dancing?” He was drinking at the source of freedom and joy, tasting the pure ecstasy of divine love, and longed to share it, to make others feel this flourishing of the heart and soul that is the very nature of our being. “Choose the love of that Living One who is everlasting, who gives you to drink of the wine that increases life.”

 

Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come! come!

~ ‘Rumi and His Sufi Path of Love’ (by M Fatih Citlak and Huseyin Bingul)

 

This is a gathering of Lovers.
In this gathering 
there is no high, no low,
no smart, no ignorant,
no special assembly, 
no grand discourse, 
no proper schooling required.
There is no master,
no disciple.
This gathering is more like a drunken party,
full of tricksters, fools, 
mad men and mad women.
This is a gathering of Lovers
.”
~ Passionate Poems of Rumi (by Shahram Shiva)

 

Mystics are experts in laziness. They rely on it,
because they continuously see God working all around them.
The harvest keeps coming in, yet they
never even did the plowing!

~ ‘The Essential Rumi’ (by Coleman Barks and John Moyne)

 

O heart, haste thither, for God will shine upon you, 
And seem to you a sweet garden instead of a terror. 
He will infuse into your soul a new Soul, 
So as to fill you, like a goblet, with wine
.”
~ The Masnavi

 

Rumi was khamush, the silent one. It is said that he sometimes ended his poems with this signature, as to signify that the source of his words was silence, the absence. “In the existence of your love, I become non-existent. This non-existence linked to you is better than anything I ever found in existence.” He was pure, ineffable being, unlocalized, unlimited, which he could only express through his overflowing words. He sang this one and only truth, again and again: “Leave that which is not, but appears to be. Seek that which is, but is not apparent.”

 

O spirit, make thy head in search and seeking like the water of a stream, 
And O reason, to gain Eternal Life tread ever-lastingly the way of Death. 
Keep God in remembrance till self is forgotten, 
That thou may be lost in the Called, without distraction of caller and call
.”
~ The Divan

 

The man said, ‘I called and called
But God never replied, Here I AM.’
The Angel explained, ‘God has said,
Your calling my name is My reply.
Your longing for Me is My message to you.
All your attempts to reach Me
Are in reality My attempts to reach you.
Your fear and love are a noose to catch Me.
In the silence surrounding every call of ‘God’
Waits a thousand replies of ‘Here I AM
.’”

 

I looked around, and saw in all Heaven’s Spaces: One! 
In Ocean’s rippling Waves and billowy Races: One! 
I looked into the Heart, and saw a Sea, wide Worlds 
All full of Dreams, and in all Dreaming Faces: One! 
Thou art the First, the Last, the Outer, Inner, Whole: 
Thy Light breaks through in all Earth’s Hues and Graces: One!

~ The Divan

 

Still writing, dictating, sharing his understanding and the divine love of his being, Jalāl ad-Dīn Rúmí died in Konya in 1273 A.D.

 

I am what is and is not; I am — O Thou who know’st, Jeláleddín, O tell it — I AM the Soul in All!
~ The Divan

 

DE5DB918-C8FF-4BC7-B36E-4E6EE30B0139

 

~~~

Text by Alain Joly

Poetry by Jalāl ad-Dīn Rúmí (1207 – 1273)

~~~

 

Most Rumi’s poems here are excerpted from:
– ‘The Persian Mystics’ – Jalálu’d-dín Rúmí (Translated by Frederick Hadland Davis) – Project Gutenberg License
– ‘The Festival of Spring’ – Jalálu’d-dín Rúmí (Translated by William Hastie) – Project Gutenberg License

Suggestions:
– Read from Paula Marvelly’s blog: Fakhruddin ‘Arabi: Divine Flashes and Philip Jacobs: Dance of the Dervishes.

Bibliography:
– ‘Selected Poems’ –  Translated by A.J. Arberry – (Penguin Classics)
– ‘The Essential Rumi’ – Translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne – (HarperOne)
– ‘Rumi and His Sufi Path of Love’ – by M Fatih Citlak and Huseyin Bingul – (The Fountain)
– ‘Passionate Poems of Rumi’ – Translated by Shahram Shiva – (Jain Publishing Co)

Websites:
Rumi (Wikipedia)
Sufism (Wikipedia)
The Masnavi (Wikipedia)
Hossein Behzad (Wikipedia)

– Read The Masnavi (Wikisource)

 

Back to Pages

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s