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The Essential Rumi


  RUMI

  A New Translation

  of Selected Poems

  Also by Farrukh Dhondy:

  East End at Your Feet

  Siege of Babylon

  Come to Mecca

  Poona Company

  Trip Trap

  Bombay Duck

  Black Swan

  Janaky and the Giant

  CLR James, a Biography

  Run

  The Bikini Murders

  Adultery and Other Stories

  London Company

  RUMI

  A New Translation

  of Selected Poems

  Translated and with an Introduction by

  Farrukh Dhondy

  Copyright © 2011, 2013 by Farrukh Dhondy

  All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Arcade Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

  First published in India by HarperCollins Publishers India

  Arcade Publishing books may be purchased in bulk at special discounts for sales promotion, corporate gifts, fund-raising, or educational purposes. Special editions can also be created to specifications. For details, contact the Special Sales Department, Arcade Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018 or arcade@skyhorsepublishing.com.

  Arcade Publishing® is a registered trademark of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.®, a Delaware corporation.

  Visit our website at www.arcadepub.com.

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

  ISBN: 978-1-61145-783-4

  Printed in the United States of America

  To Mala

  Contents

  Rumi, Sufism and the Modern World

  THE WORD

  GOING TO MECCA

  THE WALL

  VULTURES

  RENEWAL FROM THE FALL

  THE DANCE

  LOVERS

  BY HIS WILL

  QUATRAINS

  GROWING UP

  THE BRIGHTER

  TWO WINES

  CAUSE AND EFFECT

  FORM

  REACH OUT

  DESTROY TO BUILD

  PHARAOH THE RICH

  THE FURNACE

  LOVE IS SURRENDER

  LOGIC AND DESIRE

  THE BLASPHEMERS

  TODAY

  PRAYER AND PRIDE

  THE KNOWLEDGE

  FLEAS

  THE DUMB CAN SPEAK

  MIRRORS

  KINSHIP

  TONGUE

  SOLOMON AND SHEBA

  USE WHAT HE HAS GRANTED YOU

  DOUBT

  LIKE THIS

  SCIENCE

  LOVE IS ALL

  VOICES

  POURING RAIN

  SAMARITANS

  NASUH

  DON’T ASK

  THE WILL TO DROWN

  LOSE ALL DESIRE

  HOME

  BE UNSUBTLE

  BROTHERS

  SKEPTIC

  EQUALS

  THE WORD IS ALL

  ON THE JOURNEY

  BE PATIENT

  OPPOSITES

  WEAR THE CROWN LIGHTLY

  DEATH IS THE THIEF

  HE KNOWS

  DEATH BE NOT PROUD

  IN THE BEYOND

  MATERIAL THE EARTH

  ASS

  QUARANTINE

  EARTHLY KNOWLEDGE

  FINAL ECSTASY

  THE MOTE

  LOVE, THE MOTHER AND CHILD

  FLY

  SECRET LOVE

  UNSCHOOLED PROPHET

  THIEVING EYES

  DO NOT GO

  HE LIVES

  IN DISGRACE

  BE STILL

  EXPERIMENT

  THE PRISON

  TRUE MOSQUE

  ATTRIBUTES

  THE FRIEND

  MESSAGE TO A STAR

  ELEMENTS

  LIGHT ON LIGHT

  ROSES

  MAJNUN

  CAPACITY

  MOSES AND THE SHEPHERD

  THE POWER OF LOVE

  AYAZ AND THE PEARL

  THE LIGHT INSIDE

  THE FIERCEST BEAST

  BLUSHES

  THE COURT

  POWER OF A PRAYER

  SUFI’S WISDOM

  WOMAN

  LIFE

  TONGUE

  LIGHT ON RUBBISH

  WISEST SCHOLAR

  FIND THE ONE

  THE FISH-HOOKED LINE

  DAVID’S MUSIC

  ENMITY OF THE WISE

  THE ASS

  CONTRARY

  THE BEYOND

  THE HEART SINGS

  SEED

  THE EVIL PLANTER

  BEAUTY

  SURROUNDINGS

  THE LOAD

  DISGUISE

  MOSES IN THE REEDS

  ENVY

  GRAVITY

  ALEPPO

  THE COMPASSIONATE EYE

  CLEANSED

  ONENESS

  HE LISTENS

  CHILD’S PLAY

  WILD DOG

  TO EACH IS GIVEN

  NAMES

  PEARLS

  THROUGH A GLASS

  PAINTERS

  IN HIS WORKS

  THE MAN WHO CRIED

  ROMANCE

  THE DIFFERENCE

  THE CAP

  WHEN IT IS REVEALED

  KINGS AND SLAVES

  BEHIND THE VEIL

  THE TRANCE

  LAND OF LOVE

  CATASTROPHES

  AT THE PARTY

  SOUNDS

  THE PEARL

  ISSAH AND THE FOOLS

  THE WANDERER

  BUTTERFLY WINGS

  ONLY IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT

  POUR OUT THE WINE

  EVIDENCE

  THE KING AND THE SLAVE GIRL

  ROOT OF PRIDE

  TRUTH AND LIES

  THE IRON AND THE FLAME

  LOVE DIVINE

  I AM YOU

  THE SONG OF THE REED

  ON HIS DEATH

  APPENDICES: TRANSLATING RUMI

  A Personal Note

  Q & A with Farrukh Dhondy

  Rumi, Sufism and the

  Modern World

  This can’t be a literary or historical introduction to Sufism, nor an adequate biography of Rumi, or even just a foreword to a clutch of poems I’ve translated.

  This is intended partly as all of these, and as a contention that in our times the identification of Sufism as the enduring interpretation of Islam is a political duty.

  Sufism is mystical, philosophical and aspirational Islam with deep roots in the history of nearly half the world. It has a vital role to play in our times, when other interpretations of Islam openly challenge and terrorize the East and the West. Even though, as a culture of poets, philosophers and savants, Sufism has never had a political center, it is time it asserted its dominant voice and manifested its popularity in the Muslim world.

  The great work of Jalal ad-Din Rumi, the Mathnawi, has been referred to as the “Koran in Persian,” and it stands in direct contrast to the interpretations of Islam which give rise to terrorism and to ideologies of political dominance.

  Sufism and juridical, “literal” Islam, have been in conflict since the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali. Their differences have burst into war and dissension in several parts of the Islamic world. Today, the world sees a violent assertion of what its followers call “political Islam.” However, as Edmund Burke said, “the crickets may be the loudest, but are not the largest creatures in the field,” and so Sufism,
though not a combative philosophy, has fought its philosophical and eschatological battles within the enclosed polity of the Muslim world, in which young men choose to fly planes into American buildings in New York and subsequently kill three thousand strangers.

  The response of the United States is to go to war, and several devastating terrorist incidents and restraining arrests follow. The tendency professing to be the champion of Islam claims responsibility. They are waging a jihad: it is an attack on the values, the democracies and the government policies of the West. The terrorists profess to pose the question: “What kind of a civilization do you want?” The world responds by not recognizing their authority to question, and by questioning back.

  What do the terrorists, who act in the name of Islam, want? There is no clear answer.

  Books are published and TV programs are aired. These have come to the not-so-remarkable conclusion that there are conflicting trends in Islam between the fundamentalists and what the West calls “the moderates.” The governments of the West—Europe and the USA—repeatedly assert that they are not anti-Islamic or anti-Muslim, though within the Muslim world the suspicion remains that there indeed is a clash of civilizations.

  Sufi Islam has participated neither in the dissension nor in the debate. From the time of the Prophet, the Sufi tradition, without that name, has asserted itself as the truth, but, by its nature cannot see itself as a political formation.

  Contemporary translations of the works of Rumi—the greatest single work of Sufism in history—have not interpreted his work as a seminal document asserting the “moderation” of Islam, nor as a counterbalance to the world-negating tendencies of the terrorists. A reading of Rumi’s work today and its dissemination can go towards demonstrating to those within the Muslim world and those outside it the object of the quest of Sufi Islam.

  However, the translations that have become popular—through international publications and the internet—have treated his work as “hippy freakishness,” the pretentious and reader-flattering “philosophy” of the likes of Kahlil Gibran, or prosaic titbits to flatter the fans of pop divas who want to turn their attention to acclaimed poetry.

  A transliteration of Rumi’s work should have a more serious intention in our times. The philosophical stance he fought for in the thirteenth century AD and the survival of the Sufi tradition, extended and developed by him, are vital to our world.

  Jalal ad-Din, the poet and savant we know as Rumi, acquired his second name from the Arabic word rum, for Rome. He wasn’t born with the honorific that became his name and only acquired it when traveling with his father who was exiled, or chose exile, from their native town of Balkh, and settled finally in Konya, now in western Turkey. The west of Turkey, though not ruled from Constantinople at the time, was still known as part of the Eastern Roman Empire, the territory of Rome.

  Rumi was born in 1207 and died in 1273 AD. He was an older contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who was born in 1225 and died in 1274 in Florentine, Italy. The fact is significant, as Aquinas is to the Catholic world the most prestigious interpreter of Jesus’ gospel, and Rumi’s work, the Mathnawi is, as I noted earlier, referred to as the Koran in verse. The fact that both Aquinas and Rumi found a following and such great claims were made for each would indicate that the theologies of the thirteenth century, Christian and Muslim, were ready for or receptive to reformation and reformulation. This was at a time when these faiths were at war with each other. The Crusades, the European–Christian endeavor to regain the Holy Land from Islam, began in the eleventh century and ended only two centuries later.

  From the point of view of the Muslims who had conquered and converted Persia, parts of Central Asia, most of the Middle East, North Africa and southern Spain, the Crusades became a battle for ownership of the Holy Land and, symbolically, for religious survival.

  In the same century, 1220 AD onwards, came the assault from the east and the north, when the Mongol chieftain Temujin proclaimed himself Genghis Khan and, with his fast-moving cavalry, devastated and looted the Muslim kingdoms of Central Asia and Iran.

  Rumi lived in troubled times and his boyhood was far from peaceful. His father, Baha ud-Din Muhammad ibn al-Husain al-Kahtib al-Baqri, a scholar, philosopher and lecturer whose tribulations were as extensive as his name, was forced to leave Balkh, an exile in the cause of belief. Baha ud-Din was a Sufi and follower of the eleventh-century Sufi savant Ghazali. He was known among his followers as Sultan al-Ulama, the “king of scholars.” As such, in Balkh, he came up against the more orthodox followers of scholastic Islam, whom he and Ghazali characterized as decadent and hollow jurists rather than Muslims. His Sufi faction was defeated in the court of Balkh, or it may have been that Baha ud-Din, content in his certainties, was indifferent to the politics of Islamic courts and left of his own accord.

  His grandson and Rumi’s son, Sultan Walad, records in the annals of the family that Baha was offended by the people of Balkh and received a divine message that enjoined him to leave the city, on which God’s punishment was about to fall.

  The exact dates and circumstances of his exile and travels are still disputed by chroniclers, but it is thought that Baha ud-Din left Balkh with his family somewhere between 1213 and 1220 AD and went to Nishapur. Sure enough, the vengeance of God fell upon Balkh in the shape of the Mongol armies under Genghis Khan.

  Baha ud-Din and his son traveled to Baghdad and thence to Mecca and Syria.

  In his eighteenth year, Jalal ad-Din went with his father to Erzincan and Larinda. In this town, a marriage was arranged for the young Jalal ad-Din, and a year later Sultan Walad was born. And yet Baha ud-Din was unsettled.

  We may assume he traveled because he was offered posts of scholarship in different cities—just like a modern-day visiting lecturer—by the sultans and governors of those places. The ruler of Erzincan, Fakhr-ud-din Bahram Shah, a patron of learning, invited Baha to his kingdom to deliver discourses. After four years in Erzincan, the Seljuq Sultan of Konya, persuaded by the fame of Baha ud-Din, invited him to settle as his intellectual-in-residence. Baha accepted the invitation and, at the age of twenty-two, Jalal ad-Din settled in Konya.

  The mantle of “king of scholars” fell on Jalal ad-Din’s twenty-four-year-old shoulders when, two years later, Baha died and the patronage of the sultan, Ala’ ud-Din Key-Qobad, was extended and renewed.

  Rumi had been born into the tradition and teachings of Ghazali. Known by the magnificent title of Hajat-ul-Islam or the “Proof of Islam,” Ghazali was a revivalist and a reformer of Islam. The influence of Greek philosophy, the pre-Christian, Platonic and Aristotelian thought, had penetrated the minds and methods of scholastic Islam, and Ghazali saw this as a negation of the founding spirit of Islam itself.

  The origins of Sufism are disputed. Scholars such as Andrew Rippin1 point to the birth of Sufism as a product of a religious contradiction. By the eighth and ninth centuries, Islam had spread to cultures other than the Arab tribes of the Middle East. It had, most significantly, conquered Persia and subdued the prevalent state religion of Zoroastrianism. The split between Shia and Sunni Islam was already established, with the Shias, predominantly Persian, following the Prophet’s son-in-law Ali, who opposed the usurper Muawiyah who had named himself Caliph or successor to the Prophet. Their enmity, though springing from internecine quarrels and murder in the camps and Caliphate of early Islam, could be attributed to a rejection by Ali’s followers of the materialistic Islam of Muawiyah and his son Yazid, pretenders to the throne and the tradition.

  By the eighth century, according to some scholars, the spiritual traditions of the pre-Islamic Persians began to assert themselves and took the form of a spiritual quest that then sought the legitimacy of Islam. It needed this legitimacy, as otherwise it would be seen as a heresy and eradicated. The early Sufis had to demonstrate with reference to Koranic text that “Islam as a religion contained within it a spiritual-ascetic tendency from the very beginning . . . To suggest that Islamic mysticism is, in fact, a bo
rrowing from outside raises the spectre of denial of the intrinsically spiritual nature of Islam and thence the spiritual nature of Muslims themselves.”2

  1. Andrew Rippin, Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (London: Routledge, 1990).

  This was a real danger. As it is, the Shias of Persia had inherited the Zoroastrian structures of a priestly caste, the dasturs, who now exist in the form of ayatollahs as separate from the lay Muslim, a tradition that doesn’t exist in Sunni Islam. The Shias still celebrate the Zoroastrian Navroz (Nowruz) or New Year on March 21, the vernal equinox prescribed by Persian astronomers. If their mystical inclinations owed anything to the old religion, they had to find legitimacy with the current power.

  Sufis quote the suras of the Koran as evidence of the origin of their faith.

  Sura 24:35:

  Allah is the Light of Heaven and earth! . . . A glittering star kindled from a blessed olive tree which neither Eastern nor Western, whose oil will almost glow though the fire has never touched it. Light upon Light, Allah guides anyone he wishes to his light.

  2. Rippin, Muslims, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices.

  And then again in sura 50:6,

  We (Allah) are nearer to him (man) than his jugular vein.

  Undoubtedly these and other verses of the Koran can be interpreted as the Sufis do, contending that man is a part of God and vice versa, and to Him he shall return, that the essence is effulgence, the “light upon light.” Added to the specific suras is the Sufi conviction that the Koran has an outward and an inward meaning. They state that Sufi thought or “tasawwuf is the esoteric or inward (batin) aspect of Islam.”3

  Throughout the history of Islam, there have been scholars from various schools who have opposed Sufism. Some, such as the Wahabi, go so far as to regard Sufism as an outright heresy. Sufi beliefs have been argued over by these scholars, “their practices condemned, their dervishes ridiculed and occasionally executed, and their sheikhs castigated.”4 And yet vast numbers of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent, in Iran and all over the non-Arab Muslim world are adherents of or sympathetic to this spiritual quest.

  3. Titus Berckhardt, An Introduction to Sufism (Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1990).

  4. J. Spence Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1998).

  Did Sufism use Islam as a cover, a legitimizing insurance policy while pursuing, developing and incorporating beliefs that emanate from Christian mystics, Buddhism and almost certainly from pre-Islamic Zoroastrianism? Many scholars believe this to be true.

 
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