Tuesday, February 07, 2006

a scattered mind

My love, accept my service one more time:

Take pity on my weak and scattered mind;

But if I should offend you yet again,

Let my helpless cries go unheard then.

#1374: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

In my exchange of views with Segovius and in relation to yesterday's quatrain, he pointed out that I might have considered "that the poet is describing his previously wayward state in a sorrowful way rather than celebrating it as you seem to understand it". Now that I have calmed down somewhat and slept on this, I must agree with him. Rumi does seem to be ruing a past in which he failed to rue. He is certainly repudiating certain credentials for religious authenticity, viz, lengthy study of the sacred texts, lengthy periods alone and avoiding earthly temptations, and wider academic and literary studies. Sufi teachers often sent students off to learn true wisdom from humble tradespeople, from cleaners, housewives, even slaves and servants. As a woman, I've had a large dose of all that and I've had enough.

And yet I've turned up to this page again to do service to my love which remains, for now, embodied in these Rumi quatrains. I've chosen a verse that continues in much the same vein as yesterday's. Rumi is essentially asking for forgiveness and the reference to "weak and scattered mind" suggests that his sin has been a lack of focus. He asks for just one more go and insists that it be the last.

If he was pleading forgiveness from me, I would insist that he have more than just the one go. Sometimes we need to make the same mistake quite a few times, in order to explore its many facets. If the repetition has fulfilled its purpose and becomes tedious, then perhaps the signal is there for change.

I love the Rumi verses where opposites are superimposed. In this case the opposites referred to might be a determined focussing in contrast to a fickle straying. Both are needed for true creativity and fulfilled living. These opposites lie very close to the order/chaos set but they envision that contrast more along the lines of sticking to something or straying off at a tangent. It is a central theme of Islam, of course:

From my own copy of "The Noble Qur'an" distributed freely to people attending an interfaith meeting (mainly between Christians and Muslims) during 2005:

Last two verses of the opening sura, 1:6-7
Guide us to the Straight Way.
The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).

Translated by Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan.
Printed by the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur'an.

Rumi was indeed a great sinner, his was indeed a most weak and scattered mind. However, therein lay his genius and the fuel for his extraordinarily prolific writing. I pray to God that I may sin at least as much as he.


At Wednesday, 08 February, 2006, Blogger segovius said...

Hi - me again! Thought I'd pop by for coffee - or whatever.

You seem to be coming quite close to the realization that things work by opposites in this world. I'm sure you know this actually in an intellectual sense.

This is the essence of Sufism (it's the essence of Islam too which is why Sufism took root in it - but let's not go there for now).

For once I mean this is a literal sense. I will just throw out some examples and if any interest you then we can pick up on them.

Of course Rumi is famous for his saying "apparent opposites may be working together" but there are many others.

One would be the Mulla Nasrudin figure who is a fool and an idiot. of course he is not - he is wise.

And then you have the malamati who appear to be sinners but in fact they are pious. or, in the Sufi sense, they appear to be one thing (stupid, evil, whatever) and inside they are secretly the polar opposite (wise, good etc). They consciously do this.

Why? Because the average person in the world has no discernment. The Sufi student needs to see beyond appearances and this is the test. Or method of learning.

In your case for example, I'm sure that if a Sufi or enlightened person got up in a mosque and started shouting like an extremist you would write him off as an extremist. Condemn him - perhaps you have even condemned Sufis in this way. Who knows?

You cannot say they would not do this - Sufis are not people of externals. One must see the inner reality and not the outward form. You do not get to this point by seeing only the outward form.

Re sin: the Sufis (and Islam - the Satanic Verses in the Qur'an would be an example) here also make a juxtaposition of opposites.

It is a Sufi contention that Satan was actually not evil at all in one sense but a true religious being (of course one can see the limitations of religion also from this). The story os that in the Islamic tradition, Satan's sin was to disobey God when God asked him to bow before Adam (you'll like this bowing bit I think). Satan refused and that was why he was punished. To the Sufis though, Satan was right - he refused to bow to anyone (or anything) except God. This is a key Sufi teaching.

Not bowing to the obvious is one thing - and all well and good - but how about not bowing to conditioning? Ridiculous ideas? The mania of the herd and the media? Free speech?

Bow to nothing - you will be free.

I don't think Sufis bother too much about sin and really there is not much of a belief in it in Islam in the classical sense. It is really a Christian concept (obsession perhaps) and I don't personally believe in it or 'evil'. It's good to keep those in line who need keeping in line I suppose....But I digress.

I'll leave you for now but have a present of a poem - one I'm sure you know from Ibn Arabi:

My heart has become capable of every form: it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks.

A temple for idols and the pilgrim's Kaa'ba, the tables of the Torah and the book of the Quran.

I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love's camels take,
that is my religion and my faith.

At Friday, 10 February, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

Hello there, Segovius,

Great to see you popping in for a coffee break.

I'm looking forward to "going there" sometime and learning just how Islam teaches the coincidentia oppositorum.

I'm surprised you didn't bring up the Quranic story about Khidr in which an apparently evil deed has an underlying benificent purpose.

In our discussions, you know, it was you who brought up the word "evil" (probably way back at the comments on your piece on "Root of All Evil"). It is not a word I use unless responding to someone else's use of it.

I do try my best to bow to nothing.

I would agree that "it's good to keep those in line who need keeping in line". Yes, we do need our police forces and our armies. They may not be enough against the kind of urban terrorism that we are up against. We may need to use other resources.

Thank you for the present. Would that we could all follow Ibn Arabi without fear of censure from those who do not understand.

At Friday, 10 February, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

PS: I just checked. It was under the "Speech: free or expensive?" piece.

You wrote:
"The above statement will still hold true. Why? Because a Muslim is someone who is submitted to God and not someone submitted to evil."

Later, you quoted the Masnavi with a couple of "evil" words in that. And then you said:
"If you look for evil you will surely find it anywhere."

Maybe so, but rarely will you find it in my own writings.


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