Sunday, January 08, 2006

the silent king

He is king who knows you, whatever you wear.

Cry out without a sound and he will hear.

Who doesn't speak to peddle self with words?

Who knows the truth in silence, him I serve.

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

Key word: king

I've been reading about the Saudi royal family, learning that the now recently deceased King Fahd was one of 45 sons of founder Ibn Saud and the fourth brother to rule as king (with another brother now ruling as fifth). The entire family is estimated to number 25,000 with 5,000 princes, about 200 of them influential. I can but gasp when comparing this breeding phenomenon to the paltry efforts of the House of Windsor in Great Britain. The reality of Islamic and Arabian kingship strikes home, with its potential to stir up huge envy and frustration among young males outside of this privileged circle. The Saud family has been assisted, of course, by the oil wealth that it acquired accidentally but nevertheless I am left in awe.

Rumi is not referring to any earthly king in today's verse but to the spirit-king that Abrahamic tradition calls God (whether Yahweh or Allah). The first line is an echo of this Koranic verse:

50:16 (Yusufali)
It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.

There is actually no need to cry out, to speak up, to pray using words, for the soul's central governing power is attuned to every thought and feeling that comes our way. Indeed, surely it creates every one of them. Rumi here seems to be reaching toward that well of silence that is pure being, that is represented in Hinduism as the silence that envelops the sacred sound of AUM. It is out of this silent centre that Rumi writes and this is the secret to the ego-less quality of his verses. Anything else is indeed self-peddling, persuading ourselves and others of our own importance.

This, to my mind, is the sad irony of Islam today. When you read the writing of modern Muslims, when you listen to what they say for themselves, again and again, it seems to come from ego. It is defensive, it puffs itself up, it insists. It is never truly silent, not in the way that Rumi was able to achieve. And, as he points out in the last line, it can therefore never truly serve the divine king. No wonder Islam is so fond of fundamentalism. While it forgets this silent core, it is lost inside its own illusions of grandeur.


At Monday, 09 January, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Well said.


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