Saturday, March 25, 2006


If I sigh, that won't make her happy.

If I grovel, the king won't be content.

If I adore the moon, her shadow, loyal,

Why hide the truth? the moon's not satisfied.

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

After a couple days break, I'm back. Still not inspired, however. Not happy, not content, not satisfied. Today's quatrain says that sighing, grovelling, adoring, these are just not good enough. The beloved wants more and my own hunch is that the extra bit is to see the relationship humanized and equalized.

If I imagine myself as Luna, queen and goddess, I imagine I would like to be challenged and not always agreed with. I would enjoy a partner not so completely laid low by my magnificence. I would like companions that look me in the eye and level with me.

Allah seems satisfied with the grovelling, Mohammad seems content with the adoration. Why is it that the vast majority of Muslims are still stuck there as if they'd never even heard of Rumi and, especially, of Shams of Tabriz? Where are the modern writers, the psychologists, the theologians, the philosophers, the poets, who have followed in Rumi's steps? I have no answer to that. Perhaps Hafiz because he came later. Perhaps Iqbal because he came last and consciously modelled his own works, such as his Asrar-i-Khudi, on Rumi's Masnavi.

Iqbal gives his own version of the meeting between Shams and Rumi in which Rumi's books on philosophy are burnt by Shams' religious zeal.

The Maulvi, being a stranger to Love's miracles
And unversed in Love's harmonies,
Cried, "How didst thou kindle this fire,
Which hath burned the books of the philosophers ?"
The Sheikh answered, "O unbelieving Muslim,
This is vision and ecstasy: what hast thou to do with it ?
My state is beyond thy thought,
My flame is the Alchemist's elixir,"
Thou hast drawn thy substance from the snow of philosophy,
The cloud of thy thought sheds nothing but hailstones.
Kindle a fire in thy rubble,
Foster a flame in thy earth!
The Muslim's knowledge is perfected by spiritual fervour,
The meaning of Islam is Renounce what shall pass away.

Muhammad Iqbal: Asrar-i-Khudi (The Secrets of the Self), XVI
trans from the original Persian by Reynold A. Nicholson

As I read Iqbal here, I see a glorification of enthusiasm (god possession) at the expense of reason. I would be the first to agree that Rumi's library, if it contained only dry philosophy, needed to be completed, though not necessarily burnt. I don't see any "Muslim knowledge" that needs perfecting: Muslim knowledge is simply non-existent. Instead, I see Iqbal picking on the dryness of Western knowledge (especially modern science) and claiming some merit in its absence from Islam, urging Muslims on to more revelation, more religious zeal, as if it were not already drowning in it.

There is much to munch on in relation to Iqbal and that might keep me going further toward the end of this stretch. We'll see, we'll see.


At Sunday, 26 March, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

I'm not familiar with Iqbal. I'll check him out sometime.


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