Sunday, March 05, 2006

love at the door

If I was not so pitifully in love

I wouldn't then be standing at your door.

Don't say, "Go away, don't stand at my door!"

I wouldn't exist, my dear, if I didn't stand here.

#1923: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: love

I have been feeling put off of late, finding it hard to love a Rumi who is a devout Muslim. I've been interacting with one or two Muslims who insist that Rumi is like a carbon-copy of Mohammad. When I interact with Rumi's verses, I cannot see Mohammad anywhere. Sometimes a Quranic verse is echoed inside a passage in the Mathnawi, sometimes that work includes stories of "the Prophet" and other Abrahamic figures. However, the Shams quatrains are very "pure" to me. They allow me to love Rumi and still despise the character and writings of Mohammad.

Someone on the list where the interaction is occurring asked: "With all due respects to your you really love Rumi? He was a confirmed muslim you know. :)" The questioner is a Muslim woman addressing a non-Muslim woman with all of the catty venom she can muster.

Another example, this time from a male:
To Come under The Blessing of The Prophet is to be enfolded in His Being directly . Yes truly! ALL are under The Blessing of Allah through Ther Prophet but most expereince it very indirectly only enough to keep them limping along as though crippled. The one who consciously seeks and surrenders to The Blessing of Allah through THE PROPHET is directly plugged into the power source of LIFE and thus are able to live a much freer , more deeply satisfying . and expressive LIFE.

This kind of talk fills me with loathing and disgust. I've expressed my views there frankly, that is all that I can do. I guess that "Rumi" is different things to different people and the "love" we each have for him varies accordingly. Since my own love is shaken and being challenged, I decided to search under this simple but so difficult word today.

It doesn't matter - does it? - how Rumi meant his verse to be read. The verse stands there, that is all. I am an old woman living in the 21st century, reading a verse written by a middle-aged man in the 13th century. It reads, to me, like a letter sent across that vast distance, addressed especially to me. Poets of great genius have a way of reaching each individual very very personally like that. Today, he is insisting that he is there; he is insisting that he could not exist except by standing at my door. I am moved by a great love for this strange man and nowhere can I hear him ask that I change how I feel about Mohammad.

Rumi is purported to have spoken most clearly on this subject in the following quatrain:

I am the servant of the Qur'ân as long as I have life.
I am the dust on the path of Muhammad, the Chosen one.
If anyone quotes anything except this from my sayings,
I am quit of him and outraged by these words.

Rumi's Quatrain No. 1173, translated by Ibrahim Gamard and Ravan Farhadi, as yet not published but available at

A lot hangs, of course, on just how "authentic" these words are, what they meant to Rumi at the time, and whether he would still stand by Mohammad and the Quran today. When I read these words, I don't hear the Rumi I am used to in the quatrains that I have been working with. This number, 1173, doesn't appear on the list of first lines that I use. It seems to stand outside, it seems quite odd.

Certainly, I have detected many times in Rumi a rejection of dogmatic and literalistic interpretations of Islam. Certainly, I would accept that there is an authentic spiritual core within the sayings of Mohammad. However, I reject its purported universalism because I see it as soaked in its own parochialism. The universal and the parochial messages are too much intertwined and Muslims today often confuse the two. This, I think, is the difficulty. The sorting of the wheat from the chaff.

I suspect this issue will take a long time to resolve, not only in my own mind but within the forum and list conversations. For now, my position stands as I first stated it on the list:

I am neither Muslim, nor Jew, nor Gentile. I do not love "the Prophet". I love Rumi and I see nothing in his poetry to suggest that my lack of love for "the Prophet" is any kind of hindrance. Quite the contrary.



At Monday, 06 March, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

>It reads, to me, like a letter sent across that vast distance, addressed especially to me. Poets of great genius have a way of reaching each individual very very personally like that.

I agree absolutely.

At Monday, 06 March, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

That feels so very very good, that you agree like that.


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