Monday, April 24, 2006

sacred dust

I'll hang your love on the forehead of heaven.

I'll lay your cruel hands on my hurting heart.

Where you walk, where your foot touches earth,

I'll secretly go, just to lay eyes on that dirt.

#1352: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Alternative (original) translation:

I'll hang your love in the nets of heaven.
I'll lay your cruel hands on my hurting heart.
Where you walk, where your foot touches earth,
I'll secretly go, just to lay eyes on that dirt.

My penultimate Rumi blog and I am coming to my "End of Days" alone. However, a new world seems to be opening up as I've discovered some interesting new blogs and religious discussions after searching Google under "Spong Islam". They include:

The writer at Dervish calls herself "Maryam" online but is Umm Yasmin "in real life". She has the enviable advantage on me that she can post her real name and photo online without fear of violence against her beyond perhaps some vacuous hate mail. Me, I would fear death threats and a follow-up, at least in the form of a threat to my property and pets, certainly to my own and my family's life if I wrote too strongly and too loudly. This is, for me, an intolerable imbalance. It angers and frustrates me and I have no answer to it.

Today's quatrain very much echoes the following oft-quoted quatrain:

I am a slave of the Qur’an while I still have life;
I am dust on the path of Muhammad, the Chosen One.
If anyone interprets my words in any other way,
I deplore that person and I deplore his words.

source: "Dust on the Path of Muhammad"

I have often read Rumi in a way that suggests that he did turn away from his native religion, or at least from some dogmatic renderings of it. I simply cannot accept that Rumi is ultimately drawing people like me to Mohammad (whether the assertion is made by a rigorous Muslim or an anti-Islamist who will make no exception of Rumi).

There are many metaphors for it but mystics (like Rumi then and Spong today) agree that all religions point to the one reality. In a 2000 interview, Spong puts it this way (my bold emphasis):

Matthew Fox, a former Roman Catholic who’s become an Anglican, has written a book called ‘One River, Many Wells’, and in that book Matthew Fox likens God to the groundwater into which many people sink their wells, or into which an oasis will appear, or a brook or a spring will come out. And around those wells, you develop all sorts of cultural accretions. But when you get down to the depth of the groundwater, it’s always the same, it’s the same holy God. Now one of the things I think Christianity has got to deal with is that Judaism and Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism are wells that tap into the groundwater of the reality of God, and we’ve got to stop spitting on the religions of other people and recognise that they too have produced holiness. Now I can’t be a Buddhist; Jesus will always be determinative for me, but what I want to do is to go so deeply into my faith tradition that I escape my limits and my cultural accretions and I want my Buddhist and Hindu and Moslem and Jewish friends to do the same thing, and when each of us has escaped our limitations and our cultural accretions, then I think we sit down and share our stories with one another, not as superiors to inferiors, but as equals, and we find ourselves mutually enriched by one another. I think that’s the way we’re going to go in the next 100 years, and I think it’s going to be a wonderfully enriching time.

John Cleary: You say you can’t be a Buddhist; is that because of cultural reasons, that is, you were simply born into a Christian society and think in those thought forms, or is there something essential in the philosophy of Jesus which is a core principle which distinguishes your position from a Buddhist position?

John Shelby Spong: I can only again relate my experience. My understanding of God I’ve gained primarily from walking through the doorway that has been provided for me and my world and that doorway is named Christianity, and Jesus is at the heart of that tradition. I give thanks for that and I never want to denigrate that. But I also don’t want to say that because other people didn’t grow up in the West, where Christianity is sort of the tribal religion of the Western world, that they are somehow inadequate, I think they’ve got to go through the doorway that they have had provided for them.


To my mind, in the above "dust on the path of Muhammad" quatrain, Rumi is simply saying the same thing for Islam as Spong has said above for Christianity, viz: "My understanding of God I’ve gained primarily from walking through the doorway that has been provided for me and my world and that doorway is named Islam, and Muhammad is at the heart of that tradition."

Unfortunately, I have written (on a Rumi discussion list): "I spit on Muhammad." (I've lost the exact quote but this is a correct paraphrase and I did use the word "spit".) Unfortunately, I still do "spit on Muhammad" because I think the Quran institutionalizes the very spitting that Spong despairs of and that it deserves to be spat back at.

I will keep trying to review and reassess this spitting attitude of mine but, for now, this is where this poor creature is at. For me, the dirt that Rumi secretly visits is that on which Shams walked, not that on which Muhammad walked. For now, I cannot see how to reconcile my view with that of a devout Muslim who would see the two sets of dust as the one and who would see Islam as the only path or doorway or wellspring to deity. Perhaps I am guilty of a modern or new Age tendency to see mysticism as yet another doorway, superior to all the institutionalized doorways. Perhaps my love for Rumi (and Jung and neo-gnosticism and Spong ...) is my own idolatry.


At Saturday, 29 April, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really? I've only just come across your blog, because you kindly linked to mine, but are you really under fear of being attacked if you link your name to your thoughts.

BTW Umm Yasmin is one of my names. I rarely use my legal name that is on my birth certificate, but only because of internet loonies (Muslim or otherwise) and to cut out the spam.

At Saturday, 29 April, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

This is a disappointingly disingenuous comment from a woman I imagined might have more intelligence.

I, too, take precautions against internet loonies in a general sense. I can't see what difference a real name or nom de plume make wrt to spammers.

If I gave my real name, I could be traced to a specific address (somewhere in the Bankstown area). I'm no Rushdie or van Gogh but I would expect a similar but milder fate, such as damage to my car or garden, mysterious poisoning of my pets, or grievous bodily harm to a family member, if not to myself. I can't imagine a comparable issue in your own case.

There is a real difference and your disingenuousness simply smacks of smugness in the face of that.

At Thursday, 06 March, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are ignorant of the real Mawlana Rumi. He says in his Divan, 'The Sufi is hanging on to Muhammad, like Abu Bakr'. Abu Bakr was the Prophets foremost follower and the first Caliph of Islam. You really need to do more research. One book I would recommend to you is Ibrahim Gamard's 'Rumi and Islam'.

At Friday, 07 March, 2008, Blogger Arizona said...

Thank you for the comment, madsufi.

I am aware of the work of Ibrahim Gamard but I come to Rumi from a different angle. That angle is valid for me just as yours is for you.

I don't believe there is an identifiably "real" or objective Rumi: he is what we each see. The Rumi that I see is not partisan and doesn't expect me to become a Muslim in the usual sense of that term.

I don't love everything that Rumi wrote, just some of it. I don't hate everything that Mohammad wrote, just most of it.

I'm entitled to those views and values without being labelled "ignorant".


Post a Comment

<< Home