This paper explores mysticism in Sufism, and the works of one of the greatest Sufi poets, Jalaluddin Rumi. Three poems by Rumi: ‘Masnavi Manavi’, ‘How Very Close’ and ‘The Song of Reed’ are discussed and analyzed, while answering two main questions:
- How has Jalaluddin Rumi’s past affected his mystical journey and his poems?
- How is mystical experience represented in ‘Masnavi Manavi’, ‘How Very Close’ and ‘The Song of Reed”?
The first question has been answered by looking into Rumi’s religious background, Sufism, and his biographical background. The second question has been answered by analyzing the poems not only from an intrinsic level but also from an extrinsic level. The poems were analyzed based on the elements of literary poetry mainly language, prosodic features, the interpretation of the words, symbolism, and metaphors used in his poems. Rumi’s background was also taken into account while analyzing the poems, in order to dig deeper and gain a better understanding of mysticism.
Through this research paper, we also looked into the mystic fervor and similarities in the poetry of Rumi and Kabir.
Mysticism has been described as “the great spiritual current which goes through all religions.” (Raseek, C. 1987) It is the consciousness of the One Reality, “the passion for the Absolute.” (Raseek, C. 1987). The mystics have developed, throughout their lives, the power to experience the union with the Absolute. In order to achieve this final goal, they have to pass through different stages of being and consciousness until they reach the consummation of their quest and acquire the vision of the truth.
Mysticism has included phenomena ranging from experiences of “pure consciousness,” to specific visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations, and unusual religious or spiritual experiences more broadly. These experiences can be elicited under certain conditions and settings, such as experiences in nature, religious settings (e.g., prayer, ritual), drugs, sexual intercourse, sensory deprivation, and even under “sham” treatment conditions. Often, mysticism is expressed through poetry. The mystical poet is a mystic first, then a poet. For him, the act of writing is not an end in itself but it is the outcome of an experience that has involved his entire being in the most passionate way. Such is the mystic, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi whose works we will be analyzing in this research paper.
Sufism is a philosophical approach, where a person tries to become one with nature and feel the power of God. It is perceived as a peaceful and nonpolitical form of Islam, notably suited to interreligious dialogue and intercultural harmonization in pluralist societies; a logo of tolerance and humanism —flexible and non-violent.
While Sufis strictly observe Islamic law, they’re ascetics, firm in their following of Dhikr, the remembrance of God. Classical Sufi students have outlined Sufism, as known as Tasawwfu, as “a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God” (India TV lifestyle desk, 2018). Sufis believe that by pledging allegiance to Muhammad spiritually they will connect with God. Intensive devotion, pious abstemiousness, and pondering the divine mysteries is that the Sufi means, the science of purifying the heart. The most widely accepted origin of the word ‘Sufi’ is from the Arabic word ‘suf‘ which means ‘wool’, referring to a group of sincere worshippers who lived during, and shortly after, the time of the Prophet Muhammad and who became known for their tendency to wear coarse woolen clothes.
There are different Sufi orders and their teachings vary from each other but Sufism as a whole primarily believes in direct personal experience and hence sometimes it is compared with other ethnic forms of mysticism resulting in bringing harmony with other forms. A Sufi tries to unite his will with God’s will. They try to isolate themselves, so they can fear and become closer to God. A Sufi tries to change the state in a person, to bring him closer to God. A Sufi teacher, Ahmad Ibn Ajiba defines Sufism in the following words: “a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one’s inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits.” (Hi-Jacked Islam, pg. 24)
One of the most fundamental principles of Sufism is that whatever exists is a manifestation of the one absolute knowledge that pervades everything and is not limited to time or place. Therefore, the closest place to realize access to the present data is among one’s own self. They go through four stages the first one being the lowest form, to be dominated by your wants and desires. The second stage is to struggle with you, to criticize yourself whenever you fail. The third stage is satisfied with whatever God gives you, be it good or bad. The final stage is to accept death.
Rumi was the son of a renowned Sufi scholar, and it is more than likely that he was introduced to Sufism from a young age. Baha’ ud-Din (Rumi’s father) became the head of a madrassa (religious school) and when he died, Rumi, aged twenty-five, inherited his position as the Islamic maulvi. One of Baha’ ud-Din’s students, Sayyed Burhan ud-Din Muhaqqiq Termazi, continued to train Rumi in the Shariah as well as the Tariqa, especially that of Rumi’s father. For 9 years, Rumi practiced Sufism as a disciple of Burhan ud-Din until the latter died in 1240 or 1241.
Devotion to Muhammad is an exceptionally robust apply among mysticism. Rumi attributes his self-control and abstinence from worldly needs as qualities earned by him through the steering of Muhammad.
Rumi made utilization of ordinary life’s circumstances to explain the mystic world. The tool that he used to describe the phenomenon of Mysticism was poetry and through his poetry, he proved to be one of the greatest Mystical Masters of all time. The Philosophy of Mysticism has been interpreted by Maulana Rumi to the level of simplicity. Rumi asserts that for jointure with its origin, the human soul needs to develop a strong relationship with God and human beings. To love the Creator one needs first to learn how to love His creation, i.e human beings. Without loving mankind, one cannot achieve divine inspiration. In short, according to Rumi, love for God and His creation are crucial for human salvation.
Rumi firmly believed in Sufism and so like other mystic and Sufi poets of Persian literature, his general theme is the concept of union with his beloved (the primal root) from which/whom he has been cut off and become aloof and his longing and desire to restore it, which is the concept of tawhid. He had a great admiration for poetry, music, and dance and believed passionately that they are a path to reach God. His teachings paved the way for the Mevlevi order, which was further carried by his son, Sultan Walad. Rumi favored Sama, listening to sacred music or performing the sacred dance. Sama is a part of the Mevlevi tradition, representing a mystical journey of non-secular ascent through the mind and like to the proper One. This is the journey, in which the seeker symbolically turns towards the truth, develops through love forsakes ego, searches for truth, and arrives at the Perfect. Hence the seeker returns from a mystical or spiritual voyage, with profound maturity, to love and to be of service to the whole of creation without discrimination with regard to belief, races, classes, and nations.
Everyone who is familiar with Eastern mysticism, particularly with Sufism, has heard of Jalaluddin Rumi, for he is one of the most celebrated and most widely translated Sufi mystics of all times. Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi was born on 30 September 1207 in Balkh, Afghanistan which was then part of a Persian empire. He was a strange child, who, at five saw visions, and went into ecstasies, often, becoming restless and uneasy. His mother belonged to a princely house whose roots could be traced to the immediate family of the prophet Mohammad, and his father, Baha-ud-Din Velad was a descendent of the Caliph Abu Bekr. He was born a ‘Self-realised’ soul.
Rumi was a Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi’s poems have been widely translated into many of the world’s languages. The scholars Reynold A. Nicholson and A. J. Arberry described Rumi as the “greatest mystical poet of any age.” (Mohammad J. and Mojdeh B. 2000) Rumi composed over 70,000 verses of poetry collected in 2 distinct volumes. His poetry focuses on varied and diverse topics. His work covers deeply philosophical and mystical, with poems of fiery soulful expression to passionate love verses filled with yearning.
Rumi gained widespread respect and fame as an ordinary professor, and people from all parts of the East came to him for advice and lectures. Probably he would have remained so if it weren’t for his encounter with a remarkable spiritual personality, Shamsuddin Tabrizi. The mysterious Shams first met Rumi in 1244, when Rumi was thirty-eight and that event changed Rumi’s life forever. Had Rumi not met Shams, he might not have written poems at all, and, in fact, Rumi, as we know him today, might not have existed. Shams disappeared after three years, leaving no trace. Without a doubt, the relationship between Rumi and Shams is one of the most extraordinary of spiritual bonds known to history. As a perfect master, Shams brought out the latent perfection within Rumi. It is important, therefore, to learn something of the life of Shams in order to better understand his role in the transformation of Rumi. Later Rumi met a goldsmith – Salaud-Din-e Zarkub – who became his companion. After the death of Salaud-Din-e Zarkub, Rumi befriended his favorite disciples named Hussam-e Chalabi.
The Masnavi is Rumi’s greatest poetic work, composed during the last years of his life. He started it when he was between the ages of 54-57 and continued composing its verses until he died in 1273. It is a mixture of Sufi stories, ethical teachings, and mystical teachings.
The Divan is the inspiration of Rumi’s middle-aged years. It began with his meeting Shams-i Tabriz, becoming his disciple and spiritual friend, the stress of Shams’ first disappearance, and the crisis of Shams’ final disappearance. The Divan is filled with ecstatic verses in which Rumi expresses his mystical love for Shams as a symbol of his love for God.
There are three works of Rumi’s words and teachings that are not in the form of poetry. The first are his seventy-one talks and lectures, Fî-hi Mâ Fî-hi (literally, ‘in it what is in it’), commonly known as his Discourses.
Then there are his seven sermons, Majâlis-é Sab`a- (literally, ‘seven sessions’), commonly known as his Sermons. The collected book of these has not been translated into English (except for one short sermon).
Finally, there are his one hundred and fifty letters, Makatib (Maktubat), known as his ‘Letters.’ Makatib is the book containing Rumi’s letters in Persian to his disciples, family members, and men of state and of influence. The letters testify that Rumi kept very busy helping family members and administering a community of disciples that had grown up around them.
Indeed Rumi’s influence has perpetually transcended national borders and ethnic divisions and, in several of those societies. So much so, it’s not stunning to listen to people from the region quoting Rumi within the original Persian. Indeed, he’s revered as a Master, a Mevlana title by which he’s typically familiar within the Middle Eastern countries. He is, indirectly, the ‘founder’ of Sufi Mazhab — the Order of the whirling dervish — that enjoys popularity in Turkey. In fact, in Konya, where he’s buried, his tomb is a revered shrine wherever his followers and admires assemble in pilgrimage on December 17, the day of remembrance of his death and the entire Konya goes into a vibrant spiritual mood.
Rumi’s Thoughts on Pacifism
Pacifism is a major subject of Islamic mysticism and Rumi’s thoughts. Based on Pacifism, the mystic believes God as existential and absolute truth and there is no one but God. Pacifism in Islamic mysticism means the public and general peace. The world has never been without representations of love and peace. Rumi was and is one of the perfect representatives of such a complete human being, and one of the greatest teachers of universal love and peace
The Pacifism in Islamic mysticism and Rumi’s thoughts has two major bases: love and pantheism, which both of them are the principle bases of Islamic mysticism.
Love is one of the most important principles in Islamic mysticism and there are very many definitions and theories about it, for each theory teaches how to come close to God or to be united with him. Rumi has a completely positive viewpoint to existence. He believes that there is no absolute evil in the world: evil is relative because he thinks that every negative problem may be turned into positive opportunities in the future. So he has not hostility against others because of there is not the absolute reason for hostility.
Love according to Rumi is divided in two parts: love in the human and love in the world and creations. So Pacifism is divided in two parts: Peace to the People and Peace to all the world and its creations. Humanistic Peace is peace in which Rumi loves all the people even his enemy.
Literally means “God is All” and “All is God”. Pacifism tends to emphasize the idea that natural law, existence, and the Universe (the sum total of all that is, was, and shall be) is represented or personified in the theological principle of an abstract ‘God’
Rumi based on pantheism sees humans and the cosmos as the illumination of God. the spirit of God has been inspired by all of things; so he believes that every pain of human is a pain for others: And he emphasizes that only the existence of God is absolute and actually other beings are non-existence and because of the pantheism all of the things love god. Rumi wants people to be kind and have mercy together.
Analyzing Rumi’s Works
How Rumi’s Background Played a Role in His Works
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī more popularly simply as Rumi was a 13th-century Persian poet, theologian, faqih, Islamic scholar, and Sufi mystic originally from Greater Khorasan.
Rumi’s father Bahhaudin Walad was a mystic and a theologian as well. Rumi was an acquaintance of Sayyed Burhan ud-Din Muhaqqiq Termazi, one in all his father’s students. Beneath the steering of Sayyed Termazi, he practiced religious mysticism and purchased loads of data regarding religious matters and secrets of the spiritual place. After the death of Bahhauddin, in 1231 AD, Rumi transmitted his father’s position and became a distinguished non-secular teacher. By the time Rumi reached the age of twenty-four, he had established himself as an intelligent scholar within the field of non-secular science.
The central event in Rumi’s life which he believed gave birth to his poetry and ghazals. As he was already a teacher and theologian when in 1244 AD he came across a wandering dervish named Shamsuddin of Tabriz. Apparently, Shamsuddin and Rumi became very close friends. Shams went to Damascus, were he was allegedly killed by the students of Rumi who were resentful of their close relationship. Consequently, Rumi expressed his love for Shamsuddin and grief at his death, through music, dance, and poems.
For nearly ten years after meeting Shamsuddin, Rumi devoted himself in writing ghazals. He then made a compilation of ghazals and named them as Diwan-e-Kabir or Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi.
Like many other Persian mystic and Sufi poets, Rumi’s poetry speaks of love. Rumi’s teachings are also expressed in the tenets which are summarized in the Quranic verse. In the interpretation attributed to Shams, the first part of the verse commands humanity to seek knowledge of tawhid (oneness of God), while the second instructs them to negate their own existence. Rumi became devoted to the unorthodox spiritual path under the guidance of Shams. In Rumi’s terms, tawhid is lived most fully through love, with the connection being made explicit in his verse that describes love as “that flame which, when it blazes up, burns away everything except the Everlasting Beloved.” Henceforth for him to acquire such an idealistic stage in desire is presented through this quote mentioned earlier in his book the Masnavi.
Rumi was one who believed passionately in the use of poetry, music, and dance as a pathway to reach towards God. For Rumi, music could help devotees to focus their whole being on the divine and to do this so intensely that the soul was both destroyed and resurrected. It was through this concept and these ideas that the practice of whirling Dervishes developed into a ritual form. Therefore, he is credited to originate the dance of whirling In fact Rumi’s poetry forms the basis of classical Afghan and Iranian music.
By analyzing Rumi’s work further one can easily see the influences of the people he met, the ones who inspired him endlessly. Moreover, the tint of the music and religious milieu during his times can be observed in the poem we will analyze further.