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Thursday, 6 June 2013


Remembering Jalal-ud-Din Rumi

Cry To Your Creator!
Let Body Need Dwindle,
And Soul Decisions Increase! – Rumi

(By: M. Javed Naseem)

Out of the Quran I draw the marrow
And throw away the bones to the dogs.”
                                                  – Rumi
(The reference to “dogs” is to those who quibble unnecessarily on superficial issues, it is not used in a derogatory sense.)

In the middle of 13th century, a young Persian scholar met a stranger who asked him a strange question that changed his life for ever. That stranger was from the city of Tabriz, a wandering Dervish who had traveled throughout the Middle East, searching and praying for someone who was worthy of his company. There are various versions of this very interesting encounter but it is hard to verify the facts.
The stranger said: ‘Can you endure my company?’
The young scholar, a learned professor, answered: ‘What would you offer in return?’
Stranger: ‘My head!’
Young scholar: ‘The one you seek is Jalal-ud-Din of Konya.’
Stranger: ‘Can I ask you a question?’
Young scholar: ‘You’ll get an answer.’
When the stranger asked the question, the young scholar fainted to the ground. According to the researchers, the stranger asked: ‘Who was greater, Muhammad or Bestami? For Bestami had said, “How great is my glory”, whereas Muhammad had acknowledged in his prayer to God, “We do not know You as we should”.
The young scholar sensed the depth out of which the question came and fell to the ground. When he regained his senses, he answered that Muhammad was greater, because Bestami had taken one sip of the divine and stopped there as if he was lost, whereas for Muhammad the journey was always unfolding.
This encounter brought the two together as friends and they became inseparable. The stranger was Shams Tabrizi, and the young scholar was Rumi – Jalal-ud-Din Rumi, who is considered the greatest mystic poet of the East.
‘Rumi’ means ‘Roman’ or ‘from Rome’. But the world-famous Iranian Sufi poet and mystic, Rumi, was not from Rome. He was actually born as ‘Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi’ on 30th September, 1207, in Wakhsh, province of Balkh, which is divided today between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It was then part of the Persian Empire. In Iran and Afghanistan, he was commonly known as Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi. He became Rumi, when his family emigrated from Balkh to Konya, Turkey (Roman Anatolia) sometime between 1215 and 1220, the period of Mongol invasion of Central Asia. All his works are written in Persian language. Today, he is known as ‘Maulana Rumi’ (Maulana means a religious scholar or a learned professor).
Rumi’s father, Baha-ud-Din Walad, was a theologian, jurist and a mystic. The profession of the family for several generations was that of Islamic preachers of the liberal Hanafi rite and this family tradition was continued by Rumi. Baha-ud-Din was the head of a Madrassah (school) and when he died, Jalal-ud-Din took over the position at the age of 25. One of Baha-ud-Din’s students, Sayyed Burhan-ud-Din Muhaqiq Termazi continued to train Rumi in the Shariah & Tariqah and Sufism. Jalal-ud-Din Rumi was influenced first by his own father’s spiritual writings, and then by the famous mystic poets of Persia (Iran), Sanai and Attar.
Shams Tabrizi wrote mystic poems. Rumi called the huge collection of his odes and quatrains “The Works of Shams Tabrizi”. Their great friendship also generated some controversies and jealousy. On one night of December 1248, when Rumi and Shams were having mystical discussion, somebody called Shams to the back door. He went out and never came back. Nobody ever saw him again. The legend is that he was murdered. So, Shams indeed gave his head for the privilege of mystical company.

“In the slaughterhouse of love, they kill
Only the best, none of the weak or deformed.
Don’t run away from this dying.
Whoevers not killed for love, is dead meat.”
                                                        – Rumi

(Rumi's tomb/grave in Konya, Turkey)

After the death of Shams Tabrizi, a goldsmith named Saladin became close friend of Rumi, whom he addressed his poems. And when Saladin died, he was replaced by Rumi’s own disciple and favorite student Husam. For the last 12 years of his life, Rumi dictated the six volumes of his masterpiece “Masnawi” (or Mathnawi) to Husam. Rumi died on 17th December, 1273. He was buried in Konya (Turkey), beside his father, and over his remains a splendid shrine was erected. His shrine has become a place of pilgrimage for all Rumi lovers.

(Rumi's grave in Konya)

Following his death, his followers and his son Sultan Walad founded the ‘Mevlevi Order’, also known as the ‘Order of the Whirling Dervishes’, famous for its ‘Sufi dance’ known as the ‘Sama’ ceremony.

(Dervishes dancing in front of Rumi's shrine in Konya) 

Wikipedia adds:
Rumi’s works are written in Persian and his ‘Mathnawi’ remains one of the purest literary glories of Persia, and one of the crowning glories of the Persian language. His original works are widely read today in their original language across the Persian-speaking world (Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and parts of Persian speaking Central Asia). Translations of his works are very popular in other countries. His poetry has influenced Persian literature as well as Urdu, Punjabi, Turkish and some other Iranic, Turkic and Indic languages written in Perso-Arabic script (e.g., Pashto, Ottoman Turkish, Chagatai and Sindhi). Rumi’s importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world’s languages and transposed into various formats. In 2007, he was described as the “most popular poet in America”.
(Excerpts from: “The Essential Rumi”, Translated by Coleman Barks & John Moyne, Published by Castle Books, Edison, NJ, USA)


The cloud weeps, and then the garden sprouts.
The baby cries, and the mothers milk flows.
The nurse of creation has said: Let them cry a lot.

This rain-weeping and sun-burning,
twine together to make us grow.
Keep your intelligence white-hot, and your grief glistening,
so your life will stay fresh.
Cry easily like a little child.

Let body need dwindle,
and soul decisions increase.
Diminish what you give your physical self.
Your spiritual eye will begin to open.

When the body empties and stays empty,
God fills it with musk and mother-of-pearl.
That way a man gives his dung,
and gets purity.


Don’t run around this world
Looking for a hole to hide in.
There are wild beasts in every cave!
If you live with mice, the cat claws will find you.

The only real rest comes
When you are alone with God.

You own two shops, and you run back and forth.
Try to close the one that’s a fearful trap,
Getting always smaller.
Checkmate, this way. Checkmate that.

Keep open the shop
Where you’re not selling fish-hooks anymore.
You are the free-swimming fish.

Think that you’re gliding out from the face of a cliff
Like an eagle. Think you’re walking
Like a tiger walks by himself in the forest.
You’re most handsome when you’re after food.

Spend less time with nightingales and peacocks.
One is just a voice, the other just a color.

There is a way between voice and presence
Where information flows.
In disciplined silence it opens.
With wandering talk it closes.


Friendship and loyalty have patience
As the strength of their connections.
Feeling lonely and ignoble indicates
That you haven’t been patient.

Be with those who mix with God
As honey blends with milk, and say,
“Anything that comes and goes, rises and sets,
is not what I love.”
(Prophet Abraham’s quote in search of God)

Live in the One who created the prophets,
Else you’ll be like a caravan fire left
To flare itself out alone beside the road.


Consider the difference
In our actions and God’s actions.
We often ask: “Why did you do that?”
Or “Why did I act like that?”

We do act, and yet everything we do
Is God’s creative action.
We look back and analyze the events
Of our lives, but there is another way
Of seeing, a backward-and-forward-at-once
Vision, that is not rationally understandable.

Only God can understand it.
Satan made the excuse: ‘You caused me to fall’,
Whereas Adam said to God: ‘We did this
To ourselves.’ After this repentance,
God asked Adam: ‘Since all is within
My foreknowledge, why didn’t you
Defend yourself with that reason?’

Adam answered: ‘I was afraid,
And I wanted to be reverent’

Whoever acts with respect will get respect.
Whoever brings sweetness will be served almond cake.
Good women are drawn to be with good men.

Honor your friend.
Or treat him rudely, and see what happens!

Love, tell an incident now
That will clarify this mystery
Of how we act freely, and are yet
Compelled. One hand shakes with palsy,
Another shakes because you slapped it away.

Both tremblings come from God,
But you feel guilty for the one,
And what about the other?

These are intellectual questions.
The spirit approaches the matter differently.
Omar once had a friend, a scientist, Bu’l-Hakam,
Who was flawless at solving empirical problems,
But he could not follow Omar
Into the area of illumination and wonder

Now I return to the text, “And He is with you,
Wherever you are,” but when have I ever left it!
Ignorance is God’s prison.
Knowing is God’s palace.

We sleep in God’s unconsciousness.
We wake in God’s open hand.
We weep God’s rain.
We laugh God’s lightening.

Fighting and peacefulness
Both take place within God.

Who are we then
In this complicated world-tangle,
That is really just the single, straight line
Down at the beginning of ALLAH?

We are emptiness.

When you are with everyone but me,
You’re with no one.
When you are with no one but me,
You’re with everyone.

Instead of being so bound up with everyone,
Be everyone.
When you become that many, you’re nothing.


A lover’s food is the love of bread,
Not the bread. No one who really loves,
Loves existence.

Lovers have nothing to do with existence.
They collect the interest without the capital.
No wings, yet they fly all over the world. No hands,
But they carry the polo ball from the field.


… which reminds me of the mother who tells her child,
“When you’re walking through the graveyard at night
And you see a boogeyman, run at it,
And it will go away.”

“But what,” replies the child,
“If the boogeyman’s mother has told it
to do the same thing?
Boogeymen have mothers too.”


It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?

Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
And water, thick mud.

Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.
He said: No longer will I try to assign partners for God.

You are so weak. Give up to grace!
The ocean takes care of each wave till it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.
You are trying to live your life in open scaffolding.

Say Bismillah, In the name of God,
As the priest does with a knife when he offers an animal.
Bismillah your old self to find your real name!



Don’t go to sleep one night.
What you most want will come to you then.
Warmed by a sun inside, you’ll see wonders.
Tonight, don’t put your head down.

Be tough, and strength will come.
That which adoration adores, appears at night.
Those asleep may miss it.

One night Moses stayed awake
And asked, and saw a light in a tree.
Then he walked at night for ten years,
Until finally he saw the whole tree illuminated.

Muhammad rode his horse through the night-sky.
The day is for work. The night for love.
Don’t let someone bewitch you.

Some people sleep at night. But not lovers.
They sit in the dark and talk to God, who told David:
‘Those who sleep all night every night
And claim to be connected to us, they lie.’


When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.
Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you,
not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity.
We are pain and what cures pain, both.
We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.

I want to hold you close like a lute,
So we can cry out with loving.
You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am your mirror, and here are the stones!

A craftsman pulled a reed from the reed-bed,
Cut holes in it, and called it a human being.
Since then, it’s been wailing a tender agony
Of parting, never mentioning the skill
that gave it life as a flute.

Humble living does not diminish. It fills.
Going back to a simpler self gives wisdom.
When a man makes up a story for his child,
He becomes a father and a child together, listening.

Gamble everything for love,
If you’re a true human being.
If not, leave this gathering.
Halfheartedness doesn’t reach into majesty.
You set out to find God, but then you keep stopping
for long periods, at mean-spirited roadhouses.

Do you think I know what I’m doing?
That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself?
As much as a pen knows what it’s writing,
Or the ball can guess where it’s going next.


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.


Some gnats come from the grass to speak with Solomon.
“O Solomon, you are the champion of the oppressed.
You give justice to the little guys, and they don’t get
Any littler than us! We are tiny metaphors
For frailty. Can you defend us?”

“Who has mistreated you?”
“Our complaint is against the wind.”
“Well,” says Solomon, “you have pretty voices,
You gnats, but remember, a judge cannot listen
To just one side. I must hear both litigants.”
“Of course,” agree the gnats.

Summon the East Wind!” calls out Solomon,
And the wind arrives almost immediately.
What happened to the gnat plaintiffs? Gone!

Such is the way of every seeker who comes to complain
At the High Court. When the presence of God arrives,
Where are the seekers? First there’s dying,
Then union, like gnats inside the wind.

One night a man was crying: Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
Until a cynic said: So! I have heard you
Calling out, but have you ever
Gotten any response?

The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
In a thick, green foliage: Why did you stop praising?
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”

“This longing you express is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from, draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness that wants help, is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs
No one knows the names of.
Give your life to be one of them!


Moses heard a shepherd on the road praying:
“God, where are you? I want to help you, to fix your shoes
And comb your hair. I want to wash your clothes
And pick the lice off. I want to bring you milk
To kiss your little hands and feet when it’s time
For you to go to bed. I want to sweep your room
And keep it neat. God, my sheep and goats
Are yours. All I can say, remembering you,
Is ‘ayyyy’ and ‘ahhhhhhhhh’.”

Moses could stand it no longer. “Who are you talking to?”
“The one who made us, and made the earth and made the sky.”
“Don’t talk about shoes and socks with God!
And what’s this with ‘your little hands and feet’?
Such blasphemous familiarity sounds like
You’re chatting with your uncles.”

“Only something that grows, needs milk.
Only someone with feet needs shoes. Not God!
Even if you meant God’s human representatives,
As when God said: ‘I was sick, and you did not visit me’,
Even then this tone would be foolish and irreverent.”

“Use appropriate terms. Fatima is a fine name for a woman,
but if you call a man Fatima, it’s an insult.
Body-and-birth language are right for us on this side of the river,
But not for addressing the origin, not for Allah.”

The shepherd repented and tore his clothes and sighed
And wandered out into the desert.
A sudden revelation came then to Moses. God’s voice:
“You have separated me from one of my own.
Did you come as a Prophet to unite, or to sever?
I have given each being a separate and unique way
of seeing and knowing and saying that knowledge.”

“What seems wrong to you is right for him.
What is poison to one is honey to someone else.
Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship,
These mean nothing to me.
I am apart from all that.”

“Ways of worship are not to be ranked as better
Or worse than one another.
Hindus do Hindu things.
The Dravidian Muslims in India do what they do.
It’s all praise, and it’s all right.”

“It’s not me that’s glorified in acts of worship,
It’s the worshipers! I don’t hear the words they say.
I look inside at the humility.
That broken-open lowliness is the reality,
Not the language!  Forget phraseology,
I want burning, burning.”

“Be friends with your burning. Burn up your thinking
And your forms of expression!
Moses, those who pay attention to ways of behaving
And speaking are one sort.
Lovers, who burn, are another.”

Don’t impose a property tax on a burned-out village.
Don’t scold the Lover. The ‘wrong’ way he talks
is better than a hundred ‘right’ ways of others.
Inside the Kaaba it doesn’t matter which direction
you point your prayer rug!

The ocean diver doesn’t need snowshoes!
The love-religion has no code or doctrine. Only God.
So, the ruby has nothing engraved on it!
It doesn’t need markings.

God began speaking deeper mysteries to Moses.
Vision and words, which cannot be recorded here,
poured into and through him.
He left himself and came back.

He went to eternity and came back here.
Many times this happened.
It is foolish of me to try and say this.
If I did say it, it would uproot our human intelligence.
It would shatter all writing pens.

Moses ran after the shepherd.


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