On Classical Poetry

Monday Musings for Monday October 13, 2014

Volume IV, No. 41/141

Rumi Image

The Life and Poetry of

Mowlana Jalal-Al-Din Mohammad Balkhi Rumi

by Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Today, September 30, is the 806th natal anniversary of Mowlana Jalal-Al-Din Mohammad Balkhi Rumi, the illustrious Persian poet and saint, author of Divan Masnavi, a colossal book of poetry imparting wisdom with its every word. Rumi’s years were September 30, 1207 to December 17, 1273. Divan Masnavi consists of six books and well over 25,000 lines. Faithful readers of this space recall the essay on power of words suggesting to pay special attention to the first word of books read. Rumi’s imposing Divan’s first word is “Listen”, connoting that listening is an act of love…Other sages including a contemporary of Rumi, Persian poet Sheikh Mosleh-Al-Din Saadi (1210-1290) illustrated the importance of listening “one is given two ears to listen and one tongue to speak. So, one must listen twice as much as one speaks..”

Back to Rumi. Mowlana’s work enjoys worldwide acceptance translated into hundreds of languages.  Like the Bible, Saint Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions is a perpetual best seller.  One of my major concerns is that literary charlatans, especially the phonies who line their pockets by exploiting Rumi, posing as experts, and not knowing Farsi or the Persian culture. They contaminate the literary medium. Be careful what you are dished out is Rumi.

Rumi was a Sufi. He held love (Farsi, Eshgh) as the supreme power that transforms lives. Eshgh is the pathway to salvation…Eshgh, the gateway to the world of knowledge, cognition, learning and transcendence. In the contrary to common belief, Sufi is not a branch of Islam. Looking at the writings of Plato who recorded the teachings of Socrates, we know that Socrates, the Ostad, himself was a Sufi. The Sermon of the Mount and the five part Gospel of Matthew (just like Pentateuch that has five parts) could not have been written by anyone but a Sufi or one who holds Love as the ultimate in human to human and human to God relationships. I will devote a series of “MM” on Sufi and Sufism. Rumi held that the solution to human problems lies within, not in some creepy Morshed (guru) who preaches to just submit your soul and remit your pocketbook…  Although in the 13th century little was known about chemistry of the brain and neurotransmitters, Rumi strongly suggested to seek solution to our problems within (Farsi, doroon), our thoughts, our bodies, and our inner secrets (Farsi, Asrar).

Rumi was anti-cleric, anti-dogma, anti-exclusion, and anti-religious pretense (hypocrisy). The French Philosoph, as he was called, François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778), the well known 18th century thinker and writer, has referred extensively to the intellectual construct of Rumi and Rumi’s treatment of deism, love and toleration.

Today, celebrating the master’s birthday, I am offering a few lines of Rumi’s wisdom translated by a learned scholar, Nader Khalili.

Ghazal 1393
I was dead.

I came alive.

I was tears.

I became laughter.


All because of love

when it arrived,

my temporal life

from then on

changed to eternal.


Love said to me

you are not

crazy enough,

you don’t

fit this house.


I went and

became crazy,

crazy enough

to be in chains.


Love said

you are not

intoxicated enough,

you don’t

fit the group.


I went and

got drunk,

drunk enough

to overflow

with light-headedness.


Love said

you are still

too clever,

filled with

imagination and skepticism.


I went and

became gullible

and in fright

pulled away

from it all.


Love said

you are a candle

attracting everyone

gathering every one

around you.


I am no more

a candle spreading light.

I gather no more crowds,

and like smoke,

I am all scattered now.


Love said

you are a teacher.

You are a head

and for everyone

you are a leader.


I am no more,

not a teacher,

not a leader,

just a servant

to your wishes.


Love said

you already have

your own wings.

I will not give you

more feathers.


And then my heart

pulled itself apart

and filled to the brim

with a new light

overflowed with fresh life.


Now when the heavens

are thankful that

because of love,

I have become

the giver of light.



*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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