Tag Archives: Classic Persian poets

On Rumi

Monday Musings for Monday September 30, 2013

Volume III, No. 37/131

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 Hippo”s Confessions, it 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, the pathway to salvation…Eshgh, the gate 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 writing of Plato who recorded the teachings of Socrat es, 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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On Music, Humanities and Religion in Our Lives

“Monday Musings” for August 12, 2013

Volume III, No. 30//123


Down Memory Lane…

124,000 Prophets, 5000 Music Composers…

Music, Humanities, and Religion in Our Lives

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

As a child, I grew up memorizing the 114 Sura(s) of the Islamic Bible, the Holy Quoran. Along the way, we were tested on all 6666 verses, and 77,457 words of the magnificent text. Also, we learned passages from the Hindu Holy Book, Bhagavad Gita (Ghandi read it every morning upon arising and every night before retiring to bed), Zoroaster’s Avesta, and chapters from the Jewish Bible, the Torah. In addition, the Jesuit school, College Saint Louis where I attended, emphasized instructions about memorizing the Western and European literature beginning with French. We learned that the Christian Bible has 66 books, 39 in Old Testament, 593,493 words; 27 books in New Testament, 181,253 words; a total of 774,746 word in the entire Christian Bible (not hard to memorize!). Just an aside, Shakespeare has 118,406 lines and 884,647 words…Astonishing!  Did Shakespeare know more words than God? Sheer blasphemy!

Faithful readers of this space recall my love affair with Mother Simone of College Saint Louis, awe of Father Bertunesque, and sheer terror of Mon Pere Superior, the school Headmaster. Mother Simone was a toughie! She was to teach us “Les Literatures Francaise de dix-huitieme siècle” (18th century French literature) but she began the year with 15th century Francois Rabelais (1494-1553), then crisscrossing  all époques and periods, she covered Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755), Voltaire (1694-1778), Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1754), Alphonse Chateaubriant (1877-1951), Alfonse de La Martin (1884-1947), right up to Marcel Proust (1871-1922), Emil Zola (1840-1904), Albert Camus (1913-1960) and Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980). Note that some of those writers were still alive in the 1940’s when I was going to that school, but just the same, they all came in purview of Mother Simone’s course of 18th century literature!  In addition, she somehow succeeded in ‘horseshoeing’ foreign philosophers, such as British John Locke (1632-1704) and German Philosopher, Friedric Hegel (1770-1831) and others because their thoughts and teachings were consonant with the French authors she was tackling. The closeness of John Locke with Montesquieu is a good example.  She used to say Montesquieu and Locke go together like oeufs et jambon (ham and eggs!)

Mon Pere Bertunesque was a tall wiry priest with a long pointed beard/goatee, and deep set brown eyes that invited a lot of dark shadows in the sockets making his eyes appear to be set deeper. He had a penetrating gaze that ‘pierced a hole in granite.’  He would not inflict corporal punishment. His gaze was enough…

We had additional memorizing to do: every Persian child from educated families memorizes Persian poets whose books asymptotically approach the popularity, if not the holiness, of the Holy Quoran. They are the collected work (Kolliat) of Hafiz (1337-1406), Saadi (1210-1290), Rumi (1207-1273), Kahjeh Abdollah Ansari (1006-1088), Baba Taher Oryan (around 1000-1055—accurate dates are unknown) and of course the epic poets such as Ferdowsi (940-1020). British scholarship holds that John Milton (1608-1674) followed Ferdowsi’s style and metrics in writing Paradise Lost. To all this add the basic sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics, trigonometry and astronomy, plus the arts  (music, painting or calligraphy, Naskh and Nastaaleegh), and you will have the rich curriculum of College Saint Louis.

Composers Parallel Prophets

With all this exposure to so many religions, we learned that there are 124 thousand prophets sent by God, starting with Adam, and ending according to the Christians with Christ who will appear on the Day of Judgment (book of Revelation). In Islam it is Imam Mehdi (Imam ASSR-or contemporary Imam) who will appear on the judgment day…  These prophets have been sent to make human lives more righteous (the word righteous means tuned), to make life peaceful, without friction, just like a toned engine, with no friction and no inefficiency or waste. I have been seeking parallels between religious prophets who brought us righteousness, all 124,000 of them. My conclusion is that a handful of music composers, people like Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, including Chevalier de Saint George, known as the Black Mozart (1745-1799), and the British Mozart, Samuel Wesley (1766-1837), nephew of the famed theologian John Wesley, founder of Methodist Church, who brought us music, basically accomplished the same thing as the prophets. They brought us harmony, joy, and peace.

The list of these 5000 world famous composers, far shorter than 124,000 prophets, start with French composer Adolph Adam (1803- 1856) through Russian composer Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) provides the reader with an astonishing source of power and sublime beauty. Music like religion is life changing. Composers of music, like prophets, have brought God’s gift of peace and joy and promise of redemption to mankind. Having music as a part of one’s life and vocabulary is a privilege. Music, especially Viennese/Northern German classical music with its rich harmony, and melismatic Italian/Southern European music with its rich melody, are necessary for life like food and oxygen.  Symphonic music elevates the majesty of human soul.  As psychiatrists, we fight addiction.  But here is a case where I advocate addiction: addiction to reading the Holy celestial books, and drowning one’s self in a sea of classical music and Opera.


*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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