Remembering Rumi today can go a long way in healing many of the spiritual wounds that we have inflicted upon ourselves. His teachings can liberate us from the shackles of an increasingly obfuscating world and he can enlighten our paths in times of darkness
Source: Daily Sabah Columns
Meulana Jalaladdin Rumi (d. Dec. 17, 1273), the great Muslim saint, sage and poet, lived at a time of turmoil and chaos. He composed his timeless works on faith, love, devotion and tolerance when the Mongol hordes were wreaking havoc in Muslim lands. Against the barbarism of the invading armies, he preached patience, moderation and an uncompromising commitment to truth and beauty. Given the extremities and ugliness of the present world in which we live, he is as relevant today as he has ever been.
The best answer to the insanities of the modern world is to recover Rumi’s message. From school shootings and drugs to wars, DAESH terrorism to racist bigotry, many evils of the present world order can be overcome if we remember who we are and why we are part of this universe. Rumi gave some of the most profound answers to these big questions.
Rumi is known as a mystic, but given the misconceptions about this term, it is somewhat misleading. Rumi was a first-rate scholar of Islamic studies and taught at a madrasa in Konya Turkey where he is buried today. He was a devout man of faith, a profound thinker and an artist. His works combine the best of human intelligence, perennial wisdom and spiritual beauty. Rumi defined himself as a humble servant of God and a devout follower of the Prophet Muhammad. His universalist language is underpinned by the core teachings of Islam. He was neither a new age guru nor a wishy washy spiritualist. He was a Muslim with a sharp mind and big heart.
Rumi was a philosopher in the original sense of the term as a lover of wisdom, (philo-sophia) and as such broke the artificial categories of reason versus faith, logic versus transcendence and fact versus value. He was critical of the rationalist philosophers, ridiculing their empty skepticism and asked them to “hit their heads on the wall.” This was not because he rejected reason, but because he believed crude rationalism violated the fundamental nature of reason. Unlike Immanuel Kant who tried to limit reason by its own principles, Rumi did so by tying everything to a higher order of things. He based his thinking on “philosophy as spiritual exercise” and called on “limited reason” to attain a state of “universal reason.”
Rumi presents a holistic view of existence with everything interconnected. Nothing makes sense when uprooted from its original place in the great chain of being. Just as everything in the universe, including the sun, stars, animals and humans make up one big unit, human faculties function properly when they all respond to the call of the Divine together. Reason and intelligence, heart, the five senses, imagination, consciousness and emotions altogether enable us to understand the reality of things. Rumi saw no contradiction between reason and love or between logic and virtue because such contradictions are a product of the misuse of human reason and passions. When they function properly and respond to the call of meaning and purpose they reveal the essential connectedness of everything in the universe.
We live in an age of instant gratification. The culture of entertainment pervades everything in our lives. Against fleeting sensations and self-obsession, Rumi invites us to that which is everlasting and fulfilling. His infinite love for everything beautiful and noble comes from his love for the “Supreme Friend,” i.e., God. In the words of the great Turkish Sufi poet Yunus Emre, he “loves every creature for the sake of the creator who created it” in the first place. Rumi’s philosophy of love is sometimes taken to be a sort of proto-humanism. This is another mislabel and does not explain his true teachings. Rumi was no rootless, secular humanist. His love for humanity and limitless tolerance was based on a deep belief in and love for the Divine. The famous phrase: “Come, come, whoever you are,” is a call not to a fun club, but to the path of spiritual perfection and moral integrity.
Finally, Rumi was interested in essential meaning and purpose rather than form and function. As a master storyteller, he explains how one can look for meaning beyond form and unveil the deeper meaning of things without mixing up the metaphysical categories of this world and the hereafter. As an artist, he initiated the Mawlawi Sufi tradition that has preserved some of the finest examples of traditional Islamic art, music and poetry.
Remembering Rumi today can go a long way in healing many of the spiritual wounds that we have inflicted upon ourselves. His teachings can liberate us from the shackles of an increasingly obfuscating world and he can enlighten our paths in times of darkness. He has guided many people to the path of truth, intelligence, peace, compassion and beauty since his departure from this world 742 years ago. All we need to do is to listen to his call.