Rumi: The Meeting Point of the East and the West

Epigraph:

“Out beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrongdoing, there is a field I will meet you there. It’s the world full of things to talk about.” Rumi

compassion

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

I am a physician in upstate New York, I claim to be a sleep disorders specialist.  Mostly I treat physical sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and circadian rhythm disorders.

But, having been a physician for some 35 years now, I have some insights beyond my field of practice also and sometimes try to go beyond the call of my duty to help my patients.

Just this last month, I was seeing a middle aged American lady, who also had obsessive compulsive disorder.  She would obsess over some thoughts that will mess her day and compulsive routine for an hour and a half to get ready for bed at night.

As a devout and practicing Muslim, I know that our healthy mind should obsess over one thought only and that is the attributes of Allah. Sufis call it Zikr e Ilahi.

This I know is the cure of obsessive compulsive disorder.  But, how could I convey it to her in 15 minutes, who I thought from her appearance must be a Christian?

I said to her that if she chants some verses of the Bible that she finds helpful, through out the day, it will replace unhelpful obsessive thoughts.

As physicians we should not be proselytizing either so I added, “I am not a Christian.”

She responded, “Neither am I.”

I became curious, “What religion are you?”

She said, “I am an atheist, but, I get your point, I can chant verses of Rumi!”

I was very pleased and added, “He is the poet of love, who is the best selling poet in US these days.”

I was ecstatic, I had discovered Rumi who can join us, coming from the West and the East or Islam and Christianity,  “Out beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrongdoing, there is a field I will meet you there. It’s the world full of things to talk about.”

After I was done with my patients’ schedule I recalled some of the verses of Rumi:

“Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.”

“Wherever you are, and whatever you do, be in love.”

“Reason is powerless in the expression of love.”

“You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.”

“Be empty of worrying. Think of who created thought.”

“Love is the bridge between you and everything.”

I remembered that our Muslim and Christian identities keep us from seeing the qualities of others and forgiving the short comings, which if we are humble and insightful, do exist in us as well.

I do not know if my patient knew, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Persian poet from the 13th century is the best selling poet in USA these days. He wrote 3,000 love songs to his mentor Shams of Tabriz, the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and God. His monumental Mathnawi has been called the Quran in the Persian language.[1] According to William C. Chittick, Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies at Stony Brook University, as he highlights love in both the Mathnawi and the Quran, “This is not because it bears any outward resemblance to the Divine Word, but rather because Rumi was able to capture in a non-technical, everyday language, understandable to any Persian speaker, what he himself calls, ‘the roots of the roots of the roots of the religion’ – which is an apt description of the Quran itself, the foundation of every thing Islamic.”[2] A beautiful one line summary by Rumi of the love in the Quran, an epitome of love, compassion and justice.

As I was trying to sleep that night I recalled that according to the holy Quran, “every human life is precious and sacred and saving one is like saving the whole of humanity.” (Al Quran 5:32/33)

I reminisced that the loving and compassionate God of Rumi will find it worthwhile that a Muslim went beyond the call of duty to try to restore the health of an atheist.

Reference

  1. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. Syed Hossein Nasr, Editor-in-Chief. HarperOne: An Inprint of Harper Collins Publishers. 2015. Page 1744.
  2. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. Syed Hossein Nasr, Editor-in-Chief. HarperOne: An Inprint of Harper Collins Publishers. 2015. Page 1745.

Suggested reading

Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran

A Message of Compassion and Love from the Holy Bible

Joel Osteen: Enlarging the Circle of Love

Abou Ben Adhem, A Compassionate Man

True Fasting: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Old Testament

Forty Hadiths or Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad about Compassionate Living

‘Love Hormone,’ How it works in Hospitality?

‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin May Enhance Feelings Of Spirituality

We Will be Judged by Our Compassion and Deeds and Not Our Dogma

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