Jalal al-Din Rumi: Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi (Selections)
Translated by Farida Maleki
Publisher: Beas, India: Radha Soami Satsang Beas, 2019.
To be with Rumi is to dance with him, to sing with him, to open our own heart to the “murderous and amorous gaze” of the beloved. “My religion,” Rumi said, “is love.” Specifically, it is love for his teacher, the one whose beauty is so great that Rumi embraced the death of his limited self for the joy of union with him. “Shams-e Tabrizi,” he said, “since the first day I saw your face, my religion has been love for your face.”
This 13th-century Sufi mystic, scholar, teacher, poet and lover poured out his devotion in five great works, including the Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, the source for the poems in this volume, and the immense Masnavi. The Divan offers more than 44,000 lines of poetry, all on the subject of his love for his teacher, Shams-e Tabrizi. They portray his anguish of estrangement from his beloved and the joy of his union with him.
This translation uses simple modern English together with factual commentaries to cast light on the deep mystical meanings of Rumi’s message of transformation through love.
Your love made me drunk, made me clap my hands.
Drunk and unaware of myself, what can I do?
Once a sour grape, now I am sweet.
I cannot make myself sour again…
His poetry is like a jewel that we can hold up to the light of our own inner awareness and savour each illuminating facet. We gain more insight with every reading.
Love is a sea, its … water like fire, its waves like pearls.
The pearls are secrets, whose every facet
leads a wayfarer to inner meaning.
Rumi uses innumerable metaphors and images to reveal subtle inner meanings. Wine symbolizes the intoxication of inner Sound and Light; a house made of water and dust is the human body. The rose garden is where the lover’s heart opens, and the sun has the radiance of Shams-e Tabrizi.
Rumi’s life story, told briefly in the book, itself offers profound spiritual messages – particularly, the story of his interactions with his master Shams. The accounts of Shams’ and Rumi’s first meeting vary but agree on the instantaneous recognition and intensity of feeling between the two men. They then spent several months together in seclusion. From first contact with Shams, Rumi was transformed both within and without. “When your love enflamed my heart, all I had was burned to ashes, except your love.” Rumi gave up teaching and preaching, forsaking his role as the conservative Islamic lawyer to become a wild, abandoned dervish. This caused consternation and resentment within the community, but Rumi was adamant in his loyalty and devotion to Shams. “I am not afraid. I will not run away from the beloved who’s killing me.”
People are saying, “You should not be that way!”
I wasn’t like this – he made me this way…
I will fill earth and sky with gratitude
For, though I was earth, now I am sky.
But the path of love rarely runs smooth, and after only a few years Shams disappeared, leaving Rumi for good. Rumi’s son wrote that his father’s “wail and cry reached heaven. All heard his lament, young and old.” Shams’ final departure ensured that Rumi would have to turn within to find him. Rumi wrote, “The lighted lamp kissed the unlit lamp and went away. He fulfilled his aim… Why should I go on searching the world when my beloved is within?”
Rumi promises each of us that the same inner spiritual union he sought and achieved is possible for all; it is a hidden treasure to be found within us. He declares that the beloved is nigh:
With eyes closed, you ask,
“Where has the bright day gone?”
Then the sun hits your eyes, saying,
“Here I am! Open the door!”
The signs of God’s intimate presence pervade us within.
Where is one mouth from which
The fragrance of the soul is not coming?
Where is one heart to which that Sign is not coming?
Has anyone taken a few steps towards
The rose garden of love
To whom a hundred salutations
From that Gardener are not coming?
Rumi makes the spiritual goal seem close, attainable, already and eternally our own.
With every breath,
the song of love
resounds from left and right.
We’re going to the sky.
Who wants to come and see the sights?
We have been to that sky
and befriended the angels.
Let’s all go again, for that is our town.
We are higher than the heavens,
greater than the angels.
Why not pass beyond them?
Our home is the Divine.
Ultimately, in the dance between lover and beloved, between seeker and the one sought, the lover realizes that the beloved does all; it is he who seeks us and takes us back to himself. Rumi speaks in the voice of the beloved calling to the lover:
I have come to pull you to me by the ear –
To seat you in my heart and soul,
To make you lose your heart and self.
I, sweet spring, have come to you,
O rosebush, to draw you joyfully to my side,
To scatter your petals.
I have come to this house to beautify you,
To take you, like lover’s prayers,
Above and beyond the sky…
Yet Rumi makes clear the effort, dedication, and sacrifice demanded of the lover.
He asked, “How long will you persevere?”
I said, “Until you let me in.”
He asked, “How long will you eagerly wait?”
I said, “Till resurrection day.”…
He asked, “Where is the hardship?”
I said, “In the alley of your love.”
He asked, “How are you doing in there?”
I said, “I persevere.”