Prose and poetry are the two ways of expression adopted for communication of thought. In the terminology of poetry Mathnavi is the name of a particular poem having two pairs of verses of different rhymes. Literally Mathnavi means pairs of twos. In the world of poetry it is one of the valleys where poets exhibit the stocks of thoughts, their stalls of minds & hearts have. Rumi’s Mathnavi is one of them.
Rumi was born in 604 hijri in Balkh city of Afghanistan. Maulana was the grandson of Maulana Hussain Balkhi whose pedigree connects with Hazrat Abu Bakr Sidiq.
Mohammad Khaarizm Shah, who was a powerful & authoritative king of all countries spreading from Khorasan to Iraq married his daughter with Maulana Hussain Balkhi from whose womb was born Maulana Bahavuddin – the respected father of Rumi. Maualana’s name was Muhammad and Jalaluddin his epithet.
He was called Rumi because he spent much of his life in the Saljuk Sultanate of Rome in Anatolia. When Maulana and his father left Balkh and reached Nishapur, city of Khorasan province of Iran, in 610 hijri Sheikh Farriuddin Attar came to meet them.
Attar, on seeing this child, read his face & physiognomy and advised his father not to remain negligent of this talented person. He received the elementary education from his father.
Later on his father gave him in the custody of one of his grand & choicest learned disciples namely Syed Burhanuddin who led and guided Maulana to the stage from where he began to pour out.
The second chapter of Maulana’s life began in 643 hijri when he met Maulana Shamsuddin Tabrizi, son of Maulana Allavuddin Tabrizi. For two years Rumi remained in companionship of Shamus Tabrizi who died in 645 hijri. Maulana wrote Mathnavi in the later years of his life at the age of about 52 years and continued it till his death in 672 hijri.
It is a classical series of six books written in Pahlavi or New Persian language containing 26,660 couplets or 53,320 lines distributed nearly uniformly in all the six volumes.
It is a beautiful amalgam of works of Sufism, Persian language and literature. On the front cover page of the Mathnavi are written the words, ‘Masnavi Moulvi Maunavi-Hast Quran dar zubane Pahlvi’ which means Quran in Pahlvi language.
The basis of this linkage seems the paraphrase of verses which on elongation touches the Quran or the spirit & message thereof. It is a text in spiritual context that teaches Sufis how to reach their goal of being in eternal love with Allah.
It is a philosophy in concord with the spirit of the Quran, the Hadith and other Islamic traditions. The stimulant behind writing Mathnavi is said to be his cherished disciple Ziaul Haq Husamuddin Chalapi.
Rumi loved, obeyed and adored Husamuddin so much that he looked as if he was Maualan’s mentor and spiritual guide. It is why Mathnavi is known as Husam Nama also. Except the first, rest five volumes are embellished with the name of Husamuddin.
It is written that one day Maulana and Husamuddin were walking through the vineyards in Meraan, outside Konya of Turkey. The disciple requested if Rumi were to write a book like that of ‘Mantiq-e-Tyur’ (Call Of Birds) of Sheikh Farriuddin Attar.
Maulana smiled and replied that he too was thinking the same the previous night. He showed to Husamuddin a piece of paper on which were written more than a dozen lines. The beginning verses translate to, ‘Listen to the reed and the tale it tells - how it complains of separation’.
Maulana compares the reed with soul which is restless to reunite with its source that is Allah. The soul in essence & nature is a holy & resplendent creation. Its actual and ultimate abode is the world of angels or spirits or command where he was blessed with auspiciousness of love, remembrance and thought of Allah.
There it was cleansed of all the spiritual blemishes and moral vulgarities associated with mortal world viz bodily world. However, after devolution from the elemental body to the bodily world by the divine will it became indispensable that its previous righteousness associated with earlier world may suffer decrease due to infirmities and the hardships incumbent on the earthly world.
Consequently it was involved in malice & discord, dispute & tumult, arrogance & rancour, irascible lowness, jealousy & covetousness, pretence & pride, niggardliness & unfaithfulness and other carnal faults. The stream of soul feels all painful for this parting and is impatient to embrace its spring.
He asks why souls suffer exit after being in close union with Allah. The restlessness of soul comes from the passion of platonic love - ‘ishq’ in Maulana’s language- that sets the way for spiritual evolution each form of life yearns to undergo to regain the lost position. He believed in creationism ex nihilo.
He sermonised allegorically to work for the eternal instead of the mortal things. Maulana says, ‘you are in space but your essence is a spaceless realm, close your business here and open it there. This world has come into existence out of spacelessness and out of placelessness it has secured a place’.
The Mathnavi plays verse–in-verse and transfers like a cogwheel the motion of thought & insight to know more of soul and its Creator as a centripetal force. One has to be vigilant to its continued interconnectivity to understand the topics touched as they are much interwoven in text and content.
It is so much rich in its cadence, rhythm, vastness of thought and expanse of verses that both spiritual pantheists and the absolute monotheists find sufficient expressive signs as food for their thought to claim Maulana & Mathnavi to their side. In it they view both unity of perception/ apperentism and unity of existence.
Rumi married at the age of 19. He had two sons from first spouse and one son & one daughter from second spouse after the death of first. Maulana died on Sunday in 672 hijri in Konya.
Thousands of people including children & young, elderly & old, rich & poor, scholars & illiterate and every class & sect partook in the funeral proceedings and prayers.
Even Christians and the Jews were reciting the Bible, the Torah and mourned the death.
His Mathnavi is a magnum opus and an ocean of knowledge to be dived into. Divers are to obtain what they can. Each may have according to its vase or vessel diamonds, pearls, sapphires, gems etc, to quench the thirst, satisfy the soul and clean & adorn the whole.
The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer and Consultant in the A.G’s Office Srinagar
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.