Archive for the ‘ Rumi’s Imagination ’ Category



Keyvan Tabari

Copyright Keyvan Tabari 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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Table of Contents


The Platform



           The Masnavi  



          Mystical poetry


Spiritualized Religion

          Spiritualizing Islam

          Religious Conflicts

          Religious Tolerance

          Primacy of Islam



 Persian Gnosticism (`Erfan)


          Knowledge and How to attain it




                   Greek Influence



          Fundamental Questions 




                   Free will


                   Unity of Being





This is one of several chapters in my project on Rumi, the Islamic Gnostic Persian poet who was named Jalal al-Din (1207-1273). The other chapters cover the following subjects: Rumi in today’s world, Rumi’s biography, Rumi in ecstasy and Rumi’s world, the natural or material world in which he lived. The present chapter is about Rumi’s imagination. There are, inevitably, some overlaps among these chapters despite the individual subjects of their focus. The literature on Rumi is copious. If there is anything new in this project it results from reading Rumi’s words anew on the cumulative basis of the worthy works of others.

Imagination is the source of creativity. In Rumi’s case the flight of his imagination took the form of poesy, or she’r as he says in Persian, his native tongue. In this chapter the focus is on Rumi’s profound (ma’navi) didactic (masnavi) poetry. This was the product of Rumi’s prolonged contemplative musing on virtually all the knowledge available at his time, but especially in philosophy and theology.

The culture which engulfed Rumi was Islamic, but it was built upon a longstanding and highly developed Persian tradition. That distinction made it a unique civilization in the Islamic world. Other Muslim lands, including the Arab and Turkish areas, differed from the Persian environment which nourished Rumi. Rumi accentuated this differentiation by not venturing beyond his home town of Konya. The spiritual poetry that is his creative legacy is indeed singular as it was, furthermore, the product of his meditation in isolation.

That product is mainly on display in the six books of Rumi’s Masnavi. The construct of this complex platform for images and symbols of Rumi’s profound poetry is discussed here first, followed by a summary description of the content drawn from Rumi’s own prefaces to each of the six books.  The next section is an analysis of Rumi’s thoughts about Islam in comparison with other faiths, and his opinions on religious conflicts as well as ecumenism. Rumi’s spiritualization of Islam also serves as the preview to his broader ontological discourse on existence, God and His creation. That is the subject of Rumi’s distinct Gnosticism with its own roots, epistemology and core concepts, all detailed in the last part of this essay.

The Platform


Sometime past the age of 50 years, Rumi (Mawlana Jalal al-Din, 1207-1273), speaking to his circle of disciples, offered this apologia:

“I have studied the various branches of learning and taken pains in order that the learned, the seekers of truth, the clever and the profound thinkers, may come to me for an elaboration of things precious, strange, and precise. God too wanted this, for He gathered all this learning here and put me through all the agony that I should occupy myself with this labor. What am I to do? In our country and among our people there is nothing more dishonorable than being a poet. Had we remained in that land, we would have lived in harmony with their taste and would have done what they wanted, such as teaching, writing books, preaching, practicing asceticism, and doing pious works {Fih: 74; Th: 77-78}.”

This defensive explanation of why he had become a poet was prompted by criticisms from Rumi’s fellow clerics and Sufis in Konya. They considered his lyrical poetry worshipping Shams al-Din Tabrizi to be against both the Shari’at of the Islamic religion and Tariqat of the Sufis’ way [1] {F1: 15}. Contrary to what was expected of him, Rumi had not written any religious books; a group of seven very short formulaic sermons delivered at memorial occasions is all in strictly Islamic tracts that he has left behind [2].  He had aspired to be a teacher but he was better known merely as a preacher (va`ez).

Following the above-quoted “discourse,” sometime between 1258 and 1261, Rumi began composing his religious, Gnostic work, the Masnavi poem. The task preoccupied him for the next ten years which was the rest of his life. He stopped teaching altogether. Such life in virtual seclusion was the model established by two Islamic thinkers Rumi admired the most: the theologian Sufi Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (1058-1111) and the poet Abul-Majd Majdud Sana`i (1080- 1131).  “Harken to the words of Hakim who lived in seclusion,” Rumi would say, referring to Sana`i {Mi: 3426}. Ghazali, also, had returned to his hometown of Tus in 1096 to spend several years in seclusion (‘ozlat); abstaining from teaching, he would only write.

Rumi was asked to compose the Masnavi by Hosam al-Din Ormavi who succeeded Salah al-Din Zarkub, Shams’ immediate successor as Rumi’s most important spiritual friend [3]. Hosam’s intention was to satisfy demands by Rumi’s disciples who had read the philosophical spiritual works of  Sana’i  [4] and his contemporary, the gnostic (‘aref) poet Farid al-Din ‘Attar Nishapuri (1110-1220) [5], and wanted to know their own master’s thoughts, ideas and teaching {F1: six}.

Rumi  may have already considered doing a comprehensive work on what he knew and believed;  he reportedly wrote the first 18 lines of the Masnavi  in his own hand-writing [6] before later dictating the rest for Hosam to take down {F1: 25}. The linkage of those initial lines poetic introduction to the Masnavi with the subject that caused the above apologia is telling of Rumi’s simmering motivation. Lines 6, 7, 9, 10, 14 and 18 of that poem, She’r Ney (the Flute Reed Poem), indicate that Rumi most likely had in mind the critics of his devotionary odes about Shams {F1: 14-15}: “My secret is not far from my naleh (singing complaint) {mI: 7; F1: 14}.”  “The cry of the flute reed is fire; it is not wind {mI: 9; F1: 14}.” “It is the fire of love which fell into the flute reed {mI: 10; F1:  15}.”

However, as Rumi has said, Hosam’s role was crucial in the making of the Masnavi. Hosam was not just the enabler and the scribe, he was also the muse and the audience for Rumi’s Masnavi [7].  Rumi called Hosam “the origin of the Masnavi” and the one who “caused it to increase {Miv: 5}.”  “Since you wish it so, God wishes it so….  {Miv: 6}.”  “It was through your (Hosam’s) efforts (that) (the Masnavi) came from the (world of) spirits into the trap of words and were confined (here) {Mvi: 186}.”  “When (I say) he (Hosam) returned from the Sea toward the shore, the lyre of poesy (chang-e she`r) of the Masnavi became attained (again) {Mii: 5}.” To Hosam, Rumi says: “Now write… {Miii: 2120}.”   “Make the Masnavi nimble and pleasing; abridge and shorten their controversy {Mvi: 525}.”


The Masnavi that thus came into existence was anything but short.  At about 25, 577 lines, it has “almost as many verses as the Iliad and Odyssey together and about twice as many verses as Dante’s Divina Commedia {Nic2: xiii}.” Writing enormous amounts of poetry, however, was not uncommon among famous Persian poets of the age, beginning with Abu Abdollah Rudaki (858-940). Abu al-Qasim Ferdowsi’s epic, Shahnameh (composed 997-1010), had as many as 50,000 lines.  Rumi’s own collection of Odes and quatrains in his Divan exceeds 40,000 lines.

Masnavi displays Rumi’s philosophical imagination. With only Hosam as his listener, Rumi’s stream of thoughts in the Masnavi is not interrupted by interlocutions of visitors so frequent in his other, contemporaneous work, the Discourses (Fih ma fih). There seems to have been no attempt by him at preparation, no studying other poems, no conscious reflections: Rumi introduces himself in She’r Ney as a reed flute, empty of self and letting out only the breath of the reed player {F1::2}. The real poet is ‘eshq (love) and Rumi is no more than a tool {F1:7}. In the process, the Masnavi becomes the meditation of a profound thinker on a full range of epistemological, spiritual, theological and philosophical discussions current in the medieval times. Rumi’s rare worthy contemporary, the Persian Sa’di was a better poet on many of these subjects but Rumi’s didactic approach is much more insightful. In the literature of the Persian-speaking world he is the ultimate thinker. What Rumi called simply his Masnavi (or The Book of Masnavi) is often referred to by scholars as Rumi’s Spiritual Couplets, a translation of Masnavi ma`navi.  Rumi’s treatment of the main subjects of the Masnavi indeed portrays Rumi as an Islamic Persian Gnostic thinker.

After more than 2,000 poems in the Masnavi,  Rumi foretells that “If the Masnavi were as the sky in magnitude, not half the portion of this (mystery) would find room in it {Mi: 2098}.”  That prospect did not stop Rumi.  Some 23,000 poems later, he confessed that “(Even) if (all) the forest should become pens (medad, Rumi’s word) and (all) ocean ink; (yet) there is no hope of bringing the Masnavi to an end {Mvi: 248}.”  Now he was exhausted, repeatedly complaining in many passages that “this topic is endless {Mvi: 2665, 2940, 3699 and 3760}.”  Rumi began the Sixth Book of the Masnavi intending thus “to complete” it {Mvi: 3}. Even though that book became the longest of all, Rumi left it unfinished {Nic5: XI; Sc: 35} [8].

The Masnavi

The word masnavi is a verse form: rhyming couplets with a certain rhyme scheme. Persian poets used it in epics (Ferdowsi in Shahnameh) and romances (Nezami in Layli Majnun). Sana’i adapted this form to ethical-didactic spiritual poetry. ‘Attar and Rumi followed Sana`i’s model {Le:  298}. Rumi’s Masnavi shows the deep influence of Sana`i’s Hadiqat al-haqiqat (Garden of Truth) {Le: p 19-20} and Attar’s Mantaq al-teyr (Conference of Birds) and Mosibat-nameh (Book of Affliction) {Sc: 40}. It is composed in the vazn (meter) used by Manteq al-teyr {F1: six}. Its style echoes Rumi’s preference for Sana’i’s matter of fact expression; many verses are variations of Sana’i’s {Sc: 40)}. The Masnavi has many allusions to the Sage (Hakim) of Ghazna, as Rumi called Sana’i; a favorite saying of Rumi, barg bibargi (the leaf of no leaf), referring to spiritual poverty and contentment is borrowed from him {Sc: 37-39}. The Masnavi also borrows fundamental images from `Attar, especially the cross-eyed person who sees everything double; he is the symbol of the unbelievers who are unable to recognize God’s unity {Sc: 40}. Rumi expresses the “utterances of `Attar” on some of the same subjects covered in the Masnavi, as in the story of Mahmud and Hindu Boy {Mvi: 1382}, and offers commentaries on the sayings of the “Master of Nishapur,” as `Attar is called {Mvi: 1382}.

Masnavi displays the erudition which was not unusual for an intellectual in the medieval Persian-speaking Islamic world.  The still small body of knowledge allowed a few like Rumi to be encyclopedic.  The Masnavi has many references to the Qur’an, Hadith (the narrative that is the Islamic Tradition) and other Islamic Narratives (Revayats) {Nic5: Index}. Rumi draws from the collection of animal fables in the late 8th century Kalileh va Damneh (Arabic: Kalila wa Demna, later known in the West as The Fables of Bidpai ). He refers to the heroes in the Iranian national epic, Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh,  and, far more, to the heroes in the famous Persian love stories of Fakhr al-Din Gorgani’s Vis Ramin and Khosrow Shirin, as well as Nezami’s romantic epics, Layli Majnun and  Khosrow Shirin. Numerous similarities can be found between the Masnavi and the Ma`aref (Wisdom) of Baha al-Din, Rumi’s father. The Masnavi also shows the great impact of Shams’ Maqalat (Discourses) in its words, imagery, stories and their meaning. Far more significant for Rumi’s thoughts, knowledge, style and manner of discussion was the impact of  Ehya-ol-ulum al-din ( Vivification of Religious Sciences) by Ghazali, dated 1106 {Fi: five}.  Rumi uses these sacred and profane sources more for allegorical purposes; his attention is focused on the philosophical and spiritual. The Masnavi is mostly austere and chaste language, but it also has occasional humorous [9], and crude passages [10].

In the Masnavi Rumi casts his net wide but leaves his distinct marks on what he chooses.  He presents the views of a variety of philosophers, theologians (motekallemin), mystics and even astrologers (monajjemin) without endorsing them. The examples and stories Rumi gives in the Masnavi are to explain and express the subject; Rumi does not intend them to be the moral and social models. Between what the Masnavi says with what its sources say there is a major difference. Rumi draws an appropriate lesson from every part of the story and includes many points, moral, philosophical, religious, theological or gnostic in explaining the story. As appropriate, he tells one or several stories in the middle of the principal story by drawing on its parts. Bringing in secondary stories into the principal story is a method which is seen in previous works such as Kalileh va Damneh [11]. But drawing results from the parts of a story is distinctly Rumi {F1: 43}. It is with those results that Rumi awes the reader by the depth of his thoughts.


The Masnavi is not the place to find the overt disclosure of Rumi’s feelings about Shams [12]. As he says early in the wok: “It is better that the Friend’s secret remain in veils {Mi: 135; F1: 97}.” The story of Rumi’s love for Shams was best told in Rumi’s Divan Kabir {F1: 92-93}. Nor does the Masnavi especially show the stress of turbulent political conditions of the time [13]. For that one can look in other works of Rumi such as the Discourses.  There are some references to contemporary events and places [14].  His childhood memories influenced Rumi to call Samarqand “cubed sugar (qand)” in a Masnavi poem {mI: 167; F1:103}. The nearby Bukhara’s religious status in contrast to the politically important Samarqand is noted in this comparison of symbols: “The (material) candy is in Samarqand, but his lip got it from Bukhara and that (spiritual candy) became his creed.” {Miii: 863}. Rumi gives the same sobriquet, qand, also to Damascus, joining it with Samarqand {Miv: 1889}. Damascus might have earned that position because Rumi associated it with Shams {Sc: 191}. The reference to Damascus in another poem typifies the way places are mentioned in the Masnavi: “The beauties of Damascus are not fully revealed … unless the view is from the top of (the Mountain) Rubwah overlooking it {Miii: 3753}. This expression was a current proverb [15] {Nic8: 95}. Proverbial association is similarly the reason the  Masnavi  refers to the  cities commonly  known as overwhelmingly Shiite such as Kashan [16]  and  Sabzawar [17]  where  no person named after the Sunni Caliphs  ‘Omar  and Abu Bakr can be found. In the Masnavi those cities become the metaphor for “the state of utter destitution, the state of the spiritual man in the world of matter {Sc: 184-85}. Finally, the Masnavi makes a model of the lamentations of the Shiites of Aleppo in their mourning rituals during the Ashura for their martyred fourth Imam, Hosayn. Rumi upbraids them for focusing on someone who had been dead almost 600 years: they should instead mourn for the corruption of their beliefs:  “Loudly lament over your own ruined heart and creed {Mvi: 802a, Mvi: 795; Le: 13}.”

Just as in the case of places, the Masnavi’s references to events are not description of Rumi’s contemporary time; they are for symbolic reasons. Thus the taking of the city of Sabzawar by Sultan Muhammad Khwarazmshah  (r. 1200-1220) is the subject of a Masnavi story in which the Sultan is depicted as “God Almighty who demands from this wicked folk (the Shiite inhabitants of Sabzawar) the (pure) heart {Mv: 868]  [18].” Similarly, in reference to Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi (971-1030), the Masnavi notes: “What a hellish person Mahmud must be, since he has become proverbial for woe and anguish {Mvi: 1397},” to make a point in “The story of Mahmud and the Hindu boy (servant) {Mvi: 1383}.” There, the Hindu, by surrendering completely to his master, wins his love, the two becoming mutually interdependent {Sc: 188}: “Hark, O fellow-servant, go and, like the Hindu boy, be not afraid of the Mahmud of non-existence. Be afraid of the existence in which you are now. That fantasy of yours is nothing and you (yourself) are nothing {Mvi: 1446}.”


References to all aspects of contemporary world in the Masnavi aim to help construct a different world of imagination. Objective reality is transformed into a realm of symbols for a subjective truth. Rumi spares nothing in this process of describing his spiritual world.  He takes us to the bazaar where he tests the earthen pots: just as those that give a good sound and those with hidden cracks sound different,  he tells us, the faithful and hypocrites are discernible by the words and sound they produce  {Miii: 792; Sc:792 f}. Villagers are used as symbols for the uneducated base faculties who cause all kinds of troubles in the bazaar and are eventually stopped by the market-superintendent, “reason {Miii: 517; Sc: 54, n126}.”

Rumi spiritualizes images from various spheres of daily life, including foods:  the sweet desert paloodeh is mentioned as a symbol of spiritual sweetness. {Sc: 143}. The cupbearer of the day of alast, the Qur`anic Day of Covenant when man accepted the Divine call, pours the wine that true lovers need. A Pig, dog, ass and cow portray man as following his lusts. Bird imagery represents other human qualities: the duck for greed, the peacock eminence, and the crow worldly desire. The unhappy bird longs for the company of those who sing the same tunes: “Birds of one feather flock together {Sc: 115, n 251}.” Many of images Rumi used existed in proverbial saying {Sc: 99}:  the Prophet’s winged steed, the lion as the model of the holy man, the elephant that sees India in his dream, moth and candle depicting the approximation to and annihilation in the light of God. The Masnavi is full of personalities which folk tradition had transformed into half-mythological beings:  Ibrahim Khalil, Job, Jacob, Jonah, Harut and Marut {Sc: 176-179}. Jesus is the physician of the soul because of his life-bestowing breath; while Moses is seen as shepherd. Figures from pre-Islamic Iran are presented as archetypal: Sohrab as mighty {Mv: 466}, Rostam for manliness “who was the son of one-hundred Zals (for heroes) {Mii: 372}; Kay Khosrow for being splendid {Miii: 534}; Bahram as sovereign {Mvi: 2860}.

Mystical Poetry

In the Masnavi Rumi expresses his true feelings behind multicolored veils of images and stories. Early in the Masnavi, Rumi declares that he would conceal certain secrets and reveal them only in tales [19] {mI: 135, 136; F1:97}, a rule which he repeats several times later in the Masnavi {mII: 2494, 2495; F1:97, 198}. Some of the passages in the Masnavi will remain mysterious as the meanings of words of a spiritual teacher can become ambiguous outside the group of his intimate disciples {Nic2: xvi}. Explaining the true meaning of the Masnavi ’s allusions, the mysteries behind the veil, has been the purpose of a genre of literature in Persian called Sharh Masnavi  (explaining the Masnavi) {Le: p 394-419} [20] . Commentaries on the Masnavi reportedly began by Rumi himself: a manuscript containing an explanation of some of the poems of the Masnavi by Rumi and his son Soltan Valad has been found [21] {F1: tenth}.  

The Masnavi does not give us a systematic theology [22]. Nor was the Masnavi a philosophical system [23]. The work, indeed, lacks a “logical” system with “degrees” and “hierarchy” and different “conditions” {Ta: 320}. Its “verses lead one into the other, and the most heterogeneous thoughts are woven together by word associations and loose threads of stories {Sc: 35,236, 273}.”  Rumi “creates an aesthetic atmosphere which defies analysis. As a rule, we apprehend the main drift and broad sense of his words; the precise and definitive meaning assigned to them is a makeshift; we can really do no more than indicate parallel lines of the thought, call attention to affinities, and suggest clues {Nic7: XIII}.”

While attempting to turn the Masnavi’s mystical poetry into intellectual prose thus has confounded some commentators {Nic7: XIII}, others, to the contrary, have marveled at the work’s ability to condense “a whole thought system” into a few poetical lines {Sc: preface}. The Masnavi’s structure, actually, “is far from being so casual as it looks.” Its stories “are bound together by subtle links and transitions…; and each Book forms an artistic whole… {Nic6: xiii-ix}.” The stories are connected because at the end each implicitly introduces the reason for the next story. Thus in Book I, the second story is related to the first by the latter’s last lines, in poem 316, which talks about Eblis (Satan) who looks like humans and their deceptions. The purpose of this second story is criticizing religious prejudices which those who are after high status use to deceive simple folks for their own bad goals {F1: 152}.  Similarly, the purpose of the third story is to say that coercion cannot stop the influence of faith and the spread of ideas;   the previous, second, story showed that neither could deception and tricks. Rumi then finishes this third story in the way that provides introduction to the fourth story, of Lion and Hare, as evidence of God’s power and his control over events {F1: 292}. It is often the same in the other Books of the Masnavi. Book IV, for example, starts with “the end of the story of that lover” from the last story of Book III {Nic3: J-D}; and the stories in this Book are related each to the theme of the previous ones. Similarly, the stories in Book VI are set up by the last line of the previous stories {Mvi: 3129, 3345}.

The sequence of the stories does not indicate any systematic design to create a whole theory; rather Rumi tells them in the order compelled by what preoccupied his thoughts at the time.  Thus, for example, the First Story in the Masnavi was prompted by Rumi’s separation from Shams; the Second by the strong opposition he experienced from various Islamic religious groups, especially the faqihan (religious law experts) and ahl zaher (lovers of appearance of piety); and the Third by the coercion of the faithful by the rulers which Rumi personally observed {F1:43, 152-53, 292}.

An example that Books of the Masnavi each concentrates on a few separate subjects is Book III. In it the details of the ascetics’ practice of riyazat (avoiding worldly desires) and the justification for it are discussed in more than one hundred poems (mIII: 4109- 4211; F1:122}.  All of the Masnavi’s six books, however, must be reviewed together in order to abstract the sum of Rumi’s distinct insights and thoughts.


At the beginning of each of the six Books of the Masnavi, Rumi provides a short paragraph in prose [24]. Together these prefaces make a summary description of the whole work and its main points. The preface to Book I  says that the Masnavi is a “poem in Rhymed Couplets, which comprises strange tales and rare sayings and excellent Discourses and precious indications, and the (religious) path of the ascetics and the (spiritual) garden of the devotees – (all this being) brief in expression but manifold in meaning {Nic2: 3 }.” That description is amplified in the preface to Book V:

“This is the Fifth Book of the Poem in rhymed couplets and the spiritual Expositions, setting forth that the Religious Law is like a candle showing the way. Unless you gain possession of the candle, there is no wayfaring; and when you have come on the way, your wayfaring is the Path; and when you have reached the journey’s end, that is, the Truth. Hence it has been said, ‘If the truth (realities) were manifest, the religious laws would be naught.’ In short, the Law is like learning the theory of alchemy from a teacher or a book, and the Path is (like) making use of chemicals, and the Truth is (like) the transmission of the copper into gold. Those who know alchemy rejoice in their knowledge of it, saying, ‘We know the theory of this (science)’; and those who practice it rejoice in their practice of it, saying, ‘We perform such works’; and those who have experienced the reality rejoice in the reality, saying, ‘We have become gold and are delivered from the theory and practice of alchemy: we are God’s freedom.’ Each party is rejoicing in what they have.

“Or the Law may  be compared to learning the science of medicine, and the Path to regulating one’s diet in accordance with (the science of ) medicine and taking remedies, and the Truth to gaining health everlasting and becoming independent of them both. When a man dies to this (present) life, the Law and the Path are cut off (fall away) from him, and there remains (only) the Truth. The Law is knowledge, the Path action, the Truth attainment unto God.” {Nic6:3}

The preface to Book VI describes “The Books of the Masnavi,” which is here referred to also by the name “Books of Spiritual Evidence (shohood ma`navi)” as “a Lamp in the darkness of imagination and perplexity and phantasies and doubt and suspicion. And this Lamp cannot be perceived by the animal sense… since they (the animals) have been created to keep in good order the outward form of the lower world {Nic6:257}.”

The preface to Book II addresses the subject of love, so central in Rumi’s thinking:” Some one asked, ‘What is love?’ I answered, ‘Thou wilt know when thou becomest (lost in) me.’… “Love is uncalculated affection. For that reason it has been said to be in reality the attribute of God and unreal in relation to (man who is) His slave. He (God) loveth them (yuhibbuhum) is the entire sum. Which (of them) is (really the subject of the word yuhibbuhu) they love him?” {Nic2: 221}

The preface to Book III tells us who are favored by God: “God … purifies the initiates’ knowledge from the defilement of ignorance, their justice from the defilement of iniquity, their generosity from the defilement of ostentation, and their forbearance from the defilement of foolishness {Nic4 : 3}.” In return, they, the initiates, like Rumi, have the duty of teaching others:  “But it behooves one who hath knowledge and is seeking (God) that he should learn whatever he does not know, and teach (others) what he knows already, and deal gently with those of weak intelligence, and neither be made conceited by the stupidity of the stupid nor harshly rebuke him that is dull of understanding {Nic 4:4}.”

It is thus that the Masnavi became Rumi’s main stage for teaching his lessons on what he knew best, religion, and the fundamental questions which have always preoccupied thoughtful minds: the truth about god, creation, human being and the connection among the component elements of the universe.

Spiritualized Religion  

Spiritualizing Islam

Many passages in the Masnavi indicate that Rumi considered it as “nothing less than an inspired exposition of the esoteric content of the Qur’an {Nic 7: 1-2}.” The Masnavi contains more than 400 quoted Qur`anic verses; often several in the same, long, poem {Nic 5: Index}.  It has been estimated that 6,000 lines of the Masnavi, roughly one-fourth of all of the poems, consist of direct translations or paraphrases of the Qur’an {Le: 396} [25]. In the Flute Reed Poem which serves as the introduction to the Masnavi, Rumi’s makes clear that he had in mind the criticisms that he was not in accord with Islam and the Sufi ways {F1:14, 15}. In a poem in Book III, Rumi specifies those objections as applied to the Masnavi itself by the critics:

“(Saying) that this discourse, namely the Masnavi, is low; (that) it is the story of the Prophet and (consists of) imitations; (That) there is no mention of (theosophical) investigation and the sublime mysteries towards which the saints make their steeds gallop;  (That) from the stations of asceticism to the passing away (from self-existence), step by step up to union with God; (It contains not) the explanation and definition of every station and stage, so that by means of the wings there of a man of heart (a mystic) should soar.” {Mii: 4233}

In the next few lines, Rumi gives his specific response: “When the Book of God (the Qur’an) came (down), the unbelievers railed likewise (at it too) {Miii: 4238];” and “He (God) said, ‘If this seems easy to you say (compose) one verse (in the style that is) so ‘easy’ as this (the Qur`an) {Miii: 4242}.”  In Book VI, Rumi compares the Masnavi with Shahnameh and Kalileh va Damneh [26]. “By reason of contumacy {obstinate rebelliousness}, the Shahnameh or Kalileh seems to you just like the Qur’an {Mvi: 3463}” Referring to the reader of those books, the Masnavi says:  “His aim is to divest himself from ennui {dissatisfaction)… {Mvi: 3467}… (So) that by means of that (entertaining) discourse he may quench the fire of distress and anxiety and provide a cure (for his malady) {Mvi: 3468}.”  Now Rumi makes a comparison with the Masnavi: “For the purpose of quenching this amount of fire, pure water and urine are alike in skill (are equally serviceable) {Mvi: 3469}.” “But if you become (really) acquainted with this pure water (the Masnavi) which is the Word of God and spiritual, all distress will vanish from the soul, and the heart will find its way to the Rose-garden {Mvi: 3470}.” Rumi had already called Kalileh va Damneh merely a book of fiction “or else how has the stork a quarrel with the cow {Mii: 3621}?” In Book VI he says “You will have read it (the Story of the lake and the fishermen and the three fishes) in Kalileh va Damneh, but that is (only) the husk of the story, while this (the Masnavi) is the spiritual kernel (maghz) {Mvi: 2203}.”

Religious Conflicts

Rumi’s disagreement with rigid Islamic law experts whom he deemed to be focused on appearances  prompted him to make religious conflicts the subject of the second story of the Masnavi, and continue dealing with it throughout the work. This was the time when the Crusades had not yet ended and Christians and Muslims were shedding each other’s blood,  while Muslim groups were fighting among themselves: Shiites and Sunnis , and among the Sunnis, the Hanafi, Shafei, Hanbali and Maleki groups. Rumi’s own Hanafi Sunnis as well as the Shafeis were causing troubles and even destroying rivals’ schools and burning their books in important cities like Isfahan, Nishapur, and even Baghdad {F1: 152-53}.

The Masnavi says religious disputes arise from attachment to the appearance and if you pay close attention all prophets are one {mI: 682-683; F1: 280-281}. The principles of religions are the same, differences are due to ignorance {F1: 164}. “Many the believers, but their faith is One; One is soul, though many are their bodies {Mv: 408; Le: 416}.” Prophets were friends; Moses promised the appearance of Jesus and Jesus, in turn, affirmed Moses, and Mohammad called Moses and Jesus the messengers of God who brought the gospel of his own (Mohammad’s) coming {F1:164}. Mohammad defended Jesus against the false accusations by his enemies.

The Masnavi says clearly that Christianity and Christ’s approach are that of union and oneness {F1: 157}. Jesus invited people to unity and kindness and he who reaches the truth of his religion and its rituals will be free from the differentiating colors and conflicts and will join the world of “no color (beerangi)” and “same color (yekrangi)” {mI: 500, 501; F1: 218-219}.There is unity among the prophets and saints, and this is unity (vahdat) with God {F1:154}. There is no more than one Truth (Haqq) {F1: 216}.  God’s power is expressed in the miracles by Moses and Christ and Mohammad {F1: 157} [27].  The Masnavi goes to the extent of calling all faithful “Muslims (Mosalmanan),” the reference not being limited only to the specific followers of Islam {mI: 801; F1:314). This usage was drawn from Qur’an itself which employed the word Muslim in the same way in three of its verses {F1: 314}.

When the Masnavi is specific, however, its ecumenism does not extend beyond the three Abrahamic religions. It is expressly critical of the beliefs and rituals of both the followers of the Iranian Zoroaster and Mazdak (the Majous) and the post-Vedic Buddha idol-worshippers (botparastan) {F1:261, 292}, the two other basic systems of spiritual beliefs familiar to Rumi. The Masnavi opposes Buddhism for its “idol-worshipping,” and the Iranian (Mazdisani) religions for their principle of the duality of God and Devil (Ahriman) {Mvi: 2377; Fih: 126, 214}, both so fundamentally abhorrent to Islam.

Religious Tolerance

The Masnavi’s tolerance of the specific non-Islamic religions was based on the sacred Islamic text; it was not the “interfaith” acceptance of all “sacred traditions” [28].  Furthermore, the Masnavi’s religious tolerance was in abstract. There is no evidence of any actual interaction between Rumi and the Jews of his time. The Masnavi’s two stories about the Jewish Kings in the first book are from the old Islamic lore, as are its numerous references to Moses and other figures of the Jewish history. With the Christians, on the other hand, not only did Rumi live practically in their midst as they (ethnic Greeks and Armenians) populated the countryside around Konya {Le: 79}, but he was also conscious of the Crusades. The negative impact of the Crusade is manifest in several of Rumi’s Divan poems lamenting  that the European Farangi (the Franks), defiled and desecrated Jerusalem, the “Sacred (Qods)” city to the Muslims, by bringing pigs there {D 361/3882 & 694/7227; 1211/12885; 2517/26632; Sc: 197, n s 117, 119} . Rumi’s reference to Farangi in the Discourses, distinguishing them from the Jehoodi (Rumi’s word, Jewish) {Fih: 85} makes it clear that he does not mean the Jews but the Christian Europeans.

With the Crusades in mind, in one passage, Rumi contrasts Islam, as the religion of war and glory, with Christianity as a religion promoting the monastic life of cave and mountain {Sc: 183}. Elsewhere, the Masnavi compares the approach of Christian monks unfavorably with Islamic Sufis since “Christian (Issawi) poverty,” unlike “Mohammadan poverty,” disregards the protection of physical power and health and life {F1: 139}.

In the Discourses, Rumi tells of his encounter with a “Christian surgeon” who repeats the claim that “Jesus is God,” and  said that “but we conceal our belief and deny it publicly on purpose in order to preserve the community.”  Rumi responds “How is possible for a weak person, who fled the wiles of the Jews from one place to another and whose physical form was less than two cubits, to be the preserver of the seven heavens?… If Jesus’ spirit was God… then where did this spirit go?” The surgeon replies: “This is how we found things, and so, as a community, we adopted it.” Rumi reproaches him:

“If you found or inherited from your father tarnished, worthless, counterfeit coins, wouldn’t you exchange them for gold of sound assay, free from alloy and adulteration?  … It would be proper to say that Jesus’ Lord ennobled him and placed him among the elect and that whoever serves and obeys him serves and obeys the Lord. And if any God sent a prophet better than Jesus and manifested through Jesus, then it would be obligatory to follow that prophet for God’s sake, not for the sake of the prophet {Th:130; in Arabic}”

Shiites. Just as the case of the Christian adversary in the Crusades, in a commentary about another contemporary actual religious conflict, between his own Islamic branch of Sunnis and the Shiite branch, Rumi clearly shows a harsh attitude toward the Shiites. The Masnavi’s tone regarding various groups of Shiites is highly critical in several passages. In Book VI the Shiites of Aleppo are upbraided for their mourning rituals commemorating Ashura for their Fourth Imam, Hosayn, slain in the 7th  century in Karbala {Mvi: 775-793}. Elsewhere, the Masnavi had acknowledges the magnitude of that tragedy for the Shiites, referring to “Slain of Karbala {Mv: 1624}, and using Karbala as a symbol of “killing” {Miii: 423}, disaster {Miii: 831}, and “great suffering” {Miii: 72}. Nevertheless, the Masnavi calls on the Shiites of Aleppo to, instead, “Loudly lament over your own ruined heart and creed {Miv: 802; Mvi: 795; Le: 13}.”

In the heartland of what is today Iran, the Masnavi finds Shiites in the cities of Kashan (Kashi) {Mvi: 3220, 3233}, and Sabzawar. In a long poem entitled “Story of Sultan Muhammad Khwarazmshah’s, who took by war (force) the city of Sabzawar” {Mv: 845}, the Masnavi depicts the Rafezi (Shiite) inhabitants of Sabzawar as infidels, Moghan (Magicians) – a term also used for the infidel Zoroastrians- while it refers to Muhammad Khwarazmshah, symbolically, as God Almighty who demands from this wicked folk the (pure) heart {Mv: 868}. This is the same Muhammad Khwarazmshah which the Masnavi in another story calls “very bloodthirsty, and that perverse (tyrant) had killed many kings in that region either by craft or violence {Mvi: 2537}.”

Primacy of Islam

Masnavi reserves a special place for Mohammad, the prophet of Islam. He is singled out among “all prophets,” in the salutation of Book IV of the Masnavi {Nic 4: 271}.  Allusions to Mohammad are frequent throughout the Masnavi {Sc: 283}.  His name is mentioned by far more than anyone else, twice as many as the next person, Moses {Nic 5: Index}. He is often called by the honorific names Mostafa (chosen one) and Ahmad (praiseworthy). Mohammad is “the final of the prophets” and fulfills what his predecessors have taught {Sc: 281}.  His “name (nam)” and “features (helliyha) are heralded in the Gospel (Enjil) {mI: 727, 729; F1: 289}.” Islamic legends of several centuries about Mohammad are echoed in the Masnavi.  He is drawn as the paragon of mildness and wisdom, and the embodiment of love {Sc: 281, 284}.

The very rare reference to the Gospel in the Masnavi  was occasioned by its “mentioning” Mohammad, presumably as “another Paraclete” in John 14:16 {Sc: 287}; in other places, the Masnavi, for the same reason, refers to  Zoboor (Psalm) and Torit (The Pentateuch)  along with Enjil as bearing witness  to the truth of the Qur’an {Miii: 2593}. The Masnavi makes no other direct reference to either New Testament, Old Testament or, indeed, to the sacred texts of any other religions than Islam. On the other hand, its references to the Qur`an are ubiquitous, as has been mentioned [29].  Rumi treats the Qur`an and Hadith as incontrovertible written evidence (sanad) of the points he makes in the Masnavi {F1: 43-45}.


The heading for one of the Masnavi’s stories alludes to one Hadith which posits that there are seven layers of meaning to Qur`anic verses. In the third layer beneath the words the meaning is lost to all human reason. Further beneath, the fourth layer is impenetrable to all. In short, the Qur`an must be read with insight; the literal-minded fails to apprehend its meaning {Miii: 4247-9; Mvi: 4862; Le: 418}.

The Masnavi denounces those scholastic theologians whose pedantic and literal disputations lead only to false interpretation of the Qur`an. In the Masnavi’s view a human being himself is capable of knowing and discernment and does not need the theologians {F1: 216}. In that pursuit, however, man needs some preparation. As “(God) has said in the Qur’an ‘This Qur’an with all its hearts leads some aright and others astray {Mvi: 655, 656}.”  To begin with, a spiritual orientation is required. The Masnavi says there are spiritual senses which are different from the outward (zaheri) senses (hess). The latter are the senses of this world; they comprise the faculties of understanding (fahm and edrak).  Spiritual senses, on the other hand, consist of the “underneath (bateni)” faculties {F1:139}. A philosopher relies on his outward senses and does not hear the spiritual voice of everything created {Sc: 298}. It is through the spiritual senses, Rumi says, that man can reach the true meaning (ma’ni) of things and words. That is an experiential comprehension, beyond understanding of the outward surface or appearance. It demands self-discipline and purity {Le: 405}.

The way to get to the treasure underneath the appearance is struggle, the Masnavi says, although even “if appearance (face) is not melted by you, then God himself will melt it because His nature is dropping the veil of His face. {mI: 684,685; F1:280-281}.” Nevertheless, one may not dispense with the outward observance of religion. A good Muslims does not neglect the rituals such as praying, fasting and going to pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj). But the mere performance of such obligations does not suffice.  “Hypocrites may pray beside the pious; prompted not by abject need, but malice {Le: 394-419}.” In remembering God, just saying words like ensha’ al-Allah (God willing) is not enough; the objective is “the feeling of the heart,” the intent {F1: 44}.  The Masnavi describes the moral characteristic of an action (whether it is good and bad) as dependent on intention. When it is in accord with maslahat (good cause), the action is good; and if it is mixed with corruption it is bad. It is the same way with ascetic practices (riyazat) which the Sufi seeker (salek) may undertake {F1: 48, 49}.


All actions and external movements of man are due to his internal transactions (enfealaat) and conditions (halaat) {Mi: 108}. The Masnavi posits this view as an epistemological (marefat) principle in the didactic ethical construct of his Islamic spirituality {mIII: 4386 ff; F1: 81} . In the Masnavi, nafs (body) is the combination of all bad characteristics in man and the source of all bad that comes from him. Nafs is the opposite of ruh (spirit) which is the combination and source of all goods in man {F1: 170-171} [30]. Excessive desires (shahvat) are created in man by the order of God and acted on by the body {F1: 212-213}. Killing the nafs and emptying (takhliyeh) oneself, however, is the prerequisite to achieving pleasures (`aish) {F1: 140}. The Masnavi says “a man is he who rises above shahvat and hers (excessive and inappropriate desires) and mature is the one who is drunk with Truth, not earthly desires {mI: 3430ff; mV: 4026 ff; F1: 76}. What is required is separating oneself from being (hasti) and self-worshipping (khod parasti)” {mI: 306; F1: 140}.

The taming and killing of the nafs is not possible without the grace (‘enayat) of God {F1: 178}. The Masnavi prescribes steps, however, that are useful. They include the common Islamic (shar`iat) rituals, especially prayer and fasting, but with one’s heart being present {Sc: 290, 302-03}. Past that, on the spiritual path (tariqat), there are the familiar Sufi praxis of towbeh (repentance) and nedamat (remorse) {Sc: 301}, and maintaining the attitudes of tavakkol (trust in God), sabr (patience), shokr (gratitude) {Sc: 304} and razdari (keeping confidence) {mI: 175: F1:104-05} and being ibn al-vaqt (time-conscious) {mI: 133; F1:96}. Finally, come the ascetic practices of khalvat (seclusion) and mojahedeh (struggle) {F1: 205}. The goal, following the Masnavi, is destroying the stages of distinction and the borders of multiplicity so as to reach vahdat (unity) which is the resting place of heart and spirit {mI:497-498; F1: 217-218}.

The Masnavi calls itself “the shop for (spiritual) poverty (faqr) {Mvi: 1525}.”  This is following the Prophetic saying “Poverty is my pride.” That poverty is not the outward appearance of the dervishes:  “Don’t seek it in the coarse cloth.” It means to possess nothing and be possessed by nothing {Sc: 307}. It is the result of fana (annihilation), a concept spoken before Rumi by Sana’i and `Attar {Sc: 307}. The seeker must accede completely to God’s will; he must metaphorically die to self, before he dies physically. His ego must be extinguished before God. As Rumi puts it in the Discourses: “In His presence there is no room for two egos (do ana). …Either you die or … He will die…Yet it is impossible that He should die, either in the universe or in the mind, for ‘He is the living, who does not die.’ … you die so that He may become manifest in you and the duality be lifted {Fih: 24-5, Le: 418}.”

Rumi says that worshiping idols comes from worshiping self because it comes from hope and fear which are seeking benefit for or avoiding loss from self. Pleasures are similarly the manifestation of selfishness and so long as this attitude remains man every so often creates an idol and bows to it. Thus one must break the real idol that is the idol-maker {mI: 779; F1: 294, 311}. Even praising God is seeing him separate from yourself and the result is thus sherk (sharing with God) and duality; therefore, it is best for the seeker to die onto himself and remain in God {mI: 225; F1: 225}. The perfect man, annihilated in God is like shadow which does not have an existence of itself but is perfect because it is joined to God {F1: 195}.

Fana. Rumi says annihilation (fana) is the basis of baqa (permanent life in God) {Sc: 310-11}. The appearance of fatal sacrifice (shahadat) for God is death but its real meaning (haqiqat) is eternal life; while the appearance of sensual (hessi) living and material world are pleasure and their real meaning is ill-feeling (nakhoshi) {mI: 782, mV: 420 ff; F1: 312}. Rumi does not describe in detail the state of rapture which is the Sufi fana.  It is not a union with God so much as man becoming the interpreter of Truth or God. Rumi calls it experiencing kebriya (Divine Grandeur) {Sc: 312-13}.

Pir.  One of the main, perhaps the fundamental, principle of Sufism was that going the way of God (solook) was not possible without a guide (pir, literary elder). The advantage of  a Sufi guide (Pir Tariqat) over other Islamic religious leaders was that those clerics considered knowing religious rules (ahkaam) and fundamentals of  the  Shari`at (Law)  enough for reaching the fullness (kamal) and happiness (sa`adat); while Sufis, on the other hand, believed that he who does not ask for Pir’s help will never achieve those goals.  Accordingly, whenever the Pir disappears, of necessity another one must replace him {mI: 671; F1: 274-275}. The Pir provides answers to the questions and problems of the Sufi seeker (salek) {mI: 97-98; F1: 78-79}.  His impact on the seeker is like kimia, a completing element {mI: 716; F1: 287-288}. There are real Pirs and false and deceiving ones {F1: 288-289; mI: 718, 719}. An archetypal real Pir in the Masnavi is the Persian Bayazid Basmati (804-874) {Mii: 2183, Mvi: 2548, 3649}. God’s ordainment comes into view on Bayazid’s heart (Miv: 1924} and God speaks through him {Miv:  2123, 2124, Mv: 1683} .

Qotb. Masnavi names Bayazid as a Qotb (Pole or Pivot),  or spiritual axis mundi, in  a list that consists of such other Persian Sufis as the Jonayd (830-910) , Mansur Hallaj  (858-922) and Ibrahim Adham (718-782),  as well as the four first caliphs of Islam, and several prophets from Adam to Moses, and Jesus and Mohammad. There must always be present in the world such a deputy (vali) of God. These deputies of God are not different from God himself {F1: 159}, and the seeker (salek) must follow their orders as exactly those of God {mI: 674; F1: 277}. Without the prophets and the Qotb of the age to lead, the world would remain devoid of true life {Le: 400}.

As Rumi says about Hallaj: “I am God’ on the lips of Mansur (Hallaj), is the light (of truth or God) {Mii: 305}. Similarly, “Though the Qur’an is (dictated) from lips of the Prophet, if any one says God did not speak it, he is an infidel {Miv: 2122}.”  “Because God does not appear to our senses, we can see Him in His deputies: the prophets {mI: 1673; F1: 276-277}”.  They do not have to express themselves “by the way of speech,” but can do it, as Bayazid did, “by the way of vision (az rah-e `ayan),” that is by the way of immediate experience {Miv: 2102}. A seeker can know God only through a person who, by examples, can have God’s characteristics and the prophets are those persons {mI: 1673; F1: 276-277}.

Sohbat. The Masnavi says that man needs true companions on his spiritual journey {Sc: 293}. He should avoid mixing with those who do not have the same understanding of the realities of life {Sc: 294}. The Masnavi says that the way to reach meaning (ma`ni) is keeping company (sohbat) and association (hamneshini) with the people (ahl) of meaning {mI:1711; F1: 285}.The Masnavi considers sohbat as the essential foundation for seeking spirituality (solook), Rumi differentiates between sohbat and hamgami (walking together), on the one hand, and the learning  (`elm amouzi) that is done by teaching the Tradition (ravayat) and listening (sama` ) {F1: 286}.

Community. The Masnavi justifies the killing of an apparently innocent man if a person ordering it was appointed by the community for such rulings; this is called maslahat (good cause) {mI: 230, 263; F1:120, 127}. Elsewhere, the Masnavi  makes another observation on the importance of community: different religions are each good for their followers and obeying them is made easy and for that reason they do not follow other religions {F1: 213-214}.

The Masnavi indicates the community of Sufis which Rumi would have chosen in poems that show the type of Pir he preferred for his own sohbat as a disciple:  “Give me leave … that I may perform a rope-dance, like Mansur {Miii: 4214}.” “You make yourself a Mansur Hallaj and set fire to cotton of your friends {Miii: 693}.”  Rumi was conscious of the animosity of many Sufis in Konya toward him, as the Masnavi indicates in several places {mII: 2494; F1: 198}.  Some would criticize the Masnavi because it did not show sufficient Sufi training {Sc: 299}. Indeed, the Masnavi does not even mention the most famous Sufi teacher of the time, Ibn Arabi, or the standard books of Sufism: Qosheyri’s Resala and Abu Taleb Makki’s Qut al-Qolub.  It aimed at “immediate knowledge” which was learned not from books but from “experience” {Sc: 299}. Similarly, Rumi rejected the prominent Sufi Ahmad Ghazali and his fellow Holmanians who saw in a pretty person (shahed) the sign (gavah) and reason of the beauty of God. Instead, Rumi chose loving mard kamel (the perfect and complete man) which was the same as loving God, as the principle of his own way (tariqat) {mI: 700 ff; F1: 30-31}.

Persian Gnosticism (`Erfan)

Although the Masnavi refers to Rumi as a Sufi, he sometimes uses the word Sufi in a pejorative sense. True Sufi for Rumi was not the one who wore woolen (suf) frocks (the vernacular meaning of the word) but, rather, the one who sought purity (safvat) -another word derived from the same Arabic root (tasavvof ) {Sc: 4, 299}. Even darvish (dervish), the Persian word for the Arabic faqir derived from faqr (poverty), did not always please Rumi who so fervently espoused spiritual poverty as the goal. The Masnavi in a story ridicules the simpleton dervish who loses his donkey in a trick by other Sufis of a convent where he is a guest {Mii: 203 ff; Sc: 56-7, n. 153}.  In Rumi’s time, claiming to be a dervish (darvishi) was popular and was sometimes used as a tool for getting money and worldly status. The Masnavi warns against such “devils in the form of man”. The seeker should avoid such unsuitable companions {mI: 316; F1:145}. Indeed, he should generally “Make a practice of seeing (for yourself) without blindly following (taqlid) any authority: think in accordance with the view of your own intelligence (`aql) {Mvi: 3345}.”The term mysticism comes from the Greek μυω, meaning “to conceal”  {Ge}; Rumi’s goal was to reveal: he was a Gnostic (‘aref), seeking knowledge, not reveling in the unknowable. What his quest produced was conditioned by the limits of empirical information available at his time. His imagination filled in the gaps.


Rumi’s epistemology is fundamentally different from that of the two main currents of his times: theological (kalaami), and philosophical (falsafi). In both of those, each consisting of many branches, the dominant approach was rationalism. The Masnavi shows Rumi accepting reason and logic as useful but inadequate in the search for truth. What is further needed, he insists, is meta-rationalism.  For him the ultimate step is not learning but beyond that, experiencing the truth. To make this point he employs various metaphors. Seeing as distinguished from hearing is his favorite: “Wherever there was ear it was made by Him into an eye  (har koja goshi bood az vey cheshm gasht) {mI:515}.”   The  result is that from the level of “hearing,”  and understanding of formal disciplines, which at its height is “the knowledge of certainty (`elm al-yaqeen )” one, by the grace of  God, reaches to the level of  seeing and “certainty itself ( `ein  al-yaqeen )”{F1:224}.”


The Masnavi makes clear that it is not opposed to reason: “Blessed is the eye that is ruled by reason {Mvi: 2966},” but Rumi notes its limitations in the Discourses: “Reason is good to bring you to the king’s gate, then you divorce (talaq deh) reason  as from then on reason is to your detriment {Fih: 112, 309}.”  The  Masnavi gives examples:  “Reason can’t perceive another trap, hence the inspiration (vahy) which sees the unseen (ghayb) spied in this direction (for help) {Mvi: 2970},” and “By reason you can recognize congener (hamjens)  and non-congener, you ought not to run at once to (outward) form; Jesus, in the form of man, was (really) homogenous with the angels {Mvi: 2972}.”  The Masnavi compares reasoning with “unveiling (kashf)” by “signs (shohood)”: “Reasoning is shade and signs are like the sun: if there is no sun there won’t be any shade {mI: 117; F1: 89}.” Rumi calls his Masnavi “the book of spiritual signs (shohood ma`navi) which are a Lamp in the darkness of imagination and perplexity and phantasies and doubt and suspicion {VI: Preface}.”

For Rumi there are two types of knowledge: one, “`Elm Maktaseb (Acquired Knowledge),” is obtained by arranging the thinking process or through senses, and the other, “`Elm Ladoni (Immediate Divine Knowledge), is achieved through discovery by means of signs (shohood) and “inspiration by revelation (elham)” [31]. Those who Rumi calls `aqelan (clever ones) have learned all kinds of knowledge and got into details in discussions but nevertheless deny God and miracles because they are deprived of seeing, and this is the sign of God’s disfavor (qahr) toward them {F1:223}. The way of the philosophers who spend a life in “discussion and disputation (bahs va monazareh)” is not the right way {mI: 532; F1:231-232}. “Although by language we can clarify the meaning of love (as is the way of ‘those who engage in discussion (ahl bahs)’ but the way of ‘followers of discovery (ahl kashf)’ is clearer {mI: 113; F1:88}.”  Indeed, “knowledge based on discussions (‘elm bahsi) and exchange of views (nazar),” prevents, as a curtain, reaching the goal of “knowing (ma`refat)” {mI: 477; F1:212}.  As Rumi says in the Discourses, “knowledge is based not on words and sounds but derives from the other world; God does not speak by words and sounds {Ar: 268}.”

According to the Masnavi, however, God does communicate to man by elham which to Rumi was a form of “spiritual inspiration (kashf ma`navi).” This was different from vahy which was “unveiling by signs (kashf shohoodi), considered by the theologians to be addressed only to the prophets {F1: 117}. The Masnavi also considered sleep as an important channel for discovery {F1: 40}. In Rumi’s views dream is due to a kind of freedom of spirit from external restrictions. Some of the poems in the Masnavi in this regard resemble those of the Sufis and philosophers. They stand in contrast to the two dominant theological thinkers of the time:  the Mu`tazilites who considered dream as “nonsense (mohoom)” and the Ash`arites who said it was not “the reality of understanding (edrak) {F1:179-181}.”


The most important philosopher of Rumi’s times, Avicenna (Abu `Ali Ibn Sina, 980-1037) had done a very detailed study of dreams (ro’ya) and concluded that dream was a combination of external stimulus of senses and the work of imagination {F1:180}. Avicenna’s works as a physician -part of the expertise of a philosopher (hakim) of his time- duly impressed Rumi. The Masnavi mentions Avicenna as an iconic physician on par with Galen (Jalinous) {Sc: 156}, the Greek whose books were foundational both to the Islamic and pre-Islamic, Sassanid, medicine {FI: 230; EIrS2; Sc: 156}.  More broadly, the Masnavi represents Avicenna “as the highest flight of philosophical speculation {Nic 8:138}.” In the same place, however,   Rumi rhetorically shows the limitations of Avicenna (Bu Sina):  “And he (a person) has vision of that Light- how should the explanation of him (his state) be a task (within the capacity) of Bu Sina {Miv: 506}?”  In a few poems later, the Masnavi juxtaposes Philosophy (Hekmat) and Theosophy (Hekmat Elahi), maintaining that “Philosophy is confined to ‘the phenomenal form (surat)’ of Man, whereas Theosophy is connected with ‘the essential truth (haqiqat haqiqat)’ of his true nature {Miv: 521ff}.”

Masnavi, of course, favors Gnosticism, akin to Theosophy, or more precisely, the Persian version of it called `Erfan {mI: 860; F1:326}. The main difference between `Erfan and philosophy (Hekmat) is that the latter accepts logic and logical reasoning and is after “scientific certainty (`alm al-yaqin),” whereas ‘Erfan disfavors reasoned philosophical systems and is after certainty itself (`ain al-yaqin) {Ta: 326}. Thus “Avicenna’s philosophical system, rooted in the Aristotelian tradition, is thoroughly rationalistic and intrinsically alien to the principles of Sufism…. It is also self-consistent and unified, and therefore free of any other mystical or esoteric aspect—however these terms are understood—that would represent a different form or body of knowledge and create a dichotomy within the system {EIrG2}.”

Avicenna maintained the validity of Sufism but he interpreted it in terms of his own system {EIrG2}. Indeed, there are areas of common grounds between Avicenna’s works and Rumi’s Masnavi. It has been noted that Avicenna is probably the source of the Masnavi’s imagery of spirit as birds.  Also, the force of love working on all things and compelling them toward unification,  the subject of several Masnavi poems, appears to be the same in Avicenna ‘s  Risalah fi al-`ishq {Miv:3637, Miii: 440 sqq, Mv: 2012 sqq,  Mv: 3853 sqq; Nic8: 217}. Furthermore, in his Daneshnameh (Book of Science) [32], Avicenna denounces the scholastic theologians, whom he refers to disparagingly as “dialecticians” (jadalîan) {EIrA}, and Rumi joins him in such disparagement {Le: 401-402; Fih: 157-8}. The two men’s objections, however, are different. Avicenna “ridicules those theologians’ method of proving the existence of the invisible (qayeb) from the existence of the witness (shahed) {EIrA}.” Rumi is just the opposite. He criticizes their rationalism {Le: 400-402}, the very heritage of Avicenna [33].


Rumi is insistent that both rationalists’ reasoning and scholastic theology are inadequate where “love” is concerned. Alluding to the founders of the two dominant school of Muslim theology of the time, the Masnavi says: “In that quarter where love was increasing (my) pain, Bu Hanifa and Shafi`i gave no instruction {Mii: m 3832}.” Following Sana’i who had said those theologians did not teach love, the Masnavi says “the doctor (who taught you) was not acquainted with love {Mii: 3831}.” The school of love was one in which you would learn “immediate Divine knowledge (`Elm Ladoni)” without madrasa (religious school) {Miii: 3832; Sc: 337 n 38}.  In Rumi’s own time the towering theologian was Fakhr al-Din Razi {F1:32}.The Masnavi specifically chooses him as the example of inadequacy: “If intellect could discern the (true) way in this question, Fakhr Razi would be an adept in religious mysteries {Mv: 4144; Sc: 14}.”

          Greek Influence

The rationalists were firm followers of Aristotle.  Avicenna called him “the Chief of the Sages (Emam Hakiman)” and “the guide and master of the philosophers” {EIrA}. The Masnavi, in comparison, singles out Plato as the ultimate intellect and, by connotation, philosopher {F1: 32}.  Avicenna, on the other hand, directly criticizes and ridicules Plato and the Platonic “ideas” {EIrA}.

Much has been written about the influence of Greek thinkers on Rumi, most largely speculative and conjectural. It is said that he represents many of the concepts of Neoplatonism [34], although “the depth of his acquaintance with Greek … philosophy cannot be fixed {Ni: xxx-xxxi};” that “the belief of a pure Sufi (Rumi) is the same as that of the Platonists (`Eshrqiyoon) {Ni:  xxx1, n. 1};” and that there is parallelism in the chief doctrines of Rumi and the  Neoplatonist Plotinus, although “Plotinus’s name was unknown in the East but (yet)  his philosophy, reflected in Aristotelian commentaries had considerable influence in the East {Ni: xxx-xxxi}.”

There is no doubt about cultural interactions between ancient Greece and the Persian-speaking world before Islam as well as after Islam [35]. The Sassanid period scholars’ knowledge of Greek thoughts is clearly reflected in the 10th century Denkard (Acts of Religion), which is a collection of the dominant Mazdaen Zoroastrian beliefs and customs of their time. Its philosophical terminologies are largely Aristotelian. However, Mazdean philosophy was a syncretic system incorporating with thoughts of the Greek philosophers [36] those of Indian and native sages {EIrS}.


The difference between rationalism and Rumi’s Gnosticism leads to difference in their way of proof {Le: 401; Fih: 157-8}.  For Rumi that way is experiential and heuristic: “The sun came out as proof of the existence of the sun {mI: 116; F1:88}.”  Love (`eshq) is the proof of love. In contrast, in the Discourses, Rumi ridicules the claim of a certain man that he has proven the existence of God by logical reasoning {Ar: 260}.  Instead, Rumi explains the gnostic Hallaj’s utterance “I am God,” which critics called a blasphemy, as an actual experience, not a logical proof, of God’s existence {Ar: 252}.  Rumi tells us of the difference, more poetically: “By words you know for sure that fire exists?/Don’t alight (come down and settle) at a certain stage –seek fire!/The cooked, alone, knows Certainty itself/ If certainty you want, jump in the fire {Mii:860-61; Le: 404}.”


Rumi talks about two types of intellect.  Common men only possess “‘aql jozvi (partial intellect)” which enables them to acquire knowledge, while prophets and saints are endowed, additionally, by the grace of God, with “‘aql koll (Universal Intellect)”. The knowledge we acquired by our partial intellect is not enough to attain complete truth; indeed, it hampers us. “God’s seal upon the eye and ear of the intelligence makes him (the intelligent man) an animal, (even) if he is an Aflatoon (Plato) {Mi: 24} [37].” In contrast, Rumi offers this description of the “unlettered” Prophet Mohammad, in the Discourses:

“Mohammad is called ‘unlettered’ not because he was incapable of writing and learning; he was called ‘unlettered’ because with him writing and learning and wisdom were innate, not acquired…. And what is there in all the world he does not know seeing that all men learn from him; what then… should appertain to the partial intellect that the Universal Intellect does not possess? … Those who invent something new on their account, they are the Universal Intellect. The partial intellect is capable of learning and is in need of teaching! The Universal Intellect is the teacher, and is not in need…It is the prophets and saints who have effected union between partial and Universal Intellect so that they have become one…{Ar:151f;  Sc: 287-88; }.”

Of all subjects of study, Rumi says, the Gnostic way of learning about God teaches us the most. Its goal of the knowledge of “spiritual poverty (faqr)” goes beyond the prevalent Islamic pursuits of theology (kalaam), law (feqh) and grammar (nahv). By humbling yourself, your heart receives God’s vision and you understand the meaning of grammar, the coherence of syntax and justice of jurisprudence {Mi: 2830-34, 2874; Le: 403}. Following that dicta, Rumi developed his own distinct thoughts which many consider to be the height of `Erfan, or Persian Gnosticism in the Islamic period.

Fundamental Question

`Erfan had roots in the ancient Indian and Arab mysticism (especially in practices of riyazat or asceticism, and zohd or ferveent religious observance) and, on the other hand, in the ancient Iranian and Greek mysticism (especially, attempts to understand the essential general essence of things mostly based on the notion of love). Out of this combination there emerged two groups in `Erfan in the early Islamic period. One group observed religious appearances and “kept secrets” which meant it did not talk about man’s oneness with God as in the doctrine of Vahdat Vojood  (Unity of Being ). They were exemplified by the late 9th Century Jonayd. The second group did not observe religious appearances and openly proclaimed belief in the principle of oneness with God (that is, they “revealed secrets”). These were exemplified by Bayazid and Hallaj, both Jonayd’s contemporary.  Soon, Islamic Gnosticism, led primarily by Ibn Arabi (1165-1240) in the Arab world, found separate contemporary leaders in the Persian world, primarily Ghazali, `Attar and Sohravardi . The last one, Shahab ad-Din Yahya Sohravardi (1155-1191) gave a strong Persian color to his teaching in which he used many of the terms of the pre-Islamic ‘Erfan [38]. Rumi’s contributions to this Persian Islamic Gnosticism covered many of the fundamental ontological questions which had preoccupied philosophers and theologians alike, ranging from God and his creation to man and free will, love, unity and diversity.


The Masnavi does not speak much about God’s essence; it focuses on His attributes, many expressed in the various names by which Rumi calls God. Among them are the Persian Khoda (Lord), the Islamic Allah (the Sole, Eternal, Not Begotten nor Begetting), the Gnostics Haqq (Truth), the Romantic Spiritual Ma`shooq (Beloved), and the Cosmological Khaleq (Creator). The essence of God is hidden because He has no contrast through which man can recognize Him. He cannot be found in any place , although his signs are everywhere . The Masnavi avoids anthropomorphisizing God, but sees His personalist aspects as almighty, powerful, and merciful {Sc: 226, 238-239}.

The Masnavi is mystical Theo-monist [39]. It firmly asserts by the methods of `Erfan that there is only one God. The pure monotheism of Islam had already been defended against Persian Mazdaen-Zoroastrian dualism and Christian trinitarian thoughts by the Mu`tazilites [40], using the methods of philosophy {Sc: 4}. That was not sufficient for Rumi; in the Masnavi he also finds occasion to refute the Mu`tazilites’ positions {Sc: 187}. He defines their type unfavorably: “Ahl `Etezal (Mu`tazilites) and those who do not possess the light of immediate (noor haal) (mystical) intuition {Miii: 1027}.” The Gnostics were themselves divided between dualistic mysticism and monistic mysticism. The former were in part influenced by the Persian (Mazdisani) duality elements {Ta: 329}. Rumi, however, followed the example of `Attar in retelling his story of the squint-eyed man who saw two moons, not being able to imagine that they were in fact one. This way Rumi argued that the cause was the illness of those who could not see that God is one, and not two or three {Sc: 238}.

While Rumi would use this argument to prove the unity of all religions, he employed his own version of a broader doctrine, that of Unity of Being (Vahdat  Vojood) (discussed below) to help sweep away the dualist mysticism of   Hamed al-Ghazzali (1058-1111) {Le:26}. Rumi also finds occasions in his Discourses to specifically reject the Majous (Zoroastrian) doctrine of the duality of God and Ahriman (Devil) {Fih: 126, 214}.


The Masnavi’s God is not one that once brought the world into being to move according to a prefixed schedule. He is a living God who continues to manifest Himself. In His way of permanent creation, God brings in different creatures appropriate for the time and place.  All events are decreed by Him. Good and evil both come from God, each for a purpose as He does nothing without purpose {Sc: 233, 225, 227-228}.

God is the immediate creator; secondary causes are just veils. The Masnavi says we will never understand the way God creates. He brought the world into existence by a single word Kun (Be!) and formed it in six days, but ‘every day of His has a thousand years’.  God’s goal of perfecting the creatures is a slow process.  God may destroy a thing so that He may replace it with something better.  Rumi’s world was a place of strife. To Rumi this outward disharmony was only the manifestation of God’s creative power: God wanted to reveal Himself and, as Rumi believed, things can be known only through their opposites {Sc: 223, 226-227, 229, 230-233}.


According to the Masnavi, God created things in ranks, gradually rising from minerals towards man {Mi: 1964ff; Sc: 228}. Man is the central figure in the creation. He became so when he alone accepted God’s offer of the special trust (amanat) {Sc: 247}. When humanity was yet to be created, God addressed it “Alasto bi-rabbikom (Am I not your Lord?)” and the future generations responded “Bala, shahedna (Yes, we witness it)”. Since that Day of the Primordial Covenant man has lived and grown under the charm of that Divine address. In the 10th Century this “‘banquet of alast” in the Qur`an  became a cornerstone of Islamic mystical theology. Rumi often refers to it. For him it establishes that the first word was spoken by God; it confirmed his rule over human life: man could answer only if God had enabled him to do so.

Man’s whole being is suspended between that beginning day of history and the end of time, the Day of Judgment: yesterday of the ruz (day of) alast and tomorrow of Resurrection. That Divine address leads man into conscious and responsible life, but it also leads him into fana (annihilation).  The goal of the mystic is to become as non-existent as he was at the day of the Covenant. The “Friend’s (God’s) light” reminds Rumi of the Covenant because it is He who leads the seeker towards the final state of their union. The higher the man’s rank at the Divine banquet, the greater the amount of suffering he will have to endure; that is why the prophets are those who suffer the most. This affliction is meant as a test for man: only if his primordial answer was sincere, will he be able to take gratefully the burden of affliction {Sc: 249-250}.

Rumi says that God’s greatest gift to man was teaching him every possible field of knowledge {Sc: 227}, enabling him to rise above the angels. Man thus came so close to God as to be virtually the same as Him, “mazhar (reflection)” of God. Hallaj saw himself even closer to God than the Prophet Mohammad {Ta: 404}. His mystical experience aimed at a complete annihilation in God, even a ”deification,” in contrast to a prophetic thinker who is always conscious of being a mere servant (`abd) of God and, therefore, may reach at most “two bows’ length” from God, as the Qur`an said {Sc: xvii}. In Persian `Erfan God and man are seen as being in need of each other: God needs to be recognized and man’s role is to recognize God. The reciprocal needs make them equal. On the other hand, religions (including Islam) see man as a sinful subject of God and only deserving of God’s mercy {Ta: 401-402}.

The seeker in `Erfan will find that he and God are no longer separate after undergoing Sibghatullah– the Qur`anic coloring of God, or baptism in His dyeing vet (khom) through which the differently colored pieces of cloth become one color{Mvi: 4711; Nic8: 400}. That is a long process which ends in man’s annihilation: “What is Towhid (Islamic monotheism)? To burn one’s self before the One {Mi: 3008; Sc: 238}.”

Man forgot his primordial oath due to his transgression of stepping into sensual pleasures caused by his own pride [41].   Man’s way back to God’s grace can be found only by constant weeping {Sc: 250-51}. He can take refuge in his affliction with God (yawlahuna) who so promised him {Sc: 230}. Rumi knows that only rarely can a man reach the goal of reunion with God. Paraphrasing  the Greek Diogenes, Rumi tells the story about going around with a lamp in search of a true man,  which to Rumi is a  man who has completely surrendered himself to God’s will and acts through Him {Mii: 222; Mv:2887; Sc: 254}.

          Free will

The Masnavi says that the helping “light (noor)” of God is continuous and permanent but finding it requires that man seek it fervently {mI: 760-762; F1: 306}.  The grace of God is achieved through hard work and action {F1: 294}. In his Discourses, Rumi says that God is the creator of men’s action contrary to the arguments of the Mu`tazilites {Ar: 272}. In the Masnavi, he is not that consistent. There he brings up the subject of pre-destination (jabr) versus free will (ekhtiyar) in no fewer than 65 places; this shows how important the debate was in Rumi’s times among both theologians and philosophers. In those many places the Masnavi sometimes sides with the arguments of one side and sometimes with those of the other {F1: 264}.  Rumi held that only a saintly person with spiritual insight can comprehend the mystery of free will and divine decree {Mi: 1466; Le: 413}.

In two places where the problem is discussed in detail, the Masnavi chooses free will over pre-destination {mI: 1463, mV: 2912 ff; F1: 265}.  That is remarkable since the ancient (Persian religion) Zervani idea of jabr (compulsion),  or pre-destination, was more attractive to all other great Persian poets of  Rumi’s (classical) age, from Rudaki and Ferdowsi to Hafiz and including Khayyam and Sa`adi  {Ta:267}. This was despite the fact that the newer Persian Mazdaki-Zoroastrian religion held that “Man is created as his own lord, the guardian over his own person (i.e., endowed with free will) and of all creations with the faculty of discernment {EIrS}.” Even among the Islamic theologians the Jabriyya and subsequently Asharites, were determinists holding that no human action could occur except at God’s command.  They were opposed by the Qadriyya and later the Mu’tazilites who argued that man was a free agent and chose his course of action. The latter would thus hold man responsible for his acts. The former had to justify punishment and reward for their (compelled) man by saying that he became deserving of God’s predetermined decree (qaza) through kasb ( a process of acquisition) {Le: 411}.  Rumi, on the other hand, held that precisely because man deserved reward and punishment for his action, he had free will {Miii: 3287-8; Le: 412}. As the Masnavi says “Our shame is the evidence of our free will {mI: 618; F1:264}.”

Rumi believed that good and evil actions are bound to bring forth different fruits in this world, or the world to come. Man is responsible for his action. Hell and Paradise as are both real, but as conditions produced by man’s actions and thoughts rather than as places {Sc: 258-259, 261}. God’s judgment would be based on man’s intentions rather than his action. Rumi sees free will as the ability to endeavor to thank God for His Beneficence, which requires working hard and acting in perfect sincerity.  The more man thus strives the more will he be supported by God. {Sc: 262}. The action of a purified man through love is in conformity with God’s will; that is jabr mahmud (praiseworthy necessitarianism) –in contrast to jabr mazmum (bad) of the Jabriyya {Mv: 3187f; Sc: 263; F1: 265}.


In the Masnavi ’s narrative God created everything from “the nothingness (`adam)”  and man’s goal is to return to this `adam {Sc: 239}, but there is something even  higher than the nothingness and that is love {Sc: 243-44}. Man’s promise to God is a promise of love: love for all the manifestations of existence (vojood) {Ta: 404}. Man alone of all creatures is capable of loving truly {Sc: 248}. The Masnavi rejects the assertion of the theologians who said that “loving” God is not possible because God’s essence (zaat) is different from His creatures and hence whenever there is the word love (hobb) in the Qur`an it is deemed to mean “obedience”. Contrary to this view, the Masnavi says there is no separation (mobayenat) between God and man.  The Masnavi argues that when the Qur`an calls God karim (munificent) that adjective really means that He grants the seeker favor without needing any reason.  He himself makes it easy for the `asheq (lover) and shows him the way to reach Him.  “Don’t say we do not have audience with that Shah (God); with kariman (the munificents) working is not hard {mI: 221; F1: 116-117}.  Indeed, it was God who poured the “wine” of love in man’s mouth {mI: 219; F1: 114-115}.

The Masnavi says that love cannot be adequately described in words {mI: 112; F1: 87}. “Although by language we can try to discuss the meaning of love, the way of Gnostics makes it clearer {mI: 113; F1: 88}.”  Understanding love is beyond the ability of intellect (`aql); the only way to understand love is to attain it {mI: 115; F1: 88}.  Love is the proof of love {mI: 116; F1: 88}. In the prose of the Preface of Book II of the Masnavi, Rumi says: “Some one asked, ‘What is love?’ I answered, ‘You will know when you become (lost in) me.’” Rumi then elaborates: “Love is uncalculated affection. For that reason it has been said to be in reality the attribute of God and unreal in relation to man {Nic 2: 221}.”

Physicians of Rumi’s time treated love as a mental disease, like hallucination (malikholiya). But Rumi called love the measure of the health of mind {F1: 84-85}. The Masnavi says love is the “asterlabe (celestial navigator)” to God’s secrets {mI: 110; F1: 84-85}.”  It enables the “spirit (ruh)” to “unveil knowledge (kashf marefat)” {F1: 84-85}.  “Falling in love eventually takes us toward the goal {mI: 111; F1: 85}.”  To the Masnavi love was the negation of want, the drowning in the beloved and the fire that burns the seeker and makes him naught {F1: 116-117}.  Loving God will take man beyond conventional piety. “The knowledge learned in school is one kind of thing/ trafficking in love is quite another {D: 314 or 226; Le: 404}.”

Women. The Masnavi make is clear that the love it is heralding is the love of God {F1:  114-115}. Loving pretty face and colors is not love and ends in infamy (nangi) {mI: 205; F1: 109}.  Sexual intercourse causes man’s spirit to descend into the realm of corporal existence. For this Rumi blames seduction by women {Sc: 255-56}.  Humans who are the subject of the Masnavi’s consideration are men. The poems are not meant to be about women. Rarely does the Masnavi make references to women and even then, mostly in the context of their relationship to man.  Woman is valued as a source of comfort to man. The Masnavi exemplifies the worldly relationship of the Prophet Mohammad and his wife `Ayesheh, conversations with whom soothed him. “He (the Prophet), to whose words the (whole) world was enslaved (obedient), used to cry ‘Speak to me (kalimni), O Humayra (`Ayesheh) {Mi: 2428}.”  The wife’s controlling authority over the husband is the subject of another poem: “Though he (the husband) be Rostam son of Zal and greater than Hamza (in valor), as regards authority he is his old woman’s (wife’s) captive” {Mi: 2427}. In his Discourses, Rumi maintains that it is useless to argue with a woman {Ar: 259}. Elsewhere, Rumi portrays woman as a tool Satan often uses to lead man astray;  she is a trial for man who becomes good through forbearing her ;  he should  never follow her  advice because women are less intelligent and cannot understand what man has to learn {Sc: 255-56}.

Unity of Being    

The Masnavi divides humans and other creatures into types. It agrees with the general principle accepted at the time by both the scientists (hokama) and Sufis that Members of each type, congeners (hamjens), attract each other:  “Each one of the  atoms (zarreh) on atoms which exist in this earth and heaven is like amber (kahroba) (a magnet) for its congener (attracts it) {Mvi: 2900}.” Rumi elaborates his specific views on the subject in no fewer than 42 occasions in the Masnavi {F1: 271-272}.  The kinship that the Masnavi considers important is due to relatedness (nesbat) based not on heredity (nesab) but on spiritual race (nejhad) {mVI: 174-178; F1: 299}.  On that basis the deniers (kafaran) go to hell and the prophets to heaven “Because each bird flies towards his congener, following his spirit.” {mII: 2103; F1:271-272}.  It is not the appearance of a creature that shows his type: “By reason you can recognize congener and non-congener: you ought not to run at once to (outward) form; Jesus, in the form of man, was (really) homogenous with the angels {Mvi: 2972}.” It is the essence of a person that determines his type: “Unbelievers (monkeran) all burn in fire because in essence (be hasb fetrat) they were born of fire {F1: 296}. The Masnavi sees three situations for attraction (zoq): one congener to the other, a potential candidate as congener to a congener and a part of a congener to the whole {mI: 889-890; F1: 334}.  

 Notwithstanding apparent differences in the world which the Masnavi acknowledges, it asserts that at the core there is unity among all beings. “The conflicts among men stem from names/Trace back the meaning and achieve accord {M2:3680; Le: 405}.”That is Rumi’s version of pantheism, a doctrine called Vahdat Vojood (Unity of Being), manifested early on in the Masnavi {mI: 30; F1: 35-36}.   In `Erfan the central idea is Unity of Being which maintains that the entire universe has a single gohar (essence) and mayeh (source) {Ta: 443}. That doctrine was based on the foundations of ancient Indian, Babylonian, Iranian and Egyptian thoughts {Ta: 328}. In Rumi’s time, Ibn Arabi had argued that the Islamic doctrine of towhid (Unity) meant that the created universe was a continuation of God’s being [42].  In the Masnavi, Rumi developed the argument about towhid his own way.

The Masnavi sees the universe as “the emanation (esha`eh)” of God, in the language of Persian `Erfan which was influenced by the thoughts of Shahab ad-Din Yahya Sohravardi.  Acclaimed as the founder of Hekamt Eshraq (Philosophy of Illumination),  the Persian Sohravardi,  had revived in his work, also known as “Hekmat Nooryieh (Philosophy of Light),”  the pre-Islamic Iranian idea of noor (light) as being the single and basic “element (moddeh)” in the universe {Ta: 322}. Sohravardi considers everything to be the result of the close or distant “emanation” of God whom he calls “Noor al- anvar (Supreme Light) {Ta: 324]. It is that source of light which the Masnavi calls “Noor Sareh (Pure Light).” When it falls on a wall with a serrated- top (kongereh), that single-source of light appears as several in the shadow of the wall {mI: 687; F1: 283-284}.  This takes the Masnavi to a discussion of its own meaning of the Islamic towhid.

Rumi goes to the very source of the doctrine of towhid, the word “sibghatullah (colors of Allah)” in Qur`an’s verse 138. The Masnavi interprets that word to mean that God’s color is singular:  “on rang (that color) {mI: 766; F1:307};” and it is that of “colorlessness (beeranagi).” White and black colors appear so only because of their environment {mI: 2894 ff; F1:  308}.  Rumi emphasizes the “vahdat (oneness)” of the prophets and saints with God. He says there is no difference between the Prophet and the “Perfect (Kamel) Man” in this respect {F1: 154, 159}. The Masnavi says, further, the source of belief (eeman) and disbelief (kofr) is the same although outwardly the two differ. The seeker must avoid duality in appearance and focus on the single “source (asl)” {mI: 298; F1: 137-138}.

Opposites. Unity of Being does not preclude the creation of opposites. The Masnavi espouses the position of the theologians that God’s work is not restricted; He does what He wants. Especially, His power for constructing zeddain (contradictory opposites) is awesome: “Sometimes He constructs this and sometime zeddain/ religion cannot do but be amazed {F1: 142-43; mI: 311, 312}.” We are created with attributes that bring us into conflict and opposition. “Once colorlessness fell into color’s grasp/A Moses came in conflict with a Moses {Mi: 2467-8; Le: 415}.”

The Masnavi has numerous examples of such conflict (tazaad). Its world is the stage for wars of opposites which interact and transform into each other but ultimately reach harmonious co-existence (hamahangi), the outcome reflecting Rumi’s `Erfani belief {Ta: 411-412}. The Masnavi posits that things can be known only through their opposites. God reveals Himself in paradoxical twofolds, wrathful and merciful, majestic (jalal) and beautiful (jamal), full of anger (qahr) and grace (lotf). He raises and lowers man {Sc: 251-253}. Without these two contradictory measures nothing can come into existence. Behind everything visible is another invisible reality. Every nothingness conceals the possibility of existence {Sc: 231}.

Some of these dialectical principles in the Masnavi resemble those of the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 – 475 BC) who believed in the ever-present change in the universe and the unity of opposites {Ta: 415-416}.  Rumi’s knowledge of Heraclitus’s ideas could have come from the 3rd Century Diogenes who is our main source about Heraclitus. On the other hand, Rumi’s ideas could have had roots in the Persian Mazdean philosophy which maintained that all objects come into existence from the union of unlike substances. At the heart of the Mazdean ontology is the belief that being is a synthesis of antithetic elements. This sets up the next principle: the mutual interaction of all opposites is the motive force of existence. Once set in motion, the process would not need a transcendental mover. The theological conclusion is that the world is so disposed as to move toward eternal bliss driven by its own natural impulsion {EIrS}.


In the Vahdat Vojood  (Unity of Being) of Persian `Erfan,  the ontological story of existence (hasti) is a  similar narrative of the movement of the single element (maddeh),  sometimes downward -which produces the nasooti (temporal) world and sometimes upward -which results in the evolution and rise of human and his joining the lahooti (the pre-eternal Divine) source {Ta: 443}. Belief in Unity of Being compels that the internal bonds of all its different manifestations be proved. This requirement became the inevitable principle of the Erfani dialectic: the evolving of the single element toward an ever more complete form. On this movement toward the complete (takaamol), the Masnavi has much to say.

The Masnavi says that God created the world by the continuous movement of his grace (fiyazan) {Ta: 414}.  The Masnavi portrays the world of existence in an evolving movement from inorganic to plants to animals to humans and further {Fih: 311}. Sana’i and `Attar had spoken of the slow upward development of the world, but Rumi embellishes their spiritual concept far more with his philosophical verses, especially in Masnavi’s Books III and IV {Sc: 321, 326-328}.  The lines in the Story of the Chickpeas are particularly notable: “I died a mineral and became a plant/I died as plant and rose to animal/ I died as animal and I was Man/Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar/With angels blessed; but even from angelhood/I must pass on: all except God does perish…. {Miii: 3901.” The Masnavi follows this in some passages later: “At first you were dust/ you were inanimate and were brought into the world of plant life/ whence you traveled into the world of animality/, and thence into the world of humanity/. These are miracles… / Likewise you will be transported to a hundred various other worlds {Mv: 2734, Sc: 328}.

This movement is spiral, not circular. Nothing can return to its previous state {Sc: 324-325}.  In each stage the past stage is forgotten {Ta: 410; Sc: 289}.  Moving from one stage to the next is the negation of the previous one. Hence, negation and death are not absolute ends but are bridges for moving to a higher level. Death has a creative role {Ta: 410}. The Masnavi proclaims that death is not a severing from living but is itself a step in the evolution of life to a more complete form {F1:295}.

The notion of an evolutionary development in these verses of the Masnavi evokes comparison with Darwin’s theory of evolution which was articulated several centuries later. The spiritual Rumi, however, is not a naturalist; he is not concerned with the matter of the Darwinist.  Nor do they agree on the motive forces of their evolution.  Unlike Darwin’s doctrine of the struggle for survival, chance diversity and natural selection, in the Masnavi development is caused by the need for evolving into a higher organism and evolution has a Divinely ordered direction with God as its final destination. In the Masnavi’s `Erfani outlook, the grace of God creates love, the attraction which produces that upward movement {Sc: 330-332;   Le: 416-41}.  The Masnavi’s articulation of the movement of things to a higher level by way of negation was a dialectic idea which also recalls Hegel’s thinking. Like Rumi, furthermore, Hegel proposed the notion of the absolute as a moving force which in different phases reveals its content in ever more complete form. The Masnavi is not quite a work of Hegelian dialectic, nor a scientific study of evolution like Darwin’s, but it anticipated important parts of both.


Rumi’s religious and philosophical musing is scattered primarily in his six books of the Masnavi, comprising some 25,577 poems. Rumi divided the Masnavi into about 400 sections, the title of each designating a principle story. Rumi’s views must be culled from the maze of stories within those stories, in the form of morals he draws from them. The stories originated in a staggering number of sources in the rich Persian Islamic culture which Rumi perused. His creative genius left its mark in his retelling them.

Rumi does not create a philosophical or a theological system.  His thoughts are not neatly packaged.  He frequently returns to a topic and modifies or amplifies what he has already said:  hamjensi (cogeneity or affinity) receives 42 such treatments in the Masnavi, and jabr o ekhtiyar (free will and pre-destination) is visited even more, 65 times.

The pleasure of reading Rumi, especially his magnificent Masnavi, is in bearing witness to his transcending interpretation of conventional religion, in which he was rooted, on a triumphal journey to reach the God of his imagination. Rumi comes through not as a mystic but as a Gnostic (‘aref). He does not deny mystery, but he wants to know it and reveal it. Rumi faults the method of discussion and observation in the epistemology of the science of his time (philosophy) and also finds the dominant approach in the speculative theological quest for truth, which was rationalism, inadequate. With Rumi, truth is ultimately reached only by the grace of God, who is indeed called the Truth (Haqq). Rumi humbles himself to apprehend the true nature of things. At the end, as Rumi says, truth is not learned but experienced.


  1. Those were the odes which have been collected in Rumi’s Divan.
  2. These have been colleted in Majales Saba (Seven Sermons).
  3. “Mystical union” is the expression some scholars suggest as best to describe the nature of this relationship, adding that this was exactly that which existed at an earlier date between Rumi and Shams. Just as Rumi entitles his collection of odes Divan Shams Tabrizi, so he calls his great didactic poemHosamnameh (the Book of Hosam) {Nic6:2}. Both Shams and Hosam are “Perfect Men,” in whom Rumi sees the Divine manifest, so that, by losing himself in them, he realizes his essential unity with God {Nic7:5}.
  4. Tazkarat al-Olyia (Biographies of the Saints) and Hadiqat al-Haqiqah (The Walled Garden of Truth)
  5. Mosibatnameh and Mantaq al-teyr (Conference of Birds)
  6. Nothing is in Rumi’s own hand-writing has surfaced, despite claims to the contrary {Le: 298}.
  7. To be all of that, Hosam had to be more than Shams who was impatient, and Salah al-Din who lacked Hosam’s learning. Taking over the teaching position vacated by Rumi, Hosam would also become Rumi’s successor as the leader of his group of disciples, the first head of the nascent Mevlevi Order.
  8. The original manuscript of Rumi’s Masnavi has not been discovered. In the pre-print culture of his time, manuscripts were copied by hands. Scribal and editorial mistakes in these copies were not uncommon, caused by misreading of words, and interpolations due to misattribution or sometimes intentional “improvements.” The Konya (Historical/Archeological) Museum Manuscript, dated 677 H (Islamic year/1278)) is considered to be  “the most ancient and authentic copy of the Masnavi  in existence {Nic3: X}.”  It is traced to the original text read in the presence of Rumi {FI: Nine}. It is copied form a manuscript written probably three years after Rumi’s death which manuscript, not yet found, was itself probably a revised critical edition based on more than one volume {Nic3:XIX}.
  9. The Masnavi’s humors passages are usually about people Rumi dislikes: the market-inspector {Sc: 57, n 153, 157}; those behaving stupidly { Miv: 2222; Sc: 57, n 157}.
  10. A few passages are so crude that the Cambridge University Professor who has given us the best English translation of it in the more prudish 1920s chose Latin for those unseemly parts  {Mv: 3943, 3862} which he called “too outspoken for our taste  {Nic 2: xvii}”
  11.  Also Alf Laylah, and books which have been written on the style of Kalileh va Damneh, like Sendbadnameh, and Marzbannameh.

12   To be sure, in the First Story of the Masnavi, Rumi complains about the separation from Shams {F1: 43}. The word sun (aftab) which is shams (an Arabic loan word in Persian) recalls to Rumi his beloved, but Rumi could not talk more about him so burdened is he with resulting drunkenness and anxiety. Thus he leaves it to some other times -which in the Masnavi come only on a few more occasions- to complain, just briefly, about separation from Shams. Rumi is constrained because consideration of his love for Hosam does not let him go to his first beloved, Shams {F1: 46-47}.  In another poem Rumi declines to praise Shams because he is overcome by the sensation of drowning and thus losing the ability to speak {F1: 93; mI: 128}. Furthermore, as he says, Shams is the lover like no one else while meaning can be communicated only by comparison {F1: 93-94; mI: 130}.

13.. Goethe dismissed Rumi’s poetry as being “turned too much to strange and abstruse theories as a consequence of the confused situation in” politics, upon reviewing a specimen of their first translation into a European language by the Austrian diplomat Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856) {Sc: 388-89}. The political situation in Anatolia indeed seemed to grow worse every year in Rumi’s time. The ruling family of Saljuqs, who had lost their independence, becoming a tributary to the Mongols, continued to experience internal political feuds {Sc: 35}.

  1. Rumi specifically names a district in Tabriz {Mvi: 3113} and another district, Sar pol, which at the time was the best in Samarkand {mI: 170; F1: 103}. His references to some other cities are also related to contemporary times: Bukhara {Mvi: 3800}, Kashan {Mvi: 3220}, Sabzawar, Balkh and Aleppo. As he explicitly says in the Discourses, early in life Rumi lived in Samarkand for a while {Fih: 173, 333}.
  2. It should not be taken literally as describing Rumi’s own visit {q.v. Le: 112-114}.
  3. In the story entitled “No shop will sell you bread in Kashi (Kashan) if your name is `Omar (the second “Sunni” Caliph) {Mvi: 3233, 3220}.”
  4. In the Masnavi that story of a man lonely and lost as an Abu Bakr in Sabzawar  which the Masnavi  depicts as a model  of a Shiite environment where it is  impossible to  find  a man named  Abu Bakr (the first “Sunni” Caliph).
  5. Because the Sultan tells the Rafezi (Shiites) inhabitants who begged him to spare their lives that “I will grant (you) security as soon as you produce from this city a man named Abu Bakr and present him to me.
  6. Because of the bitter experience of his open love to Shams, in order to avoid further provoking the animosity the narrow minded religious clerics and Sufis who were many in Konya in those times, Rumi in the beginning of the Masnavi declares that he would conceal the secrets of his friend as it would be better to reveal them in the tales of others. “It’s better that the Friend remain in veils/Come, listen to the content of the tales! /It’s better that his mysteries be told/In other people’s stories, tales of old” {mI: 135, 136; F1: 97-98; Sc: xvii},”
  7. Even today it is the agenda of a pastime of many educated Iranians,  called Masnavi khoni (group reading and explanation of the Masnavi’s poems).
  8. Forty seven years after Rumi’s death, an author named Ahmad Rumi wrote a longer commentary of the Masnavi consisting of 80 chapters {F1: tenth}.
  9. By the 10th Century an elaborate system of theology had been created in Islam, and by the 12th Century Persian had increasingly become a rival to Arabic as medium of theological discussion. Ghazali Tusi (Abu Hamed Mohammad al-Ghazzali, 1058-1111) wrote what was considered the best in systemic theology, Ehya ‘olum al-din (The Vivification of the Religious Sciences) {Le: 395} which he later summarized in a shorter Persian language version as Kimiyay Sa’adat (The Alchemy of Happiness) {Le: 79}.
  10. For that one has to go to Avicenna (Abu `Ali Ibn Sina, 980-1037) who, two generations before Ghazali had created a thoroughly rationalistic, self-consistent and unified philosophical system for the Persian-speaking world. Avicenna’s writings, rooted in the philosophic tradition established by his teacher Abu Nasr Farabi (870-950) have been until today the basis of philosophical education in the Islamic world {EIrS}.
  11. Three of these are in Persian (to Books II, V, and VI) and three in Arabic (to Books I, III, and IV).
  12. Indeed, S.H Nasr describes an unpublished study by Hadi Ha’eri which argues that almost 6,000 lines, or about one-fourth of the Masnavi, consists of direct translation or paraphrases of the Qur`an{Le: 396}. An 1894 commentary by the (Subcontinent) Indian author Wali Muhammad quoted the 15th Century Persian poet Jami as calling Rumi’s Masnavi  “the Qur’an in Persian (hast Qur’an dar zaban-i Pahlavi),” {Nic 7: XI, n 2}. Even allowing for poetic license – the pre-Arab invasion language Pahlavi is not Persian (or Parsi, as Rumi would say {mI: 887; F1:333) -a statement with those exact words does not seem to exist in Jami’s works {Le: 467}. On the other hand, Sana’i did call his own Hadiqah “The Persian Qur`an (Qur’an-i Parsi)” {Nic7: XI, n 1}.
  13. He meant the poem version of it by Qane`i Tusi {F1:125}.
  14. Rumi puts the blame on the leaders of religions and the powerful; he holds the common people innocent {F1:218-219}. They just follow what has become customary to them {mI: 888; F1:333-334; }.
  15. On the other hand, the Masnavi is far superior in tolerance of other religions it advocates than its closest contemporary Christian epic poem, Dante Alighieri s Divine Comedy, produced some forty years later {Le: 394-419}.
  16. Parts of more than 400 Qur’anic verses are quoted in the Masnavi, often several in one long poem {Nic5: Index}. In many passages Rumi indicates his belief that the Masnavi is an inspired exposition of the esoteric content of the Qur’an {Nic7:1-2}.
  17. The Masnavi sometimes uses jon (soul) in place of ruh, interchangeably, but the Discourses differentiates the two: “In sleep the soul (jon) fares abroad… wanders and is transformed …but the spirit (ruh) remains in the body {Sc: 277; Fih: 68}.”
  18. This is Rumi’s interpretation of verse 65 of the Qur`an {F1:315}.
  19. This was Avicenna’s only treatise on philosophy in Persian. His other extant book in Persian was  Andar danesh rag (On the Science of the Pulse, also known as Resaleh Nabz).
  20. This heritage of Avicenna, as Abu Hamed Ghazali (1058-1111) soon proved, no serious Muslim thinker could ignore {EIrM}.
  21. Perhaps through the influence of the quasi-pantheistic doctrines of the Arabic thinker Ibn Arabi (1165-1240) {Le: 26}.
  22. The conquest of Lydia and Ionia and other regions of Asia Minor by the Achaemenian King Cyrus (558-529 B.C) brought the Persians into close contact with the Hellenes. Eventually, reportedly, more than one three hundred Greeks were attached to the Persian Achaemenid court. The Hyalinization of Persia which followed the conquest of Persia by the Macedonian King Alexander in 330 B.C. was deep. The influence of Greek science and culture reached its height when the Sassanid King Khosrow I Anooshiravan (531-65) opened a school of philosophy in his capital Ctesiphon. This was to replace the Academy of Athens, which Roman Emperor Justinian (527-65) had closed in 529, causing Diogenes and several other Greek philosophers to take refuge in Persia {EIrS2}.
  23. Predominantly Peripatetic and Neo-Platonic.
  24. The same man regarding whom, elsewhere Rumi says: “Hark, whatever the Plato of the age bid you do, give up thy self-will and act in accordance with that (counsel){Mvi: 144}.”
  25. From the 8th to the 12th Centuries `Erfan grew, but then declined and became a mostly conventional and establishment movement. At this point the rebellious elements separated themselves from the mainstream under the names of darvish, rend, qalandar, and khrabatgary. During the next major Iranian Gnostic poet, Hafiz, in the 14th Century there were several such popular dervish groups in various parts of Iran. Then they all disappeared, joining the mainstream or going underground, becoming secret associations {Ta: 408}.
  26. The Theo-monist form of Islamic mysticism reveals the nature of the so called coincidenta oppoisitorum (coincidence of opposites). Other scholars have highlighted the dualist mysticism in Islam in the medieval period.
  27. The Mu`tazilites, who were the dominant Islamic theologians in the 8th to 10th Centuries had been virtually banned by now the current orthodox schools {Sc: 4}, mostly because the Mu`tazilites had denied the status of the Qur’an as “uncreated”, argued that the injunctions of God were accessible to rational inquiry and that, instead of Tradition one should rely on reason.
  28. In the Masnavi, Satan (Iblis) is the very manifestation of pride. He refused to prostrate himself before Adam, the original man. The Masnavi says Iblis remained subject to God’s wrath while man is the ‘treasurer’ of God’s mercy. “(Cunning) intelligence (zerangi) is from Iblis, love from Adam.”{Sc: 254-55}.
  29. Rumi knew about Ibn Arabi whose stepson, Sadr al-Din al-Qunavi, Shaykh al-Islam of Konya (d. 1274) was a leading exponent of Ibn Arabi’s theosophical thoughts. Rumi, however, did not care for Ibn Arabiesque speculations, and in a story in his Discourses chose to commented negatively about  al-Qanavi’s companions {Fih:: 124, 314; Th: 256-257}. Remarkably, as in the Masnavi, Rumi does not even mention Ibn Arabi’s name in his Discourses.


Abbreviations for frequently cited sources

Ak                   Anna Akasoy, “Shiism and Sects,” Pathos, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

Ar                    A. J. Arberry,  Discourses of Rumi   (London, 1961).

Ch                   William C. Chattick,   Me and Rumi: The Autobiography of Shams-i Tabrizi, Translated (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2004).

D                     Divan Shams Tabrizi, ed.  Badi` al-Zaman Foruzanfar, Kolliat Shams ya Dian Kabir, 9 vols. (Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1997).  D followed by Rumi or T and then a number indicates the number of the roba`i or tarji`band. (Le; Sc uses the same source but the system for the numbers is not clear)

EBA                Oskar Anweiler, “Academy of Gondēshāpūr, Encyclopædia Britannica, online edition, available at < (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EBB                John Andrew Boyle, “Ferdowsi, Persian Poet,” Encyclopædia Britannica, online edition, available at < > (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EBE                The Editors, “Rudaki, Persian Poet,” Encyclopædia Britannica, online edition, available at < > (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EBE2              The Editors, Nasir al-Din Tusi, Persian Scholar,” Encyclopædia Britannica, online edition, available at < > (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EBI                 The Editors, “Iqta,” Encyclopædia Britannica, online edition, available at  <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EBM               The Editors, “Mazdakism,” Encyclopædia Britannica, online edition, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrA                M. Achena, “AVICENNA xi. Persian Works,” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, 2011, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrB                J.T.P. de Bruin, “SANĀ’I,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2012, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrD                Farhad Daftary, “Carmatians,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 1990, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrF                 Charles-Henri de Fouchecour, “IRAN: Classical Persian Literature,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2012, available at  < > (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrG                Dimitri Gutas, “FĀRĀBĪ i. Biography,” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, 2012, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrM               M. Mahdi, “AVICENNA, i. Introductory Note,” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, 2011, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrO                Mahmoud Omidsalar, “KALILA WA DEMNA, ii. The translation by Abul-Ma’ali Nasr-Allah Monši,” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, 2011, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrP                 Andrew Peacock, “Saljuqs of Rum,” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, 2010,   available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrR                B. Reinert, “Attar, Shaikh Farid-al-Din.” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, 2011, available at <“; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrRi               Dagmar Riedel, “KALILA WA DEMNA, i. Redactions and circulation,” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, 2010, available at < > (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrS                 Mansour Shaki, “Falsafa,” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, 2012, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

EIrS2               Mansour Shaki, “Greek Influence on Persian Thought,” Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, 2012, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

F                      Badi` al-Zaman Foruzanfar, Sharh Masnavi Sharif, 3 vols.  9th printing (Tehran: Zavvar, 2000). Reference to the book’s Masnavi poems in Persian are signified by m.  [mI is book I]

Fih                   Rumi, Ketab Fih ma fih; az Goftar Mowlana Jalal al-Din Mohammad mashhur be Mowlavi, ed. Badi` al-Zaman Foruzanfar, 9th printing (Tehran: Amir Kabir, 2002)

GbF                 “Ferdowsi,” Books google, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

Ge                   Jerome Gellman, “Mysticism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” online edition, 2014 available at < > accessed on 18 April 2015).

Ha                   Gh. A. Hadad Adel, “THE LITERARY VALUE OF RUMI’S LETTERS.” Scientific Information Database of Iran (May 2002) available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

Ho                   Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge: Harvard University Press: 1991).

Le                    Franklin D. Lewis, Rumi: Past, Present, East and West (Oneworld, Oxford Publications, 2008).

Le2                  Franklin Lewis, The Icon and the Man: in quest of Historical Rumi (Lecture: 2007) available at < >   (accessed on 18 April 2015).

M                     Rumi, Masnavi-ye ma`navi, ed. R.A. Nicholson as Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi,  E.J.W. Gibb Memorial, new series, 8 vols. ( London:Luzac & Co., 1925, 1929, 1993)  [Mi is Masnavi book I, etc.]

Mak                 Rumi, Maktubat Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, ed. Towfiq Sobhani (Tehran: Markaz Nashr Daneshgahi, 1992). References here are to pages used and so cited in Franklin D. Lewis, Rumi: Past, Present, East and West (Oneworld, Oxford Publications, 2008).

Mo                   Mohammad ‘Ali Movahhed, Maqalat Shams Tabrizi (Writings of Shams Tabrizi) (Tehran: Tarh Now, 1996).

Ni                    Reynolds Alleyne Nicholson, Selected Poems form the Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi (Bethesda, Md: Ibex, 2001.

Nic                  Reynolds Alleyne Nicholson,  Masnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rum,  E.J.W. Gibb Memorial, new series, 8 vols. (London:Luzac & Co., 1925, 1929, 1993)

Om                  Mahmoud Omidsalar, Iran‘s Epic and America’s Empire (Santa Monica: Afshar Publishing, 2010)

Pk                    Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Liquid Frontiers (Draft 2013) available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

Ra                    Fariborz Rahnamoon, “Zarvan, The Creator of God” Iran Zamin, 13, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

Sc                    Annemarie Schimmel, The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi, Bibliotheca Persica, Persian Studies Series (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1993).

Sm                   Margaret Smith, Al-Ghazali: The Mystic (London 1944).

St                     “Al-Ghazali,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, available at <; (accessed on 18 April 2015).

Sta                   S. Fredrick Starr, Lost Enlightenment, Central Asia’s Golden Age (Princeton University Press, 2013)

Ta                    Ehsan Tabari, Barkhi barresiha dar bareh jahanbiniha v jonbeshhay ejtema`i dar Iran (Some Reviews of the Worldviews and Social Movements in Iran) (Tehran: Alfa Publication, 1358/1979).

Th                    W.M. Thackston, Jr. Signs of the Unseen: The Discourses of Jalaluddin Rumi (1999)

Wa                   Warwick, “The Impact of the Middle East on the European Renaissance,” available at < > (accessed on 18 April 2015).