Rumi’s philosophy

The T Shirt (online) shop The Philosopher’s Shirt shares another meme.

This time about Rumi’s philosophy:

Your choice: cockroach or butterfly?

Of course, cockroaches transmit diseases and, as such, are not the best example when we weigh their existence with that of butterflies. But let’s leave this variable aside for a moment. It is much more about disgust and we could also cite a larger spider as a contra against the butterfly instead of the cockroach. The spider could also trigger primal fears in humans, which is probably much less likely to be the case with a butterfly. But what does the respective species have to do with our fears and disgusts? A child who kills a butterfly would seem more peculiar to us than a child who, for example, squashes a spider as proof of his bravery in front of his friends? 

The picture shows the Persian poet, philosopher and Sufi master Rumi (1207-1273). His works prominently feature the idea that God’s creation is to be worshipped as a whole. Aesthetic criteria or human cognition should therefore not play a role in whether another species frightens or disgusts us.

Rumi’s life

In 1240 or 1241 Rumi’s public life began: he became an Islamic Jurist, issuing fatwas and giving sermons in the mosques of Konya. He also served as a Molvi (Islamic teacher) and taught his adherents in the madrassa.
During this period, Rumi also travelled to Damascus and is said to have spent four years there.

It was his meeting with the dervish (a religious mendicant, who chose or accepted material poverty) Shams-e Tabrizi on 15 November 1244 that completely changed his life. From an accomplished teacher and jurist, Rumi was transformed into an ascetic.

Shams had travelled throughout the Middle East searching and praying for someone who could “endure my company“. A voice said to him, “What will you give in return?” Shams replied, “My head!” The voice then said, “The one you seek is Jalal ud-Din of Konya.”
On the night of 5 December 1248, as Rumi and Shams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again. It is rumoured that Shams was murdered with the connivance of Rumi’s son, ‘Ala’ ud-Din; if so, Shams indeed gave his head for the privilege of mystical friendship.

Rumi’s love for, and his bereavement at the death of, Shams, found their expression in an outpouring of lyric poems, Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi. He himself went out searching for Shams and journeyed again to Damascus. There, he realised:

Why should I seek? I am the same as He.
His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself!

In December 1273, Rumi fell ill; he predicted his own death and composed the well-known ghazal, which begins with the verse:

How doest thou know what sort of king I have within me as companion?
Do not cast thy glance upon my golden face, for I have iron legs.

Rumi died on 17 December 1273 in Konya. His death was mourned by the diverse community of Konya, with local Christians and Jews joining the crowd that converged to bid farewell as his body was carried through the city.

Rumi’s teachings

Like other mystic and Sufi poets of Persian literature, Rumi’s poetry speaks of love which infuses the world. Rumi’s teachings also express the tenets summarized in the Quranic verse which Shams-e Tabrizi cited as the essence of prophetic guidance: “Know that ‘There is no god but He,’ and ask forgiveness for your sin” (Q. 47:19).

Rumi believed passionately in the use of music, poetry and dance as a path for reaching God. For Rumi, music helped devotees to focus their whole being on the divine and to do this so intensely that the soul was both destroyed and resurrected.

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