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Contemporary implications of Maulana Rumi’s thoughts

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30th-Dec-2016       
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Dr M Shamsher Ali :
(After previous write-up)
Rumi himself writes about the song of the reed:
Listen to this reed-flute, how it is wistfully singing!
About separation, it is complaining:
Even since I was uprooted from the reed-bed,
All eyes gazing upon my cry shed tears that never dried.
I want a bosom torn, torn from separation,
So that I may share the pain of lamentation:
Whoever has been parted from his origin?
Yearns always for the moment of reunion.
In every company, I moaned and cried,
The miserable and the happy, both in friendships tried,
Each became friendly with me according to their fancy,
Yet none sought to discover the secrets deep within me.
(Masnavi, Vol 1, 1-6, translated by Huseyin Bingul)
During the Crusade, Rumi’s Masnavi created a great stir in the minds of lovers of all religions-Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and Christians. Rumi liked to come in contact with people of all religions. While he grew in Balkh, he roamed freely amongst Buddhists, Christians, Jews and had developed very intimate relationships with them. After the death of his first wife, he married a Christian woman. Because of his faith that all mankind is God's creation, and because of his fraternal behavior with people of all faiths, he made a permanent impression on people irrespective of religion and race, even during the time of the Crusade. In fact, the celebration of his burial was forty-day long because of the interest and involvement in it of people of different religions. In view of the universal appeal of love, Rumi’s poems are being read over the centuries in the West and are referred to in the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. According to a survey of the Christian Science Monitor, Rumi’s book turned out to be the best-seller in 1997.
The leaning of modern men and women, especially the younger generation, to Rumi’s work, has to do with love and love only. In the post Second-World War period, when a new social order dictated by consumerism began to take its roots, Rumi's words of love for the Creator and the created held out a new charm. The young generations, especially in the West, have been suffering from a sense of lack of purpose of living, and also from a sense of neglect from their family. Young boys and girls have ‘things and things,’ but things alone cannot give them any peace of mind. In the permissive Western societies, whose culture now has started invading the value oriented Eastern societies also, young boys and girls have almost everything they want, including free sex. Their parents give them all the things they need for living in a materialistic world, but do not give them ‘time’ and ‘company.’  This creates in the young people a hunger for love on one side, and a loss of identity on the other. The young folks flocked to the Spanish Steps in Rome, to the place outside the Royal Courtyards in Amsterdam, and to Kathmandu at the foothills of the Himalayas. Hippies or flower-children, as they were dubbed, represented a serious break off from the social order-a departure from ‘Love,’ which made families go around since families came into being. No wonder, these boys and girls are immersed in materialism, and being sick of them, want to create an inner space of love.
Rumi’s work provides them just that space, in which egoism should yield to submission and matter, should submit to spirit. However, talking of materialism, one might wonder, how can one live without matter? Should one renounce the world? The answer, according to Rumi, is ‘No.’ The world, in all its life forms and hues and colors, is indeed a beautiful place to live in. But what one needs to avoid is an emphasis on ‘Egoism’ and ‘Overconsumerism.’
Although Rumi has suggested tricks to abandon the world, but according to him, ‘abandoning the world’ does not mean here to quit it totally but it means to lessen carnal greed and to give more attention to God. It is suggested in the Holy Quran to plead to God in this way, ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world and in the Hereafter’ (Al-Quran, 2:201).
It is, therefore, the duty of a believer to live a modest life here without being greedy. One has to balance it well. In this connection, Rumi cites the case of a boat (Kishty in Persian), which cannot operate on the ground; water is badly needed for it to float and move on it. But this water which is the friend of the boat can turn as its enemy if the water enters into the boat. The boat simply sinks. In the exact words of Rumi:
Ab ander zir-e- kishti poshti ast.
ab dar kishti halak-e-kishti ast
(Water in the boat ruins it, while water under the boat, supports it)
This, indeed, is a very good example pointing to the right attitude to our living. We need the world to live in, but if we put the world into our heart and acquire a possessive material tendency, we would simply sink. Thus, in an age where markets and even religious festivals have been hijacked and dominated by traders, this over consumerism is posing a serious threat to the establishment of a peaceful world order. A section of mankind has too much, and another section has too little. How can we say, then, we love each other?
Rumi’s philosophy for the Creator and the created can make a great difference to our living styles. No wonder, Mahatma Gandhi, who was tremendously influenced by Rumi, used to say, “There is enough in the world for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed” - a reverberation of the Quranic order itself. Gandhi often used to quote the words of Rumi, ‘unity is our desire, not division.’  
In a world battered by feuds and conflicts, in a world torn apart because of hunger and poverty, it is the words of Rumi which now assume a new significance. Rumi survived the Crusade through the acts of Divine love and universal fraternity. It is the same acts which can again make us overcome future predicaments of the human race, should those happen in any case. Today, combating violence has become a major concern of all nations of the world, but we must remember that violence cannot be combated by violence; violence can be combated by love. Love can act as the cure for all ailments, and as the best bridge between isolated hearts.
Many less powerful nations of the world today feel thwarted by a sense of fear and aggression from the mighty nations of the world. They need not. Guns and missiles operate in outer physical space. Love and humanity operate in the inner space of man. Even the winners in outer space can lose terribly in their inner spaces. Thus, time has come for all to realise that the forces in outer physical space can be won by the forces of love and brotherhood in our own inner space. Following Jalaluddin Rumi, can we not create a world in which any man's death anywhere could diminish us because we are involved in mankind? Can we not create a world in which love can act as the settler of all our differences, and as the healer of all our wounds? We certainly can, if in the spirit of Rumi, all our actions whirl, as if in a dance, around an axis of Love for the Creator and the created.
Maulana Rumi breathed his last on 17th December, 1273. As on the occasion of the celebration of Rumi’s 800th birth anniversary, let us make a pledge to our Almighty Lord, to create a new world wherein Divinity and Humanity will go hand in hand and in settling all our differences, we will remember only our Humanity, and forget everything else. n
References: 1. Ira Friedlander, The Whirling Dervishes. New York (Collier Books, 1975), page 40.  2. St. Onge, Kathleen. Bridge to Light, 2007: 48, NJ: The Light Inc.  3. William C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Love : The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi. State University of New York Press. 1983. Page 2.  4. Turkmen, Erkan. The Essence of Rumi's Masnevi.Mulhakati. Konya, Turkiye. Page 83.
(News letter, Dhaka, December 2007. Special issue: Great Poet Jalaluddin Rumi)

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