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119th Birth Day of National Poet Nazrul

The influence of Moulana Rumi on the works of our National Poet

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25th-May-2017       
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Mustafa Zaman Abbasi :
No two humans are alike; that's the plan of the Creator. Two humans may come closest as Prophet Muhammad (Sm) considered Ali as closest to him in knowledge. Comparing Rumi and Nazrul is not easy. Both are great poets, one who lived 700 years ago and the later 60 years ago with diverse and varied ways of looking at life and destiny. I found one parameter which I will use for bringing the two poets' viewpoints at a closer level, one is love of Muhammad (Sm), the Best of creation. Both were lovers of the Prophet and they were in real sense 'Asheq-e-Rasul'. The other trend which is found in Nazrul is his humanistic attitude i.e. looking at all humans with love and dignity. This resembles with a great extent the universal message of love pointed out by Rumi. Whether one is Christian or Jew, Hindu or Muslim, it matters little to him. In other words these two great poets have come very close as love towards all creation form their basis and hence acceptability to the whole world.
The substance and rules of Masnavi of Rumi are spiritual and metaphysical while he uses the form of parables in stories. He influences the whole world today as is manifested in the numerous formulation of Rumi societies in the West as well as East and specially the festivals and conferences arranged in several countries to commemorate 800 years of his birth. His treasury of wisdom particularly found a natural abode in the subcontinent of India and particularly in Bengal, now Bangladesh where Farsi, was the state language for many years and as many as 17000 Farsi words are said to be still in Bengali vocabulary.
If Rumi is the most-read poet in America today it is because of the contributions of a handful of scholars who discovered the soul of Rumi and presented the imagery in an ecstatic presentation. It didn't happen so easily as it came to the East. The East as in Bangladesh was ready with the sufis who came to preach Islam and the sufi folk poets Just took literally and drawn deep from Masnavi and other works of Rumi.
Maulana Rumi has been hailed by one Western scholar as "surely the greatest mystical poet in the history of mankind". (A. J. Arberry, Discourses of Rumi. P-9) The reason of his popularity in the West is due to two reasons, 1. The lover-beloved mysticism which touches the heart so easily; 2. The spiritual joy which one feels out of it. Rumi said : The creed of love of God is distinct from all religion, the creed and doctrine of the lovers is God alone. (Mathnavi Book 11.1770) 'Rumi learnt that the essence is constantly with Him. This was his creed of love, the creed of the lovers', 'the school of love'. But this did not mean a new religion. He said: What is the ascension to Heaven? It is this being 'nothing' for the lover of God, 'the creed and religion is being annihilated in self. (Mathnavi, Book VI. 233) Rumi said: If you are unable to travel the path of Muhammad (Sm), at least travel the path of Jesus, so that you may not remain entirely excluded (Fihi Ma Fih. Discourse 20)  Through the path of mystical Islam and Allah's blessing, Rumi had transcendental journey's which is reflected in his poetic speeches. The Muslim Rumi and the 'Rumi of Universal Love' is the same as his "soul remains in sanctioned nearness to God, and the blessings of his spirit lives through his poetry and words." (Rumi and Islam by Ibrahim Gamard).
Rumi was thirty seven years old when he met his second Sufi Master, Shamsuddin Muhammad Al Tabrizi, who was originally from Tabriz, Persia.
The role of Farsi is important in the development of Bengali for a long time. Not only that, it has helped in modernisation of the language. The language, literature and grammar has many Farsi words which are written in Bengali style. In the Middle Age (1200-1800) Bengali words like 'Mukut' were replaced by 'Taj' and 'Arohis' by 'sowari' so much so that many Farsi words have replaced sanskritised and local words (totsomo and todvobo). This Indo-Iranian language was also studied by Nazrul in maktab in his early days as a result of which many of his writings were novel words from Arabic Farsi usage. These were being used for the first time in Bengali in an aesthetic manner.  Qazi Nazrul Islam, National Poet of Bangladesh (1899-1976) rose to eminence as an uncompromising dissenter against British rule in India and a source of inspiration for the emancipation of Bengalis. He is considered among the greatest contributors to Bengali cultural heritage of all time. Out of 77 years he had a creative career of less than twenty four years (1919-1943) ending due to his yet mysterious neurological illness which marginalised his functional capacities including speech. He produced 25 books of poetry, 4000 songs and ghazals, 3 books of translations, 29 plays. 5 books of essays. Nazrul holds the world record of recorded songs which he himself composed and set to tunes. Two aspects of his works have been compared here with Rumi. The writer thinks that he is indebted to other Iranian writers namely Sadi, Hafiz, Khayyam, Shams Tabrizi besides Rumi.
Nazrul drew heavily from the Quran and Hadith and Masnavi, which is regarded as the reflection of Quran in Persian. In his famous poem 'Beware My Captain', he reveals a profound understanding of how one may go with about pursuing and nurturing a religious identity. This he did while bearing fully the plurality of culture and respect for other religions. He gave the highest value to Prophet Muhammad (Sm) without sacrificing this trend. This was indeed a unique challenge to the Hindu-Muslim relationship in undivided Bengal. Nazrul overcame this because of his faith in Prophet Muhammad (Sm); and his love for Hindu and Muslim alike made him the most tolerant of all poets in Bengal.
The other theme dominant in his work that resembles Rumi, is the overall theme of 'Human unity' as opposed to the idea of 'clash of civilizations'. The human unity is not the same artificial accretion to human evolution; it is rather the organic and natural flowering of common routing. Nazrul believed in cultural differences between humans and worked for poly culturism and multiculturalism.
According to Jalaluddin Rumi, 'the Perfect Man' experiences religion in its higher form when he attains a highly developed ego.
Dr. Nicholson explains this in the following manner:
The individual soul, when impregnated (like the oyster shell by the rain drop) by the overflowing radiance (tajalli or fayez) of the Universal Spirit, produces the Perfect Man. Rumi sees it as the last fruit of humanity when he says:
"Therefore, in form thou art at the microcosm. Therefore, in reality thou art microcosm. Externally the branch came into existence for the sake of fruit. If there had not been desire and hope of the fruit how should the garden have planted the route of the tree?
If there has not been desire and hope of the fruit, how should the gardener have the root of the tree?
Rumi, calls the Perfect Man, Mard-e Khuda (the Man of God), Sheikh, Mard-e Momen, Kamil, and Faqir. Rumi's belief includes the dream of seeking him one day. As he dreams:
Yesterday, the Master was roaming about the city, a lantern in his hand, saying I am tired of demons and beasts. I am eager to meet a man. My heart is weary of these weak-spirited companions.
I want to see the lion of God and Rustam, son of Zal.
I said: He is not to be found we have sought him long. He replied: A thing that is not to be found is what I am in search of. Rumi considered Mohammad (Sm) to be the most developed personality. He regarded Shamsuddin and Husamuddin also as perfect men, in what he sees the Divine consciousness made manifest, so that, by losing himself in them he realizes his essential unity with God. Rumi says: he has become the seal for this reason that there never was anyone like him in magnificence for ever shall be. Rumi regards Muhammad (Sm) 'as the centre and animating Principle of whole & created universe, the spirit, and life of all things', the Mediator of Divine grace, through which God reveals Himself and benefits the worshipper.
Kazi Nazrul Islam in his Naat-e-Rasool has similar salutations of his inner love and devotion to Prophet Muhammad (Sm). I have selected only nine out of about three hundred of his Naat Sharifs and Hamd and Ghazals. That he composed in the 1930 and 1940s and was extremely popular in the interior most villages of Bengal through the media of gramophone discs. I may render here few such Naat Sharifs, to show  why I consider these Naats as the best of compositions written any where in the world, save Naat composed by Rumi. Sa'di and Busairi.
Amar Dhyaner Chabi Amari  Hazrat
" My Hazrat is the replica of my meditation
That name quenches the thirst of my soul
My hopes my passions
My pride my trust on the last day
The sinners among his Ummat
For this name the earth and the sky will outshine
The whole world is surely wrapped in his name
The name sets the sail on rivers
That name holds the deserts and mountains
The angels, nymphs, fairies
and jinns hum his name from dawn to dusk
If that name is immersed in my meditation
On Judgment Day I will be blessed with intercession."
Allake Je Paite Chai Hazratke Bhalobeshe
Those who want to reach Allah by loving Hazrat
Will get the throne of hundreds of Kalam
Without even asking for it.
By holding the rope of Rasul, you have to ascend to Allah's house
Those who have jumped into the waves of the river
Will eventually reach the ocean.
What gain do you get O believer by arguing
But only sorrow and pain
Why don't you see, what you can get by loving
My Hazrat only Once ?
In this world day and night,
Eids happiness will be from daily companion's right
Whatever you wish here, you will get
If only Ahmed happily grants.
'A Treasury of wisdom from the Poet of the Soul'  is a recent publication from the West (published by Harper Sanfransico) wherein the editor comments:
Thrice in fourteen centuries of deeply troubled political relationships, the West has opened its heart to Islam and been touched by its soul. First there was The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam which in Edward Fitzgerald's translation created something of a cult in the West, the best known verses being:
"A book of verse still underneath the bough
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread- and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness
O wildernesses were Paradise now."
Then came T.E. Lawrence the extravaganza of the motion picture Lawrence of Arabia. Now Jalaluddin Rumi who has stormed the world with Rumi love. Because Rumi has attained great popularity in Western cultural awareness in recent years, with the help of the work of writers such as Anna-Maria Scimelle, Camille and Kabir Helminski and Coleman Barks. English speaking people consider him primarily as a poet. Rumi writes:
: These are our works our soul displays.
Behold our works, we have passed away."
Rumi went in search of Shams and reached Damascus where, unable to find his friend, he turned back and realised that the search was inner, looking within his own self for the voice of the Divine Supreme.
: "Why should I search?
 I am the same as he is
His essence speaks through me."
This is a great philosophy which takes hours and hours to ponder upon, many scholars concerted symposium may write volumes of research papers on the subject, yet the result can be obtained in minutes. Rumi, Hossamuddin, Shamsuddin, even 1, a common person may be and certainly are the same, if the 'spark within can only be kindled'. In Rumi's view the sun can reveal itself in the atom: the ocean can reveal itself in a single drop; and God can reveal Himself in the human beloved. Sufism emphasizes the unity of all existence. Once purified, the human heart can see for himself. It attains a mirror. It reflects and knows the light of God. God is not a being to be afraid of, he is a friend.
Rumi says: if you want to know yourself, come out of yourself
Leave the tributary and flow toward the river
Langley a Western scholar writes on Nazrul Islam:
"Nazrul understood that speaking of or describing human unity is not enough. If human liberation from culturally constructed walls such as gender, class, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, and social origin, among other things are to be realised". Human unity was one of his preoccupations. He wrote:
"I sing of equality
In which dissolves
All the barriers and estrangements,
In which are united
Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians,
I sing of equality."
The last stanza of the longer poem reads:
"Shakyo muni heard the call of
The suffering humanity and decried his throne
In this voice the Darling of Arabia heard his Call,
From here he sang the Quran's message of equality.
What I have heard, my friend, is not a lie
There is no temple of Kaaba
Greater than this heart!"
In another poem the poet says:
"I sing of equality
There is nothing greater than a human being,
Nothing nobler!
Caste and creed, religion, there is no difference
Throughout all ages, all places.
We are all a manifestation
Of our common humanity."
The Rebel or Bidrohi bears the essence of Nazrul's life and works.
He writes:
"Weary of battles, I, the great Rebel
Shall rest in peace only when
The anguished cry of the oppressed
Shall no longer reverberate
In the sky and the air: with tyrants' bloody sword will
no longer rattle in battlefields.
Only then shall I, the Rebel
Rest in peace."
When we read his poems in the present context:
"Discrimination produces hatred, war and terrorism",
"lack of spirituality within justice" is a common subject of parley anywhere including the floors of United Nations (Speech of President Ahmadinejad at General Assembly, September 17, 2007).
From Rumi to Nazrul is 700 years, the journey was a long and cherished one. Bengali literature submerged in the Iranian romanticism of Sa'di. Hafiz. Khayyam and Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi for a long time. A new breath started with Nazrul wherein he drew inspiration from Rumi specially on Prophet and humanistic values. This study is a new one and further detailed study by the writer or anyone else would prove not only the unity of the people of the world but establish the value of' spirituality vis a vis mundane profanity of love.
Sources consulted :
1. Rumi and Islam by Abraham Gamard (Vermont USA)
2. Rumi and Sufi Path of Love by Light Publications (New Jersey, U.S. A)
3. The Sufi Doctrine of Rumi William C. Chittick
4. Rumi's Impact on Iqbal's Religious Thought by Dr. Nazir Qaiser'
5.  The Sufi Book of life by Neil Douglous Klotz
6. The Drowned Book: The selections of Bahauddin the Father of Rumi, by Coleman Barks and John Moyne
7. Selected Naat by Kazi Nazrul Islam translation by Labiba Hassan (Nazrul Institute, Dhaka)
8. Poetry of Kazi Nazrul Islam in English. Translated by Mohammad Nurul Huda (Nazrul Institute, Dhaka)
9. Kazi Nazrul Islam: The Voice of Poetry and the struggle for humans and wholeness by Winston E. Langley (Nazrul Institute, Dhaka)
10. Kazi Nazrul Islam, selected works by Sajed Kamal (Nazrul Institute, Dhaka)
11. Rumi viewed in Bengali Sufistic Tradition
(Mustafa Zaman Abbasi is a singer, writer and scholar of national and international repute. He received many national and international awards for Music and Literature. Presently Chairman: Dialogue on Cultural Policy)

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