RUMI'S POEMS

RUMI’S POETRY


Divan-e Shams

Rumi rarely wrote down his own poetry. The six books of poetry in the Mathnawi were written entirely by Rumi, who would compose and dictate the poetry, and his student Husam Chulabi, who would write and edit it.

According to the BBC: “Rumi's major works consist of two epic poems. The first is the Diwani Shamsi Tabrizi, named in honour of his friend Shams. It is often abbreviated to Diwan. It consists of about 40,000 verses in a vibrant and energetic style. It has been suggested that the Diwan represents Rumi's feelings while in a dance-induced spiritual state. At the end of the Diwan is a collection of poems of four lines, called quatrains. It is believed that about 1,600 can be correctly attributed to Rumi. The Mathnawi is his other seminal work. It consists of 25,000 verses, in six books of poetry. The Mathnawi was written at the same time as the Diwan, and was probably intended to place the Diwan within the wider context of Islam. It is regarded as an explanation of some aspects of the Qur'an, placed within a more Sufi context. [Source: BBC, September 1, 2009 |::|]

“Indeed, the problem with many translations of Rumi's work is the separation of his poems on love from his belief in God and Islam. Many translations of his work have become mere love poems, and Rumi himself has become known as a love poet. Love is an overwhelming part of Rumi's work, but for Rumi, this love was a higher love for God, and not for humans. Rumi wrote in Quatrain, No. 1173: “I am the servant of the Qur'an as long as I have life. I am the dust on the path of Muhammad, the Chosen one. If anyone quotes anything except this from my sayings, I am quit of him and outraged by these words.”


From the Masnavi: a long poem written by Rumi: A Bear and a Sleeping Man

William C Chittick wrote in “The Sufi Path of Love”: “Although the Diwan contains many short didactic passages, on the whole it appears as a collection of individual and separate crystallisations and concretisations of spiritual states undergone on the path to God. The overall 'feeling' of the Diwan is one of spiritual intoxication and ecstatic love. The Mathnawi is a commentary upon these mystical states and stations. It places them within the overall context of Islamic and Sufi teachings and practice. And it corrects the mistaken impression that one might receive by studying different poems in the Diwan in isolation and separating them from the wider context of Sufism and Islam. ) The Sufi Path of Love, William C Chittick |::|

Rumi's poetry can be passionate, spiritual and sexual. He often wrote about the masteries of human desire and the ecstacy of love. In Daring Enough to Finish he wrote:
Face that lights my face, you spin
Intelligence into these particles
I am. Your wind shivers my tree
My mouth tasse sweet with your name
In it. You make me dance daring enough
To finish. No more timidity!
Let fruit fall and wind turn my roots up
In the air, done with patient waiting. [Translated by Coleman Barks]

Rumi eschewed ritual and emphasized tolerance. In Spiritual Couplets, one of the most influential pieces of Islamic writing, he famously wrote:
Come! Come ! Whoever, whatever you may be, come!
Heathen, idolatrous or fire worshipper, come!
Even if you deny your oaths a hundred times, come!
Our door is the door of hope, come! Come as you are!

Websites and Resources: Islamic, Arabic and Persian Literature Islamic and Arabic Literature at Cornell University guides.library.cornell.edu/ArabicLiterature ; Internet Islamic History Sourcebook fordham.edu/halsall/islam/islamsbook ;
Wikipedia article on Islamic Literature Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on Arabic Literature Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on Persian Literature Wikipedia ; Persian literature at Encyclopædia Britannica britannica.com ; Persian Literature & Poetry at parstimes.com /www.parstimes.com ; Arabic Poetry web.archive.org ; Arabic Poetry from Princeton princeton.edu/~arabic/poetry ; Thousand and One Nights wollamshram.ca/1001 ; 1001 Nights fairytalez.com ; Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Burton, gutenberg.org ; Islamic Stories islamicstories.com

Rumi Poems


A Boastful Jackal

Sorrow Turned to Joy
"He who extracts the rose from the thorn
Can also turn this winter into spring.
He who exalts the heads of the cypresses
Is able also out of sadness to bring joy."

Exert Yourselves
"Trust in God, yet tie the camel's leg.'
Hear the adage, 'The worker is the friend of God';
Through trust in Providence neglect not to use means.
Go, O Fatalists, practise trust with self-exertion,
Exert yourself to attain your objects, bit by bit.
In order to succeed, strive and exert yourselves;
If you strive not for your objects, ye are fools."

White Nights
Every night Thou freest our spirits from the body
And its snare, making them pure as rased tablets.
Every night spirits are released from this cage,
And set free, neither lording it nor lorded over.
At night prisoners are unaware of their prison,
At night kings are unaware of their majesty.

Self-Satisfaction
No sickness worse than fancying thyself perfect
Can infect thy soul, O arrogant, misguided one!
Shed many tears of blood from eyes and heart,
That this self-satisfaction may be driven out.
The fate of Iblis lay in saying, "I am better than He,"
And this same weakness lurks in the souls of all creatures. [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., “The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East”, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VIII: Medieval Persia, p. 111-130]

Rumi Poems on Love

The Flame of Love
How long wilt thou dwell on words and empty shows?
A burning heart is what I want; consort with burning!
Kindle in thy heart the flame of Love,
And burn up utterly thoughts and fine expressions.
O Moses! the lovers of fair rites are one class,
They whose hearts and souls burn with Love, another.


Manjun Feeds a Dog in the Vicinity of Layla's House

A woman bore many children in succession, but none of them lived beyond the age of three or four months. In great distress she cried to God, and then beheld in a vision the beautiful gardens of Paradise, and many fair mansions therein, and upon one of these mansions she read her own name inscribed. And a voice from heaven informed her that God would accept the sorrows she had endured in lieu of her blood shed in holy war, as, owing to her sex, she was unable to go out to battle like the men. On looking again, the woman beheld in Paradise all the children she had lost, and she cried, "O Lord! they were lost to me, but safe with Thee!"

The Optimistic Rose
In this tale there is a warning for thee, O Soul,
That thou mayest acquiesce in God's ordinances,
And be wary and not doubt God's benevolence,
When sudden misfortune befalls thee.
Let others grow pale from fear of ill fortune,
Do thou smile like the rose at loss and gain;
For the rose, though its petals be torn asunder,
Still smiles on, and it is never cast down.

The Music of Love
Hail to thee, then, O Love, sweet madness!
Thou who healest all our infirmities!
Who art the Physician of our pride and self-conceit!
Who art our Plato and our Galen!
Love exalts our earthly bodies to heaven,
And makes the very hills to dance with joy!
O lover, 'twas Love that gave life to Mount Sinai,
When "it quaked, and Moses fell down in a swoon."
Did my Beloved only touch me with His lips,
I too, like a flute, would burst out into melody.

Where Love Is


Two Naked Girls in a Pool Attended by Angels

A damsel said to her lover, "O fond youth,
You have visited many cities in your travels;
Which of those cities seems most delightful to you?"
He made answer, "The city wherein my love dwells,
In whatever nook my queen alights;
Though it be as the eye of a needle, 'tis a wide plain;
Wherever her Yusuf-like face shines as a moon,
Though it be the bottom of a well, 'tis Paradise.
With thee, my love, hell itself were heaven.
With thee a prison would be a rose-garden.
With thee hell would be a mansion of delight,
Without thee lilies and roses would be as flames of fire!"

No lover ever seeks union with his beloved,
But his beloved is also seeking union with him.
But the lover's love makes his body lean,
While the Beloved's love makes her fair and lusty.
When in this heart the lightning spark of love arises,
Be sure this Love is reciprocated in that heart.
When the Love of God arises in thy heart,
Without doubt God also feels love for thee.

The Love of the soul is for Life and the Living One,
Because its origin is the Soul not bound to place.
The Love of the soul is for wisdom and knowledge,
That of the body for houses, gardens, and vineyards;
The love of the soul is for things exalted on high,
That of the body for acquisition of goods and food.
The Love, too, of Him on high is directed to the soul:
Know this, for "Be loves them that love Him."
The sum is this: that whoso seeks another,
The soul of that other who is sought inclines to him.

Beloved


An Unhappy Deer in the Company of Donkeys

When the rose has faded and the garden is withered,
The song of the nightingale is no longer to be heard.
The Beloved is all in all, the lover only veils Him;
The Beloved is all that lives, the lover a dead thing.
When the lover feels no longer love's quickening,
He becomes like a bird who has lost its wings. Alas!
How can I retain my senses about me,
When the Beloved shows not the Light of his countenance?

Love is the astrolabe of God's mysteries.
A lover may hanker after this love or that love,
But at the last he is drawn to the King of Love.
However much we describe and explain Love,
When we fall in love we are ashamed of our words.
Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear,
But Love unexplained is better.

In one 'twas said, "Leave power and weakness alone;
Whatever withdraws thine eyes from God is an idol."
In one 'twas said, "Quench not thy earthly torch,
That it may be a light to lighten mankind.
If thou neglectest regard and care for it,
Thou wilt quench at midnight the lamp of Union."

To a Lady Weeping


Hebrew Mothers with Their Babies in Front of the Pharaoh who Intends to Kill Them

When I beheld thy blue eyes shine
Through the bright drop that pity drew,
I saw beneath those tears of thine
A blue-ey'd violet bathed in dew.

The violet ever scents the gale,
Its hues adorn the fairest wreath,
But sweetest through a dewy veil
Its colors glow, its odors breathe.

And thus thy charms in brightness rise—
When wit and pleasure round thee play,
When mirth sits smiling in thine eyes,
Who but admires their sprightly ray?
But when through pity's flood they gleam,
Who but must love their softened beam?

Lover's Cry to the Beloved

"My back is broken by the conflict of my thoughts;
O Beloved One, come and stroke my head in mercy!
The palm of Thy hand on my head gives me rest,
Thy hand is a sign of Thy bounteous providence.
Remove not Thy shadow from my head,
I am afflicted, afflicted, afflicted!
Sleep has deserted my eyes
Through my longing for Thee, O Envy of cypresses!

O take my life, Thou art the Source of Life!
For apart from Thee I am wearied of my life.
I am a lover well versed in lovers' madness,
I am weary of learning and sense."

Gifts of the Beloved


Maidens Bath a Princess Who Inspects Herself in a Mirror

He takes a few drops of your tears,
And gives you the Divine Fount sweeter than sugar.
He takes your sighs fraught with grief and sadness,
And for each sigh gives rank in heaven as interest.
In return for the sigh-wind that raised tear-clouds,
God gave Abraham the title of "Father of the Faithful."

Thou art hidden from us, though the heavens are filled
With Thy Light, which is brighter than sun and moon!
Thou art hidden, yet revealest our hidden secrets!
Thou art the Source that causes our rivers to flow.
Thou art hidden in Thy essence, but seen by Thy bounties.
Thou art like the water, and we like the millstone.
Thou art like the wind, and we like the dust;
The wind is unseen, but the dust is seen by all.
Thou art the Spring, and we the sweet green garden;
Spring is not seen, though its gifts are seen.
Thou art as the Soul, we as hand and foot;
Soul instructs hand and foot to hold and take.
Thou art as Reason, we like the tongue;
'Tis reason that teaches the tongue to speak.
Thou art as Joy, and we are laughing;
The laughter is the consequence of the joy.
Our every motion every moment testifies,
For it proves the presence of the Everlasting God.

Rumi on Male Friendship


A Lions and a Fox Admire Their Reflection in the Water of a Well While a Rabbit Looks On

Rumi wrote:
" Every form you see has its archetype in the placeless world....
From the moment you came into the world of being
A ladder was placed before you that you might escape (ascend ) .
First you were mineral, later you turned to plant,
[101]Then you became an animal: how should this be a secret to you ?
Afterwards you were made man, with knowledge, reason, faith;
Behold the body, which is a portion of the dustpit, how perfect it has grownig
When you have travelled on from man, you will doubtless become an angel;
After that you are done with earth: your station is in heaven.
Pass again even from angelhood: enter thatocean,
That your drop may become a sea which is a hundred seas of ' Oman.' "
From the Divani Shamsi Tabriz of Jalalu-ddin Rumi, trans. by R. H. Nicholson.

“Twere better that the spirit which wears not true love as a garment
Had not been: its being is but shame.
Be drunken in love, for love is all that exists.
Dismiss cares and be utterly clear of heart,
Like the face of a mirror, without image or picture.
When it becomes clear of images, all images are contained in it."
Happy the moment when we are seated in the palace, thou and I,
With two forms and with two figures, but with one soul, thou and I."

"Once a man came and knocked at the door of his friend.
His friend said, ' Who art thou, O faithfulone ? '
He said, "Tis I.' He answered, ' There is no admittance.
There is no room for the raw at my well-cooked feast.
Naught but fire of separation and absence
Can cook the raw one and free him from hypocrisy I
Since thy self has not yet left thee,
Thou must be burned in fiery flames.'

Rumi Poems About God and Religion


A Dog Bites a Blind Beggar

God's Light
'Tis God's Light that illumines the senses' light,
That is the meaning of "Light upon light."
The senses' light draws us earthward.
God's Light calls us heavenward. When love of God kindles a flame in the inward man,
He burns, and is freed from effects.
He has no need of signs to assure him of Love,
For Love casts its own Light up to heaven.

The Believer's Heart
The Prophet said that God has declared,
"I am not contained in aught above or below,
I am not contained in earth or sky, or even
In highest heaven. Know this for a surety, O beloved!
Yet am I contained in the believer's heart!
If ye seek Me, search in such hearts!"

True Knowledge
The knowledge which is not of Him is a burden;
Knowledge which comes not immediately from Him
Endures no longer than the rouge of the tire-woman.
Nevertheless, if you bear this burden in a right spirit
'Twill be removed, and you will obtain joy.
See you bear not that burden out of vainglory,
Then you will behold a store of True Knowledge within.
When you mount the steed of this True Knowledge,
Straightway the burden will fall from your back.

All Religions are One


A Man Kills His Mother who has Committed Adultery


In the adorations and benedictions of righteous men
The praises of all the prophets are kneaded together.
All their praises are mingled into one stream,
All the vessels are emptied into one ewer.
Because He that is praised is, in fact, only One.
In this respect all religions are only one religion.
Because all praises are directed toward God's Light,
These various forms and figures are borrowed from it.

Rumi Poems About the Hypocrisy of Conventional Religion

The Wisdom of the Weak
"O friends, God has given me inspiration.
Oftentimes strong counsel is suggested to the weak.
The wit taught by God to the bee
Is withheld from the lion and the wild ass.
It fills its cells with liquid sweets,

For God opens the door of this knowledge to it.
The skill taught by God to the silkworm
Is a learning beyond the reach of the elephant.
The earthly Adam was taught of God names,
So that his glory reached the seventh heaven.
He laid low the name and fame of the angels,
Yet blind indeed are they whom God dooms to doubt!"

Ignorance:
Blood is impure, yet its stain is removed by water;
But that impurity of ignorance is more lasting,
Seeing that without the blessed water of God
It is not banished from the man who is subject to it.
O that thou wouldst turn thy face to thy own prayers,
And say, "Ah! my prayers are as defective as my being; O requite me good for evil!"

Saint and Hypocrite:


A Group of Sufis, who Stole a Donkey from Another Sufi, Celebrate in Dance and Song


Watch the face of each one, regard it well,
It may be by serving thou wilt recognize Truth's face.
As there are many demons with men's faces,
It is wrong to join hand with every one.
When the fowler sounds his decoy whistle,
That the birds may be beguiled by that snare,
The birds hear that call simulating a bird's call,
And, descending from the air, find net and knife.
So vile hypocrites steal the language of Dervishes,
In order to beguile the simple with their trickery.
The works of the righteous are light and heat,
The works of the evil treachery and shamelessness.
They make stuffed lions to scare the simple,
They give the title of Muhammad to false Musailima.
But Musailima retained the name of "Liar,"
And Muhammad that of "Sublimest of beings."
That wine of God (the righteous) yields a perfume of musk;
Other wine (the evil) is reserved for penalties and pains.

He Knows About It All

He who is from head to foot a perfect rose or lily,
To him spring brings rejoicing.
The useless thorn desires the autumn,
That autumn may associate itself with the garden;
And hide the rose's beauty and the thorn's shame,
That men may not see the bloom of the one and the other's shame;
That common stone and pure ruby may appear all as one.
True, the Gardener knows the difference in the autumn,
But the s Whoso recognizes and confesses his own defects
Is hastening in the way that leads to Perfection!
But he advances not toward the Almighty
Who fancies himself to be perfect.


A Shoemaker and the Unfaithful Wife of a Sufi Surprised by Her Husband's Unexpected Return Home

Whatsoever is perceived by sense He annuls,
But He stablishes that which is hidden from the senses.
The lover's love is visible, his Beloved hidden.
The Friend is absent, the distraction He causes present.
Renounce these affections for outward forms,
Love depends not on outward form or face.
Whatever is beloved is not a mere empty form,
Whether your beloved be of earth or heaven.
Whatever is the form you have fallen in love with—
Why do you forsake it the moment life leaves it?

Destroy Not Earthly Beauty

Tear not thy plumage off, it can not be replaced;
Disfigure not thy face in wantonness, O fair one!
That face which is bright as the forenoon sun—
To disfigure it were a grievous sin.
'Twere paganism to mar such a face as thine!
The moon itself would weep to lose sight of it!
Knowest thou not the beauty of thine own face?
Quit this temper that leads thee to war with thyself!
It is the claws of thine own foolish thoughts
That in spite wound the face of thy quiet soul.
Know such thoughts to be claws fraught with poison.
Which score deep wounds on the face of thy soul.

Thus spake cursed Iblis to the Almighty,
"I want a mighty trap to catch human game withal!"
God gave him gold and silver and troops and horses,
Saying, "You can catch my creatures with these."
Iblis said, "Bravo!" but at the same time hung his lip,
And frowned sourly like a bitter orange.
Then God offered gold and jewels from precious mines
To that laggard in the faith, Saying, "Take these other traps, O cursed one."
But Iblis said, "Give me more, O blessed Defender."
God gave him succulent and sweet and costly wines,
And also store of silken garments.
But Iblis said, "O Lord, I want more aids than these,
In order to bind men in my twisted rope
So firmly that Thy adorers, who are valiant men,
May not, man-like, break my bonds asunder."

Wine Everlasting


Court Scene with Dancing and Wine

O babbler, while thy soul is drunk with mere date wine,
Thy spirit hath not tasted the genuine grapes.
For the token of thy having seen that divine Light
Is this, to withdraw thyself from the house of pride.

When those Egyptian women sacrificed their reason,
They penetrated the mansion of Joseph's love;
The Cupbearer of Life bore away their reason
They were filled with wisdom of the world without end.
Joseph's beauty was only an offshoot of God's beauty:
Be lost, then, in God's beauty more than those women.

What ear has told you falsely eye will tell truly.
Then ear, too, will acquire the properties of an eye;
Your ears, now worthless as wool, will become gems;
Yea, your whole body will become a mirror,
It will be as an eye of a bright gem in your bosom.
First the hearing of the ear enables you to form ideas,
Then these ideas guide you to the Beloved.
Strive, then, to increase the number of these ideas,
That they may guide you, like Majnun, to the Beloved.

Allah's Call

"O angels, bring him back to me.
Since the eyes of his heart were set on Hope,
Without care for consequence I set him free,
And draw the pen through the record of his sins!"

A lover was once admitted to the presence of his mistress, but, instead of embracing her, he pulled out a paper of sonnets and read them to her, describing her perfections and charms and his own love toward her at length. His mistress said to him, "You are now in my presence, and these lovers' sighs and invocations are a waste of time. It is not the part of a true lover to waste his time in this way. It shows that I am not the real object of your affection, but that what you really love is your own effusions and ecstatic raptures. I see, as it were, the water which I have longed for before me, and yet you withhold it. I am, as it were, in Bulghara, and the object of your love is in Cathay. One who is really loved is the single object of her lover, the Alpha and Omega of his desires. As for you, you are wrapped up in your own amorous raptures, depending on the varying states of your own feelings, instead of being wrapped up in me."

Eternal Life is gained by utter abandonment of one's own life. When God appears to His ardent lover the lover is absorbed in Him, and not so much as a hair of the lover remains. True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory the shadows vanish away. He is a true lover to God to whom God says, "I am thine, and thou art Mine!"

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons; most of the pictures are from a manuscript produced in 1663, probably in Kashmir, for Masnavi, a long poem written by Rumi

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018


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