Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cashing in on Rumi

A much needed article, by someone not so well known, appreared in the Poetry Foudnation journal a while ago. The author discusses the many English translations of Rumi; it is a must read for anyone who has ever heard of Rumi.

Rumi like Ali is loved and maligned by many. Imam Ali was hated so much so that for decades (perhaps a century?) he was cursed during Friday prayers in all corners of the Umayyad empire. Yet, at the same time many considered Imam Ali the incarnation/manifestation of God.

These 'extremists' of love and hate were perhaps never open to common sense. No amount of convincing reasons, logic, and even slings and arrows thrown at their heads could stand up to their stubborn foreheads. The famous example of Imam Ali comes to mind. He threatened death by fire to a group of heretics for making him the object of their worship; they accepted that fate, but renounce they did not their misguided faith!

Before I go off on a tangent let me return to the case of Maulana Rumi. Maulana Rumi is held in some circles as the paragon of irrelgiousity, and they seek to cut and tear him off from the very umbilical cord that makes him Rumi.

"I am the slave of the Quran and dust under the feet of Muhammad. Anyone who claims otherwise is no friend of mine" said Maulana Rumi.

And then we have the circle of the self-righteous pretenders who believe Maulana to be the worst kind of Sufi! They denounce his music, poetry, whirling, and wahadat ul wujood; proclaiming him to be a kafir (infidel).

So how does one understand Maulana Rumi, his mind, his message, and above all his experiences? Wouldn't it be wise to seek him in his original works, to learn of Maulana from his descendants and disciples? Yes, the very disciples who inhaled air that Rumi exhaled and thus absorbed his knowledge and love.

However, let me make clear that there is nothing really wrong with the translations of Rumi. Coleman Barks etc have certainly helped in popularizing Rumi in North America, but as Kabir Helminski has stated in the article "Americans still have an adolescent relationship with Rumi. It will take some time before we move beyond the cliches". The translators are not really translating Rumi, they're actually mixing ingredients, over-cooking, and then presenting a dish that Rumi would not recognize!

And for those who have been love-struck by Rumi, move beyond your childish drunkeness, and experience the intoxication of the spirit by taming your ego's desires. If you are ready to plunge into the Sea then learn of Rumi in the works of Annemarie Schimmel, William Chittick, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Kabir Helminski, and others who have drunk wine, albeit in different quantities, from the same Cup Bearer.

And as a last note, I would like to direct your attention towards the comments section of the article I posted above. Read Mr. Shiva's comment, a New Age thinker/spiritualist, and a translator of Maulana Rumi. His lack of knowledge of Sufi terms, symbols, and even of Rumi himself is apparent in his comment:
"A religious person views Rumi as being highly religious, however that doesn’t it make it so. Nor does it change the fact that one of Rumi’s most common themes is “finding god outside of a mosque.?"
I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this state of affairs! Here is a famous translator of Rumi ignoring the the most important aspect of Rumi!

Please visit: http://www.dar-al-masnavi.org/about_translations.html - it is maintained by Dervishes of Maulana Rumi's Sufi Order. Here you will find the most accurate and authentic translations and meanings - that is once you are over the lovey dovey teenage feelings.

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