So Much Beauty – The Persian Verses of Rumi

Have we taken Allah out of Rumi’s poems?

New Age “translations of  jalaluddin Rumi’s works have become a type of ‘spiritual colonialism.’ We in the West have been bypassing, erasing, and occupying a spiritual landscape that has been lived and breathed and internalized by Muslims from Bosnia and Istanbul to Konya and Iran to Central and South Asia.” Extracting the spiritual from the religious context has deep reverberations. Islam is regularly diagnosed as a “cancer”  by people today and we are loathed to think that the  greatness of Sufi Poems are based on the Islamic faith.

In the 1800s, colonialist-minded translators found it difficult to reconcile Rumi’s poetry with their preconceptions of Islam as a “desert religion,” whose followers were forsaken with “unusual moral and legal codes.” In the twentieth century, prominent translators, such as R. A. Nicholson, A. J. Arberry, and Annemarie Schimmel, made limited headway into producing versions that stayed more true to the original Persian prose, but these translations have not been the most widely circulated among Western readers.

earlier translations of Rumi’s works – possibly

by R.A. Nicholson

That title is held by Coleman Barks, the American poet and interpreter responsible for re-introducing Rumi’s poetry for English-speaking audiences in recent decades. Barks, who does not speak Persian and is not trained in Islamic literature, has recast earlier translations of Rumi’s works into “fluid, casual American free verse,” according to Christain Science Monitor.

For his part, Coleman Barks sees religion as secondary to the essence of Rumi. “Religion is such a point of contention for the world,” he told me. “I got my truth and you got your truth—this is just absurd. We’re all in this together and I’m trying to open my heart, and Rumi’s poetry helps with that.” One might detect in this philosophy something of Rumi’s own approach to poetry: Rumi often amended texts from the Koran so that they would fit the lyrical rhyme and meter of the Persian verse. But while Rumi’s Persian readers would recognize the tactic, most American readers are unaware of the Islamic blueprint. Some have said, compare reading Rumi without the Koran to reading Milton without the Bible: even if Rumi was heterodox, it’s important to recognize that he was heterodox in a Muslim context—and that Islamic culture, centuries ago, had room for such heterodoxy. Rumi’s works are not just layered with religion; they represent the historical dynamism within Islamic scholarship.

Rumi used the Koran, Hadiths, and religion in an explorative way, often challenging conventional readings. One of Barks’s popular renditions goes like this: “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. / I will meet you there.” The original version makes no mention of “rightdoing” or “wrongdoing.” The words Rumi wrote were iman (“religion”) and kufr (“infidelity”). Imagine, then, a Muslim scholar saying that the basis of faith lies not in religious code but in an elevated space of compassion and love. What we, and perhaps many Muslim clerics, might consider radical today is an interpretation that Rumi put forward more than seven hundred years ago.

Such readings were not entirely unique back then. Rumi’s works reflected a broader push and pull between religious spirituality and institutionalized faith—though with a wit that was unmatched. “Historically speaking, no text has shaped the imagination of Muslims—other than the Koran—as the poetry of Rumi and Hafez,” it is said. This is why Rumi’s voluminous writings, produced at a time when scribes had to copy works by hand, have survived.

“Language isn’t just a means of communication,” the writer and translator Sinan Antoon has said. “It’s a reservoir of memory, tradition, and heritage.” As conduits between two cultures, translators take on an inherently political project. They must figure out how to make, for instance, a thirteenth-century Persian poet comprehensible to a contemporary American audience. But they have a responsibility to remain true to the original work—an act that, in the case of Rumi, would help readers to recognize that a professor of Sharia could also write some of the world’s mostly widely read love poetry.

Jawid Mojaddedi is now in the midst of a years-long project to translate all six books of the “Masnavi.” Three of them” have been published; the fourth is due out this spring. His translations acknowledge the Islamic and Koranic texts in the original by using italics to denote whenever Rumi switches to Arabic. His books are also riddled with footnotes. Reading them requires some effort, and perhaps a desire to see beyond one’s preconceptions. That, after all, is the point of translation: to understand the foreign. As Keshavarz put it, translation is a reminder that “everything has a form, everything has culture and history. A Muslim can be like that, too.”

earlier translation

Have we hi-jacked Rumi and moulded him to our own understanding – Yes indeed,  is that a bad thing? No! Indeed no. We have not destroyed the original Rumi and who would want to? We have  expanded on his wonderful poetry and by so doing, opened him and his works to an international audience and an entirely new generation. I think we have done good! 

Excerpted from Rozina Ali’s recent article The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi

Link to article

http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-erasure-of-islam-from-the-poetry-of-rumi

Seeing The Invisible – Spirituality

St. Therese of Avila - The Peter's Roma
St. Therese of Avila – The Peter’s Roma

 ¸.•*¨*¨Love`*•.¸¸

 

INNERVIEWS


WHAT ARE ‘innerviews’ or religious experiences? From what I gather there are as many different types of innerviews as there are people. Religious experiences are as old as mankind. The bible tells us of visions, revelations, dreams and other divine experiences, in which they have happened to the prophets. Moses for example, was looking after a flock of sheep when be noticed a bush on fire, but not burning.   Suddenly a voice spoke to Moses, telling him to take off his shoes because he was standing on Holy ground. Then God revealed himself to Moses as “I am who I am”. The Buddha, after much searching came to enlightenment during three nights of contemplation. He saw his previous lives pass before him and had revealed to him the holy truths; the knowledge of suffering and the removal of suffering was also revealed to him. Jesus Christ was baptised in the river Jordan when suddenly a voice from above proclaimed, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased”.

 

More than a few Christian Saints have written down their religious experiences. Julian of Norwich, wrote with insight and vision of her religious experiences. This makes her a favourite today. Her expression “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”  is now a beloved phrase. In Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous had an experience in which the Virgin Mary, revealed herself as ‘The Immaculate Conception,’ and promised Bernadette happiness in ‘the next world’. Bernadette, was to receive more messages from the apparition; one led to the miraculous discovery of water, and another, for a chapel to be built in the Grotto. Bernadette’s experiences were recorded and people from all over the world came to the small grotto in Lourdes, for healing. Today, it is a pilgrimage centre for Christians.

 

However, spiritual experiences are not exclusive to the prophets, saints, mystics or even the good. Religious experiences happen in all cultures and in all religions. Prophets, tell us time and again, to treasure our inner voice. ‘ Our insights are a spontaneous gifts of grace from the divine to his beloved children. I’ve have chosen a few recorded insights or if you like, spiritual experiences to share with you today. I  hope they will inspire and delight the reader. I would be interested in readers comments on this topic. Perhaps you too have experiences insights that you might like to share. Oh! please do!


.

A MOMENT IN TIME
 
“A few years ago, I was feeling rather low and depressed. My life seemed to be falling to pieces around me. I was laying on my bed trying to make sense of it all, when suddenly I felt a light all around me. The next thing I was aware of, was being taken upward towards something of intense brightness. From the brightness, there appeared a figure and a voice said, “Go in peace and everything will be shown unto you.”
 
From that day forward, I have not worried over difficulties. I know I am guided and protected. I believe I always will be.”
 
-anon

457px-The_Ladder_of_Divine_Ascent

NECTAR OF THE GODS -Sathya Sai Baba’s Ashram – 1991
 
 
“During a lengthy stay in Sai Baba’s ashram in 1991, I devoted extensive time to meditation. I rose  at dawn to attend morning chants  in the Mandir. (Temple).  Afterwards, I would join the lines for darshan and remain in the Mandir compound until after bhajans. My morning austerities would end with a steep climb up the hill leading to the meditation tree. There, I would sit for around 15 minutes enjoying the peace and the gentle cooling breeze. This routine lasted for weeks. I never felt tired or hungry. On the contrary I felt elated. The elation increased as the weeks passed by, my often nervous nature disappeared and for the rest of my trip, I became utterly at peace with myself and others.
 
Towards the end of my visit, I  sat for some time under the meditation tree. On one particular morning,  I heard an inner voice say:  “Stay always sweet – remember sweetness is the nectar of the Gods.”I am sure it was not my imagination playing tricks, because the phrase ‘nectar of the Gods,’ was unknown to me.”
 
– family member

 

ALL WILL BE WELL Heidelberg, Germany, 1973
 
 
“At birth, my daughter was two months premature. The doctors had only let me see her for a few seconds before she was rushed off to intensive care and placed in an incubator. The doctors told me that her chances for survival were not good. I was given a room by myself to recover from the shock of her birth. The little room was dark, dingy and cold. I remember feeling incredibly lonely and afraid. Suddenly, the room became filled with a presence. It was not a single presence but many. I don’t know how to describe accurately what actually happened – but the presence seemed to be  sending me waves of love and peace. I fell asleep within seconds. I knew I was being looked after and everything would be well. It was!”
 
 
– eve

 

ONE WITH THE UNIVERSE
 
 
“For many years I kept African Violets. They were my favourite house plants. One day, I was admiring one that had made a remarkable recovery from over watering.
 
Mentally, I began to talk to it. Suddenly, I became aware of a tremendous feeling of love flowing from the plant to me! In fact, I felt that I became the plant, and it became me and that we both were one with the universe! It was a beautiful feeling. I suppose I can only describe it as a deep peace. The feeling only lasted for a few seconds, but was like nothing else I have ever experienced.”
 
-Meg Maxwell and Verena Tschudin from “Seeing The Invisible” *
486px-Andrej_Rublëv_001
The 50th Birthday Present  – an Out of Body Experience!
Perhaps the most odd insight that’s happened to me, came on my 50th Birthday. Not sure if it was not a divine joke on this writer. Why would the universe have to pick my half century marker to show me in a most precise way, I was definitely ‘not the body’ ?
The 8th November eve, we had been out for the evening visiting Canterbury, Kent, ( U.k. ) This particular evening we had spent at a yoga meditation chant meeting. I remember even today, the chants were powerful. One lady in particular, chanted AUM over and over in a strong clear voice. For me, at least, if was a tad overwhelming.
We left around 10 p.m. and drove home. Turning down our street, there was an odd-looking truck outside our house. At that time, we lived in a cul-de-sac, where large trucks were a rare sight. Now here was one parked outside our house. (It was extremely odd.) I remember seeing it for only a short time on our arrival, for when I looked out of the window some ten minutes later, the truck had gone.
Nothing more unusual happened that evening and I went to bed. The dream preceding the OOBE, I will never forget. I was in a house somewhere, where there were bedrooms. I knew that one of the bedrooms in this dream belonged to my daughter, and on her bed was a  bright pink duvet. At the moment of seeing the pink duvet, everything went blank, and the next thing I remember was floating on the ceiling above my own bed. I knew instinctvely that if I went through the ceiling to the beyond, I would not be able to return back to my body that was sleeping on the bed. Instantly, I felt an urge to return to that sleeping form below me. I willed myself to turn from my horizontal position, (I was horizontal and parallel to the ceiling) to a vertical position, and then willed myself down, down, down, back into my body. The moment I thought to return brought about an instant change in my body position to vertical, and instantly I was back in my body. The entry was through my throat area.
I awoke with a shudder. My whole body shook with the impact of re-entry. I still remember how bewildered I was.  I guess the experience was the most unusual birthday present I’ve ever had. Not sure I want another quite like that! – But it was a valuable lesson…
I would really appreciate feedback  from readers…  thank you.
eve

Meg Maxwell and Verena Tscgydin have written an excellent book on the subject of religious experiences. The book title is ‘Seeing The Invisible’ and is available in the New Age section of any large book sellers. The sale proceeds of the book go to the Alister Hardy Research Centre, which has in it’s archives, more than 5,000 personal letters, collected over 20 years.