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How Islam and Quran inspired Persian mystic poet Molana Rumi’s works

By Humaira Ahad

A family was fleeing the marauding Mongols as they were invading Persia, en route to the city of Nishapur in Khorasan, the youngest member of the family received a surprise gift from the most celebrated poet of the time, Sheikh Faridud din Attar.

The mystic Persian poet presented the six-year-old Jalal-ud-Din Rumi with a copy of his “Asrar Nameh”, a treatise on secrets that were to transform Rumi’s life.

Born into a religious family, the most impressionable years of Molana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi's boyhood and adolescence were spent under the tutelage of his father Baha ud Din Walad, a famous religious scholar of his time.

Grounded in a wider Muslim tradition, the influence of Islam and the Holy Quran is manifest in Molana’s works. His magnum opus, the Mathnavi, has been regarded by many as the exegesis of the Holy Quran in the Persian language.  

“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,” writes the great poet, mystic and theologian.

Quran -- Molana Rumi’s inspiration

The words and the figurative language of the Holy Quran have been extensively used by Molana Rumi in his mystical poetry to communicate the experience of divine love and unity.

Drawing from the Quran, Rumi uses stories and complex metaphors to present secretive mysteries that according to mystics cannot be revealed in a simple language.

The Holy Quran calling for the believers to see and ponder upon the signs of the creator provides an impetus for Molana’s flight of imagination. The canvas of his imagination is limitless. From reeds to food to animals, he uses ordinary things to convey deeply profound meanings.

Love and total surrender to the beloved are regarded as the summum bonum of human life by Molana. Love that forms the refrain of his work is an idea reinforced by the Muslim holy book many times.

The Quran mentions God’s love for His creation. This divine love that surpasses human love has been the leitmotif of earlier mystics who would find God’s grandeur in His creation and therefore would show kindness to all that exists.

Apart from drawing considerably from the Quran and translating the Quranic verses into Persian, Rumi’s poetry also contains the original Arabic verses from the holy book.

His poetry manifests his sharp observation wherein the Persian poet draws inspiration even from seemingly insignificant creatures. Rumi uses these creatures to simultaneously explain human behavior and the power of God’s creation.

Expounding the Quranic concept of the creation of man where God breathed into Adam from His breath, Molana employs the idea at the beginning of his Mathnawi in the song of the reed.

“Man is the flute which
speaks when touched by the breath of the Divine Beloved”

“Like his predecessors and followers on the mystical path, Rumi lived deeply out of the eternal truth revealed by the Koran,” Annemarie Schimmel writes in her seminal book, The Triumphal Sun.

Nature as an attribute of God

Through the usage of seemingly regular things found in nature in his works, the celebrated Persian poet follows the path of the Quran.

Molana’s strong relation with nature is the characteristic of his poetry. Linking spirituality with nature, Rumi employs the natural environment to convey his deep appreciation for the Creator and His creation.

Through a variety of expressions and interesting stories weaved around them, the subtle concept of unity in the universe becomes apparent in Rumi’s poetry.

Experts say that possessed by the love of God, mystics see the beauty and divine art of creation in the seemingly ordinary aspects of life. These commonplace things have also been employed by the Quran to convey deeper meanings.

For example, the sun that has been extensively used by Rumi in both his Mathnavi and Divan finds a mention in the Quran also in the form of the morning light.

Water, a very commonly used metaphor to put forward certain ideas of gnosis by a number of mystics including Rumi, has been drawn from the Quran.

The holy Muslim book mentions water multiple times, proclaiming that everything was created from water.

“Although this water and this clay contain the hearth of the philosophical stone.”

“Bees and bats, lions and cats, roses and violets, ravens and hawks - they all appear in his poetry to represent this or that aspect of the soul, or of human life,” writes Annemarie Shimmel in “Mystical poetry in Islam: The Case of Maulana Jalaladdin Rumi”.

Love of the Prophet in Molana’s works

Following the Sufi model of a strong relationship with the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), Molana Rumi’s heavy reliance on Prophetic traditions is visible in his works.

References to Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) life can be found in all his verses.

Explaining the deeper aspects of spiritual existence, Rumi has used the events of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) life to convey mystical secrets, such as the episode of Hijra has been used to convey the importance of the spiritual journey that is essential for the growth of the soul.

“Did not Mostafa go to travel towards Yathrib,
found a kingdom and became the ruler of a hundred

One of the most important events in the life of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) is the ascension to the heavens or Miraj. This event holds significant importance for the mystics.

Molana describes the ascension, making use of Quranic allusions employed for the description of the journey. According to the mystic poet, love is manifested best in the experience of the Holy Prophet’s Night Journey.

“Just as, during the night of the Ascension, God made (the greeting
of peace) with the Light of the Absolute upon Muhammad: "Peace
be upon you."

Being faithful to the Sufi concept of the light of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which has been described as divine light permeating everything in the universe finds mention in Rumi’s poetry.

“Infidelity put on a black dress: The Light of Mohammad
arrived, the drum of Eternal remaining (baqa)) was beaten, the
eternal kingdom arrived.”

Molana regarded Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as the eternal helper whose help is required for the deliverance of man. His poetry shows his strong trust in the messenger and apostle of God (PBUH) who also appears as the celebrated poet’s master.

“A voice from the lofty ones (among the angels came) from Heaven
to every beggar: "O pure spirit of the one who is followed! O
"Mercy to (all) peoples”

The Persian poet’s love for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is clearly demonstrated by his works. He uses beautiful expressions to praise him, regarding him as the soul of the universe.

“This is my beloved, this my physician, this my tutor, this my remedy.”

Molana has also shown special reverence to Imam Ali (AS) in dozens of his verses. For Rumi, Ali (AS) is the fountainhead of mysticism and needs to be followed to attain nearness to God.

“In rapture, my very being cries out: Ali Ali
A lover, I am of Murtaza Ali.”
“Declared Muhammed, the Most Generous of generous My cousin, the son of my uncle
My flesh is your flesh, my blood your blood
You are the Guardian, the Master of believers That the Holy Quran makes clear Garbed, Crowned, Invincible,

Samaa, the dance of unity

Samaa, or the dance of the whirling dervishes of the Molana order that has become popular in the recent past, starts with the verses praising Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), indicating the deep religious feeling that accompanied the mystic poet throughout his life.

Molana uses samaa to communicate the experience of being annihilated and reborn in divine love.

Experts say through the whirling dance, Rumi shows veneration to God and his creation that is occupied in circling around the beloved Lord.

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