About the Book
Until the publication of the present volume no attempt has been made to write for a general public a biography and aesthetic appreciation of the man who enriched humanity with such splendid and massive contributions to literature and thought. Fortunately this lamentable neglect has now been repaired with the issue of Afzal Iqbal’s The Life and Thought (now work) of Maulana Jalal-ud-din Rumi. The Author of this excellent monograph... has read deeply the extensive writings of Rumi, and what others have said on the subject in ancient and modern times. While his approach to the poet is sensitive, and his aesthetic analysis most delicate, he displays acute powers of scholarly criticism in discussing the difficult problems that surround Rumi’s biography.
JALAL-UD-DIN RUMI has been described by Professor E.G. Browne as 'without doubt the most eminent Sufi poet whom Persia has produced, while his mystical Mathnawi deserves to rank amongst the great poems of all time.' Professor R.A. Nicholson on completing his masterly edition and translation of that work remarked that 'familiarity does not always breed disillusion. Today the words I applied to the author of the Mathnawi thirty-five years ago, "the greatest mystical poet of any age," seem to me no more than just. 'Where else shall we find such a panorama of universal existence unrolling itself through Time into Eternity?' Sir Muhammad Iqbal, who many times acknowledged his indebtedness to the great Persian visionary, stated that 'the world of today needs a Rumi to create an attitude of hope, and to kindle the fire of enthusiasm for life.'
These are but three of the many tributes that have been paid to Rumi's greatness, which is acknowledged as much in the West as in the East. It is therefore all the more surprising, and regrettable, that until the publication of the present volume no attempt has been made to write for the general public a biography and aesthetic appreciation of the man who enriched humanity with such splendid and massive contributions to literature and thought. Indeed, until the appearance a few years ago of Professor Badi al-Zaman Furuzanfarr's Persian study of Rumi, no such work had been produced in any language.
Fortunately this lamentable neglect has now been repaired with the issue of Afzal Iqbal's The Life and Thought [now Work] of Maulana Jalal- ud-Din Rumi.
The author of this excellent monograph describes it modestly as 'a critical introduction'; it is an introduction that does tardy justice to the great man whom it presents to the reader. Mr Iqbal has read deeply the extensive writings of Rumi, and what others have said on the subject in ancient and modern times. While his approach to the poet is sensitive, and his aesthetic analysis most delicate, he displays acute powers of scholarly criticism in discussing the difficult problems that surround Rumi's biography. I recommend this book warmly; it is a pleasure to read, and it holds the key to further delight for those many who will be encouraged by it to study further the immortal poetry of Rumi.
RUMI has been admired for centuries, and yet it came to me as a surprise that one could not lay one's hands on any given volume which would provide one with a critical introduction to his life and work. No doubt, there is considerable material in Persian, but it requires all the patience one can command to sift the grain from the chaff. The early chroniclers seem intent on clouding a man's personality by investing him with a halo of supernatural powers, and a critical analysis, at any rate, seems to be outside their province. The modern student of literature has frankly no time to take. doubtful chances in poring over dusty volumes which might contain some material relevant to his studies. Except for Professor Farozan Far's outstanding work on Rumi, there is unfortunately little in Persian that would satisfy a critical student of today. But Professor Farozan Far has dealt only with the life of Rumi and has left the other fields of his activity severely alone. Even in the treatment of his life Farozan Far has made little effort at providing us with the milieu so necessary for investing a personality with any degree of tangibility.
In English one comes across numerous references to Rumi among works on Persian mystics. But these are essentially passing references and do not provide any exhaustive material either on his life or on his thought. One also comes across several introductions in various translations of Rumi's Mathnavi and selections from his Divan. But to a student who is looking forward to a somewhat detailed and deeper study of the poet, these fragmentary essays are not likely to prove of much avail. Redhouse and Whinfield have admirably translated parts of the Mathnavi in to English, but if one were to look to them for a study of Rumi, one would be sadly disappointed. Professor Wilson rendered a great service to Persian literature by translating for the first time into English prose Book IV of the Mathnavi. But this work again was of little use for my purpose. Professor R.A. Nicholson, who devoted a major part of his life to the editing and translation of the entire text of the Mathnavi, in addition to an excellent selection from the Divan, has not unfortunately had time to initiate a critical study of the life and thought of Rumi. On writing to Mrs Nicholson I learnt, however, that the late Professor had left copious notes on the subject and that the editors went busy compiling a book more or less on the lines which had set out for myself. The book has since come out under the title of Rumi: Poet and Mystic. It is edited by the worthy and able successor of Nicholson, Professor A.J. Arberry, and consists of selections from Rumi's writings translated from the Persian with an Introduction and notes by Professor Nicholson and a Preface by Professor Arberry. I had waited ardently for the publication of this work, but I was somewhat disappointed at seeing it, for it did not really seek to offer a critical study of Rumi in any considerable detail.
In Urdu the best work available so far is a biography by Maulana Shibli. It is a pioneer effort in the field, but the book is already out of date, for the late learned Maulana did not have, an opportunity to see Fihi-maFihi-an important work by Rumi, and Maqalat-i-Shams, an equally important work by his spiritual teacher. Besides, Shibli seems to depend almost entirelyon one chronicler for most of his biographical material. ...
It is against these odds that I had to pursue my work; all that I aimed at was a modest attempt at a critical introduction to the life and work of the Poet.
And now a word about the plan of this work. I have opened my account with a description and an analysis of conditions obtaining in the thirteenth century which is the period of Rumi. This chapter offered me the .greatest difficulties, for I am not aware of any study of Rumi which has tried to reconstruct the atmosphere political, economic, social and literary-of the time in which Rumi lived. This effort suffers from serious limitations, for one cannot simply lay one's hands on any given source for a clear picture of the period. Nevertheless, I have made an attempt to create some sort of a perspective from which, I believe, Rumi's personality emerges in clearer contours than in any other study of him that I know.
After a brief outline of the relevant currents in the thirteenth century, I have attempted to analyse the formative period of Rumi's life. The second chapter is, therefore, devoted to a study of Rumi as a student and roughly covers the period between 1207 and 1244. This was essentially a period of intellectual activity. Although during this period Rumi embarked on an active career as a teacher, and adandoned the role of a formal student, yet there is no fundamental change in the nature of his intellectual activity till about 1244 when he met Shams-i-Tabriz. This then is the first phase of his life which, though devoid of the spectacular, is deeply significant in the context of coming changes.
The second and perhaps the most important phase offers an interesting study in contrast. This period, which is the subject-matter of the third chapter, begins with the appearance of Shams and lasts with all its attendant revolutionary results till the death or disappearance of Shams-i-Tabriz in about 1261. While the first period of Rumi's life was dominated by intellect, the overriding influence in the second was that of an intense, passionate and lofty love. While prose was the medium of expression in the first, poetry was the medium of expression in the second. In fact, the period between 1245 and 1261 can be aptly called the period of love and lyrical activity, for most of this time was devoted to music, dance and poetry. The celebrated Divan is the product of this period. I have dealt with Divan-i-Shams-t-Tabriz in the fourth chapter. The fifth and the final chapter deals with the third phase in Rumi's life which begins in 1261 when the monumental work of writing the M athnavi was taken in hand and ends with Rumi's death in 1273. This was the period of poetry with a purpose, the phase which saw Rumi make his immortal contribution-the Qur'an in Pahlavi.
Nobody is more conscious of the serious drawbacks of this effort than I, for only an ambitious work based on the study of a lifetime could satisfy the requirements I had set before myself. In the present essay; which I am now reluctantly releasing for publication, I have perhaps raised more questions than I have answered, But then the primary object is to provoke a study of Rumi in a spirit of critical inquiry. I hope that some daring soul will take up the threads and complete the work so humbly begun.
I am deeply indebted to Aqai Farozan Far, Professor of Persian Literature in the University of Tehran, for his help and guidance and for the blocks used in this volume; to Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi and to the late Dr Mohammad Iqbal, Principal, Oriental College, Lahore, for going through the manuscript and making many useful suggestions; to Professor Ali Ganjali of Istanbul University for active assistance in collectingmaterialfor the work; to Professor Abid Ali Abid, former Principal, Dyal Singh College, Lahore, and Professor Mian Mohammad Sharif, former Principal, Islamia College, Lahore, for initiating valuable discussions; to the late Professor A.S. Bokhari, and Professor Siraj-ud-Din, Head of the English Department, University of the Panjab, for literary advice; and finally to Dr Mohammad Ajmal, Head of the Department of Psychology, Government College, Lahore, for his provocative discussions on Rumi's thought.
Foreword, Prof. A.J. Arberry
Preface to the Third Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
The Age of Rumi (A.D. 1207-1273)
The Period of Preparation (A.D. 1207- 1244)
The Romance of Revolution (A.D. 1244- 1250)
The Miracle of the Muse (A.D. 1245- 1260)
The Message of Mathnavi (A.D. 1261-1273)
The Poet as a Thinker (A.D. 1261- 1273)
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