Jall al-Dn Rm Essay - Critical Essays

Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī


In one of the ghazals of The Sufi Path of Love, Jall al-Dn Rm cries out,

I have had it with the canons of measure, meter, rhyme and ghazalMay floods come and take them awayPaper-crowns deserving of poets’ heads.A mirror am I and not a man of lettersYou read me if your ears become eyes.

The lines are indicative of how “the greatest mystical poet of any age” was at odds with the artifices of poetry and, in fact, with the entrapments of language itself. “I banish the word and thought/ And, free of those intruders, commune with thee.” Khmush (Persian for “silent”) was the poetic pen name he used for many of his ghazals.

In a similar way, Rm the thinker was a persistent negator of philosophical speculations of every kind. In fact, a recurrent theme of some twenty-seven thousand couplets that make up his magnum opus, The Mathnav of Jallu’ddn Rm, is the inadequacy of logic and reason. “The feet of logicians are of wood,” and wooden legs cannot be trusted. To be sure, he attests the necessity of clear thinking and reasoning, but in the same breath he points to the paralyzing limitations of “partial intelligence” (aql-e jozՙi) which, anchored in knowledge, is in conflict with the wholeness of life:

Partial intelligence is not the intelligence of discovery.It yields skill, and no insight.It is clear, but it is a thing.Nothing it has never been.Caught between losing and gaining it totters.Total intelligence soars high and is safe—come what may.

The Mathnav of Jallu’ddn Rm

As can be seen from this small sample, The Mathnav of Jallu’ddn Rm is not an easy book to read. Even though it has been revered through the ages, few people have the patience to carry on a sustained reading of even two or three pages of it. In part, its difficulty can be attributed to the author’s multifarious nature.

The Rm of The Mathnav of Jallu’ddn Rm is at once a serious spiritual teacher, a love-intoxicated poet, an entertaining raconteur, a learned man familiar with most of the current knowledge of his time, and a Menschen-kenner of profound psychological insights. To give an example of the interplay of all these facets would not be possible in a limited space. To illustrate the point, however, here is how, in the middle of a moral discourse, one word leads by association to another, and the poet continues:

Once again I have become a madman. . . . And I have not a speck of reason left in me, see?So don’t expect ceremonies and polite words, forHeaven’s sake. Once again I have become a madman . . .Otherwise, how do you account for this erraticBabble, O sober ones?

On another occasion, when he is telling the story of Ayaz—the beautiful, pure-hearted, righteous serf of Sultan Mahmoud—the poet suddenly abandons the ongoing narrative. “O Ayaz! The tale of your anguish and ecstasy made me so weak./ I stop. You tell my story.” In the course of another discourse, having used the analogy of the sun, the word reminds him of its synonym Shams, and that in turn unleashes feelings about the vanished “king of love” Shams al-Dn of Tabrz.

Such stream-of-consciousness interruptions and interpolations, which are found throughout The Mathnav of Jallu’ddn Rm, are responsible for its difficulty and for its unparalleled richness and density, as well as its unique stylistic features. It should be mentioned, however, that in no way is Rm composing self-conscious literary work, much...

(The entire section is 1739 words.)