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RUMI'S RUBAIS

This season is not spring, it is some other season,

The languid trances in the eyes have a different reason,

And there is some other cause for the way each single branch

Dallies by itself while all the trees sway in unison.

Mevlana Celalüddin Rumi’s mystical poetry endures with its passions and tender lyricism, giving inspiration and excitement to loving souls. His is the compelling voice of Sufi ecstasy. The eminent philosopher of Islamic mysticism is also celebrated as a visionary of ecumenical and humanitarian ideals. Since the 13th Century, Rumi’s poetry has been instilling in hearts that seek enlightenment, a conviction that ethics and aesthetics, faith and pleasure, spirituality and sensuality coalesce to create life’s harmony. For Mevlana, in whose name the sect known as “The Whirling Dervishes” was established by his followers after his death in 1273, upheld the supremacy of love, human and divine.

Rumi’s rhapsodical poems constitute a living monument to the Sufi spirit and culture. The prominent British Orientalist, Reynold A. Nicholson, his indefatigable translator, paid tribute to him as “the greatest mystical poet of any age.” The Mesnevi, Rumi’s masterpiece composed in some 26,000 couplets, translated into English by Nicholson, has been called “The Qur’an of Mysticism” and “The Inner Truth of the Qur’an”. The Divan-i Kebir contains around 2,500 lyrical, passionate, often onomatopoeic, always stirring poems. Rumi and his creative arts have, in recent decades, attracted enthusiastic admiration in many parts of the world. So have the mesmerizing ceremonies of The Whirling Dervishes. In the United States, English translations of his poetry are enjoying tremendous popularity.

In Rumi’s poetic lore, his quatrains hold a significant place. The Western world is enamored of the Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam, a great earlier master of the form, immortalized in English by Edward FitzGerald. The Rubaiyyat of Rumi consists of 1,200 to 2,000 quatrains (the number varies enormously from edition to edition.) In these four-line quintessential verses, Rumi gives eloquent expression to philosophical, romantic, mystical, ecstatic, elegiac, and amatory moods.

In mystical terms, Mevlana stands against the separation of lovers and the segregation of God, the beloved and the human lover:

At one time when life was real, your soul was one with my soul:

All we were, open or secret, was part of the same whole.

If “you” and “I” are pronouns I use, they are only terms.

In truth, there can be no separate you or I at all.

In an exciting rabai, Rumi captures the mystical spirit in revelations of time:

To become a mystic, feel no longing for the past. Gage the affairs of bygone days- and you shall turn a new page;

You shall then be the child of the time, its youth, its old sage,

And never lose the hour you are in, the core of the age.

For Rumi, whirling leads to the supreme truth, to an experience of divine wisdom:

Tonight is such a night - the core of the darkest layers;

Tonight is such a night when answers are found for prayers

The night of gifts, grants, and offerings, the night of bounty.

Such a night: we share the secrets of God like soothsayers.

To the acolytes, Mevlana (whose name signifies "our lord’ and "our supreme guide’) promises happiness:

Whoever joins the circles of our faith to go our way

Sees that in our body hundreds of lives have their heyday;

Whoever drinks nectar from the pitcher of our spirit

Finds such blissful ecstasy that he takes our night for day.

Thus the mystical spirit not only soars above mundane reality but also transcends time:

So long as I am alive, love enlivens each day.

I am not a hunter, but this is my cherished prey.

This is my moment, my epoch, my stand through time,

My heart’s calm, my peace, my friend who ends all dismay.

Divine madness is a spiritual victory for the mystic. Antedating Emily Dickinson’s “Much madness is divinest sense” more than six centuries, Rumi wrote:

The secret of madness is the supreme strength of the mind:

Go mad with love, if sanity is what you want to find..

. Whoever has an inmost heart that stirs with love will leave

The courtless estrangements on his arduous path behind.

Whirling induces the trance and the spiritual elevation leading to the ultimate bliss:

This is the day: Whirl around your love. Nothing is amiss:

Whirl. After all, no one can blame the frenzied heart for this.

No mere battle, but life-and-death combat, ordeal of fire

This is the night of reunion, embrace and nuptial bliss.

Since the mystic has faith that he (or she) was created by God out of the eternal love embodied by the Godhead, there is no death:

What if death wields its sword, cuts off my head, and leaves me slain

I shall still shoot up from the ground like countless spikes of grain.

Just as the ears of corn can find new life in the good earth,

Some day, the human grain, too, shall sprout from the dust again.

Each one of Rumi’s rubais is a world of mystical love and purity and passion compressed into four lyrical lines. There is nothing like the exuberance of the soul that is absorbed by the love of human beings, of the divine being, of nature’s exquisite endowments:

This is such a day: the sun is dazzling twice as before

A day beyond all days, unlike all others- say no more...

Lovers, I have great news for you: From the heavens above

This day of love brings songs and flowers in a downpour.

Prof.Talat S.Halman (Bilkent University)

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