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February 17, 2004

Sufi Wisdom: Love
Guest Author: T.L. James
The Sufis are famous for their romantic poetry, some of which (that of Rumi, in particular) is famous even among Westerners who may never have heard the word "Sufi". The Western literary traditions of romanticism owe a great debt to the influence of Sufi romantic poetry, and particularly the practitioners of it who originated in Moorish Spain: the Troubadors.
Sufi love poetry can be beautiful when taken at face value -- as referencing the romantic bonds between human lovers, the worldly love of man and woman, the courtly love of a man for the Lady of the Manor, or simply the abstraction of Love as a personified force. But as with other Sufi materials, this romantic poetry functions on another level, reflecting the "creed of love" as Sufism is often described. Love is worship, and the Beloved is the Divine.

Rabia, who said "My Beloved is always with me", described the pain of separation from and the joy of reunion with the Divine in terms of separation from and longing for an absent lover - sometimes in rather direct terms:

"I pray God that you fall in love With someone as cold and indifferent as you are. Then you may understand The pain of love, the sufferings and tortures of separation, And you may appreciate my devotion."

Rumi described a similar sentiment in more subtle language:
In the early dawn of happiness
you gave me three kisses
so that I would wake up
to this moment of love

I tried to remember in my heart
what I'd dreamt about
during the night
before I became aware
of this moving
of life

I found my dreams
but the moon took me away
It lifted me up to the firmament
and suspended me there
I saw how my heart had fallen
on your path
singing a song

Between my love and my heart
things were happening which
slowly slowly
made me recall everything

You amuse me with your touch
although I can't see your hands.
You have kissed me with tenderness
although I haven't seen your lips
You are hidden from me.

But it is you who keeps me alive

Perhaps the time will come
when you will tire of kisses
I shall be happy
even for insults from you
I only ask that you
keep some attention on me.

There is more to Sufi love poetry than meets the eye...

This Winds of Change.NET Guest Blog here on comes from their contributor T.L. James, who also pens Mars Blog and Man of Two Worlds. They ran this Valentine's Day as part of their weekly Sufi Wisdom series. Used here with permission.
Señor Græd at February 17, 2004 08:39 PM [permalink]:

WOW! What a great leap from hard philosophy to tender sufism! Anyway, I have a strange request, folks! Could Tautologist (or anyone else who can write Persian here) please reproduce the quoted poem in Persian? That'd be most appreciated. :-)

P.S. My Persian is still better than my English. ;-)

AzadShademan at February 17, 2004 10:00 PM [permalink]:

I was quite impressed to discover that Rumi is one of the most celebrated spiritual poets in the Western culture during my first month of arrival to North America. Actually, it took me a couple of milliseconds to figure out, which Persian poet the Chapters/Indigo customer representative is referring to. The reader should not be amazed since we, Iranians, know him as Molana Jalal-e-Din Mohammad Balkhi (a.k.a. Molavi and Mullai-e-Rumi) but not Rumi alone. I am very pleased to read this fantastic article on Sufism here in FToI by a knowledgeable author. I hope to see more of such cultural posts here.

SG -- I couldn't find the Persian equivalent. So, I have the same request from anyone, possibly the author himself, to point us to a resource to read the poem in Persian. I found A Tribute to Rumi, but I couldn't dig out this poem.

Tautologist at February 17, 2004 10:45 PM [permalink]:
ز بامداد سعادت سه بوسه داد مرا / که بامداد عنايت خجسته باد مرا به ياد آر دلا تا چه خواب ديدي دوش / که بامداد سعادت دري گشاد مرا مگر به خواب بديدم که مه مرا برداشت / ببرد بر فلک و بر فلک نهاد مرا فتاده ديدم دل را خراب در راهش / ترانه گويان کاين دم چنين فتاد مرا ميان عشق و دلم پيش کارها بوده‌ست / که اندک اندک آيدهمي به ياد مرا اگر نمود به ظاهر که عشق زاد ز من / همي‌بدان به حقيقت که عشق زاد مرا ايا پديد صفاتت نهان چو جان ذاتت / به ذات تو که تويي جملگي مراد مرا همي‌رسد ز توام بوسه و نمي‌بينم / ز پرده‌هاي طبيعت که اين کي داد مرا مبر وظيفه رحمت که در فنا افتم / فغان برآورم آن جا که داد داد مرا به جاي بوسه اگر خود مرا &# ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
man at February 17, 2004 11:08 PM [permalink]:

Perhaps Rumi had a homosexual obcession with Shams, to an extent that Shams runs away from him. Now people try to beleive that his obcession was divine! What is divine by the way? What is sprituality? keep fantacizing about the divine that does not exist? You westerners tend to call mystic/spritual, what you can't comprehend about the East (I suggest you Edward Said's Orientalism.) and we, Iranians, deprived of anything useful to be proud of, stick to our poetry. For example Sadi.. what he calls love, is some eroticism that comes from curiousity. He keeps falling in love with women who sees on streets and never even gets to talk to them. He keeps fantacizing about them in his poems. I like Hafiz better; he at least writes some poetry after making love to his beloved. I put most of Iranian poetry equal to palm-reading, astrology, eroticism, and schizophrenia.

man at February 17, 2004 11:13 PM [permalink]:

A scene in Lord of the Rings in which old witches fight with each other, remind me of 'peer haa ye sufi' with their wooden canes. hahahahaha

Tautologist at February 17, 2004 11:42 PM [permalink]:

One can find both devine and earthly love in iranian literature, but reducing the kind of relation that was between Molana and Shams to homosexual obsession really needs a super-genius mind. That said, no one can claim that every single poem that you read from Sadi, Hafez or Molavi is about devine love. Nor can it all be related to eroticism. Besides, sometimes devine and earthly love can co-exist, and lead to each other. Well, I'm not sure how it can be described, but if you feel it once you'll never forget it.

Saeed S at February 18, 2004 12:34 AM [permalink]:

Tautologist! Damet garm for the Persian translation.

Wessie at February 18, 2004 02:51 AM [permalink]:

As far as I remember from my Romantic Age history classes the Troubadours were Provencal French and German (Minnesänger) in origin — from the eleventh century through the thirteenth—not Spanish. Many of these were noblemen and Crusader knights who might have come into contact with Sufism. While Sufis may have started the notion of divine love it was the Troubadours who took it to another level—that of romantic, earthly love as being divine.

The book by Idries Shah "The Sufis" is an excellent resource. I am also very fond of Shah's:

"The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin

The late Edward Said is on the same (low) level as Noam Chomsky or "Chumpsky"—as we like to call him. Bah!

"Besides, sometimes devine and earthly love can co-exist, and lead to each other. "

All love is divine—certainly it is seen as such in the West. It is a gift that is otherworldly—something also recognized by the likes of Rumi. Too bad he had to disguise his love of men.

We are in God and God is in us—thus, if we love, it is divine. Enlightenment is within each and everyone of us as part and parcel of God.

This is love: to fly to heaven, every moment to rend a hundred veils;
At first instance, to break away from breath -- first step, to renounce feet;
To disregard this world, to see only that which you yourself have seen to see only that which you yourself have seen"
I said, "Heart, congratulations on entering the circle of lovers,
"On gazing beyond the range of the eye, on running into the alley of the breasts."
Whence came this breath, O heart? Whence came this throbbing, O heart?
Bird, speak the tongue of birds: I can heed your cipher!
The heart said, "I was in the factory whilst the home of water and clay was abaking.
"I was flying from the workshop whilst the workshop was being created.
"When I could no more resist, they dragged me; how shall I
tell the manner of that dragging?"



The poem above is generally regarded as a mystical one. However, it also speaks of earthly love that has transcended.


Wessie at February 18, 2004 03:10 AM [permalink]:

Alba is an example of a troubadour "dawn song"—where a couple laments its coming.

In orchard where the leaves of hawthorn hide,
A lady holds a lover by her side,
Until the watcher in the dawning cried.
Ah God, ah God, the dawn! It comes how soon.

"Ah, would to God that never night must end,
Nor this my lover far from me should wend,
Nor watcher day nor dawning ever send!
Ah God, ah God, the dawn! It comes how soon.

Come let us kiss, dear lover, you and I,
Within the meads where pretty song-birds fly;
We will do all despite the jealous eye:
Ah God, ah God, the dawn! It comes how soon.

Sweet lover come, renew our lovemaking
Within the garden where the light birds sing,
Until the watcher sound the severing.
Ah God, ah God, the dawn! It comes how soon.

Through the soft breezes that are blown from there,
From my own lover, courteous, noble and fair,
From his breath have I drunk a draught most rare."
Ah God, ah God, the dawn! It comes how soon.

Gracious the lady is, and debonaire,
For her beauty a many look at her.
And in her heart is loyal love astir.
Ah God, ah God, the dawn! It comes how soon.

Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" has a similar lament.

Señor Græd at February 18, 2004 07:58 AM [permalink]:

I think he's known as Rumi in the West, because in order to be successful (in his case, in order for his translators and publishers to sell well) you must have a "pronounceable" name. No comparsion here, but if, for example, Shohreh Aghdashloo had another name, such as Shori Agadashoo, she'd been more successful as an actor. Westerners don't like the sound of "kh" in Balkhi...

man at February 18, 2004 04:23 PM [permalink]:

Just look at the picture of this posting.. it is so funny.
Tautologoist: I have the same objection about devine love in iranian literature.. maybe the relation between Rumi and Shams was of a divine sort. My problem is with the very concepts of divine and sprituality. That is what I dislike about Iranian literature and culture .. divine and sprituality are misleading and take you to a world of 'tokhmi-takhayoli'.

AliS in Wonderland at February 18, 2004 07:15 PM [permalink]:

I am not sure but as far as I remember Molana and Shams had just two or three brief encounters and before that Molana was the guy pictured in "Masnavi" not "Divan-e-Shams". Honestly I am not sure if a homosexual obsession caused by two brief encounters can lead to creation of "Divan-e-Shams" and if it does then I should reevaluate the value of homosexual obsessions.

AliS in Wonderland at February 19, 2004 12:08 AM [permalink]:

Oh sorry I forgot to add that my comment was for "man".

Wessie at February 19, 2004 12:47 AM [permalink]:

"Just look at the picture of this posting.. it is so funny."

Man, the painting is clearly Kitsch! That guy fancies himself an artist—even teaches— but the stuff he produces borders on soft porn for comic books.

It interests me that in Islam there is not supposed to be representation of people or animals—yet in these stories. . .

woman at February 19, 2004 06:03 PM [permalink]:


It's good to know that in addition to the half a dozen languages that you speak, you are a painter too. You do know the shoot out of everyhting :-) I love you.

Joe Katzman at February 22, 2004 08:51 PM [permalink]:

Tautologist, you are correct. A previous Sufi Wisdom article on Winds of Change.NET quoted Jami's thougts on this matter, which united earthly love and divine love. In its old-style translation, it goes something like:

"Even from earthly love thy face avert not,
Since to the Truth it may serve to raise thee.
Ere the alphabet is rightly apprehended,
How canst thou know the pages of thy Koran?"

Señor Græd at February 24, 2004 08:01 PM [permalink]:

Did I neglect to thank Tautologist for providing the original of the poem? I'm sorry, and I thank him (or her). That was great. Now, some random thoughts on Rumi. I was under the impression that American fans of Rumi have by and large no idea what language Rumi wrote in, until I read this: [Just read the very last paragraph.]

Secondly, I don't get the "divine love" thing. I can't fathom what it means to *love* God. It just doesn't make sense to me, which may be because I'm just uninitiaite in the ways of Sufism. But what I like, and is less known in the West, is Rumi's parables in his great oeuvre, Mathnavi.

The story of the elephant in the dark is a favorite. Please enjoy what Google found for me:

P.S. "Once you post a comment, you have to allow at least 2 [hours] before you post another comment. This feature is being tested right now; we welcome and appreciate your feed back [sic]." How's this for a feedback? I don't like it. Which may be a good thing. It forces me to leave fewer comments here and get some real work done. :-)

atmikha at February 28, 2004 01:06 AM [permalink]:

Love the new policy! (no more verbal vomit).

Señor Græd at March 1, 2004 09:53 AM [permalink]:

In one of my "verbal vomits" above I had asked what it means to love God. Since nobody answered that question, I am going to provide an answer myself. See, it becomes easier to understand what "Loving the god" means to Westerners, if you remember their Christian background. Christ is God and of course he can be loved. In fact it is only through loving Jesus that humans can reach salvation, whatever that means. Similar to, since it is Muharram, the case of Hussein (the third Shi'i imam, not Saddam Hussein). Hussein is no god, God forbid, but it is, we are told, through loving him that he may intercede for us to enter Heaven. But the problem remains: What does it mean to love God? I'm not asking "Why should one love God", mind you, I just don't understand what it means to love the Almighty, without bringing Him down, one way or another, to human level.

AmericanWoman at March 1, 2004 10:51 PM [permalink]:

Senior Grad:
We did bring him down to human level. Any more questions?
Actually, the Christian concept of God is quite different than in Judaism and Islam. Instead of being a "Jealous God," and a "Vengeful God," and all that smiting of enemies etc., Jesus' Father in Heaven was a "Loving God." All the parables and prayers use allegories such as the Shepherd watching over his flock, the wealthy Patron entrusting his servants with riches, the Joyful Father welcoming home the prodigal son.
If you look at the center images on the Sistine Chapel, painted there by Michelangelo, you see God and Man reaching out for each other, but notice who is reaching the hardest.

Señor Græd at March 2, 2004 01:52 PM [permalink]:

Islam's God is not only more "vengeful" than Christianity's God, He is more "sophisticated"! And I don't know much about Jews' God, but please read this (most probably fictitious) story from Rumi's Mathnavi . When I say "sophisticated", perhaps I mean something else, but I can't remember the right word! I mean He is not a human. For example, he is above having children. (Read Surah 112 here: ) We don't exactly know what It is like, neither are we going to ever find out. Which makes it hard for us to love It/Him/Her. But if He is like a father (whatever that exactly means), then I guess loving him (and fearing him) becomes easier. I also found this: "Carl Jung, in turn, had said that this projection was an expression of the father archetype (see Note) and that it served the biological purpose of actualizing the father complex in the psyche of the individual." From

Señor Græd at March 2, 2004 08:39 PM [permalink]:

"If you look at the center images on the Sistine Chapel, painted there by Michelangelo, you see God and Man reaching out for each other, but notice who is reaching the hardest."

Ha Ha. I checked it out. Thanks for the tip, AW. Naked Adam with a muscular body and a miniscule sex tool seems to be rather unwilling to touch God's finger. He's nonchallantly leaning back as if challenging God, who is taken away by a herd of angels, to touch his finger. The way Adam has held his hand looks rather effiminate, not the least because he seems to have bent his finger (out of meanness, I guess) to make it as hard as possible for his daddy to reach him. If only he had made and effort a little bit to sit up...

AmericanWoman at March 2, 2004 09:22 PM [permalink]:

There is no point trying to make sense out of Christianity, or any religion. People believe what they believe. I'm just telling you that based on the teachings of Jesus, God is presented in this very familial, parental way, and that is pretty much how Christians relate to the concept. Christianity, unlike Judaism, does not encourage a lot of critical thinking about this. Christians are very keyed into the experience, or the emotional aspect of one's personal relationship with God. Especially Protestants, which makes up the majority of this country. We are supposed to "feel the love," not quibble about the nature of divinity.
I'm sure Carl Jung was right, and vestiges of ancestor worship can be seen in all the religions with deities, but I wonder how many times in his life he prayed the Paternoster (Our Father...)? Knowing its all a fairy tale doesn't seem to make it any more or less true.
As for The Creation of Adam, I think the point was more that the reason Man doesn't find God is that he isn't trying hard enough. I originally brought it up because it expresses the idea that God is personally interested in Man, which was kind of a new idea when it first came out. Love, love, love is the message.
Regarding Adam's penis, I can't imagine what happened there! I don't remember noticing it before, it looks like some editing has been done. Maybe that's what Eve is laughing about.

sdfdsf at March 2, 2004 09:51 PM [permalink]:

Someone promised me "howling and gnashing of teeth" if I don't love him.

Señor Græd at March 3, 2004 11:30 AM [permalink]:

I am with you, AW, on almost all you're saying. Is it Adam in the picture? Or any typical man (and woman)? In Persian the word "Adam" (not exactly pronounced the same as it is in English) means also "Man", or just an unidentified person.

Anyway, Jung thinks, as far as I can tell, that believing in God must come from some complex, or something, that makes us need a paternal figure. He may be right or wrong. I don't know. Whether God exists or not, I am not going to even argue.

But you're right in pointing out that what comes first is your emotional attachment to a notion, not its logical or philosophical ramifications. In that same vein, I find the following "heretical" (from Islam's point of view) more beautiful that much of Rumi's work: :-)

Where is Eve in the picture? Is she laughing? She seems bored, if she's the one under Adam. ;-)

AmericanWoman at March 3, 2004 09:08 PM [permalink]:

The title of the central fresco in the Sistine Chapel is "The Creation of Adam," which is also the creation of Man, because Adam is the first man. Or so they say. They also say his first wife was Lilith, so what are the implications of that? To me Michelangelo is saying something about the relationship between God and Man, as in mankind, and every man personally. Like, "if only one wasn't so lazy, weak, etc."
Eve is not under Adam, that's a figure in a different story. Eve is under Gods Arm facing Adam, and looking quite appalled, if not amused. Some of the putti (little boy angels) are openly laughing. Although, who really knows what was in Michelangelo's mind? On another part of the ceiling is the creation of Eve, and she has definitely put on some weight, if it is indeed, the same person.
Another little point of contention, if I wanted to contend. The story is that Eve was created out of Adam's rib. Well, in my house all the people created so far have come out of the ribs of Yours Truly. My husband and I are 0-3 so far on that project. This is like the President Bush (the first) claiming "we ended the Cold War" during some debate. Please! Oh well.

Señor Græd at March 4, 2004 07:45 AM [permalink]:

Here are my today's thoughts, AmericanWoman: I also think it is because the first human being was called Adam that we Iranians call every man and woman AADAM (pronounced like: Awww, Damn!). So it's the creation of not only Adam, but all of the mankind. The symbolism, of course, goes way deeper. Throughout the history, every nation has come up with their own creation story--Greeks, Indians, ancient Persians, American Indians, and a lot more-- until the rise of science in recent times challenged these myths. Science in general has contributed greatly to disenchantment of our universe. Well, Science itself doesn't say much really, but humans (and some of our folks here) seem to be over-excited about what Science has been able to achieve and therefore expected too much of it, to explain EVERYTHING, for example, or to render "meaningless" whatever statement that cannot be given scientific formulation. (Cf Logical Positivism!) I am personally convinced, however, that human life is not reducible to what is sensible or what is scientifically verifiable, but I won't get into it here.

Your interpretations of Michelangelo's work reminds me of a great series in PBS that I had the great privilege to watch at the right time. Sister Wendy is a nun committed to serve the Lord(and who shaves her head) and also an art critic. She's absolutely amazing in the way she exlains the art works, not to mention her British accent. Check it out: She may have said something about Creation of Adam as well, although I think she critiqued secular art as well as religious art.

Finally, I don't recall anything like a previous wife (or mistress) in the Islamic tradition. Also, Islamic version of the story of creation doesn't mention creation of Eve from Adam's rib, so in that sense, Islam seems to be less sexist than Christianity. But still, I guess Eve is mentioned to be created *for* Adam's happiness.

AmericanWoman at March 4, 2004 09:08 PM [permalink]:

Eve is mentioned to be created *for* Adam's happiness.

Do you think Adam misunderstood, or was it a joke?

JFTDMaster at March 5, 2004 10:57 AM [permalink]:

in hebrew adam means "Man" in general, it comes from the root word "adama" which means "earth" or "ground".. it can be a symbol for "man" or for "mankind"

Online bible (sacred texts of almost all world religions are online, isn't it great?)

1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Señor Græd at March 5, 2004 11:30 AM [permalink]:

I said Eve was, according to Islam, created for Adam's "happiness", but in saying that I relied on my unreliable memory. So please don't take my words literally, unless I give you a link. ;-)

I find the stories of creation fascinating. All of them. Even if they doesn't tell anything about the "objective" outside world, they tell pages upon pages about our own pyschic make-up. I think I read somewhere that there's been astonishing similarities between the myths of different groups of humans, who could not possibly have contacted before developing those myths. Some have proposed (I think including Freud and his disciples) that there is a universal, that is, an ultra-culture, if you will, symbolism at work in our dreams. For example, a house symbolizes a woman, regardless of what culture you're in!

P.S.1. Thanks, Master, for throwing some linguistic light on the issue.

P.S.2. I may have meant to say "transcendent" when I use the word "sophisticated" for Islam's God, vis-a-vis the God of Christianity, who has an image (Islam's God is said to be "beautiful" [JAMEEL], but he has no image, can't be ever seen, even after we all die and go to Heaven) in the form of (a perfect, bearded, male) human.

AmericanWoman at March 10, 2004 11:00 PM [permalink]:

Do me a favor, Sr. Grad, and tell me a common children's prayer from Persia. I read one in a book once, and I have been looking for that book since I had my first child. I don't remember anything about it except it didn't have that grim reaper quality of the standard Christian "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." Must be a holdover from the days of higher infant mortality.

Señor Græd at March 11, 2004 01:30 PM [permalink]:

Is FToI's slump over? ;-)

As for prayer, that happens to be my favorite subject! For your information, AW, Iranian have a rich supply of prayers, all, unfortunately or not, in Arabic. Many of them are attributed to Shi'i Imams (from more than a millennium ago) or somehow related to/by their close friends. These prayers, when read by experts, sound like poetry, because of the rhyming of the Arabic words, and the way they sound has an impressing impact. It could be a great area of research to examine the themes of these prayers.

Unfortunately, at some point in our history, the spring from which these prayers flowed all but dried up. It seems that nobody has the authority, anymore, to write new prayer, in Persian or in English, which is a shame. Anyway, I don't know of any children's prayer in Persian! Even the concept (of a prayer for children) sounds kind of odd to me! Which is funny, because I know the Shiite tradition has a wealth of prayers for almost all occasions: when you wanna start eating, or drinking, or taking a (religious) shower, or leaving the house, or sleeping with your wife, etc. etc.

For a (small!) sample check this out: There are some audio files, but be warned that they may sound like grieving wails to you! Other readers may remember children's prayer from their childhood. I don't.

Señor Græd at March 11, 2004 04:38 PM [permalink]:

Okay, I meant neither "in Persian or in Arabic", not "in Persian or in English"! That's of course as far as I can tell. Well, all right, there's been Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, and presumably others, who composed such prayers in Persian, but their work didn't quite catch on compared to the Arabic prayers that are part and parcel of being an Iranian Shiite, not to mention the ZIARAT-NAMEHs available in Shiite saints' shrines in Iran and (I assume) in Iraq and elsewhere.

If, however, you're looking for Persian, pre-Islamic prayers, I think I once found some (with audio files) in and it's funny to see how similar they sound to prayers in ! Forget about the meanings, and they're just the same! Coincidence? I don't think so. :-)

AmericanWoman at March 12, 2004 03:20 PM [permalink]:

Sadly, this information is not helpful. Anyone?

Senior Google at March 12, 2004 03:47 PM [permalink]:

Try this one:

AmericanWoman at March 16, 2004 12:19 AM [permalink]:

Thanks, Senor