Wondrous Words: The Poetic Mastery of Jalal al-Din Rumi
Conference - Abstracts and Biographies
13-15 September 2007
Clore Education Centre, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG
On the 800th anniversary of his birth, the Foundation and the British Museum have organised a conference that will focus on the poetic origins, quality, and impact of Rumi's writings, its sources of inspiration, and its echoes in Persian speaking parts of the world near and far.
Abstracts and biographies sorted by surname of first author
The essentialized Rumi, or the misadventures of Jalal ad-Din Barks
Sheila Sheereen Akbar, Indiana University, USA
Eight hundred years after his death, the Persian mystical poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi has figured in two modern geopolitical conflicts, due in large part to the work of his most popular 'translator' Coleman Barks. A close reading of one of Barks's renderings will reveal how he manipulates Rumi into a non-denominational mystic largely separated from the cultural, historical, and religious contexts in which he is known in the East. Barks has unwittingly fashioned a persuasive cultural artefact which, ironically, has been exploited by the governments of both the US and Iran. Barks's attempts to identify with Rumi spiritually, the main thrust of his self-described translation practice, has created a false impression of transparency in his translations which leads his readers to believe that Barks's vision of Rumi is one shared by both East and West. The US State Department, caught up in this illusion, sent Barks on a tour of Afghanistan in 2005, hoping to sway Afghani public opinion in the US's favour. The following year, Iran invited Barks to receive an honorary doctorate, playing on the same illusion of transparency in an attempt to sway American public opinion at a time when anti-Iranian rhetoric was on the rise. While Barks has successfully introduced Rumi to America, it is naive to think his selective and highly domesticated versions carry no political implications. In The Essential Rumi, the work that turned Rumi into America's best selling poet, Barks foregrounds, represses, or excises altogether elements of Rumi's background and teachings, thereby presenting a portrait of Rumi that significantly differs from the Rumi of the Muslim world. Through Barks's textual and contextual edits, Rumi has ceased to be himself; instead, he is neatly packaged for American spiritual consumption and vulnerable to a host of ideological exploitations.
Sheila Sheereen Akbar holds a BA and MA from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. She is currently pursuing a double PhD in Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Her interests lie mainly in the interactions of classical Persian poetry with both Arabic poetry and Sufism.
Mowlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi's metaphor of sama
Alberto Fabio Ambrosio, University of Paris (Sorbonne), France
In the works of Mowlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi, the practice of sama, the mowlawi sufi dance that was introduced by Shams ad-Din Tabrizi, is not just a ritual or a dance. As a matter of fact, in a general overview of the secondary literature regarding Rumi's works, there are just a few articles on this subject and Rumi's practice and metaphor of sama is not very well known. Sama is more than an action for Rumi: In his mind it is also a metaphor - even a metaphor for the Divinity. In any case, it is an image that creates a deep impression. The aim of this contribution is twofold: To analyse and synthesise Rumi's thought concerning sama, and also to present one of its most important commentators and followers, Isma'il Anqarawi (d. 1631 in Istanbul). In an article published in Turkey in 1964 about the sama at the time of Mowlana Rumi, Tahsin Yazici, a Turkish scholar, suggested that the historical development of the sama ceremony still needed to be studied. From that time to the present, some enquiries have been made about the ritual evolution of the mowlawi sufi dance but it still remains to be seen if this evolution corresponds to Rumi's thought. This paper concentrates on singling out the metaphorical fields of sama in Rumi's works and how they have been interpreted and realized by his followers.
Alberto Fabio Ambrosio was born in Fano (Italy) in 1971 and studied first in Milan. Having read philosophy and theology at the Dominican College in Bologna, he then undertook studies in Turkish language and civilization at Marc Bloch University in Strasbourg. In 2002 he completed an MA in Turkish, the subject of his thesis being the ritual of initiation into the Bektashi Order. In the same year he completed a second MA in theology with a paper on Hinduism and Sufism (the case of Bistami). In 2003 he commenced his doctoral studies in modern history at the University of Paris (Sorbonne) on the subject of doctrines and practises of the Whirling Dervishes in the Ottoman Empire during the seventeenth century. His publications on Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes include: Les derviches tourneurs. Doctrine, histoire et pratiques (2006) with Eve Pierunek and Thierry Zarcone, an article on Ismail Rusuhi Ankaravi, in Revue des mondes musulmans et de la M�diterran�e (2006), as well as contributions to the Journal of the History of Sufism. He is currently pursuing his research on the mystical order of the Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul where he has been residing since 2003.
Listen to the reed (poetry reading)
Iraj Anvar, Independent scholar, Iran accompanied by and Leili Anvar-Chenderoff, INALCO, France
Music is for the most part the element that makes Rumi's words wonderous. To be fully appreciated, his verse should be recited. This phenomenon is indeed true not only of his lyric poetry but even of his didactic work, the Masnavi that opens with an invitation to listen to the complaint of the reed rather than merely read the jotted lines. Sometimes, he even goes as far as inviting the reader to see with the ear and listen with the eye.
A selection of poems from the Divan and tales from the Masnavi will be recited both in Persian and English by Iraj Anvar and Leili Anvar Chenderoff, accompanied with music accompanied by Arash Moradi (setar and tambour) and Fariborz Kiani (daf)
Iraj Anvar, born in Tehran, has an extensive background of directing and acting in Italy, Iran and the USA. He studied acting and directing with Alessandro Fersen (Studio di Arti Sceniche) in Rome. When he returned to Iran in the 60's he soon became one of the leading figures in the avant-garde theater of Tehran. He was a cofounder of the Tehran Theater Workshop, where he translated, adapted and directed several plays, including adaptations of the ancient literary Persian material such as Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. After a distinguished career, in 1978 he traveled to the USA, having obtained a scholarship to attend NYU. After the Iranian Revolution he decided to remain in the USA and while teaching Persian Language and Literature at the department of Near Eastern Studies (NYU) he worked toward a degree and received his PhD from NYU in 1991. One of his recent accomplishments is the English translation and publication of forty-eight ghazals of the renowned Persian thirteenth century poet, Jalaladdin Rumi. His recent activities include several musical performances and poetry readings in New York and other North Amercan cities. He has been reading Rumi, Hafez, Ferdowsi and other Persian poets for Iranian and American audiences for past several years. He is currently involved in a new translation of a second set of Rumi's ghazals and ruba'iyat to be published soon. He has been invited to perform in 'Rumi in the Blink of the Eye', a play directed by Robert Wilson on the occasion of the Athens Theater Festival. This play is ongoing and will have several performances in Istanbul, Spain and New York in the coming months. His last performance was at the UN. He was invited to recite some of the Rumi's work on the UN celebration of the Eight Hundredth anniversary of Jalaladdin Rumi on the 26th of June 2007.
Wondrous images: Surrealism and the imaginal in Rumi's poetic imagery
Leili Anvar-Chenderoff, INALCO, France
Although Rumi mastered all the poetic techniques and imagery of his time and was avowedly influenced by the Persian mystical tradition reflected in Sana'i and Attar's works, his poetry is in many ways far from being 'classical'. Actually, it may be argued that the modern success of his works in the West is due to the stunning modernity of his style and vision. In many ways, his imagery and his treatment of poetic tropes may be viewed in the light of the surrealist conceptions of language and poetic composition. The first aspect of this surrealism that will be dealt with is the visionary character of the imagery that reflects an inner experience of an 'imaginal dimension' (according to Corbin's translation of alam-e methal). The second essential aspect is the omnipresence of paradox as an essential device for breaking the norms of reason and opening to a new dimension of reality. And thirdly, it is the question of ecstasy that will be explored as a spiritual expression of what the surrealists called 'automatic writing'. In fact, in many ways, what the surrealists sought without ever being really able to reach (a reality beyond the visible world that can be attained only through a specific mistreatment of language), Rumi had achieved almost 800 years ago in a kind of poetry that is highly personal and corresponds to the poet's actual ecstatic experience of love, words and rhythms. In many ways indeed, Rumi may be considered a shattah and this paper will try to put this idea into relief through an analysis of the Divan-e Shams and the commentary of a few emblematic ghazals.
Leili Anvar-Chenderoff was born in 1967 in Tehran. A former student of the Ecole Normale Superieure, she studied Persian and English literature and civilization at the University of Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris). Dr Anvar-Chenderoff received her PhD in Persian literature with a thesis entitled 'From Paradox to Unity: A Study of the Divan-e Shams' (1998). She was Lecturer at the University of Sorbonne Nouvelle in English and American civilization (1992-2001) and currently is Lecturer in Persian language and literature at INALCO, Paris. She is also attached researcher to the CNRS (UMR Monde Iranien et Indien). Dr. Anvar-Chenderoff is Head of the Iranian Languages Department (Institut des Langues et Civilisations Orientales); co-founder and member of the research group on the relationships between the Anglo-Saxon world and the Middle East (Anglorient, University of Sorbonne Nouvelle, University of Marne la Vall�e, EHESS); member of the scientific board of IISMM (Institute for the Study of Islam and the Islamic Societies, attached to the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris). Her publications include Le genre hagiographique a travers le 'Tadhkirat al-awliya' de Farid al-Din Attar (in Saints Orientaux, 1995), Noms de personnes en Islam, translation from English into French of A. Schimmel's Islamic names (1996), Attar, Rumi, Vin (in Le dictionnaire critique de l'esot�risme, 1998), Orient, mille ans de po�sie et de peinture (2004), Rumi (2004), L'amour de Majnun pour Leyli: Folie ou sagesse? (in Les fous d'amour dans les litteratures medievales orientale et occidentale, 2005), Nouvelles persanes (in Les arts de l'Islam, 2006).
The little black fish and the ocean of tales
Christophe Balay, INALCO, France
Rumi's Masnavi stands in the centre of a long and ancient narrative tradition which takes its source in Sanskrit and Pahlavi literature, through Arabic and Persian translations. But the Masnavi also can be considered as a genuine traditional source for new literary forms in Persian literature - perhaps not essentially new - but fully reshaped and recast by the political and ideological context of the twentieth century.
The tale of The little black fish, written by Samad Behrangi in the 1970s, is something of a metaphor of this continuous literary and ideological tradition in Persian literature. From its little pond, 'little black fish' swims down the narrow brook to the wide river and finally reaches the great ocean where, at the end of a long, dangerous journey, he has to face his destiny.
The purpose of this paper will be to analyse briefly the evolution of the Tale of three fishes, from its Indian origins (Pancatantra), through Arabic and Persian (Kalila wa Dimna) until Rumi's Masnavi and the modern version by Behrangi in the twentieth century. The paper focuses on the Masnavi's particular status in the historical, cultural and literary process. The paper will evaluate losses and gains of the narrative and will establish how constant the various narrative characteristics are, at formal, semiotic and semantic levels. It will compare different contexts of textual production, as well as their 'horizon d'attente' and the specificity of the original Sufi texts.
On the one hand, it can be said that narrative forms and structures change quite slowly from one tradition to another - from the Indian tale to the Masnavi and from the Masnavi to Behrangi's The little black fish. On the other hand, one must recognize that Rumi's Masnavi irradiates its luminous message on the whole tradition. From a moralistic, scholastic and political tradition, issues a spiritual and mystical one in which is elaborated a new conception of human life, the search of a spiritual achievement and of the ultimate meaning of the soul's life. In Behrangi's modern version of the story, the tale is transmuted into a humanism of sorts in which is reshaped the revolutionary ideology.
Christophe Balay was born in 1949. He has been a Professor at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris since 1989, where he teaches Persian language and literature. From 1998 to 2002 he was also director of the Institut Francais de Recherche en Iran (IFRI) in Tehran. His 'th�se de III cycle' was on Mille et un jours of F. P�tis de la Croix and his 'th�se doctorat d'Etat' was on La gen�se du roman persan moderne, which was published in 1998 (French edition) and 1999 (Persian edition). He has also published Aux sources de la nouvelle persane (with Michel Cuypers, 1983 [hardback], 1987 [paperback], 1999 [Persian edition]). Dr. Balay has also published French translations of contemporary Persian literature including Chronique de la victoire des mages (by Houshang Golshiri, 1997), Le roi des noir-vetus (by Houshang Golshiri, 2002), L'homme qui tua son ame (anthology of novels by Sadegh Hedayat, 1998), Femmes sans hommes (by Shahrnoush Parsipour, 2006), Comme tous les apr�s-midi (by Zoya Pirzad, 2007), and On s'y fera (by Zoya Pirzad, 2007).
Rumi in the oral tradition of Badakhshan
Gabrielle Rachel van den Berg, University of Leiden, Netherlands
In the sung poetry of the Ismailis of Tajik Badakhshan, one may often encounter Rumi, usually referred to by his pen name Shams-e Tabrizi. Many ghazals in maddah, the religious poetry sung at a variety of occasions, are ascribed to Rumi. But also in other genres of performed poetry the name of Rumi comes up frequently. In this paper, the speaker will consider the position of Rumi and the nature of the ghazals ascribed to him in the oral tradition of the Ismailis of Badakhshan. To research this topic, the speaker will make use of a representative corpus of ghazals recorded during fieldwork in Badakhshan in the past fifteen years. The results of a close examination of the form, context, contents, origin and background of these ghazals will be presented, in order to show how the poetry of Rumi functions in this oral tradition. The speaker wishes to focus on questions of authenticity and the phenomenon of apocryphal poems in similar oral traditions.
Gabrielle Rachel van den Berg is currently the Director of 'The Persian epic cycle and the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi' project at the University of Leiden, sponsored by the Netherlands Scientific Organisation (NWO). She has been a Lecturer in Persian, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Leiden since 2003. Her research work includes: Research Assistant for the 'A pictorial corpus of the Shahnameh' project at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge (2001-2004), Lecturer in Persian at the Facult� de Philosophie et Lettres, Institut de philologie et d'histoire orientales, Universit� Libre de Bruxelles (2002-2003), Researcher for the 'Living traditions of the Ismaili world: The case of Tajik Badakhshan' project at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (2000-2003) and E.G. Browne Lecturer in Persian at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge (1998-2001) . Her publications include: The Barzunama in the Berlin Shahnama manuscripts (in Shahnama Studies I, Pembroke Papers, ed. Charles Melville, 2006), Minstrel poetry from the Pamir mountains, a study on the songs and poems of the Ismailis of Tajik Badakhshan (2004), The classical Persian ghazal and Rumi in the oral poetry of the Ismailis of Tajik Badakhshan (in Mais comment peut-on etre persan? Elements iraniens en orient & occident, Liber Amicorum Annette Donckier de Donceel, ed. Christine van Ruymbeke, 2003, Ismaili poetry in Tajik Badakhshan: A Safavid connection? (in Persica, 2001), Poetry from Tajik Badakhshan: Form and performance (in Edebiyat, 2001), Musammat or Musajja? The description of a specific form of internal rhyme in Persian prosody (in Annali di Ca'Foscari, 2000), Examples from Persian and Shughni poetry from Tajik Badakhshan (in Proceedings of the third European conference of Iranian studies, Societas Iranologica Europaea, 1999), The nasibs in the Diwan of Farrukhi Sistani: Poetical speech versus the reflection of reality (in Edebiyat, 1998).
A little indicates much: Structure and meaning in the prefaces to Rumi's Masnavi
Carl W. Ernst, University of North Carolina, USA
All readers of Rumi's masterpiece, the Masnavi, have probably noticed the impressive Arabic preface to the first of the six books of his epic, in which he boldly announces, 'This is the book of the masnavi, which is the root of the roots of religion.' Few, however, have paused to consider the relationship of his preface to the text that follows. This paper will examine the preface to the Masnavi, in relation to the opening poetic dialogues found in each book, where Rumi discusses with his disciple Husam ad-Din Chelebi both the limits and the possibilities of the verbal expression of the divine wisdom. By encapsulating and demonstrating Rumi's method of teaching, these short prefaces illustrate the technique explored at length throughout the Masnavi, by which 'little indicates much.'
Carl W. Ernst is a specialist in Islamic studies, with a focus on West and South Asia. He studied comparative religion at Stanford University where he received his BA in 1973 and Harvard University where he received his PhD in 1981. He has taught at Pomona College (1981-1992) and has been appointed as visiting lecturer in Paris (EHESS, 1991, 2003), the University of Seville (2001), and the University of Malaya (2005). On the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1992, he has been department chair (1995-2000) and Zachary Smith Professor (2000-2005). He is now William R. Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor and Director of the Carolina Centre for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations. His published research, based on the study of Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, has been mainly devoted to the study of Islam and Sufism. His most recent book, Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the contemporary world (2003), has received several international awards, including the 2004 Bashrahil Prize for Outstanding Cultural Achievement. His current projects include Muslim interpretations of Hinduism and the literary translation of the Quran. His publications include Sufi martyrs of love: Chishti Sufism in south Asia and beyond (co-authored with Bruce Lawrence, 2002), Teachings of Sufism (1999), a translation of The unveiling of secrets: Diary of a Sufi master by Ruzbihan Baqli (1997), Guide to Sufism (1997), Ruzbihan Baqli: Mystical experience and the rhetoric of sainthood in Persian Sufism (1996), Eternal garden: Mysticism, history, and politics at a south Asian Sufi center (1993), and Words of ecstasy in Sufism (1985).
Bursevi's interpretation of the Masnavi: Ruhu'l-Mesnevi and interpretative style
Ismail Gulec, Sakarya University, Turkey
Ismail Hakki Bursevi (d. 1725) is a famous Islamic mystic who lived between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries. Having from time to time been sent on exile due to his acute critiques of the statesmen of his time, Bursevi spent the last years of his life giving advice and sermons in the mosque he had built in his name and writing, principally on mystical subjects.
A Celveti sectarian, Bursevi followed in the footsteps of the thirteenth century Sheikh al-Akbar, Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi and made ample use of his ideas in his own work. Among the more than one hundred works of this important figure of his time, Bursevi's interpretations of literary and mystical works occupy a significant place. For example, he has produced an interpretation of the Quran under the name Ruhu'l-Beyan. Bursevi's interpretation of the first 748 lines of the first book of the Masnavi has constantly served as a reference for later researchers. This paper attempts to address the reason behind this work, mostly written from a scientific point of view, by commenting on its interpretative style, its difference from other interpretations, and its own sources of reference.
Ismail Gulec was born in 1970 in Kadikoy, Turkey. He graduated from the University of Istanbul, Faculty of Literature in 1993, and received his MA at Istanbul University, Institute of Social Sciences in 1997 and PhD at the same Institute in 2002, with a thesis on Ismail Hakki Bursevi's Masnavi commentary Ruhu'l-Mesnavi. He has been working at Sakarya University, Education Faculty, Department of Turkish Education as Assistant Professor since October 2005. His research interests focus on Old Turkish literature, Turkish mystic literature and particularly Rumi's Masnavi and its translations and commentaries in Turkish. His publications include Annemden duyduklarim: Kutluca koyu atasozleri ve deyimleri (2006), Ismail Hakki Bursevi, Ruhu'l-Mesnevi Mesnevi serhi (2004), Serbestzade Ahmed Hamdi Iskilibi, Divan-i Hamdi (2004), Mevlana'nin Mesnevi'sinin tamamina yapilan Turkce serhler (in Ilmi arastirmalar dil ve edebiyat incelemeleri, 2006), R. A. Nicholson'un Mesnevi tercume ve serhi uzerine (in Divan ilmi arastirmalar, 2006), Turk edebiyatinda Cezire-i Mesnevi serhleri (in Osmanli arastirmalari: The Journal of Ottoman studies, 2004), Turk edebiyatinda Mesnevi tercume ve serhleri (in Journal of Turkish studies: Turkluk bilgisi arastirmalari, 2003), Mesreb'in Kitab-i Mebde-i Nur'u Mevlana'nin Mesnevi'sinin serhi midir? (in Ilmi arastirmalar dil ve edebiyat incelemeleri, 2003), Gelibolulu Musluhiddin Sururi, Hayati, Kisiligi, eserleri ve bahru'l-maarif isimli eseri (in Osmanli arastirmalari: The Journal of Ottoman studies, 2001).
Ottoman-Turkish commentaries on Rumi's Masnavi and the lost commentary of Sudi Bosnavi (d. ca 1599)
Slobodan Ilic, Eastern Mediterranean University, Turkey
The most renowned Ottoman commentators on the Persian classics in the sixteenth century, when the Empire was at its military and intellectual zenith, were Lami'i Celebi (d. 1531), Mustafa Sururi (d. 1561), Shem'i Prizreni (d. 1591), and Sudi Bosnavi (d. ca 1599). The last named was particularly noted for his commentaries on Sa'di's Golestan and Bustan and on the Divan of Hafez. Katib Celebi (d. 1657) in his Fezleke counts five sharih al-Masnavi up to his lifetime: Shem'i, Sururi, Sudi, Ismail Rusuhi, and Kamal ad-Din Husain Hwarazmi. In the following centuries more than twenty Arabic, Turkish, and Persian commentaries were written, mostly on a particular part of the work. All of them are today available (some of them also printed) except the one by Sudi. Relying on data from Ottoman bio-bibliographical works (tezakir), all modern researchers mention Sudi's commentary on the Masnavi-ye Ma'navi and complain about the loss of the work. They even sometimes wonder if it ever existed. A manuscript from the late seventeenth century, recently given to the Ataturk Library (the former Municipal Library) in Istanbul, contains a commentary on a part of the sixth book of Rumi's Masnavi. This text cannot be associated with any known work of the kind, and is, judging from a half erased original note in the upper right corner of the first page, a part of the lost work of Sudi Bosnavi. It consists of 145 folios, 260x160cm, written in black ink with a well legible nesh. The manuscript contains the commentary of 19 chapters of the Masnavi: From Chapter 25 (Qessa-ye ahad ahad goftan-e Belal dar harr-e Hejaz) to Chapter 43 (Qessa-ye Soltan-e Mahmud wa gholam-e Hend). This paper aims to introduce the manuscript of which the author is preparing a critical edition for publication.
Slobodan Ilic is currently Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of History, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta, North Cyprus. He received his MA from Belgrade University in 1992 and his PhD in 1996 from Bamberg University. His publications include Evliya Celebi in Bosnia. The relevant sections of the Seyahatname (forthcoming), Huseyin Lamekani. Ein osmanischer Dichter und Mystiker und sein literarisches Werk (1999), Lamekani Huseyin Efendi (in TDV Islam ansiklopedisi, 2004), Some new facts on the existence and literary activities of the Bektash Order in nineteenth century Bosnia (in Drustvena istrazivanja, 2003), Religious ferment in Ottoman Bosnia during the second half of the sixteenth century (in Voprosy istorii, 2002), Mulhid Wahdati, ein bosnischer Ketzer des 16. Jahrhunderts (in Zeitschrift der Deutschen morgenlaendischen Gesellschaft, 2001), Un cheik bektachi, Kazim Baba de Prizren et sa po�sie mystique (in Annales de l'autre Islam, 2001), Hamzevi and Hurufi heresy in Bosnia as a reaction to the political crisis of the Ottoman empire in the second half of the sixteenth century (in Bulgarian historical review, 2000), Bosna Bogomilleri ve islamlasma: Bilimsel bir yanilgidan ulusal bir mitosa (in Tarih ve milliyetcilik. I. Ulusal tarih kongresi. Bildiriler, 1999).
Unsilencing the sacred self: Moments of monajat in Rumi's Masnavi
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Washington University in St. Louis, USA
Rumi's perception of the human act of speaking is broad, unconventional, and complex. It entails more than the daily engagement in linguistic expression. His understanding of silence is equally heterogeneous, varied in nature, and multifunctional. While certain varieties of silence are desirable, even essential, for preparing the inner space to receive the divine presence, other kinds of silence are 'cotton balls of temptation' in the human ear that block out the 'celestial voices.'
Rumi identifies many such cotton balls. He is particularly sensitive to the loud voice of the ego, the inflated self-image that seizes every opportunity to display its virtues and attain public approval. Other varieties include the constant noise of daily strife for accumulating wealth, the loud speakers of the market suggesting what one must consume next, the piercing cries of inequity, poverty and injustice, and the horrendous noise of actual war and violence. These background noises that fill our ears, silence the sacred self, and deprive us of hearing its voice.
In this paper, it is argued that Rumi's role in the Masnavi is not that of a theoretician speculating about this dormant inner force. Rather, his primary role is that of a physician working to cure the paralysis of the sacred self and enable it to recover its lost voice. The process of treatment is itself complicated by irony and must benefit from poetic manoeuvring. The most fundamental irony lies in the fact that the long course of un-silencing must begin with the simple act of listening. Rumi's opus magnum, the Masnavi, therefore opens with the short imperative beshnow 'listen.'
Examples are provided of the process of un-silencing the self in the Masnavi through the episodic moments of monajat or conversations with God. These moments are not abstract or philosophical but rather simple, fresh and poetically dynamic. It is as if in these episodes, Rumi moves the reader to awakening, lends him his own voice, and the forgotten vocabulary for conversing with the divine.
Fatemeh Keshavarz was born and raised in the city of Shiraz in southwest Iran. She holds a BA degree in Persian language and literature from Shiraz University, and an MA and PhD in Near Eastern studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. Her PhD thesis won the Dunn and Wilson Award (The British Publisher's award for a PhD work of distinction) in 1986. Dr. Keshavarz is a published poet in her native language (Persian), writes poetry in English, and is the author of several books and journal articles. Her book: Reading mystical lyric: The case of Jalal al-Din Rumi (1998) analyses the poetic contribution of the medieval Persian poet and mystic Rumi. Her other literary study: Recite in the name of the red rose: Poetic sacred making in twentieth century Iran (2006) deals with expressions of spirituality in present day Iran. Both these works received the 'Choice Magazine Award'. Her latest book, forthcoming from North Carolina University Press, blends personal memoir with literary analysis and social commentary. It is called Jasmines and stars: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran. Her research interests include: Persian poetry, Sufi literature, and women in the Muslim world. She has taught at Washington University since 1990 and has served as Director of the Graduate Program in Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Studies, Director of the Center for the Study of Islamic Societies and Civilizations, and President of the Association of Women Faculty. She currently chairs the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages & Literatures.
A study of the outer and inner structure in stories of the Masnavi
Mahboubeh Khorasani, Azad University of Najafabad, Iran
Hamidreza Sheshjavani, Nadjvan Researching Institute, Iran
The study of literature in Iran can be divided into two general categories: One is related to the content of the work, and the other is based on formal characteristics. The former, which looks for the obscured/ultimate meaning in the text, is more prevalent. The latter seeks to understand the principles governing the process of literary creation and the qualities that separate literary utterance from referential.
Borrowing terminology from the natural sciences, Vladimir Propp was the first critic to look at the morphology of Russian folktales focusing on their structure. He reduced the various 'functions' in a tale to 31, assigned a symbolic significance to each and brought them together in a final formula. In this method, when a frame story contains many independent stories within itself, the story-telling strategy is described as 'inner-structuring.'
The present study follows a structural analysis making use of the models produced by Propp, Theodorof, and Barthes to demonstrate the interconnection between the stories in the Masnavi and define the broader schematic inner structure of the work. It appears that Rumi's Masnavi follows a distinct strategy of building an inner morphology.
Recognizing this inner formula would help make sense of the narrative structure and alter the perception of the haphazard order of the stories. For the purpose of the present study, we have chosen a number of stories which we will explore with regard to the order of the stories arranged within them.
Thus far, studies of Rumi's poetry have mainly focused on identification of the sources, clarification of the Sufi terminology, and interpretation of the content based on his life-events and thought. Studies of the literary characteristics of his work are in preliminary stages. A structural analysis - however imperfect - seems an improvement on the status quo.
Mahboobeh Khorasani is assistant professor in the Department of Persian language and Literature at Azad University of Najafabad. She completed her PhD in Persian language and literature from Azad University of Tehran in 2007 with a dissertation on correction of the Akhlaq-e-Jalali by Jalal-al-Din Davani and analysis of his thoughts. Khorasani's MA thesis on the 'Thousand and one nights: A morphological approach', won a prize in the eight national theses competition held by Iran Ministry of Education in 2004. Dr. Khorasani has written and translated several essays about literature. Her research interests focus on narratology, literary theory and literary criticism. Her publications include: An edition of the Akhlagh-e- Jalali with Hamidreza Sheshjavani (2007), The morphology of a thousand and one nights, embedded tales (2007) and the translation into Persian of Roger Webster's Study of literary theory: An introduction (2007).
Hamidreza Sheshjavani is a social researcher and translator in the Nadjvan Research Institute (NRI). He currently works in literary theory, especially Russian formalism, sociology of literature and women's writing. He was previously a translator at the Media Research Center in Tehran and instructor of Persian language and literature at the Bahonar Academy in Isfahan. Mr. Sheshjavani completed his MA in sociology from Payamenoor University in 2006 with a dissertation on 'Women's problem in Iran' which won the Ershad Agency's best dissertation prize. His translations from English include: Social semiotics (2006), Communication theories (2007) and Transcendental word (2006). He is the author of several articles on female writers published in literary magazines and the co-editor with Mahboobeh Khorasani of Akhlagh-e Jalali (2007).
Towards a chronology of the poems of Mowlana Rumi's Divan-e Kabir
Franklin Lewis, University of Chicago, USA
The received understanding of Mowlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi's life and oeuvre postulates three major periods: Before his encounter with Shams, the ecstasy/frenzy of union with and loss of Shams, and the cathartic interiorising of the voice of Shams. These are thought to roughly correspond to distinct phases in his literary career and religious/intellectual outlook: The first stage, largely homiletic and pedagogical (va and feqh), best reflected in the text of the Majales-e sab'e; second, the composition of ghazals and the performance of sama; third, the composition of the Masnavi. Without a more nuanced sense of the chronology of Rumi's oeuvre, it is of course difficult to trace specific developments in his thought or style, or in the thematic and theological foci of his work. Although Schimmel and Golpinarli, among others, have pointed to individual poems that do not neatly fit this tri-partite division (as well as having challenged the dating of the first book of the Masnavi), no thorough or sustained effort has been made to date specific poems of the Divan to particular periods in the life of Rumi. Though we can query the hagiographic tradition on this score, we cannot necessarily accept it at face value. However, we can extract specific clues from many poems in the Divan-e Kabir that may allow us to begin provisionally dating them to specific decades in the life of Rumi. One particularly obvious approach, though it has yet to be attempted, would group those ghazals which explicitly mention a particular addressee, notably Shams ad-Din, Salah ad-Din and Hosam ad-Din - whose order of succession to the head of the order and dates of death are known - into a chronological order.
This paper will focus on the poems in the Divan which make explicit mention of Salah ad-Din Zarkub and examine: Whether we can reasonably assume them to date from the tenure of Salah ad-Din as the figurehead of Rumi's community of disciples; whether they exhibit particular thematic concerns or stylistic features (vis-a-vis the ghazals dedicated to Shams or Hosam ad-Din); and to what extent this method of reading individual poems might eventually contribute to a partial chronology of the Divan, as well as a better and more dynamic understanding of Rumi's personal and literary development.
Franklin Lewis is Associate Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He currently works in Persian languages and literatures, mediaeval Islamic mysticism, Arabic literature, Sufism, and Iranian religion. He was previously Associate Professor of Persian and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. Dr. Lewis completed his PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 1995 with a dissertation on the twelfth century mystical poet Sana'i and the formation of the ghazal genre in Persian literature, which won the Foundation of Iranian Studies best dissertation prize. His translations from modern Persian literature include In a voice of their own: A collection of stories by Iranian women written since the revolution of 1979 (1996). In 2001, his book Rumi: Past and present, east and west (2000) received the British-Kuwaiti award for the best work published in the United Kingdom in the field of Middle Eastern Studies. He is also the founder and moderator of Adabiyat, an international electronic discussion forum for Persian, Turkish, Arabic and Urdu literature.
The anagogic reality of the Guiding Intelligence in Rumi's Masnavi
Leonard Lewisohn, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
It is often said that Rumi fully endorsed the normal master-disciple relationship (pir-muridi) and indeed, many passages in his Masnavi (ed. Nicholson, e.g. VI: 4093; I: 2939-45; 2969-80, II: 2528; VI: 4121-25, & etc.) demonstrate this is so. But to date, no one has studied Rumi's doctrine of the hierarchic Guiding Intelligence (to which there are many references, cf. VI: 4075, alluding to aql-e aql), which is the anagogic reality of the spiritual master (pir-e aql�, V: 737), and the metaphysical doctrines underpinning this Intelligence. In general, students and lovers of Rumi, in line with his overwhelming emphasis on the central role of the neo-Platonic Eros / Sufi eshq, have hitherto tended to overlook his glorification of Intelligence and Intellect. In his translation of a key passage (IV: 2163-81) in the Masnavi, Rumi stresses the central role of the Hierarchic Intelligence, the intellectus or nous of neo-Platonic philosophy, with as much passion as did purely intellectualist (kherad-gera) poets such as Naser-e Khusraw (who never once mentioned love, ishq, in his entire Divan). R.A. Nicholson actually mistranslates the key term pir in this passage, rendering it as 'old man', although it is evident on closer examination that the poet was in fact celebrating the anagogic reality of the Guiding Intelligence here. Yet at the same time, Rumi's doctrine of the Guiding Intelligence raises many pedagogical questions. What is the cosmogonic source and metaphysical base of Rumi's concept of the spiritual guide? If the doctrine of the spiritual master merely involves blind obedience on the disciple's part (cf. I: 2969), then wherefore does Rumi encourage the seeker to become a master of reason and religion (jahd kon ta pir-e aql o din shavi) so as to be able to acquire spiritual insight just like the Universal Intelligence (ta chu aql-e koll to baten-bin shavi, IV: 2168)? Why does Rumi announce that the true master is himself in fact none other than this Reason/Intelligence (pir, pir-e aql bashad, IV: 2163), and why are the intelligent man (aqel) and the light of Reason/ Intelligence (nur-e aql) so extravagantly praised all throughout the Masnavi (e.g. IV: 1947-54)? Why, of the two types of intellect: Acquired by academic study (aql- maksabi, tahsili) and bestowed by a spiritual grace given from God (see IV: 1960ff.) mentioned in the Masnavi, is the former denigrated so much and the latter so praised? These are some of the questions concerning the metaphysics of Intellect in the Masnavi which will be discussed in this paper, and an attempt will be made to resolve them in the light of the Persian Sufi tradition.
Leonard Lewisohn received his PhD in Persian literature in 1988 from the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London. He is currently Lecturer in Persian and Iran Heritage Foundation Fellow in Classical Persian and Sufi literature at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter. From 1999 to 2005 he was Research Associate in Esoteric traditions in Islam at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. He specializes in the study and translation of works on Persian Sufism into English. His translations include Sufi women (1990), Spiritual poverty in Sufism (1984), and Sufi symbolism I (Parts of the beloved's body: Wine, music, mystical audition, and convivial gatherings) (1984), all by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh. He has edited the 3-volume series on The heritage of Sufism (1999): I. Persian Sufism from its origins to Rumi (700-1300), II. The legacy of mediaeval Persian Sufism (1150-1500), III. (with David Morgan) Late classical Persianate Sufism (1501-1750). He also edited the Divan of Muhammad Shirin Maghribi in the original Persian (1993). His monograph Beyond faith and infidelity: The Sufi poetry and teachings of Mahmud Shabistari was published in 1995. He is co-translator (with Robert Bly) of The wine made before Adam: Selected poems of Hafiz (2007). Dr. Lewisohn has contributed articles to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Iran Nameh, Iranian Studies, African Affairs, Islamic Culture, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society and Temenos.
To revere, revise, and renew: Sa'eb of Tabriz reads the ghazals of Rumi
Paul Losensky, Indiana University, USA
It has often been observed that the timeless moment of mystical union and realization is by nature inexpressible and beyond the binaries of any linguistic code. Though Rumi often voices his frustration with the limitations of language and poetic form, he overcomes them through an open-ended poetics of process. By re-using, re-imagining, and re-casting established forms, oft-told tales, and conventional imagery, Rumi demonstrates the provisional and ephemeral nature of all literary expression in its ever-evolving, though ultimately futile, effort to signify the ineffable. Few later poets understood and mastered this poetics of process more fully than Sa'eb Tabrizi (1592-1676).
As the foremost representative of the 'fresh style' (tazah-gu'i), which dominated the Persianate world of the seventeenth century, Sa'eb's poetry is today notorious for its innovative and unsettling deviations from classical norms of diction, imagery, and metaphor. For all his originality, however, Sa'eb was remarkably open and generous in acknowledging his debt to his literary contemporaries and predecessors. In his massive Divan, Sa'eb mentions over seventy poets by name, often in the course of responding to their ghazals with matching poems of the same rhyme and meter. But he mentions no one more than Rumi, referring to him over sixty times, and he devotes more pages of his literary anthology (bayaz) to Rumi's work than that of any other poet. A comparative analysis of several poems that Sa'eb wrote based on models from the Divan-e Shams will show the various ways in which he read, assimilated, and recreated the work of his admired predecessor. For all his reverence for Rumi's achievement, Sa'eb recognized that slavish mimicry is a betrayal of the creative spirit that informs his source. Only by re-figuring, transforming, and re-writing Rumi's poetry can Sa'eb partake in the poetics of process and translate Rumi's spiritual and experiential insights from the Sufi cloister of thirteenth-century Konya to the streets and coffeehouses of seventeenth century Isfahan. The poetic dialogue between these literary masters constitutes one of the most significant and illuminating chapters in the history of Rumi's reception by later generations.
Paul Losensky received his PhD from the University of Chicago in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He is currently Associate Professor at Indiana University with a joint appointment in the departments of Central Eurasian Studies and Comparative Literature. He specializes in Persian literature with an emphasis on the literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His published works include: A translation of Attar's Tazkerat al-owliya (2007), Welcoming Fighani: Imitation and poetic individuality in the Safavid-Mughal ghazal (1998), The palace of praise and the melons of time: Descriptive patterns in 'Abdi Shirazi's Garden of Eden (in Eurasian Studies, 2003), Linguistic and rhetorical aspects of the signature verse (takhallus) in the Persian ghazal (in Edebiyat, 1997), and The equal of heaven's vault: The design, ceremony, and poetry of the Hasanabad bridge (in Writers and rulers: Perspectives on their relationship from Abbasid to Safavid times, 2004).
Dramatic potential in the Masnavi tales
Ali Miransari, Independent Scholar, Iran
There are many tales and stories in the Masnavi. The sources of nearly all these tales are known and it has been clarified that Rumi utilized the works of poets and thinkers who had lived earlier than him, such as Sana'i , Attar and Ghazzali. When the Masnavi tales are compared with their sources, it can be seen that Rumi's interpretation of these tales is not merely a straightforward re-telling: Using his innate creativity, he makes basic alterations in them, and without any changes in the stories' initial structure, he creates a new atmosphere. So the narrative element in the source stories has been replaced by a dynamic element in the Masnavi tales, due to Rumi's perspective.
Moreover, instead of non-dynamic, static personages such as are described by the narrator in the source stories, characters in the Masnavi tales introduce and describe themselves through dialogues and actions. Thus, compared with their sources, the Masnavi tales gain new characteristics that can be observed in the following items:
a) Illustrating the scene and atmosphere of the plot.
b) Personalizing the characters through short and long dialogues.
c) Making enough room for characters to move and act freely.
d) Creating action through the personages in the plot.
e) Describing the movements and actions of the characters.
f) Using active verbs to keep the stories dynamic.
g) Using proverbs, expressions and fables to approach the folk language.
If we look at the Masnavi tales through a dramatist's perspective, we realize that characteristics added to the tales by Rumi, have caused these stories to bear appropriate dramatic potential. Time, place, and action, which are vital elements in a dramatic work, are all included in the Masnavi tales.
This paper will address the following question:
To what extent did these changes add dramatic potential and capacity to the Masnavi tales?
Ali Miransari received his MA in Persian Literature from Tehran University, and has been working at the Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia since 1996 and the Encyclopaedia of Iran since 2000. His research interests include contemporary Persian literature (late Qajar to Pahlavi era intellectuals, movements and ideas) as well as dramatic Persian literature. He has published more than 150 articles in the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia, the Encyclopaedia of Iran and numerous Persian periodicals. His book publications include Records of Iran's contemporary literary notables (5 volumes) (1997-2004); Selected records of drama in Iran (2003); Letters of Malak-o Shoara Bahar(2001); Shahnameh, Bahar's commentary on the Shahnameh, edited introduced and indexed by Ali Miransari (2001); Two travel accounts by Nima Youshij (2001); Bibliography of Nima Youshij (1996); Bibliography of Attar (1995); Bibliography of Nasir Khosrow (1994); Bibliography of Khajou Kirmani (1991).
Rumi's view of his predecessors
Jawid Mojaddedi, Rutgers University, USA
Rumi is more often than not viewed in isolation from the Sufi tradition before his time. This applies to much academic scholarship as well as popular writings, largely because of the question marks hanging over Rumi's own teachers and their relative importance - a problem which is further complicated by the Mevlevi hagiographical tradition. However, in his own writings, Rumi frequently gives acknowledgement to his influences and allegiances, as one would expect of an author belonging to a well-established tradition. Although he did not go as far as to write a collection of hagiographies of early Sufis in the manner of Farid ad-Din Attar (d. ca 1221), he includes a greater number of stories about earlier Sufis in his poetry than this immediate predecessor in the mystical masnavi genre, as well as discourses about continuity in the transmission of mystical knowledge. Rumi's representations of the past are of importance because they show how he engaged with his own religious tradition's heritage, and they may be used also to shed light on his perception of his own identity within that tradition, regardless of their historicity.
This paper will examine Rumi's references to his predecessors in Sufism, including both his discourses about the issue of transmission of mystical knowledge and his numerous stories about the early heroes of Sufism. It will then compare Rumi's view of his predecessors with that of other Sufi poets, in order to highlight the traditions with which he most strongly identifies and the positions he takes on the controversial figures in early Sufism, as well as other significant predilections of his.
Jawid Mojaddedi, a native of Afghanistan, was raised in Great Britain where he completed his education. He moved to New Jersey shortly after completing his doctoral studies at the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Manchester. He served for two years as assistant editor of the Encyclopaedia Iranica at Columbia University, before taking up his present position at the Department of Religion of Rutgers University, where he teaches courses on Sufism, Rumi, and Islamic thought. Dr. Mojaddedi specializes in early and medieval Sufi texts and traditions, and is currently preparing a monograph on Rumi's understanding of friendship with God, or 'sainthood' (walaya). His most recent book is his verse translation of Rumi's Masnavi. The first volume was published in 2004 by Oxford University Press as an Oxford World's Classics edition and was awarded the Lois Roth Prize by the American Institute of Iranian Studies, the second volume was published in July 2007. His previous books include: The biographical tradition in Sufism (2001) and Classical Islam: A sourcebook of religious literature (2003).
Mirroring Shams: A study of Shams' influence on Rumi and Rumi's poetry
Mohammad Ali Movahed, Independent scholar, Iran
It is a well-established biographical fact that Mowlana's fateful encounter with Shams-e Tabrizi in 1244 changed radically the course of his life, an event that he himself later referred to as a 'rebirth.' But the reflection of Shams' words and thought on the poetry of Rumi has not yet been systematically studied. Through a close study of the texts and a detailed comparative analysis, this paper aims at demonstrating that Shams is directly present in Mowlana's poetry (both in the Divan and the Masnavi), not only as an image but as the direct inspirer of Rumi's poetic world, spiritual thought and ontology.
Mohammad Ali Movahed is a writer, essayist, translator and researcher. He received his PhD in International Law (University of Tehran). He has been a legal advisor to the National Oil Company and member of the board of directors. He is the author of an important book on the history of human rights and justice Dar hava-ye haqq va edalat (2003). Having edited the Maqalat-e Shams-e Tabrizi (1990) with extensive notes, commentary and introduction, he is the major authority on Shams' works, life and relationship with Rumi. He has also published a short reference biography of Shams-e Tabrizi (1996) and a selection of Shams' writings for the general reader, Khomi az sharab-e rabbani (1994). A distinguished Arabist, he has written a monograph on Ibn Batuta Ibn Batuta (1997) and translated into Persian Ibn Arabi's Fosus al-Hekam (2007).
Coleman Barks and Rumi's donkey
Majid Naficy, Independent Scholar, USA
During the first half of the twentieth century, the six volumes of Rumi's Masnavi and a selection of his lyrics were translated into English by British scholars Reynold Nicholson and Arthur John Arberry but these works were mostly known to academia. Recently Coleman Barks's version of Rumi, especially The Essential Rumi which is the subject of this review has become popular and a best-seller-book in the USA. Barks did not know Rumi until 1976 when the American poet, Robert Bly handed him a copy of Arberry's translation saying 'these poems need to be released from their cage.' No doubt that Barks's version of Rumi has freed these poems from the confines of Departments of Near Eastern Studies, but unfortunately as we will see he has tied them in the cage of his personal taste.
The essential problem of Coleman Barks lies in the fact that in his version he intentionally changes Rumi, perhaps for the better, but at the expense of distortion and misrepresentation. He approaches Rumi's poetry as a religious text which needs to be dusted from the passage of time by a devotee and prepare for a Post-Modern, New-Age market in the West. Reynold Nicholson, who was the first scholar to publish the first critical edition of Masnavi in Persian as well as the first full translation of this book into English, was a person of intellectual honesty. Although his translation is literal he had no religious or mystical mission and did not change Rumi in order to promote his own agenda. Barks is the exact opposite of Nicholson. In order to remodel and fix Rumi for the American market, Barks follows the path of a New-Age-Sufism. He tries to disconnect the mystical concepts of Rumi from their historical and social background and modify them for our contemporary taste. For example, instead of conveying the misogynistic and anti-sexual concept of 'love' in the Masnavi as it is in the Persian text, he distorts and misrepresents the letter and spirit of Rumi's works.
Majid Naficy was born in Iran in 1952. He holds a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the University of California at Los Angeles. His thesis entitled Modernism and ideology in Persian literature: A return to nature in the poetry of Nima Yushij was published by University Press of America, Inc. in 1997. Majid Naficy is a co-editor of Daftarhaya Kanoon a Persian periodical published by 'Iranian Writers' Association in Exile'. His first collection of poems in Persian, In the tiger's skin, was published in 1969. One year later his book of literary criticism, Poetry as a structure, appeared. In 1971 he wrote a children's book, The secret of words, which won a national award in Iran. In the seventies, Dr. Naficy was politically active against the Shah's regime. After the 1979 Revolution, the new regime began to suppress the opposition, and many people, including his first wife Ezzat Tabaian and brother Sa'id were executed. He fled Iran in 1983 and spent a year and a half in Turkey and France. He then settled in Los Angeles where he lives with his son, Azad. He has since published eight collections of poems: After the silence, Sorrow of the border, Poems of Venice, Muddy shoes, Twelve poems in love: A narrative, I write to bring you back, Father & son and Galloping gazelles. His publication also include four books of essays: In search of joy: A critique of death-oriented: Male-dominated culture in Iran, Poetry & politics and twenty-four other essays, The best of Nima and I am Iran alone and thirty-five other essays.
Poet and parrot: Rumi's didacticism at odds with the plot
John R. Perry, University of Chicago, USA
Many of Rumi's parables are taken from the inexhaustible treasury of world folklore, and may be recognized in antecedents and analogues not only from the Iranian world but also at other entrepots along the cultural stream that once flowed from India to Western Europe. Among these are the two stories about parrots in Book I of the Masnavi (Nicholson, lines 249-60 and 1546-1848). Both originate in cautionary fabliaux of the Wiles-of-Women genre, and Mowlana has of course used each, explicitly, to point his own quite different morals. To this end he has also shuffled some of the motifs from one tale to another. It will be argued that the poet's ostensible lessons are no more apt in his contexts than the originals - or later humorous versions - would have been; confronted at the end of the tale by an arbitrary interpretation, the engaged reader may reject this in favour of his own intuition, as a result of having shifted his focus to a different motif, or of the humour and pathos of the story itself.
It is common knowledge that preacherly exegeses, even of self-tailored parables, can be didactically implausible (the medieval European Gesta Romanorum, supposedly a chrestomathy of ready-made moralistic materials, furnishes numerous laboured examples). Rumi's ineptness here (if such it is) makes more subtle points about the mismatch between heuristic and didactic, or the relative worth of raw anecdote and the value-added tax of the moral.
John R. Perry was born in Britain and educated at Cambridge University (Pembroke College), where in 1970 he was awarded a PhD in Oriental Studies (Arabic and Persian). During summer vacations he hitchhiked to Egypt and Iran and spent the year 1964-1965 studying Persian at Tehran University on a British Council Scholarship. He has conducted research in Iran, Iraq (including Kurdistan), Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Tajikistan, and traveled the Karakoram Highway to Kashgar. He taught in the Arabic Studies Department at St. Andrews University, Scotland (1968-1972), and since 1973 has taught Persian and Islamic Civilization, among other subjects, in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago (as a Full Professor since 1992). Dr. Perry is a joint winner of the 2003 Lois Roth Prize for translation from Persian for The Sands of Oxus: Boyhood reminiscences of Sadriddin Aini (1998). His current research focuses on the linguistic and sociolinguistic history of Persian. Other interests include Iranian folklore and vernacular culture, and the language and cultural history of Tajikistan. Among his books are Form and meaning in Persian vocabulary: The Arabic feminine ending (1991), and A Tajik Persian reference grammar (2005). His many articles include Blackmailing Amazons and Dutch pigs: A consideration of epic and folktale motifs in Persian historiography (in Iranian Studies, 1986), Epistemic verb forms in Persian of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan (in Evidentials: Turkic, Iranian and neighboring languages, ed. Lars Johanson and Bo Utas, 2000) and Monty Python and the Masnavi: The parrot in Persian, Indian and English humor (in Iranian Studies, 2003).
An analysis of the symbolical aspects of Tabriz in the Divan-e Shams
Mahmoud Ranjbar Fakhri, Iranology Foundation, Iran
As the name of a city, Tabriz is quoted only eight times in the Masnavi but the Divan is saturated with the word Tabriz: As a geographical metaphor, it is quoted 419 times. In Rumi's poetry, Tabriz is neither like Bukhara in the famous ghazal by Rudaki nor comparable to the imaginary Heydarbaba in the verses of Shahriyar. For him Tabriz is the 'rival of China' and the 'purity of Kowsar' of the 'celestial throne' or else 'the Source of the water of life', 'Paradise', 'the Ocean of meaning', 'blessing to the heart' and the 'place of all perfections.'
In this paper, the speaker analyses the different symbolical meanings attributed to this place name in the ghazals by Mowlana. The poet usually uses Tabriz in such a way that its relation to Shams-e din or Shams al-Haqq remains clear and perceptible:
Go either to Tabriz and enjoy Shams's presence
Or take the words of those who praise him
The spiritual interrelation between Tabriz and Shams is so strong in the Divan that they seem inseparable, to such an extent that the phrases Tabriz-e Shams-e din or Tabriz o Shams-e din have been used around forty times:
We have an inkling of Tabriz and Shams
Just as the thirsty have an inkling of the Kowsar spring in Paradise
In more than 50 occurrences, there are also lines in which Tabriz appears as the dusk or dawn of Shams/the Sun or receives value and prosperity from the presence of Shams.
This paper tries to see if the name of Tabriz is a reminder of the name of Shams-e Tabriz and if it is, what images it brings to the mind of Mowlana. And finally, through precise quotations from the text, it looks at the interrelation between Tabriz and Shams in the general spiritual vision and approach of Rumi.
Mahmoud Ranjbar Fakhri is Director of East Azarbaijan branch of the Iranology Foundation. He received his MS degree from the Management Education Centre of Tabriz in 1997. The title of his thesis was 'The structure of cultural management in East Azarbaijan province.' His research interests are focused on the cultural history of Azarbaijan. He was previously director of North Western Department of the National Archives of Iran. His publications include Khaterat-e Motazam Dowleh together with Seyyed Jamal Torabi Tabatabai (2000) and Nemayesh dar Tabriz az enghelab-e mashruteh ta nezhat-e melli-e naft (2004).
Rumi: Lion or fox? A consideration of the way Rumi uses the Kalila wa Dimna fables in his discourse
Christine van Ruymbeke, Cambridge University, United Kingdom
Many passages in the Masnavi use characters and core stories taken from the popular animal fables of the Kalila wa Dimna cycle. This work, which is said to have been brought from India to the Sassanid court during the reign of Anushirvan, is considered a 'Mirror for Princes.' The main argument of the book is presented in the form of several 'chapters' or 'books', the action of which is conducted by animals who act as emblems for perennial human types of thought and behaviour. The key moments of these fables in turn are illustrated and developed by secondary tales, which have known a fame of their own, often seen and sometimes (mis)understood and re-used as independent elements of their own. As such, this rich fund of animal (and human) tales has been extraordinarily famous and popular in the entire medieval world. In the Persian world, it is not an exaggeration to state that most literary works of the period refer to the tales at some point, or even rework them in a new context. This is the case with the Masnavi. This paper will examine Rumi's technique of adoption and transformation of the tales in his didactical discourse. The way in which Rumi puts to use these fables opens up interesting avenues on his thought process and literary interests.
Christine van Ruymbeke is currently Soudavar Lecturer in Persian at the University of Cambridge and has formerly been teaching at Brussels Free University (Belgium), where she also received her PhD in 1997 with the thesis 'Research into the scientific knowledge within classical Persian poetry. A study of trees and fruit in the Khamsa of Nizami Ganjavi.' Her research interest lies in classical Persian literature and she has published several articles on the scientific knowledge in the works of Nezami of Ganja. Her forthcoming book is entitled Science and poetry in medieval Persia: The botany of Nizami's Khamsa. She is currently involved in an analysis of the fifteenth century Herat rewriting of the Kalila wa Dimna cycles of animal fables.
Rumi and Persian music
Farhoud Safarzadeh, Independent scholar, Iran
The relationship between Rumi's work and Persian music should be sought for in the avaz radif (modal chains for songs). An overview of the descriptions of the different radifs, either songs or melodies, shows that Rumi's verses have seldom been used in the various parts of the Iranian musical modes. The reason may be that the complex patterns of the art of singing, based on arabesque, are much more in accordance with the delicate and allusive poetic style of Sa'di or Hafez rather than with the impetuous verses of Mowlana. Nevertheless, from the eighties onward, Rumi's poems have been more or less used in songs and the lyric use of his ghazals have increased considerably. It is in the art of the tasnif that Mowlana's ghazals have been most largely used. From the end of the eighties onward, tasnifs based on such ghazals were very successful because the poems hold a highly musical and rhythmic inner pattern. It is to be noted that it is in what has been called 'Sufi music' (which is an important branch of Persian music), that the most extensive use of tasnifs based on Rumi's poetry can be found and one may recognise in those, some characteristics of Sufi music.
Another form of singing is what we call masnavi khwani. More that often, the verses by Mowlana are sung in the Masnavi goushes of the different Persian modes, with the meter fa'elaton/fa'elaton/fa'elat. Masnavi singing has been a long-standing tradition in Persian music and it used to be performed in the song patterns of Bayat-e Tork, Afshari, Bayat-e Esfahan and in the modes of Segah and Tchahargah. Because Iranians were generally keen on this type of singing, masnavi singing later was also performed in avaz-e Dashti and in the modes of Mahur and Nava and sometimes even in other modes. Masnavi singing is often to be heard in its collective form during the gathering sessions of the Sufis, usually accompanied by the reed (ney).
This paper will explore the influence of Rumi's poetry (either lyric poems or extracts from the Masnavi) on the art of tasnif, ghazal khwani, masnavi khwani in the framework of Persian music.
Farhoud Safarzadeh's initial education was in the field of medicine. He started learning Persian music theory and playing the Setar from 1987 with masters of Persian classical music. He is interested in studying music from the Qajar period. His publications include Nourali Boroumand - musighidan (in Danehsname-ye Iran, 2006), Honarestan-e musighi-e Tabriz (2005), Morouri bar manabe-e amouzeh-e tar va setar (in Mahour, 2001), Aziz Mostofizadeh - musighidan (in Magham, 1998), Jariyan-e boniadgerayi and nogerayi dar musighi (in Kian, 1997). His forthcoming publication is on the music of the Constitutional Revolution period. Mr. Safarzadeh has performed extensively in various cities in Iran.
Mowlana's mystical monologue as an escape from language
Marek Smurzynski, Jagiellonian University of Cracow, Poland
Shams ad-din Tabrizi is a focus character of Mowlana's mystical biography. The Divan-e Shams is considered as a literary completion of his privileged role in Mowlana's life. The takhallos at the end of each of his ghazals is usually perceived as evidence of Mowlana's mystical surrender to his master. This exceptional position that Shams ad-din played in Mowlana's spiritual and intellectual evolution has sometimes dominated the other aspects of his original oeuvre. A closer examination of his takhallos shows that there is an equally significant number of ghazals the maqta of which refers to the incapacity of language to express the truth of spiritual experience, rather than to Shams himself. In this paper Mowlana's insight into language will be regarded as a culminating point of the Quranic-mystical understanding of language as a means of access to the invisible world, or pure light. This paper will focus on Mowlana's various techniques of exceeding the linguistic and textual specificity of his mystical monologue.
Marek Smurzynski holds a MA in Theory of Literature from the University of Lodz, an MA in Iranian Studies from University of Warsaw, and a PhD in Iranian Studies from University of Tehran. Since 1999 he has been a Lecturer in Persian language and literature at the Institute of Oriental Philology of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. His interests can be grouped within three main fields of research: The text and its cultural authority, the generative power of narrative and lyrical modes of the mythico-mystical discourse in verbalising the other kinds of discourses and modelling the perception of the world and the text and Iranian post-modern literature. His publications include The anthropological aspect of manuscripts' multiplicity in Persian (in Iran. Questions et connaissances, 2002), The parataxis of Persian narration and the problems of the segmentation of a translated text (in Oriental languages in translation, 2002), Paradigms of movement in Ali Shariati (in Hemispheres, studies on cultures and societies, 1989), The description of spatial relations in the aql-e sorkh of Shahab al-Din Yahya Sohravardi as mystical mind training (in R. Haag-Higuchi and C. Szyska, eds., Erzaehlter Raum in Literaturen der islamischen Welt / Narrated Space in the Literature of the Islamic World, 2001).
The gaze of desire: Visions of esoteric secrets in two medieval Persian miniature paintings of the Masnavi
Mahdi Tourage, Colgate University, USA
This paper is an exposition of the esoteric significance of two medieval Persian miniature paintings of the Masnavi, Jalal ad-Din Rumi's (d. 1273) masterpiece of medieval Perso-Islamic mystical literature and theosophical teachings. These two paintings are the only paintings of a Masnavi manuscript (produced ca 1530) with explicit sexual scenes. As will be argued in this paper, these tales, like other mystical tales in the Masnavi, which is often referred to as the 'Quran in Persian language,' aim at the communication of mystical knowledge.
The paper will examine the virtually unexplored communicative association of these tales with their pictorial representations and their ultimate goal of communicating esoteric secrets. Utilizing Jacques Lacan's concept of the 'gaze', it will be argued that because of their irreducibility to their representational forms, the gaze - differentiated from the look - and esoteric secrets are compatible configurations. The gaze is the condition that structures the representational strategies of these two paintings as well as the viewer's response. The structuring effects of the gaze upon the subjective positions of looking and being looked at, which in these paintings range from voyeuristic to fetishistic, will also be explored.
Mahdi Tourage is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Islam in the Religion Department of Colgate University, NY, and Book Review Editor of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJISS). He received his PhD from the University of Toronto in 2005. His upcoming book entitled "Rumi and the Hermeneutics of Eroticism"(Brill, 2007) examines the esoteric significance of bawdy tales and explicit sexual images in Rumi's Masnavi by using relevant features of post-modern theories of gender and semiotics as strategic conceptual tools. His areas of interest are Islamic religious thought and mysticism (Sufism), Classical Persian literature, Gender and sexuality. His publications include: The hermeneutics of eroticism in the poetry of Rumi (in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 2005), Phallocentric esotericism in a tale from Jalal al-Din Rumi's Masnavi-i Ma'navi (in Iranian Studies, 2006).
Multilinguality: A dynamic and unique strategy for apophatic discourse
Nargis Virani, New School, USA
This paper will analyze the form and structure of the mulammat, the multilingual poems in the Diwan-i-Shams of Jalal al-Din Rumi. While the preponderance of Rumi's literary and didactic output found expression primarily in Persian, he also composed close to ninety ghazals, lyrical poems, in mixed languages including Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Greek, the occasional Mongolian locution and even an amorous Armenian phrase. These poems from Rumi's Diwan, comprising approximately 1200 verses, are unique linguistically and, from a literary perspective.
Within the pre-modern Muslim literary framework, one of the areas that is left completely untouched and unexplored is that of the specific contexts in which giant figures like Rumi, among others, composed multilingual works at the same time that they had chosen to express themselves in one dominant language. What did they hope to achieve by it? In addition, what dictated the exact choice of language/s, and how was that formally executed in multilingual writings? Moreover, within Muslim contexts, what role did the hegemony of Arabic play, being designated very early on as the 'sacred' language, or the 'language of the Quran' and, therefore, by extension, the 'language of God?' What role did the attitude and judgments of influential religious and literary critics play in the blossoming or repression of multilingual materials?
Based on the formal analysis of Rumi's multilingual poems, this paper proposes that, within the mystical context, the use of the macaronic language is another facet of an apophatic discourse. Within this discourse, the ultimate fickleness of the language/s is established, rather performed, by means of the use of multiple languages that, through sheer virtuosity accomplishes an incredible feat of combining many languages and different metrical traditions, while simultaneously heightening its fundamental impotence.
Nargis Virani received her MA in 1991 and her PhD in 1999 in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University, and also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education from London University and a Bachelor of Commerce from Bombay University. During the course of her Arabic Studies she studied at many prestigious institutions in the Muslim world such as the University of Jordan in Amman, the Bourguiba Institute in Tunis, and al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. At al-Azhar she studied the Quran with the Shaykh of al-Azhar and holds a shahadah (certificate) and an ijazah (permission to teach the Quran). She also studied Tafsir with the current Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Ali Gomaa.
Her areas of specialization are Arabic Language and Literature, Persian Language and Literature, Islamic Intellectual Thought and Sufism. Her doctoral dissertation entitled 'I am the Nightingale of the Merciful Macaronic or Upside Down?' analyzed the Mulammaat, the mixed-language poems, in Rumi's Diwan. In this work she proposes that 'speaking in many tongues' be looked at as a brilliant linguistic strategy employed by the mystic to fashion an imaginative form of apophatic discourse. Dr Virani taught Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of British Columbia, Canada as a lecturer in 1991-93, worked as a Research Associate coordinating the Quranic Studies for the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, in 1999-2000, was Assistant Professor of Arabic Language and Literature at Washington University in St. Louis, where she also headed the Arabic programme for several years and briefly served as Director of the Graduate Program in Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Studies. She is now Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the New School for Social Research in New York city. Her publications include I am the Nightingale of the Merciful: Rumi's Use of the Quran and Hadith (2002), 'Saff' Rank in the Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an (2006); "Muslim Marriage" in the Encyclopaedia of Muslim Voices (2007); Mulamma' in Muslim Literatures (forthcoming); and Nasir Khusraw's Use of the Qur'an in His Diwan (forthcoming).
In search of the inner meaning: Paradox and oxymoron in the Divan poetry of Rumi
Muhammad Isa Waley, British Library, United Kingdom
The typology and importance of paradox in Mowlana Rumi's Divan have been tellingly expounded by Fatemeh Keshavarz in Reading mystical lyric: The case of Jalal al-Din Rumi. The subject is further explored here, with particular reference to the stanzaic poems (tarji'at).
Besides the power of paradox and oxymoron as rhetorical devices per se, didactic aspects are also considered. As this writer has argued elsewhere, the sharp distinction often drawn between the Masnavi as didactic and the Divan as non-didactic will not stand up to close examination.
Rumi uses such devices to break through the audience's misconceptions about the inward meaning of a situation or thing, as opposed - or contrasted - to its outward appearance. In the Masnavi the resultant shock effect is often moderated by adjacent expository passages; but in the Divan this is rarely the case.
Poetical paradox is far more readily found in the work of Rumi's Sufi predecessors than in that of Khaqani or Anvari. Attar is the most obvious example (e.g, Asrarnama, bayts 1581-4: 'Perish, that you may live forever'). Two reasons for this predilection, as Keshavarz shows, are the polyvalence of reality as witnessed from both internal and external perspectives - and the paradox of attempting poetic discourse on inexpressible mystical experience.
Following Attar, Rumi unleashes the full rhetorical power of paradox and oxymoron. Several examples from the Tarji'at bear on the difficulties that evoked Rumi's didactic eloquence in defence of Shams-e Tabrizi: [to Shams's detractors] 'you are kings, but you are beggars', and 'He is captive to me, but things that I do / make you say that he is captive to me.'
In other examples Mowlana offers new insights into the inward reality of situations known to most Muslims, e.g. 'Zulaykha did what no other has done / a slave who purchased her own master.' Here and in many other lines of the Divan, a poet who disparaged poetry displays his paradoxical virtuosity.
Muhammad Isa Waley is Curator of Persian and Turkish Collections in the British Library. He gained his MA in Oriental studies, University of Cambridge in 1970 and a PhD in Persian literature, SOAS, University of London in 1990 with a thesis entitled 'The stanzaic poems (Tarji'at) of Rumi: Critical edition, translation and commentary, with additional studies on aspects of his Divan'. His research interests include Classical literature of Sufism, especially in Persian, Islamic manuscripts: Textual studies, Islamic studies and codicology. Recent publications include Kubra, Najm al-Din (in Encyclopaedia of religion, 2005), Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi and Islamic spirituality (in Islamica, 2005), Islamic codicology: An introduction to the study of manuscripts in Arabic script (as editor, 2005), Didactic style and self-criticism in Attar (in Leonard Lewisohn and Christopher Shackle, eds., Attar and the Persian Sufi tradition: the arts of spiritual flight, 2006).
Narrative structure and polyphonic discourse in the Masnavi
Alan V. Williams, University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Readers of Rumi's didactic masterpiece, the Masnavi, are often perplexed, even thrown off track, by the poet's style of composition. What begins as a story soon changes into something quite different: The unsuspecting reader is overwhelmed by a sense of drowning, swept off by powerful, unseen currents. In a short poem, such as a ghazal, this can be contemplated at leisure: in the ocean of the Masnavi, the reader wonders where it is all leading.
This paper develops a theory first published in the introduction to the author's translation of the Masnavi (Rumi spiritual verses: The first book of the Masnavi-ye Ma'navi, 2006). It demonstrates that Rumi's Masnavi is written in seven basic voices, or levels of discourse, which form a polyphonic narrative of poetic, and hence mystical, intensification. Rumi's story-telling 'voice' is directed towards the 'you' of the audience, to hook the reader/listener's imagination. Through a process of shifting of his discourse, from story into analogy, speech and dialogue between characters, and through moral reflection upon the themes he addresses, Rumi moves into a new mode of speaking, in which an ecstatic voice of spiritual utterance is heard: The one addressed is no longer the human 'you', but the 'You' of the One Divine Beloved, with whom poet and reader are united. It is literally a climactic didactic process, in which the poet and reader together climb a ladder of imagination. At the top of this scale of voices there is silence - a mode of hiatus - in which poet and reader dwell momentarily, before plunging back into the realm of images, and the voice of story is resumed. The speed at which this process of transformation occurs varies greatly, and as the Masnavi progresses, and as the reader gains competence in following Rumi's polyphonic discourse, the structures of intensification become more complex.
Alan V. Williams was born in England in 1953 and studied Classics, then Persian and Arabic, for his MA at The Queen's College, Oxford. He then worked under the supervision of the Iranist Mary Boyce for a PhD in Old and Middle Iranian Studies and Zoroastrianism at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where he has also taught. He was Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Sussex 1979-1985 and is now Reader in Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester, specialising in pre-Islamic and Islamic Iranian Studies. His research has resulted in many articles and several books, including The Pahlavi rivayat accompanying the Dadestan i Denig (1990) and recently Spiritual verses Masnavi Book 1 of Jalal ad-Din Rumi, a new blank verse translation from Persian (2006), and an edited volume of studies Parsis and their diaspora in India and abroad (2007) with John R. Hinnells. He is currently finishing a study of a sixteenth century Indian Zoroastrian poem in Persian, the Qesse-ye Sanjan, and continuing his translation of all six books of Rumi's Masnavi. He has also abridged his translation of book 1 of the Masnavi for a 4 CD audiobook, read by the Royal Shakespeare Company actor Anton Lesser, published by Naxos (2007). He also writes on translation studies and comparative literature.
Echoes of the Masnavi on the Iranian stage
Farah Yeganeh Tabrizi, University of Qom and Islamic Azad University of Tehran, Iran
Theatrical performances of Rumi's works on the Iranian stage are an aspect of Rumi's poetic legacy that has remained unexamined despite its impact on the concepts of performance and theatricality in the Iranian dramatic repertoire. His dynamic image-making, strategies of unsaying, thematic complexity, as well as his vivid characterization have made his poetry conducive to theatre.
Rumi's poetry celebrates 'the sacred' in 'everyday life' - the hybridity of these concepts makes them suitable for the stage. The powerful universal message of the Masnavi transcends the boundaries of culturally embedded concepts of time, space and religious practice. The text provides a spiritual space in which a dramatization of the ancient Middle Eastern philosophy of the Unity-of-Being becomes possible. Similarly, the Masnavi provides a notion of temporal-spatiality through its narrative structures which - using verbal tools - brings together the highly personal and the intensely social. Rumi is capable of building cultural bridges, while expressing the personal sense of longing. At the same time, the resonance of his inter-textual parables gets the attention of those working in theatre.
Iranian folk theatre has adapted various kinds of texts for theatrical performance since modern/Western theatre was introduced into Iran almost 150 years ago. Among these adaptations are tales from the Masnavi. Two different approaches have been followed: One entails the use of the original lyrics setting the poetry to music while maintaining the narrative structure and the dialogues. The other has been a freer form of adaptation converting the poetry into a freer form of dramatic text. The main examples of the latter are in the work of (the late) Ali Hatami, Pari Saberi and Tajbakhsh Fanaiyan. This paper will discuss both types of adaptations while providing a typology of archived performances as well as the present repertoires.
Farah Yeganeh Tabrizi teaches at the University of Qom and Islamic Azad University of Tehran. She has also held teaching positions in the theatre department of Art University as well as the English Department of Shahid Beheshti University and Allameh Tabatabai University. She currently also works on traditional Iranian dramatic performances. Ms. Yeganeh has received an MA in English and American Literature from Allameh Tabatabai University (1995) and an MA degree in Theatre Studies with a thesis on 'Taziyeh as a theatrical event' from the University of Stockholm (2006). She is a member of the International Association of Theatre Critics, ex-member of ITI Executive Council and ex-Secretary General of ITI Iranian Centre. Her publications include Iranian theatre festivalized (2005), Theatre in Iran (in World of theatre, 2003), Fajr International Festival: Where young talents meet (in Theatre year-book 2003: Theatre abroad, 2004). Her published translations into Persian include Ferdinand de Saussure and modern literary theory (by Patricia Waugh and Philip Rice, 2004) and Space: Measure to measure, acting in space (by Pamela Howard, 2003).