By Dr A Q Khan
March 21, 2016
In a column last year I had written about Jalaluddin Rumi. Now I would like to write about his approach towards death. Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi’s work is well known to those who speak Urdu and Persian. His ‘Masnavi’ is world famous and has been dubbed as “the Quran in the Persian Language”.
Maulana Rumi and Omar Khayyam are the two Persian poets/writers who are extremely popular in the West and whose works have been translated into a number of European languages. Omar Khayyam’s work (‘Rubaiyat’) consists of romantic poetry while Jalaluddin Rumi’s work is spiritual and highly instructive.
First Some Information on the Life of Rumi
He was born Muhammad Jalaluddin, but was commonly known as Maulana Rumi. He was born in 1207 in Balkh and belonged to the family of the first caliph, Abu Bakr. He was the grandson of King Khwarism Shah and his father was Shaikh Bahauddin. In 1213 the family migrated to Neshapur and there Rumi met the most famous, illustrious religious scholar of his time, Shaikh Fariduddin Attar, who presented his famous book, ‘Asrar Nama’, to him. Rumi married at the age of 18 and when he was 25 they migrated to Damascus for higher learning and from there to Konia. It was here that he met the famous saint, Shams Tibriz, and became his disciple. His famous Masnavi was written in 1263 and he died in 1273 in Konia at the age of 68 and was buried there.
Rumi’s style of writing in the Masnavi is very interesting and captivating. His descriptive essays are highly instructive and laced with invaluable comments, suggestions and advice. According to Maulana Shah Hakim Muhammad Akhtar, no other book in Persian contains such complicated and difficult matters, yet these are dealt with in simplicity and lucidity. It is not only a book of philosophy, but also one of learning, faith and spirituality. Those who are familiar with the works of Shaikh Saadi will notice a certain resemblance between the writings of these two great saints.
Maulana Rumi’s love and devotion to Almighty Allah was profound and manifests itself in the following verse: “When I am offering prayers, by God, I don’t know which part I am in and who is the Imam.”
Four books from Iran are well known all over the world – ‘Shahnama’ by Firdausi, ‘Gulistan-e-Sadi’ by Shaikh Sadi, ‘Dewan-e-Hafiz’ by Hafiz Shirazi and ‘Masnavi Rumi’. The number of verses in the Masnavi is 12,666. Because of the way Maulana Rumi became entranced and fluently narrated these verses, it was believed that they were inspired by divine guidance.
Those of us who regularly read the Holy Quran with translation so we are able to understand the meaning, are familiar with the edicts set by Almighty Allah, one of them being that all living things will one day die, at a time and place ordained by Allah. They also know that we will be raised again on the Day of Judgement and will be asked to answer for all our deeds. These deeds will decide our destination – heaven or hell.
This process of rebirth has been explained by Allah Almighty in simple terms; He tells us how clouds are formed, how they are laden with water, how they are carried by wind currents to predetermined places and how the rain falls to turn dry lands into lush green ones. This process is referred to more than once. We are told that after death, we will be raised again in a similar way.
This phenomenon of dying and rising again has been beautifully described as follows in ‘When I Die’ in Rumi’s Masnavi: “When my coffin is being taken out, you must never think I am missing this world. Don’t shed any tears, don’t lament or feel sorry: I am not falling into a monster’s abyss. When you see my corpse being carried, don’t cry for my leaving. I am not leaving: I am arriving at eternal love. When you leave me in the grave, don’t say goodbye: remember a grave is only a curtain for the paradise behind. You’ll only see me descending into a grave: now watch me rise.
“How can there be an end when the sun sets or the moon goes down? It looks like the end, it looks like a sunset, but in reality it is dawn. When the grave locks you up, that is when your soul is freed. Have you ever seen a seed fallen to earth, not rise with a new life? Why should you doubt the rise of a seed named human? Have you ever seen a bucket lowered into a well coming back empty? Why lament for a soul when it can come back like Joseph from the well. When, for the last time, you close your mouth, your words and soul will belong to the world of no place no time.”
What a beautiful way to describe our departure from earth to the Almighty.