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Nargis Virani, “I am the Nightingale of the Merciful” (Rumi's Use of Quran and Hadith) - Part 1

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The scriptural status of the Quran backed by the orthodox dogma concerning it being “the uncreated word of God” lends it a unique position within Islamic religious and literary traditions.[1]

The genre of “tafsir”

has long been the acknowledged domain for Quranic hermeneutics. The Quran commentators, the mufassirun, carved out a niche for this genre very early on in Islamic literatures.

They circumscribed what qualified as source materials for tafsir and what did not. Sound prophetic traditions transmitted in unbroken link from the Prophet on the authority of individuals, preferably his immediate companions, with impeccable reputations, soon became the primary supplier of exegetical materials. In addition, philological analyses drawn from the “state of the art” grammatical discussions taking place in the very vibrant linguistic centers of Kufa and Basra proved fruitful.[2]

Other literati, to some extent, Sufis, to a much greater extent, quickly countered authenticity claims rooted in “the weight of the tradition” in tafsir works by asserting legitimacy embedded in their “personal spiritual experiences.” The various approaches adopted by important literary and mystic figures to claim such legitimacy remain obscure because this aspect of Islamic poetry remains largely unanalyzed.

Allusions to, and quotations from, the Quran turn up in several expected and unexpected texts and contexts in myriad languages. Arabic quotations from the Quran in poetry composed by Muslims or non Muslims do not technically qualify as "mulammaat", or multilingual poems.[3]

Many of these quotations, on the one hand, seem thoroughly “naturalized” and, therefore, unidentifiable. On the other hand, they add a different texture to the poems linguistically and, as such, affect their reception. The varied reasons for embedding Quranic quotations in literary compositions range from invoking barakah (divine blessings) to seeking divine sanction and legitimacy for one’s work and thought. In addition, the composer may simply wish to prove his prowess and mastery of the divine scriptures. However, individuals, particularly one as creative as Rumi, offer a different perspective when they include the Quran in their works.

This article demonstrates how the great mystic poet, Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi’s (1207-1273 C.E.) unique use of distinct verses from the Quran contributes to a holistic understanding of fundamental Sufi principles as rooted in the Quran while emphasizing its multivalent applications. Based on analyses of some of Rumi’s poems, I will argue that including literary materials from the vast body of poetry produced in a Muslim milieu will enhance our understandings about how the Quran resonated, and continues to resonate, among the vast majority of Muslim believers.

Widening our scope of what traditionally constituted source materials that qualified as tafsir will open up further avenues for studying unexplored points of intersection between literary and religious traditions in Islam.

Rumi’s Poems

Rumi inserted innumerable references to the Quran throughout his poetry either by direct quotation or by allusion. This general trend is maintained in Rumi's mulammaat. However, in accordance with the strictly technical definition of mulamma offered by literary critics of the medieval Muslim world, poems incorporating Arabic for the sole purpose of quoting the Quran are not considered mulammaat.[4]

In this section, I discuss Rumi's use of the Quran and Prophetic sayings, Hadith, and analyze his manner of inserting these quotations, both metrically and thematically, in Arabic, Persian and the mulammaat verses. I argue that the complete fusion, which occurs metrically and thematically in these poems, mirrors the fusion between the Divine word and the poet’s. For this purpose, I have selected poems that range from quoting the Quran rather generously to single direct quotes from, or even allusions to, the Muslim scripture. Poems 247, 261, 1172, 1173, 1948, 1974, 2118, and 2119 are representative of Rumi's general techniques of metrical and thematic insertion and are therefore discussed in some detail.[5]

Based on this discussion I draw attention to Rumi's extraordinary mode of incorporating Quranic quotes. I propose that, rather than seeking authority from the Quranic verses, Rumi offers his own parallel interpretations claiming legitimacy in his own intimate relationship, perhaps even union, with the Divine Beloved.

Metrical Techniques for Insertion of Quranic Quotations

Metrically, Rumi neither observes a distinction nor creates a hiatus or break when he switches from Persian to the Arabic quotations or vice versa. His manner of continuing between different languages and pursuing his theme or argument is completely natural. One of the ways he achieves such a flow is through conjoining the different languages by means of an idafah, a genitive construction, either to incorporate the quotation verbatim, fully or partially, or to employ a different language. Another way is by weaving together the Arabic and Persian so completely that there remains no metrical or auditory distinction whatsoever in the transition from one language to another. Poem 1974, verses 5: 1 and 6: 1 are representative of the two techniques he employs throughout his poems. In the first instance, Rumi incorporates the beginning of surah 48:1 by means of the grammatical construction, the idafah, or the construct state.[6]

In the second, he incorporates Quran 94:1 with a sandhi[7] of the Persian preposition zi with the Arabic interrogative marker ’a in the rhetorical question addressed to the Prophet of Islam by the Quran, ’a lam nashrah laka sadraka? "Have We not expanded for you your breast?" Both instances are indicated in bold letters in the following quotes:
5:1 ya-da-ri-in--na-fa-tah-na--bar-gu-sha-ta--bin-ga-ram
Either open the door of “Verily We have granted victory,”[8]
so that I may see:

6:1 ya-za-lam-nash--rah-ra-wan-kun--cha-re-ju-dar--si-na-am
Or, through “Truly have We not expanded,” [9]
make four rivers flow in my heart [10]

Other instances in which an idafah is used to incorporate Quranic verses are:
1948- 1: 2, 4: 2, 5: 2, 8: 2, 9: 1, 12: 2; 2118-3: 2.
Poem 1172, verses 25: 2, 26: 2, 27: 2, contains two Quranic quotes and one hadith in three consecutive verses. These are interwoven with Rumi's argument in one Persian verse sandwiched between two Arabic verses. The linguistic distinction collapses totally in verse 26: 2 when the Persian third person pronominal suffix "sh" following nur is in sandhi with the Arabic seventh form prefix "in" of the verb shaqqa from Quran 54 : 1:
25:1 us-kut-wa-la--tuk-thir-a-khi--in-tul-ta-tuk--thir-tar-ta-khi
2 al-hay-lu-fi--ri-hil-ha-wa--fah-faz-hu-kal--la-la-wa-zar

26:1 kha-mush-ku-no--ku-ta-he-kun--naz-za-ri-yi--an-ma-he-kun
2 an-mah-ka-chun--bar-ma-he-zad--az-nu-ri-shin--shaq-qal-qa-mar

27:1 in-nal-ha-wa--qad-ghar-ra-na--min-ba-di-ma--qad-sar-ra-na
2 fak-shif-bi-lut--fin-dar-ra-na--qa-lan-na-biy--yu-la-da-rar

Silence! Don’t talk too much, my brother!
If you keep on babbling[11] you’ll slacken
Vigor’s in the wind of passion, so preserve it,
“By no means! No refuge!" [12]
Silence! Cut it short!
Behold that moon.
That moon, which, when it struck the [celestial] moon,
from its light, “the moon was cleft asunder" [13]

Truly passion has blinded us
after it had delighted us.
So expose our injury gently,
the Prophet said, “injure not" [14]

The 3 verses quoted above are from poem 1172, a 33 verse-long ghazal interweaving two separate poems: poem 1017, an all-Persian poem with one Arabic hemistich, and poem 1178, an all-Arabic poem. It may be construed as a typical example of a macaronic poem, which may, originally, have been a set of two separate poems in two different languages brought together either by Rumi, one of his disciples, or a singer from his circle. However, with Rumi's penchant for taking up challenging experiments, it is conceivable that he himself composed one poem in two different languages with two distinct themes running simultaneously in one meter to flaunt his literary abilities.[15]

Nevertheless, the poem, at times, feels rather disjointed, confessing a state of heavy intoxication in which one "loses all measure of drink, speech, and behavior." The aberrant behavior of one with a "heart on fire" versus one who is "sober" has already been described in the poem. The sober, as Rumi instructs the guard in the poem, must not be allowed to enter the circle of the intoxicated ones, for the consequences are perilous.

In the verse immediately preceding the three verses quoted above, Rumi warns his listeners and readers of yet another trap. The bait of the use of language itself is hazardous, for, he cautions, "speech induces all war, bringing about smell and color." In regular intercourse among people, speech has various pitfalls: hair-splitting distinctions, argu-ments, and disagreements resulting in fights and violence among the masses. When speech is engaged in the service of expressing the inexpressible, however, it wreaks even greater havoc. Thus, the observance of the mystical etiquette of silencing oneself in order to veil the deepest mysteries from the uninitiated is paramount. Reminding himself of this etiquette, then, results in the self-admonition: "Silence! Don’t talk too much my brother! If you keep on babbling you will slacken."

It is almost impossible in that state of "having lost all measure of drink, speech, and behavior" to hold back. So, a further warning to the poetic voice follows in the next hemi-stich, incorporating a quote from the Quran offering a frightening image of the natural consequences of babbling:
"Vigor is in the wind of passion, so preserve it, “By no means! No refuge!"

Here, Rumi puns on the similar meaning of rih and hawa, meaning wind, air, etc., but the latter also means passion. The vigor, vitality, and force of this "wind or passion" cannot be unleashed. It must be preserved, for if it is allowed, even momentarily, to surface in its full grandeur, there is no "place of safety" no "refuge." The Quran warns the disbelievers, the hypocrites, and those who turn a constant blind eye to God's message that on the Last Day, the Day of Reckoning, there will be "no place of refuge" for them. Likewise, the mystic who allows himself to reveal, in a "state of intoxication," the mysteries entrusted to him cannot expect a safe haven.

Rumi is acutely aware of the fact that regardless of the severity of the warning against divulging mystical secrets, leashing the unruly tongue will prove a formidable task. At this juncture, a significant progression occurs in the thematic pattern of the poem. The two simultaneously running, distinct themes in Arabic and Persian now coalesce as if combining forces to address a rather grave matter. Together, they signal the solemnity of the necessity to remain silent.

The Arabic word "uskut" is now repeated in Persian, "khamush," meaning "silence!". However, here, the warning is followed by a suggestion for an alternate occupation, which might lessen the pressure on the poetic voice to blurt out.
The poetic voice suggests:
"behold that moon, don't expend your capabilities by babbling away,
rather preserve them by concentrating on your ability to see.
You might be one of the fortunate ones to view
the miracle of the splitting of the moon.”

This was the famous miracle of Prophet Muhammed, alluded to in Quran 54: 1, when the moon was reportedly cleft asunder in the valley of Mecca within the sight of the Prophet, his companions, and a few unbelievers. Earlier in the poem, Rumi has already quoted the same verse emphasizing that the unbelievers, the people of destruction, refuse to be guided, to have their veils of disbelief and ignorance lifted, even when such a portent from God, the cleaving of the moon appeared before their very eyes:
Behold the people of destruction:
how often have they clearly seen the light of guidance!
Even after "the moon was cleft asunder"
their veils were not lifted!

However, in this verse, the same Quranic quote serves as an exhortation to behold that other "moon," Rumi's beloved, whose power is such that the celestial moon is cleft asunder when struck by its light. The beholder might witness the "miracle" if he does not expend his energies chattering away, Rumi counsels. Even though one may have the good fortune to witness such a miracle, it does not guarantee that one has the capacity to behold. One could be injured or blinded in the process[16]. So, the poetic voice urges the beloved not to expose its injury, its blindness, caused by the dazzling light of the "moon," by inserting the Prophetic hadith, "neither injure nor sustain injury," reminding him of the need to be gentle.

Within the category of direct quotes also belongs aqd[17], which is technically a prose quotation the endings or inflections of which are adjusted in accordance with the requirements of the meter and rhyme of the poem. These also include quotations, which are either condensed or filled-out according to metrical exigencies. For example, poem 2119-22: 1 in which Rumi quotes Quran 74: 6 wa la tamnun tastakthir but adds a "li" to clarify the meaning as well as provide the short syllable he needs for the meter:
22:1 a-la-ya-sa--qi-yan-aw-fir--wa-la-tam-nun--li-tas-tak-thir
2 a-dir-ka-sa--ti-na-was-kir--fa-in-nal-ay--sha-lis-sak-ran

O cupbearer, give plentiful,
“and give not, thinking to gain greater”[18]
Send around our cups and be drunk,
for pleasurable life is for the intoxicated one

This is an example of a macaronic poem in which two separate themes run simultaneously in two different languages while interconnecting at a referential level. Earlier in the poem, Rumi has already emphasized the importance of generosity in various contexts:
1. he urges his beloved to be magnanimous in pardoning and forgiving the lover's sins and trespasses.
2. the beloved, now the cupbearer, is exhorted to be bounteous when serving wine. Rumi summarizes his repugnance for stinginess and his admiration for liberality in the following verse:
If you’ve prospered, don’t be stingy,
give alms in passion, and sift.
How wretched is stinginess in food!
How excellent is generosity in human beings!

He adds a further reason for avoiding stinginess:
if one attends a banquet, especially one as singular as that of divine ecstasy,
then one cannot afford to be stingy in sharing.
There is a good chance that one might suffer the ill fortune
of receiving similarly abominable treatment
at the hands of one without etiquette, a ruffian!
Since you are in the banquet of ecstasy,
subjugate your stinginess,
O neophyte,
Lest, a ruffian do the same to you!

This brings Rumi to the verse quoted above with the Quranic insertion where the Prophet is exhorted not to expect gains but give selflessly. The Quranic verse 6 from surat al-Muddaththir, an early Meccan surah, with these highly mystical verses, according to tradition, was revealed to the Prophet of Islam as a sign from his Lord to commence his preaching publicly and boldly. However, as he is being reminded to magnify his Lord, the Prophet is also urged to give selflessly without expecting any gains in return. Rumi expects his cup-bearer to follow the model of the Prophet and pass ample drinks without any expectations:
O cupbearer, give plentiful,
“and give not, thinking to gain greater.”
Send around our cups and be drunk,
for pleasurable life is for the intoxicated

In poem 261 - 6 : 2, Rumi quotes Quran 5 : 27:
"fadhhab anta wa rabbuka faqatila inna ha huna qaidun"

with the following adjustments to fit the meter:
6:2 idh-hab-wa-rab--bak [19] -qa-ti-la--in-na-qu-u--dun-ha-hu-na
Go, you and your Lord, fight,
we shall sit right here" [20]

Rumi reminds his listeners of the transience of life and the need to avail oneself of every opportunity for personal, emotional, and spiritual growth. According to him, one should not dwell on the past, no matter how glorious or painful it may have been, because nothing remains forever; everything is in constant flux. In order to strengthen his argument he incorporates a Prophetic hadith in the previous verse: "Time is a cutting sword," which constantly slices away one's allotted time on earth. Therefore, time cannot be wasted in wallowing or gloating. Humans must avail themselves of every opportunity for growth that comes their way and not squander it away. He sympathizes with those people who blind themselves to their gifts and let opportunities pass them by because they appear to be too tough or demanding.

To illustrate his point, he seeks out an example from the life of the Israelites, confirmed by the Hebrew Bible and the Quran. The tribes of Moses left him to fight alone with his Lord and decided to sit back and wait for the outcome, for they felt totally outnumbered by their opponents. According to the Quran, they were lacking in faith and courage. They were willing to back up their prophet only on condition of guaranteed success. Not expecting a victory because the opponents were numerous and physically very strong, they did not want to risk their own lives and property.

Sacrifice means greater gains, but also willingness to be tried. Earlier the poem talks of Joseph's and Jacob's trial and subsequent victory and growth. This selfish and passive attitude of the Israelites left them lost and wandering in the desert. One whole generation could not enter the land of plenty due to their cowardice and apathetic attitude.

Thus, deep faith coupled with courage and readiness to strive for one's own betterment are all exemplified by this short Quranic quotation that Rumi has included:
All the means of pleasure have come together;
whatever my heart wished has happened.
But, time is a cutting sword.[21]
Don’t think of what has passed.

Lay down your life in his love,
don’t say like the tribe [of the Israelites] to Moses:
“Go, you and your Lord, fight,
we shall sit right here!”

The following verse from 1173 - 7 : 2, omits "inna" and "huwa" from the Quran 108 : 3, which in the original reads:
inna shani’aka huwa’l abtar:[22]

7 : 2 "zan-pi-she--ka-bar-khwa-nam--ka-sha-ni--’a-kal-ab-tar"
Before I read, “Those who hate you, are without issue” [23]

It seems that Rumi wishes to illustrate that although God’s wrath is real and can fall upon certain people and destroy them, His mercy is supreme and precedes His wrath. Therefore, he wishes to read the short chapter from the Quran entitled “The Merciful” before this particular verse of the Quran. God's wrath was to fall on those among the unbelievers who had continued to taunt and harass the Prophet of Islam for not being fortunate enough to father a male issue. They continuously reminded him that without a son his line would be cut off. This surah promises kawthar, abundance, to the Prophet while those who slandered or hated him will themselves be the ones to be cut off. This surah also serves as the Quranic statement against the prevalent understanding in the patriarchal Arab societies, which defined prosperity and success through abundance of male descendants. According to this surah, the guarantee of true abundance was what God bestowed of prosperity and felicity in the Hereafter. Other examples of such minor elisions or extensions of Quranic verses can also be found in poem 1948 - 1 : 2, 3 : 7, among others.

Poetic Tafsir

A preliminary study of many of the Quranic quotations in Rumi's poems seems to substantiate the hypothesis that he quotes the Quran copiously when he wishes to engage in its explication and interpretation, thus performing "tafsir (exegesis)" and, arguably, even "ta’wil (spiritual hermeneutics)".

Interpretation of the Quran has always been at the center of Muslim political, religious, ethical, and spiritual life. The Muslim community has had widespread disagreements over the interpretation of the Quran. Some Muslim groups have been literalists; some of them have allowed interpretation based on philological and grammatical possibilities as well as on the traditions transmitted from the Prophet Muhammad (tafsir), and some groups have gone further and allowed for "allegorical" interpretation (ta’wil). The mystics (Sufis) and the Shiis, particularly the Ismailis, are well known for their allegorical interpretation).[24]

Historically, the genre of tafsir, Quranic hermeneutics, in its classical period was characterized by its linear approach. This mode of tafsir has been called “atomistic” because, for the most part, it avoided intertextual references and did not move outside of the traditional Quranic arrangement of ayat in a given surah. It is only the more modern commentators who have looked at the surah as a unity or have endeavored to outline the Quranic ethos prior to interpreting each verse.
The Muslim literati have, by and large, adopted their own mode of using the Quran. Throughout the centuries each of the aforementioned groups, as well as Muslim literati from a variety of linguistic, cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds have incorporated Quranic quotations (iqtibas) within their works, primarily as "proof texts" (shahid)[25]. By proof texts, I mean texts used to legitimize one's assertions through the Divine Word. In this mode, the argument often runs as follows: “The Quran says such and such. We too, based on the particular Quranic verse hold such and such an opinion. It is therefore perfectly legitimate for us to declare that a particular opinion is valid or invalid based on the 'authority' of the 'Word of God.’” The status of Arabic, not just as the scriptural language, but the "language of Divine choice," was sealed following the victory of the advocates who upheld the Quran as the "Uncreated Word of God."[26]

Invoking the "blessedness" of the "Divine Tongue" by incorporating scriptural quotations into non-Arabic linguistic compositions is a regular feature of much of Islamic literature. Thus, Quranic quotations, iqtibas, generally seem to be one of the main reasons Muslim poets compose mixed-language verses (e.g., Arabic-Persian, Arabic-Turkish, Arabic-Urdu, Arabic-Punjabi, Arabic-Swahili)[27]. At times, the Quranic quotations were also parodied, used frivolously, given irreverent meanings or obscene twists. For example, a poet uses Quran 69:11:
"hammal-nakum fi-l jariyah"
We carried you [mankind] in the floating [Ark]

in an obscene sense by hinting at the alternate meaning of a floating ark, jariyah, a young girl or a slave girl.[28]

Theologians frowned upon such usages, just like they did in the case of the application of divine attributes to humans as found in much of panegyric poetry. [29]

Rumi's imagination, vocabulary, poetic idiom, and even the various rhetorical devices he employs are so fully colored by the Quranic ethos that Jami, not without good reason, called the sage's magnum opus, the Mathnawi, "the Quran in Pahlawi [Persian]" as early as the fifteenth century. Outwardly, Rumi is the exegete par excellence of the Quranic moral and religious teachings through a simple and didactic approach in his Mathnawi, which he infuses with colorful stories, metaphors, and imagery from everyday life. Some of the stories he tells are not new at all. Earlier mystics, such as Attar and Sanai, have narrated them.[30]

Two major differences of style distinguish Rumi from these earlier authors. Firstly, the frequent authorial interlocutions in his works, which overtly purport to provide digression and playful conversation while underlining the moral to be derived lest it be missed due to the reader's preoccupation with entertainment. Secondly, the invariably happy endings to his stories stand in stark contrast to some grim resolutions in others.[31]

Rumi is an unceasing optimist who believes firmly in the Quranic message of God's limitless mercy towards humankind. He repeatedly reminds his listeners and disciples of the Quranic injunction against giving up hope, for hope is synonymous with faith (iman). He quotes the Quranic verse "la taqnatu (don't despair)" (39:53) frequently. The lyrical poems in the Diwan do not afford him the luxury of space to elaborate on the Quranic message in detail as does the Mathnawi. Nevertheless, he engages in exegesis (tafsir) through powerful imagery to elucidate specific Quranic verses.
Poem 247 in an ingenious Persian and Quranic Arabic linguistic combination is a masterpiece of tafsir in a poetic mode of chapter 87 of the Quran called al-Ala. Such a poetic mode of exegesis holds out interesting possibilities for comparison with a more conventional prose work of Quranic exegesis. I have chosen as my point of comparison the classical commentary on the Quran, the Tafsir al-kabir[32] of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (1149-1209 C.E.), the famous theologian and philosopher who was a contemporary of Rumi's father, Baha al-Din Walad. [33]

In the current study I shall limit myself to examining the short surat al-Ala, as incorporated by Rumi in poem 247 and al-Razi's commentary on the same surah. My comments will focus on the central message raised in the verses and the differing perspectives and modes of analyses each author brings to bear on them. They will examine the underlying assumptions and meanings available in each form of discourse; the mystico-poetic discourse of Rumi, and the theological-philosophical-legal discourse of al-Razi.
Rumi's treatment of chapter 87, al-Ala from the Quran in a short five-verse poem, starts out with the mystic understanding that all of creation is constantly engaged in the act of praising God.
Thus, he says:
1:1 ban-gi-tas-bi--he-bish- na-waz--ba-la
2 pas-tu-ham-sab--bi-his-ma-hul--a-la

2:1 gu-lo-sun-bul--cha-rad-di-lat--chun-yaft
2 mar -gu-za-ri--ka-akh-ra-jal--mar-a

3:1 ya-la-mul-jah-- ra-naq-shi-in--a-hust
2 na-fi-mush-ki--ni-u-wa-ma--yakh-fa

4:1 na-fa-si-a--hu-wa-ni-u—chu-ra- sid
2 ru-he-ra-su--yi-mar-gu-za—re-ha-da

5:1 tish-na-ra-ki--bu-wad-fa-ra--mu- shi
2 chun-sa-nuq-ri--’u-ka- fa-la--tan-sa

Listen to the cry of glorification
[coming] from above.
Then you too
“glorify His name, the most High.”[34]

Your heart grazes upon the rose and the hyacinth,
since it found
the meadow where
“He brings forth the (green and luscious) pastures,” [35]

“He knows what is manifest,”
is the [outer] form of this gazelle,
its musk-filled navel [is]
“and what is hidden.”[36]

When the breath of his gazelles
reached the soul,
He “guided”[37] it
towards the meadow [of Right Guidance].

How can
the thirsty one forget?
Since “We shall make you recite,
so that you do not forget!” [38]

The message in the above poem is one of hope and its intent is obviously didactic. It relies almost totally on the first seven verses of surah 87 of the Quran, which talk about the reciprocal relationship between God and humans. [39]

In Rumi's understanding, then, it is for humans to praise and glorify God. God leads them to "guidance, fresh pastures, and constant companionship." Humans are never left alone and, one of their greatest shortcomings, their forgetfulness (ghaflah), is well taken care of by God. Rumi conjures the image of the thirsty one, who cannot forget his thirst, and reminds his readers that that is God's way of ensuring that humans "do not forget" by bestowing constant favors on them as well as creating "need." The Quran underscores God's knowledge of both "the manifest" and "the hidden." Rumi further clarifies this concept of God's omniscience through the image of the gazelle (manifest) and its musk (hidden). Rumi's deep faith in God, his understanding that nature is a manifest sign of God's abundant gifts, is expressed poignantly in this poem.

The poem can be seen as a prime example of Quranic tafsir that aims at practical results — to enable believers to find the resonance of the message of the Quran in their daily life. Many abstract concepts such as God's omnipotence and omniscience, grace, caring for humans, etc., are explained at a very concrete and practical level through powerful images of pastures, gardens, thirst, gazelle, musk, etc.

In contrast to Rumi, who begins the poem by urging humans to praise God by imitating the already resounding "cry" of glorification from "above," Al-Razi, in his tafsir of this chapter of the Quran, starts by asking fundamental philosophical questions such as:
Why should humans praise God?
What is the need for that?
Should this praise of God take a certain form?
Should a certain name of God be invoked?
Are some names of God better than others?

He cites a tradition from the Prophet that asks Muslims to invoke the name al-Azim, the Mighty, in genuflection and al-Ala, the Exalted, in prostration while performing prayer. He then embarks on a long, theological discussion of the names or attributes of God and their position vis-à-vis the essence of God. The next verse, "He brings forth the pastures," leads him into the discussion of God's omnipotence, His role as the Creator, etc. and its ramifications.

Al-Razi proceeds with an exegesis of the entire surah in a similar vein. One of al-Razi's main purposes in this tafsir is to clarify for the believers the philological ambiguities. He also broaches some of the questions that he, as a mufassir (commentator), anticipates may cross the mind of the believers when they read the Quranic verses. Thus, he incorporates in his explanation the entire discussion that was current among the mutakallimin (theologians). His overall objective is to make the message of the Quran clearer and more accessible to the believers to enable them to practice their faith with understanding.

Both Rumi and al-Razi, as theologians, see their role as educators of the community of believers. Both, however, make very different assumptions before they embark on this task. Rumi, assuming only a basic familiarity with the Quran from his audience, sees himself as an intermediary, even authority, between the message of the scripture and the common people. He sees his task as gleaning the intent of a particular verse and converting some of the more abstract concepts into everyday language via vivid imagery to make the divine message comprehensible and accessible to all. He does not, however, have the luxury of space in his lyrical poems to dwell upon the images or tell stories. His most powerful tools, then, are the very images he selects to make his point. His mastery of mystical concepts, language and poetic imagery as well as his versatility with both Arabic and Persian allow him to offer an effective and memorable interpretation of surat al-Ala in six brief and pithy verses in the short three-feet khafif meter.

Al-Razi, on the other hand, starts with the assumption that his audience is educated, is able to read the scripture, and is familiar with current discussions in the field of theology (kalam) and philosophy. He does not see himself as the intermediary between the Quran and his fellow believers in as direct a sense as Rumi does. In other words, he does not see the basic message of the Quran as inaccessible or incomprehensible. Rather, he sees a need to enrich that message through scholarly and learned discussion. Taking into account all these assumptions, one would conclude that al-Razi was writing for the handful of educated elite.

This is where the contradiction lies. As a preacher, al-Razi is constantly tempted to communicate with the masses. He expects that his exposition of a certain portion of the Quran will lead to an increased understanding of the faith of people. It is doubtful that he ever attains this objective of his with the masses because of the sheer inaccessibility of his language and thought. Even if, in very rare cases, we were to find educated readers, one doubts if they would have the patience to plough through 10-15 pages of philosophical discussion before being touched by the spiritual message.
Poem 1948 is a different example of Quranic use than that in poem 247, which has just been discussed.

Unlike the latter, which interweaves many verses of the same surah into one poem, this poem quotes fifteen different verses of the Quran, twelve of which are from different surahs. Metrically it follows some of the same techniques mentioned already. Thematic intertwining of these seemingly disparate verses into his own rendering provides but a small window into the Quranic world-view that Rumi created for himself and which permeated his entire thought structure, rather, his entire being. The ease and ingenuity with which he interlaces his own understandings and arguments with the verses of the Quran in a poetic mode is truly enchanting.

Each of the Quranic references is not an allusion but a direct quote, albeit modified for metrical exigency. The poem presents a remarkably logical sequence of the "pilgrim's progress," explaining the necessity of each spiritual "stage."[40]
1:1 ban-ge-a-yad-har-za-ma-ni-zin-ri-wa-qi-a-be-gun
2 a-ya-ti-in-na-ba-nay-na-ha-wa-in-na-mu-si-un

2:1 ki-sha-nu-din-ban-ge-ra-bi-gu-shi-za-hir-dam-bi-dam
2 ta-’i-bu-nal-a-bi-du-nal-ha-mi-du-nas-sa-i-hun

3:1 nar-de-ban-ha-sil-ku-ni-daz-dhil-ma-a-rij-bar-ra-wid
2 ta-ru-jur-ru-hu-i-lay-hi-wal-ma-la-ik-aj-ma-un

4:1 ki-ta-ra-shad-nar-de-ba-ni-char-khi-naj-ja-ri-kha-yal
2 sakh-te-mi-ra-jash-ya-di-kul-lun-i-lay-na-ra-ji-un

5:1 ta-ta-ra-shi-da-na-gar-di-tu-bi-ti-shi-sab-ro-shukr
2 la-yu-laq-qa-ha-fa-ro-mi-khwa-no-il-las-sa-bi-run

6:1 bin-ga-rin-ti-sha-bi-das-ti-kis-te-khush-tas-li-me-shaw
2 chun-gi-rah-mas-ti-ze-ba-ti-sha-ka-nah-nul-gha-li-bun

7:1 pa-yi-i-chan-dar-ba-ra-yi-ba-shi-as-ha-bul-ya-min
2 war-ra-si-bar-ba-mi-khud-as-sa-bi-qu-nas-sa-bi-qun

8:1 gar-zi-su-fi-khwa-na-i-gar-du-ni-ay-su-fi-ba-ra
2 wan-da-ra-an-dar-sa-fi-in-na-la-nah-nus-sa-f [41]-fun

9:1 war-fa-qi-ri-kaw-si-tam-mal-faq-ru-fah-wal-lah-bi-zan
2 war-fa-qi-hi-pa-ke-ba-shaz-in-na-hum-la-yaf-qa-hun
10:1 gar-chu-nu-ni-dar-ru-ku-o-chun-qa-lam-an-dar-su-jud
2 pas-tu-chun-nun-wa-qa-lam-pay-wan-de-ba-ma-yas-tu-run

11:1 chash-mi-shaw-khe-saw-fa-yub-sir-ba-she-pi-shaz-yub-si-run
2 chun-mu-da-hin-nar-me-sa-ri-chis-te-pi-shi-yud-hi-nun

12:1 chun-di-rakh-ti-sid-ra-bi-kha-war-shu-waz-la-ray-ba-fih
2 ta-na-lar-zad-sha-kho-bar-gat-az-da-mi-ray-bal-ma-nun

13:1 bin-ga-ran-ba-ghi-si-yah-gash-ta-zi-ta-fa-ta-i-fun
2 mak-ri-i-shan-ba-ghi-i-shan-sukh-ta-i-hum-na-i-mun

A call comes from this azure sky
all the time.
The ayah of “Verily We built it
and verily We create the vastness of space.” [42]

Who hears this call every moment
without an external ear?
“Those that turn [to God] in repentance, that serve Him,
and praise Him, that wander in devotion.” [43]

Procure the ladder from the “Lord of the ways of ascent”
and proceed.
“The angels and spirit ascend unto Him”
all together. [44]

Who makes the celestial ladder
of the carpenter of imagination?
The hand of “They shall all return to us” [45]
caused his miraj.

Until you are sculpted with the chisel of
“patience” and “gratitude,”
flee and recite, “None shall attain it,
except those who steadfastly persevere.” [46]

Look, in whose hand is this chisel
and submit joyfully.
Don’t fight the chisel like the knot,
for “It is we who will certainly win.” [47]

If you advance a few steps you’ll be
“The companions of the right hand.” [48]
And if you reach your own roof [then],
“And those foremost are the foremost.” [49]

If you are from a celestial sufi home,
O sufi, come up!
And enter the ranks [of]
“truly we are the people of ranks.” [50]

If you are poor, beat the drum,
“Poverty when perfected is God.” [51]
And if you are a jurist, remain pure from,
“Those are a people without understanding.” [52]

If you are like [the letter] nun in genuflexion,
and like the Pen in prostration,
then you too be joined with “What they write”
like “nun and the Pen.”[53]

Be an eye of impudence [which] “Shall see”
before “They shall see.” [54]
[Even] if you become meek like a flatterer
what is it before “Those who compromise?”[55]

Become firmly rooted like the Sidrah[56] tree from
“There is no doubt in it.” [57]
Lest your leaf and branch shake from the breath of
“Some calamity by time.”[58]

Look at that garden which has turned black from
“A visitor visited.”
Their deceit scorched their garden
“While they were asleep.” [59]

Metrically the idafah, genitive construction, joins the Quranic verses and a hadith in 1 : 2, 4 : 2, 8 : 2, 9 : 1, 11 : 2, 12 : 2.
Several verses are rearranged to fit the metrical requirements.
For example:
verse 1 : 2 quotes Quran 51:47 as:
"inna banaynaha wa inna musiun",

which in the original reads:
"wa’-l samaa banay-naha bi aydin wa inna lamusiun."

Verse 3 : 1 rearranges the words in the original in Quran 70:3
"min-allahi dhi-l maarij"

retaining the sense of min through the Persian preposition az, dropping the noun Allah and going directly to "dhi-l maarij."
The next hemistich, 3: 2 quotes verse 4 of the same surah
"taruju-l malaikatu wa-l ruhu ilayhi"

by changing the order of the two nouns: "malaikatu" and "ruhu" and dropping the feminine ending, "ta marbutah", in the noun "mala’ikah" to fit the meter:
"taruju-l-ruhu ilayhi wa-l malaik."

However, despite these adjustments to the hemistich, Rumi does not succeed in fitting the Quranic verse to the meter of the poem. It results in 2 instances of metrical violations as illustrated in verse 3 with the syllables in bold font.
Verse 5 : 2 breaks the original "wa la yulaqqaha illa-’l sabirun" by inserting two Persian imperatives "far (flee)" and "mikhwan" followed by an unexplainable conjunction "waw", which Rumi needs neither for the meter nor for clarifying or enhancing the meaning. Thus he says: "la yulaqqaha faro mikhwane [wa?] illa-’l sabirun"[60]. A direct speech from the Quran 26 : 44, "nahnu-’l ghalibuna" is introduced with the Persian direct speech marker ka in 6 : 2.[61]

Many "stages" on the path to spiritual progress are pictorially represented in this poem. The poem begins with the mention of the heavenly call (51: 47) perpetually reminding created beings of their "createdness" and the presence of the "Creator" who has created everything. However, not everyone is able or inclined to "hear" the call, for which a physical "ear" is insufficient, except those mentioned in Quran 9: 112. The Quran describes them as those who are "repentant, serve and praise God and are totally devoted to Him." Due to these qualities of theirs God will accord these individuals a preferential treatment. In order to rise beyond the stage of the ability to "hear," that is, “to climb or ascend," one needs to turn to the "Lord of ascent" towards whom "all spirits and angels ascend" (70: 3, 4). However, one needs a ladder to "rise" or one needs to make a "miraj."[62] The only one who can shape this ladder is “the One,” to whom "all will return" (21: 93). For this purpose, He uses the two chisels of "patience and perseverance" (sabr) and "gratitude" (shukr) (28: 80), the two most important qualities necessary for the adept to "ascend." However, this process of being sculpted through sabr and shukr is not enough by itself. In order to "win" and not lose at the end, it must be coupled with the attitude of joyful submission (taslim) to the One who is the "ultimate cause" of all conditions (26: 44). Some degree of progress on the path will qualify one to share ranks with those of the "right hand" (56: 27). However, consummate progress will place him among the "foremost" (56:10) or the "people of ranks" (37: 165).

Perfection of "poverty (faqr)" is one of the paths leading to God as the Prophet has said.[63]
However, if one were to choose the other route, the one of "learning and understanding (faqih)", then one needs to stay away from those "without understanding (la yafqahuna)", (8: 65).
The route to learning, symbolized through "writing," must be undertaken by the representative letter "nun" and the instrument of writing, the "pen" (68: 1). However, that too, must be accomplished with the attitude of submission and prayers (genuflexion and prostration) so that "they shall see" (68: 5).
Most importantly, a staunch faith, which neither makes "compromises" (68: 9) nor becomes uprooted by "some calamity by time," (52: 30) must be cultivated.
Faith, then, according to Rumi, must be like the sidrah, the lotebush in whose deep-rootedness and stability there is "no doubt" (2: 2).[64]
Deceit and greed, whether spiritual or material, often leads to total loss and destruction (68: 19) and, therefore, must be resisted.

As mentioned earlier, the poems in the Diwan do not allow Rumi the luxury of as detailed an explanation as his didactic work, the Mathnawi. However, he manages to focus on strong, concrete images to make his point clear. All the poems discussed above and the ones that follow bring to the fore the dynamism of the images Rumi employs.

"Intimacy" and "Union"

The most intriguing reference that Rumi makes about the Quran occurs in poem 1173-7:1 where he calls a surah, surat al-Rahman, a ghazal:
"Here," he says, "is another ghazal, the five with the fifty,
before I recite the one who hates you, will be cut off.’”:
7:1 i-nak-gha--za-li-di-gar--al-kham-su--ma-al-kham-sin
2 zan-pi-she--ka-bar-khwa-nam--ka-sha-ni--a-kal-ab-tar

Here is a different ghazal (poem), “the five with the fifty”[65]
Before I read, “Those who hate you, will be cut off” [66]

The vast majority of the Quranic commentators consider most, if not all, of surat al-Rahman - a Meccan surah. They also concur that it is one of the most sublime and poetic surahs of the Quran. It is the only surah in the Quran that contains a refrain (arguably, a radif), repeated with such regular frequency. The rhetorical question "then which of the favors of your (dual) Lord will ye (two) deny?" (wa bi ayyi-l alai rabbikuma tukadhdhiban) is interspersed thirty one times among the seventy eight verses that comprise the entire surah.[67]

The structure of this surah creatively integrates two of Rumi's favorite rhetorical devices, the radif and the tarsi, which he has put to use probably more than any other Persian mystical poet.[68]

His predilection for these devices, coupled with the enumeration of God's favors in this surah, which he strongly believed in, may have drawn him to it. This chapter of the Quran speaks emphatically of the reciprocal relationship between humans and God. God bestows favors and expects humans to acknowledge those favors by being grateful. Rumi's world-view, as exemplified in his poems and other writings, is totally colored by this complementary relationship between God and humans.

"Not only does the thirsty seek water, even water seeks the thirsty,"
as he underscores in the Mathnawi [69]. The singable quality rendered by the resounding refrain in this surah may have been an added attraction for him.

Nevertheless, to refer to a surah of the Quran as a ghazal would be considered rather audacious. Is it just a random remark or poetic license, or can one draw some conclusions about Rumi's attitude to "poetry" and its status based on this statement? Even if by ghazal Rumi means the most pristine form of pure creativity, it still seems a bit impertinent, almost subversive, that he would choose to refer to a surah of the Quran in this manner.

Given the rhetoric of the Quran itself against poets and poetry and its long history within the literature discussing the "inimitability" of the Quran, it is highly unlikely that this reference is made lightheartedly. Does this have any connection with his belief in the origins of his own poetry as "Divine?" Does he view his own ghazal on a par with the verses of the Quran?

A preliminary study of Rumi's manner of inserting and interpreting the Quranic verses in the following examples may shed some light on how he perceived the Quran.
The beautiful images that spring up quite unexpectedly either when Rumi is introducing a Quranic quotation or making a general allusion to some verse or image from the Quran serve as vehicles through which Rumi's love and admiration for the Quran and the Prophet of Islam become evident.

Interpretation of these images allows him to offer his own distinctive rendering of these Quranic verses that I have referred to earlier as tafsir in a poetic mode. To substantiate further, let us look at poem 1974-5:1 and 6:1 where he not only alludes elegantly to the beginning of two different suras, 48:1 and 94:1, as mentioned earlier, but also follows up with his rendition of what, according to him, would be the meaning of "Truly We have granted you victory (Quran, 48:1)," and "Have We not expanded for you your breast" (Quran, 94:1)

For Rumi, the "granting of victory" means the blooming of "a hundred thousand rose-gardens and a hundred thousand jasmines," and the ability to "see" them. The "expanding of breast" means the transformation of the heart into paradise in which flow the four rivers of water, wine, milk, and honey. The latter is suggestive of the description of paradise in Quran 47: 15, among others.

As Rumi interprets these two verses in accordance with the general Sufi orientation, his thoughts are with the Prophet of Islam because both of these allusions embody important events in Muhammad's life. Tradition asserts that Quran 48:1 was revealed at the time of the treaty of Hudaybiyah that eventually led to the conquest of Mecca, and 94: 1 refers to the Prophet's inner purification and being "aided" constantly.

The next verse invokes the Prophet's title "Mercy to the worlds" as conferred upon him by Quran 21: 107. Appealing to this particular attribute of the Prophet allows Rumi to pun on the Persian word "rawan" as flowing, river, stream, but also soul. In the context of the four rivers mentioned in the previous verse, the Prophet as a "mercy-river" seems fitting.
5:1 ya-da-ri-in--na-fa-tah-na--bar-gu-sha-ta--bin-ga-ram
2 sad-ha-za-ran--gul-si-ta-no--sad-ha-za-ran--ya-sa-min

6:1 ya-za-lam-nash--rah-ra-wan-kun--cha-re-ju-dar--si-na-am
2 ju-yi-a-bo--ju-yi-kham-ro--ju-yi-shi-ro--an-ga-bin

7:1 ay-sa-na-i--raw-ma-dad-khwa--haz-ra-wa-ni--mus-ta-fa
2 mus-ta-fa-ma--ja-a-il-la--rah-ma-tan-lil--a-la-min

Either, open the door of “Verily We have granted victory” [70]
so that I may see;
A hundred thousand gardens
and a hundred thousand jasmines!

Or, through “Truly have We not expanded”[71]
make four rivers flow in my heart;
A river of water, and a river of wine,
and river of milk and honey!

O Sanai, go, seek help
from the soul of the chosen one (Mustafa).
Mustafa, has not come
“Except as a Mercy to the worlds” [72]

Another poem, 2118-3: 1and 2, 4: 2, 5: 1 and 2, alludes to several different suras of the Quran intertwined with Rumi's comments. These are suras 95: 1, 2, 44: 54, 42: 2, 36: 1, and 93: 1. In this short poem, he cites three of the four different objects upon which God takes oaths in the surah entitled al-Tin; the fig, (al-tin), the olive (al-zaytun), and Mount Sinai (Tur Sinin). However, their appearance in totally unexpected contexts makes Rumi's interpretations charming, yet enigmatic. The lover's greasy, "flattering tongue" is conceived as receiving its oil (substance) from the "olive." Moreover, the act of uttering praise by the lover is seen as planting yet more olive trees. The beloved's sweet lips are said to derive their magic spell from the recitation of the invocation of the "fig." The love of the cheeks of this beloved is such that a thousand companions with "beautiful, big, and lustrous eyes (hurinin)" melt for them. The passion for such a beloved has the same incantatory force as the invocation of the mysterious letters ayn, sin, qaf and ya, sin at the beginning of suras 42 and 36; they both succeed in driving away all calamities. The brilliance on the face of the beloved and his perfection surpasses both the "Sun of the Forenoon, (Shams al-Duha)" in light and "Sinai, (Tur)" in stability. The beloved's fatal, yet vital, powers are manifested alternately through his deadly speech and invigorating visage. The beloved's words quoting the Prophetic tradition, "visit less often" destroys the lover only to be quickened by the beloved's spirited countenance like the "Day of Judgment" when all will be resurrected!
3:1 za-ba-ni-char-bi-u-ka-rad-da-rakh-ta-ni-pu-raz-zay-tun
2 la-bi-shi-ri-ni-u-khwa-nad-bi-af-sun-su-ra-yi-wat-tin

4:1 a-ya-man-ish-qu-khad-day-hi-yu-dhi-bu-al-fa-hu-rin[73]-in
2 ha-wa-hu-ka-shi-ful-bal-wa-ka-ayn-sin[74]-qa-fa-aw-ya-sin

5:1 shu-a-u-waj-hi-hi-ya-lu-a-la-sham-sid-du-ha-nu-ran
2 ka-ma-lu-sa-da-til-wa-fi-ya-fu-qut-tu-ra-fit-tam-kin

6:1 fa-kam-min-a-shi-qin-ar-da-ma-qa-lul-hib-bi-zu ri-gib-ban
2 wa-kam-min-may-yi-tin-ah-ya-mu-hay-ya-hu-ka-yaw-mid-din

His smooth tongue planted trees
full of olives.
His sweet lips bewitchingly uttered the surah
“By the fig[75].”

O you, love of whose cheeks melts a thousand
“black-eyed ones (houris)[76];”
whose passion is the eradicator of afflictions like
ayn, sin, qaf”[77] or “ya, sin.”[78]

The glow of his face overshadows
“the sun” of “the forenoon”[79] in light.
The perfection of the lords of the faithful
surpasses the “Sinai” in stability.

The speech of the beloved, “visit less often,”
has destroyed many a lover.[80]
His countenance has revived many a dead
like the “Day of Judgment”[81]

Rumi’s manner of incorporating Quranic verses into his poetry is particularly striking in that he rarely, if at all, uses them as “proof-texts” in the same vein as the other writers and poets who frequently employ the rhetorical device iqtibas.
His mode is indeed distinct:
1. his use of the Quran and his insertions of Quranic verses and allusions are so natural and intertwined with such skill that it is almost impossible to detect them. It is no surprise, then, that such a learned editor as Furuzanfar missed many such allusions to the Quran.
2. the authoritative sense of his tone almost vies with the authority of the Quranic quotations rather than claiming authority from its words.

As opposed to the general tone of the other authors and poets, Rumi's arguments run thus: the Quran says such and such which in reality means "this." He goes even further, as we can see from the examples above, and fuses his interpretation so completely with the Quranic quotations, that to draw a distinction between the two is impossible.
Hence, for example, he does not feel it necessary to clarify on what basis he has interpreted the “granting of the victory” as “the blooming and subsequent viewing of a hundred thousand rose-gardens and a hundred thousand jasmines” or “expanding the breast” as “making the heart akin to paradise such that the four rivers flow in it.”
His authority clearly derives its legitimacy from the realm of his personal experience, in particular, from the intimacy, uns, and union and annihilation, (wahdah, fana) he feels with his beloved/Beloved.
He claims: "Man andalib-i Rahmanam", "I am the Nightingale of the Merciful."
This nightingale who often wondered where the source of its own songs lay, in moments of complete union, found it impossible to distinguish between its own songs (ghazals) and a surah of the Quran inspired by the very Rahman, Merciful, whose nightingale it saw itself as.

Thus in selecting surah 55 entitled al-Rahman, Rumi was not simply expressing his enchantment for its use of some of his favorite poetic devices, he also wished to bring to the fore-front his deeply held conviction that:
God was indeed the Speaker, Composer, and Writer of his poetic enterprise.

Were not both these from the same "indistinguishable" source/s:
Rumi and his Beloved God, in complete unison?

________________________________________________________________________
http://www.worldcat.org/title/i-am-the-nightingale-of-the-merciful-macaronic-or-upside-down-the-mulammaat-of-jalal-al-din-rumi/oclc/46569051
http://iranianstudies.ca/rumi/virani.pdf
http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1120880.html
http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/3760656.html
Bonus:
Virani's works
:
- Virani (Rumi's Mulammaat) - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1117397.html
- Virani (God's Nightingale) - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1120880.html
- Virani (Macaronic Lyrical Poetry in Jalaluddin Rumi's Diwan: Idiosyncratic or Subversive?) - http://www.iis.ac.uk/view_article.asp?ContentID=103743
- Вирани, "Толкование поэмы # 247 из 'Дивана Шамса Тебризи' Руми" - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/3760656.html

Other macaronic works
:
- LangauageHat (Macaronic Poetry) - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1117574.html
- John Moyne (Rumi's Greek Poetry) - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1112724.html; http://www.unc.edu/depts/cdeisi/abstracts.html
_____________________________
К Окончанию: "Notes" - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1121243.html
Tags: rumi, бог, ислам, коран, макарон, поэзия, руми, соловей, хадис, языкознание
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