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).
Clore Education Centre, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG
13-15 September 2007
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