October 3rd, 2015


Amer Latif, "Quranic Narrative and Sufi Hermeneutics: Rumı’s Interpretations of Pharaoh’s Character"

This dissertation examines Jalal al-Din Rumı’s (d. 1273) hermeneutics of the Quran

- by focusing on his interpretations of the Quranic character of Pharaoh.
- Although Rumi did not write a commentary in the traditional genre of tafsir
- by commenting on the Quran in a linear verse by verse fashion,
- significant portions of his poetry are explicitly devoted to Quranic interpretation
- This study proposes, that poetical writings, such as Rumi’s, deserve a prominent place in the field of Quranic interpretation

Chapter 1 gives a broad overview of Rumi’s hermeneutics of the Quran
- It shows that while Rumi posits multiple levels of meaning within the Quranic text,
- his interpretations of Quranic verses are informed by a binary distinction between an outer and inner meaning.
- His hermeneutics, though, are non-dualistic,
- since the outer level is encompassed by the inner.
- This chapter also shows that Rumi conceives of the Quran as a living entity
- that responds to the state of the reader.
- The meanings, disclosed through the act of reading, depend on the degree, to which readers have transformed their selves
- by following the teachings of the Quran.
- The Quran, according to Rumi, is a text that reads the reader.

Chapter 2 examines the Quranic characterization of Pharaoh

- It argues that Quranic characterization of Pharaoh is primarily psychological &
- focuses on highlighting the motivations behind Pharaoh’s actions
- Since Quranic narration displays both sympathy and antipathy towards the proud and tyrannical Pharaoh,
- it thereby invites its readers to reflect on the presence of similar qualities within themselves.

Chapter 3 examines Rumi’s interpretations of Pharaoh’s character

- Rumi interprets the Quranic narrative of Moses and Pharaoh through creative retelling &
- casts Pharaoh as the symbol of the ego.
- Pharaoh displays the qualities of pride, denial of truth, deception, insatiable hunger for power & attachment to name and fame
- These are the blameworthy qualities, says Rumi, that seekers need to overcome on the path to union with God.
- Rumi calls Quranic stories the exact depiction of the state of the human soul in each instant.
- His interpretations of the Quran are motivated by a desire to guide his readers &
- he does so by connecting macrocosmic narratives with the microcosmic dynamics of the soul.

In conclusion, this study argues that, for Rumi, the act of reading and understanding scripture

- is indissolubly linked with reading and understanding the self.
- Rumi's hermeneutics can be termed as unitary,
- where cosmology and psychology, the outer and the inner, appear as different aspects of one reality.

A Dissertation Presented to The Graduate School
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English (Comparative Literature)
Stony Brook University, May 2009