These are short and selective notes from a book by Dr. Afzal Iqbal ” The life and Works of Jallal-Uddin- Rumi”,
Masnavi begins with the reed, parted from the reed bed, complains of separation. “Everyone who is left far from his source wishes back the time when he was united with it.” The source of all existence is Allah and to Him shall we all return. The creation of the world is an act of Allah. Allah decreed and it is. Rumi argues that until we know what a thing is not, we do not know what it is. The appearance of evil is necessary for the manifestation of good. He says there is no contradiction, no conflict, between the earthly life and the heavenly life, one leads to the other. Neither is to be shunned and both are a part of unity. Life is a great gift and cannot be reduced to nothing, by postponing the acceptance, the responsibilities and the difficulties that go with it. It is now and here that one has to wrestle with them. It is out of this turmoil that one emerges fortified in one’s resolve to arrive at the higher level.
There is a danger in judging life from the analogy of our own limited experience. Logic and intellect are limited. It is only the revelation, inspiration and act of the grace of Allah which illuminates the mind of man. Generations after generations have tempered with the meaning of the message. The motive has been to find a justification for rejecting what is considered inconvenient and troublesome for a class of people. All thinking, logic and arguments have been directed to find a rationale for a lifestyle. But with the dawn of faith, the desire for easy living disappears and so does the need for a willful corruption of the Divine Message.
Rumi says that it is possible to deny and affirm the same thing. The flame of a candle is non-existent in the presence of the sun, though in formal calculations it exists. If you put cotton on it, it will burn. But in reality non-existent, it gives no light. When you throw an ounce of vinegar in 100 pounds of sugar, the flavor is not existent, though the ounce exists as a surplus when you weigh it. He says that knowledge is inferior to certainty, but above opinion. Knowledge is a seeker of certainty, and certainty is a seeker of vision. Knowledge leads to a vision that is immediately born of certainty. He says the way to certainty is not the way of reason. One needs no proof in the presence of that which stands proved in front of one’s eyes.
Suppose that a sun has come to speech and says, “ Arise, for the day has risen; jump up do not dispute.” And suppose that you say, “ O sun where is the evidence?” It will say to you, “O blind one, beg of God (that He gives you) an eye.”
The man who has seen the vision is above, unique and original. He cannot give expression to his vision because there are no words to describe the experience. When the Prophet left Gabriel behind and ascended the highest summit open to man, the Quran only says, “Then He revealed to His servant that which He revealed.” What he saw is not explained. It cannot be described. A stage comes when silence becomes the height of eloquence. Sense and perception are extremely limited. He compares reality to an elephant in the dark, A man feels it with the palm of his hand and it falls on the trunk. He thinks the elephant is like a water pipe. The hand of another touches its ear; to him it appears to be a fan. Another handles its legs and to him the elephant is like a pillar. If there had been a candle in everyone’s hand, the difference of perception would have disappeared. The eye of the sense of perception is like the palm of the hand. The palm has no power to reach the whole elephant.
He says that intelligence is of two kinds; acquisitive and intuitive. The former is acquired from books and the other is the gift of Allah. Rumi downgrades borrowed knowledge and encourages independent thinking. He says that our misfortune is that we see with the borrowed light and we think it is our own.
“Thou art content with the knowledge learned (from others); thou hast lit thine eye at another lamp. He takes away his lamp, that thou mayst know thou art a borrower, not a giver.”
My body is the product of my soul, not my soul a product of my body. Rumi says that one needs a touchstone. Without a touchstone, imagination and reason are not clearly distinguished. The Quran and the Prophet are these touchstones. Most of those destined for paradise are simple God fearing people. The clever ones are caught in the mischief of philosophy, the simple ones perform their duties and save themselves and society from discord. They do not know the philosophy of Zakat but pay it. They do not split hairs on the motives and the meaning of prayer; they simply say their required prayers.
Rumi was a believer in free will, the capacity of man to choose his actions. Choice he calls the salt of devotion. Otherwise there would be no merit in prayer and piety. The celestial sphere revolves involuntarily, hence its revolution has neither reward nor punishment. We have honored man says the Quran. The honor lies in the gift of free will. Our sense of guilt is the evidence of free will. If there were no free will, what is the shame and what is the sorrow?
Rumi defines justice as putting a thing in its right place and injustice as putting it in a wrong place. Nothing that Allah has created is in vain. Nothing is absolutely good nor is anything absolutely evil. The usefulness and harm of each thing depends on how it is used. That is why knowledge is necessary. Life is journeying back to Allah. Allah is the beginning and Allah is the end and to Him do we return. Rumi died in December of 1273 at the age of 67. He is buried in Konia in Turkey