Is Rumi’s Islam different from Pakistan’s Islam?

Published: September 14, 2012
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Rumi understood the necessity of a righteous path to live a purposeful and dignified life. DESIGN: IMAAN SHEIKH

While stranded in a traffic jam under the hot, blazing sun of May, I looked at a traffic warden from my car window. His sun-bleached uniform was drenched with sweat and he was gesticulating like an actor in a mime.

The loud, blaring car horns and impatient shouts of drivers and pedestrians tweaked my weak nerves and I pressed my throbbing temples to soothe them.

The whole rumpus had been caused by green-turbaned clerics, some of whom were young boys and teenagers with budding moustaches. Speaking from their loudspeakers, mounted on minivans, they passionately denounced social networking sites for uploading blasphemous material against Islam. Some turbaned boys snaked through traffic congestion and distributed pamphlets against social media sites to passengers in their sizzling cars.

A pamphlet landed into my lap from the rolled-down car window. It was an invitation to a bigger protest demonstration against Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Putting the pamphlet inside Maulana Rumi’s poetry book laying on the car seat, I kept blowing a paper fan to beat the summer heat.

I forgot about traffic snarl-up, the warden, and the protest demonstration, but after a few days, that pamphlet again landed into my hand. It dropped out of the Maulana Rumi’s verse book, and, opened at a page where I had underlined a verse with a pencil. The verse was:

“Man khāk-e rah-e Muhammad-e mukhtāram”

(I am dust on the path of Muhammad, the chosen one.)

With profound reverence, I held Maulana Rumi’s poetry book as it oozed out love of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from its verses.

However, it was a love of different hue; without clamour and rancour and without malice and bitterness. It was sweet and pure as if gushing forth from a mountain spring; and it was love of a man mellowed with spiritual contemplation; and of a man who had experienced vagaries of life and tasted the bitterness of exile. So, it was not exclusive, disdainful and full of spite for others.

Recurring interminably in Rumi’s poetry, Muhammad’s path has been held as an emblem of spiritual journey. Maulana has described it as a path that could illuminate the ultimate reality of Allah.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had to weed away nettles of murderous vendettas, inequity, pride and avarice to set the contours of a new way leading to Allah. Breaking apart the linear and biologically determined ties between parents and children, he created community bonds on the basis of compassion, justice, tolerance and eschewal of worldly desires. Prophet’s (pbuh) whole life was a shining emblem of this righteous path.

Persecuted by rich, powerful Quraish cheftains, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) found refuge in Medina and established a confederate of different communities on the principles of mutual respect and tolerance. At the time of the Prophet’s (pbuh) victorious march into Mecca, not a single drop of blood was shed, no house was set ablaze and no one was forced to convert to Islam.

A year later, during Hajj pilgrimage, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had the realisation that his earthly existence was nearing an end, which would mark a new beginning and terminate one part of history. He also had the realisation that history had the tendency to repeat itself in cycles and cruelty of past could recur. So, in his last sermon, he enjoined;

“Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you,” and “Do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

Rumi understood the necessity of a righteous path to live a purposeful and dignified life. Maulana and his family had experienced displacement and exile and journeyed through unfamiliar lands to reach their final destination in Konya.

He also understood that despite the impermanence, uncertainty and mortality inherent in human life, it had to be lived according to a divine plan; and that path had been set out by Muhammad (pbuh). It was necessary to become dust on rah-e-Muhammad (path of Prophet Muhammad) to fulfil the divine scheme.

The verses of Maulana Rumi and the pamphlet are two different pathways: one is a way of inner reality and the other of outer form; one is a way of clemency and the other of mercilessness; and one is a way of inclusion and the other of exclusion. Finally, the rhythm of Maulana’s verses subdued the inner clamour provoked by the pamphlet:

Come, come whoever you are.

Come even though you have,

Broken your vows a thousand times,

Come, and come yet again,

Ours is not a caravan of despair.

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Sameera Rashid

Sameera Rashid

A research analyst, blogger and a graduate of King's College, London, in public policy.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.