Why Rumi Today?
Copyright 2010 Jehan-i-Seema. All rights reserved.
All material in this page is original writing of  Seema Arif. Using it in any form of publication and
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The world is at clash and humanity is risking its survival as war of terror continues. Everyone is seeking peace and
sustenance for future. We are confused, troubled, dejected and we have lost our joy in living miserably, looking for
some guidance who can deliver us from this pain. Who can restore smile on the face of earth and who has the
right answer of human problems we are facing? Though the enigma is not new, humanity has undergone this crisis
several times across history, whenever, a distinguished human civilization reaches peak of material
resourcefulness, it poses threat to other cultures, and is a danger for cultures that resist change.

Being a social scientist, a psychologist, I approach this problem in alter ways and while scanning through history I
come across a very unique name: Maulana Jalal ud Din Muhammad Rumi. He is the person who can guide us
through this darkness and show us way to light and peace. Rumi is not a sophist, he is not a religious theologist,
but he is a social scientist, who addresses the problem of human survival, peace and growth at both personal and
social level, providing us the grounding principles at which we can reconstruct a society ridden with evil of
materialism, corruption and abuse of power.

Let us find out what this contrast or clash is all about…

We are living in age of turmoil as rapid scientific advances in material knowledge have not only disturbed the fabric
of society, it is questioning the very basic foundation of human existence whether it came into being through a
certain creationist activity or was an accidental byproduct of an automated self generating system. All believing
societies and their social norms and moral standards are at stake. We are not only to justify our existence but our
beliefs as well. The knowledge age commends: Survival requires self knowledge harmonized with social and
emotional intelligence to live and work efficiently and effectively. The knowledge world is done with the analysis job
begun from the age of enlightenment and is entering the phase of synthesis, where knowledge of existence of
things is not enough but one has to make one’s “existence” meaningful to oneself and to others. So the question
arises whether just learning to read and memorize Qur’an will be enough or we will have to decode the principles of
knowledge underlying it and develop a code of ethics suiting the needs and demands of the day.

While considering the response to this challenge, we must consider the view of human nature that believers and
non-believers hold. For believers the human nature is essentially good and strives to work out the divine plan and
that may involve sacrifice of selfish interests while realizing the good for humanity, whereas for unbelievers, e.g.
evolutionary psychologists, each behavior is biologically adaptive and is maintained with full force and might to
ensure individual survival, whether that individual is a human being, a race, a community or a nation. For them the
physical nature is in opposition to human nature and it always poses a challenge to it, which must be overcome by
subduing the physical environment and of course science tells us how to proceed with it.

On the contrary, the believers do not hold human nature and physical nature in opposition or at struggle against
each other; they are to co-exist. The two are in flux to indulge the partner into current of life…flow of existence
from one end of the continuum to the other.
The ultimate requirement is to seek harmony with each other by understanding and following the divine principles
revealed to us by the Creator itself.

So when we talk about survival, Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi not only guides us what needs to be preserved, he
carefully explains its utility and then instructs how to preserve it carefully separating the complex intertwined
realities of existence and making their meaning and purpose clear to the human consciousness. He has used here
the stories from Qur’an, the stories of Prophets: of Adam and Eve, their desire for knowledge, and their quest for
life, of courage and hope of Musa (pbuh) and the challenge he gave to one of the most powerful empires of the
history. The compassion and care Issa (pbuh) bestowed upon humanity and finally Hazrat Muhammad (saw)
balancing the art of his predecessors to deliver the humanity its ultimate goal – the knowledge of self – the skill of
self to serve the life and the attitude of self to care for life.  

Thus, following his master, Hazrat Muhammad (saw), Mevlana tells us: It is not the existence which is worth
challenging nor we are to question its utility? It is to develop a comprehensive system of knowledge that liberates
human mind from the curse of persecuting the sanctity of human relationships and offense of exploitation of
human and natural resources

Rumi’s voice is listened by present day’s humanists and systems thinkers as well, such as Peter Senge, Fritjov
Capra or Maturana. Taking cue from Dr. Maturana, who has informed the 21st century knowledge leaders,

“All systems exist only as long as there is conservation of that which defines them.  Human history does not follow
the path of resources or opportunities; rather it follows the path of desires or, in more general terms, a path of

The most critical thing here is the ‘choice’ (again between believers’ and non believers’ attitude the choice will be
different) and the evolution which is a constant strife among available choices in life is the crux of life. One of these
choices is between continuity and stability. Stability is not the same as equilibrium; stability does not mean that the
system remains unchanging. Rather, stability means that the dynamics involved conserve certain relations of
coherence in such a way that the system can continue existing in a finite background. May be it calls for revising
the practices of material culture in the light of ideal culture, in a way that shows balance and harmony with present
day demands of life rather than conformance to past tradition. It is not easy to understand and even more difficult
to practice: what we will let go…the divine principles or the everyday customs, rites, sacredly communicated by our
past traditions.

To maintain stability in terms of a certain social order or emotional balance in a society, we have to examine
carefully the practices it has indulged itself, and the values attached with such practices. Rumi defines the
methodology for this process that ensures quality of life. The art of this methodology is that of Love and the tools
used for this methodology is “Reflection” and “Prayer”, the aim is “Balance”, and the vehicle is “Friendship”. Not to
forget the workplace for this process it is human heart and not the human mind.

Thus, Rumi in Masnavi speaks of human relationships, with other human beings, with nature, with knowledge, with
universe and with the world beyond universe, the ‘Ghayb’. It deals with the beginning of life, of growth in life, of end
of life and of continuation of life – the hereafter. While doing so Rumi walks in and out of all spheres of life
providing them with sense of unity through stability and continuity. The learning about life is adjusting to one’s
shortcomings and failures, to manage with one’s success, adopting better means of coping with disease, death
and disaster. But here it is not done in the usual way the straight forward method  - following blindly the tradition; it
is something unique and different; whether the prince searches for goldsmith the beloved of his beloved or the
Chinese artists braze the walls that all colorful shadows may mirror unto them, it is something far special. One
parrot can fake death and earn freedom and the other can spoil some good of his master and loose everything
that was dear and beautiful in life.

It is extracting pure out of impure, and Rumi tells us in his discourses: when milk is diluted with water, it looses its
purity, such is the case with social codes and societal rites of religion or culture when a blind carefree mixing
occurs, but when butter is made out of milk; adding water to any limit shall not spoil its purity. That is why, Mevlana
has encoded the moral essence the spirit of Muslim culture its beliefs and values in the analogies of the Masanavi
as carefully constructed memes that shall keep replicating itself till eternity, never loosing its meaning and context,
as Mevlana had intended at the time of its construction, enduring successfully the test of time and material
boundaries posed on it.

Why? Because…

The knowledge is not what a society practices and regards valuable; the knowledge is what may value a society, i.
e. what is worth practicing. It is not just thinking but rethinking various life situations humans are being thrust in. It
is also true that human experience cannot be erased from human memory; however, the meaning can be altered
and modified. It is not denying the human emotion but reconstruction of human feeling –reappraisal of emotion in
context of a better value modifies the feeling; it absorbs pain and affliction and brings happiness and ease in one’s
life. Allah has promised the believers (No fear and no grief shall touch their heart). And here it is fulfilled by not
constructing artificial  boundaries through bias, prejudice and stereotypes but by learning of divine principles
through knowledge of heart and through their acceptance and submission reaching the status of Wali Allah, i.e.
friend of Allah.

Believing in Allah as the only supreme force of life, we come to understand that we cannot all the time get hold of
life in our fist strictly. Life is letting go: freeing the spirit of life, which liberates the spirit from eternal misery it has
caused to itself through erecting walls and building boundaries (phobias, delusions, anxiety fears and paranoia all
leading to poor hold on reality and loosing one’s grip on truth, thus life).

What caution Rumi gives us to live a happy life?

He warns us that we often act blind to the finiteness of our attitude and ability and we limit the scope of our activity
through declining to share, or failing at some vitally needed compromise. In an attempt to save the system we try to
constrict it like we save water in a container for future use. But contained water loose its efficiency and quality,
similarly the rigid rules implied by a dead tradition on a living system or society close them into a suffocating
bubble. How colorful and light it may seem it has short life and bursts out to nothingness. The life should be open
to challenge of choices. Some will desire one way and some the other ….and this strife will give birth to evolution
and that is Life.  

I believe that all we learn from master Rumi is that our fundamental resource in life is to
‘Love’ the prime creative
energy with which life was constructed and the ultimate duty is  that human beings enjoy beauty of love while
reflecting on what they do.  Both the aesthetics and ethics are vital for our well-being and must be cared for
efficiently. Thus, here, not only we learn to become smarter, intelligent, understanding and sympathetic and
enduring. We learn to make right choices.

Seema Arif