Rumi revisited: tales of love, envy and surrender

Mathnawi Circle dissects “Laila and Majnu”.

Maryam Usman July 18, 2013
Mathnawi Circle dissects “Laila and Majnu”.


The Mathnawi Circle discussed obstacles to spiritual progress in their weekly meeting at Kuch Khaas on Tuesday. As is the custom, they took select verses from the Mathnawi, an epic poem written by the Sufi saint Jalaluddin Rumi and interpreted entire stanzas, lending each participant a chance to share their reflections.

“Just as a reminder of why we are doing this,” said the moderator, Shazray Hussain, before quoting the Sheikh Jamal Noor, “so you may understand your meaning and know your truth.”

Hussain read out select verses titled, “The tale about the caliph seeing Laila” in which he asks what made Majnu fall for her when she is “not very remarkable” and Laila replies, “You need Majnu’s eyes to see/ To be awake to this world means to sleep.” Often, one loses focus and becomes entrenched in the mundane, unable to escape the shackles of what they know to be wrong, true love is the source of all vision, Hussain added.

The lines “Asleep to God, awake to spectacles/ This represents the worst of obstacles,” invited much food for thought. The participants discussed the idea of worldly illusions that drive the soul away from forming a spiritual connection with a higher being.

They explored the concept of ishq or surrender to a beloved and ultimately God. They underlined the meaning of being aware of God and asleep to the material world. Fatima, another participant, shared feeling intense sorrow over the death of a fictional character in the television series, Downtown Abbey, even when she knew it was make-believe. She mentioned how people get emotionally invested even in things that are far from reality.

The couplet, “We’re kicked and punched by fantasies all day/ From fear of loss to hope of higher pay.”

As the verses progress, they bring out the element of envy in the devil. “Envy is like a fire that burns wood and in the process, consumes itself,” said Humaira, yet another participant. To purify the soul, one needs to replace envy with selfless and unconditional love, she observed.

Prior to the discussion that covered philosophy and theology in lyrical form, the participants offered fateha for Rumi.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2013.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ