|The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality|
A Parable Never Told
By Khurram Ali Shafique
It so happened one day that the Sultan came to Jalaluddin Rumi and said, “I banish myself in penance for sins committed against humanity by the kings. I leave the country to you.”
Another Sufi may have declined, but Rumi was one in his own league. Spirit and matter had been separate for centuries but now the two became one.
One of the first things he did was a whirlwind tour of the country for imparting to the masses an understanding of religion. With the help of parables, poetry, flute and some whirling dance he soon raised the plebeians to such levels of spiritual elevation where they could all give opinion on everything.
The clergy became very upset and demanded that since it had always represented religion it was now its right to rule. Rumi announced a date on which the entire adult population of the country was to choose between him and the clergy. He won with overwhelming majority, and his detractors had no option but to leave. Their parting words were, “Democracy is against Islam.”
Rumi was born in the Persian city of Balkh (now in Afghanistan) in 1207. His father was a well-respected scholar of religion but the family had to migrate, most probably to escape the invasion of Mongols. After visiting many places in the Middle East, Rumi’s family eventually settled in Koniya (now in Turkey) where Rumi succeeded his father as a teacher and a scholar. He was forty when he met Shams Tabriz, a wandering dervish, who became Rumi’s mentor and the inspiration for Rumi’s ecstatic poems that have become known as Divan-i-Shams Tabriz since then. The other work, which Rumi wrote long after the disappearance of Shams, is the Masnavi Maanavi in six volumes. It is a collection of stories through which Rumi reveals the secrets of life and destiny, so that the book has also been called “the Quran in Persian”. Rumi died in Konya in 1273 and was succeeded by sons and disciples who carried on the order of dervishes founded by him. The order has become most widely known for its famous whirling dance, which is said to have been initiated by Rumi himself. His works, thought and message have a left a deep mark on the cultures of many Muslim regions and are now becoming enormously popular even in the West, especially Northern America.
The transfer of power from the Sultan to Rumi, mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, never happened. This is just a parable. So, like the first two sections of this chapter, the rest is also a fictitious account. Its purpose is to illustrate the potential of the message of Rumi.
Those were, of course, the best of the times and also the worst. Crusades had long ended but the mind of Europe was unwilling to bury the dispute. In the Muslim world itself, barbarians were playing havoc – they had started with Afghanistan and did not seem to be stopping even after capturing the last caliph of Baghdad and beating him to death. Farther East, Hindus and Muslims were engaged in an armed rivalry since more than sixty years before.
Bringing peace to such a world was difficult but Rumi was able to send barbarians back to their homes, appease the agitated mind of Europe, settle the longstanding dispute over the Holy Land and create trust between Hindus and Muslims.
Details are lost but it has been reported that his peace conferences used to open with a pantomime show of his famous ‘grape story’: four men who cannot understand each other’s languages are fighting over the choice of fruit they should buy with the coin that they found together; an interpreter arrives on the scene, takes the coin and puts grapes in front of the fighting men who then realize that they were, in fact, all pursuing the same choice but naming it differently.
Slavery was intolerable to Rumi. He issued a universal invitation to scientists and urged them to find alternate source of energy so that slave would not be needed. He suggested that replacing the Greek model of research with inductive methods could be helpful since the boundary of the universe was in its centre.
In good time, a scientist came from the north of an island beyond mainland Europe and demonstrated a device that could harness the power of steam for performing several tasks. Rumi appealed to everyone to use this device and free the slaves. The age-old institution of slavery vanished in no time.
For a while, everyone was happy. People from around the world thronged to the court of Rumi and listened to words of wisdom. Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Christians and agnostics came for spiritual guidance and returned with a better understanding of the Path according to their own diverse beliefs.
There was no further trouble until reports started coming that the steam-device was creating problems. Trees were being chopped mercilessly for fuel, skies in some cities had blackened with smoke, and some people were building large monopolies for throwing smalltime competitors out of job. Age-old evils had reappeared in new forms, more powerful than before.
Rumi addressed the whole world and explained that in gratitude to God who gave them the power to harness the forces of Nature, they should voluntarily master their greed. Not all the wealth in the world could be sufficient for a heart unless it learns to be content by itself. Yes, you have the freedom to produce as much as your creative faculties desire but will you also find the time to create something in the depths of your soul?
“Whoever devours grass ends up under the butcher’s knife,” said Rumi. “Whoever feeds on the light of God becomes the Word of God.”
So it never happened in history. Can it happen now, and how? This book attempts to answer this question. You may think that changing the world is too big a task, but then you are not alone. You may be surprised to find out how many of the great ones of the past, present and future are with you. Besides, achieving the goal is not the measure of success, it is more important to be on the right track.