The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality
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The Republic of Rumi: a Novel of Reality

Chapter 38

Joseph of the West


By Khurram Ali Shafique

Poets, thinkers and leaders of the West appear from an Eastern point of view in Western Images. Modern Western thinkers hold symposiums with ancient Persians. Rumi debunks the philosophy of Hegel, joins a conversation between English poets and Mirza Ghalib, and listens to Goethe reading out his most famous play, Faust.

Faust

The playwright comes to compromise with a stage director for presenting something entertaining as well as thoughtful: Faust, a tragedy in two parts.

The play opens in Heaven where the Devil, as Mephistopheles, lays wager with God that the pious Doctor Faust shall end up in hell. On earth, Faust agrees to give his soul to Mephistopheles in exchange for a moment so fair that Faust should wish it to last.

This is difficult because Faust is insatiable. He ends up seducing his beloved Margaret a.k.a. Gretchen, and ruining her life (although her soul is still saved by Divine Grace). He summons the spirit of Helen of Troy, provides advice to monarchs and goes on to launch voyages of discovery which unfortunately turn into colonialism – “then commerce, war and piracy are three in one and cannot be parted.”

Undeterred, Faust makes plans for reconstructing the world as a veritable paradise free of violence, which is an undesirable remnant of the ancient days of despotism. Mephistopheles gets his chance of claiming the soul of Faust when the latter begins to visualize this perfect world of his own creation and declares that such shall be the moment to which he might say, “Abide, you are so fair!”

Mephistopheles still loses the wager because Faust only declared his intention of wanting a moment to last but such a moment did not actually arrive.

Rumi offers feedback on this masterpiece. “Your thought has made its home in the inner recesses of the heart and created this old world anew,” he says to Goethe. “He who is blessed and is a confidant, knows that cunning comes from the Devil and love from the human being.”

DISCUSS

  • Is this a fantasy of Iqbal or a reality of his world?

  • Does Joseph of the West want such a world?

  • Are their similarities between Faust and your present journey?


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Here are a few reflections on brave new world that might come into being for the new humanity: Goethe meets Rumi and visionaries from the East and the West discuss issues of common interest.
Persian text