Spiritual Rhyming Couplets by Rumi


Masnavi-e Manawi (Spiritual rhyming couplets) is the famous poetic collection of the medieval ecstatic mystic scholar and Sufi, Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207−73), known in Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran as Mowlana or Mawlānā Jalaluddin Balkhi and in the West as Rumi. This Persian manuscript in nastaliq script is a complete 15th century copy of Masnavi, with all six volumes. Narratives, homilies, and commentaries appear throughout. Many stories have stock characters, such as beggars, prophets, kings, and animals. Ethical concerns, traditional wisdom, and stories filled with jokes, including ones about sexuality and ethnic and gender stereotypes, appear throughout Masnavi. Prose pieces are arranged extemporaneously, sometimes breaking off mid-narrative and resuming later. Masnavi begins with Rumi’s famous “Song of the Reed,” which is the 18-verse prologue. This song, scholars have argued, contains the essence of the work. A mystic who has become separated from God is searching for his origin, and longs to find it again; Rumi suggests in this song that love of God is the only way to return to that state. The first story of Masnavi expands on “Song of the Reed,” and is about a king whose love for a sick slave cures her illness. All six books have their own introductions. The introduction to book one, written in Arabic, defines Masnavi as “the roots of religion” and “uncovering the secrets of knowledge and union.” Masnavi’s contents are specified as a creed, holy law, proof of God, cure for man’s ills, and mysticism. Rumi also praises the supremacy of God: “He is the most protective and most merciful of all.” The other introductions are mostly in Persian (the one to book three is partly in Arabic) and some are part prose and part verse. In each one, Rumi praises his leading disciple and successor, Ḥosām-al-Din Chalabi (died 1284), and his contribution to Masnavi. The work has a mixed verse-and-prose conclusion in Persian and Arabic entitled “The seventh book of the books of Masnavi,” which is not part of the known original of Masnavi; however, there are claims for a seventh book. If true, then this manuscript is a rare copy. Rumi’s full name and the year of publication, 1435, appear on the last page of book six. The place of publication is not given; it was probably somewhere in Khorasan. Each narrative has a rubricated heading. Pages are not numbered.

Last updated: September 30, 2016