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February 4th, 2008

“The Life and work of Jalal-ud-din Rumi” by Afzal Iqbal

Since the comments under the post “Arya Dharm” have grown to be too numerous and lengthy, I am creating this related post on the topic of the above book, which I have referred to in my comments under the “Arya Dhram” allegations post.

As this post is itself lengthy, I have now moved it off the main page to a comment on this page.

Click here (or click below on comments) and the full post will open up below this message.

Zahid Aziz

One Response to ““The Life and work of Jalal-ud-din Rumi” by Afzal Iqbal”

  1. I have before me the 1983 edition of The Life and work of Jalal-ud-din Rumi by Afzal Iqbal (The Octagon Press, London, ISBN: 0 86304 033 0).

    What is the repute of Rumi? In the Foreword of this book we are told:

    “Sir Muhammad Iqbal, who many times acknowledged his indebtedness to the great Persian visionary, stated that ‘the world of today needs a Rumi to create an attitude of hope, and to kindle the fire of enthusiasm for life’.” (p. xi)

    This, of course, is the same Sir Muhammad Iqbal whose two or three pamphlets against the Ahmadiyya Movement are widely reproduced by the anti-Ahmadiyya groups!

    I now quote from the author’s Introduction (all bolding is mine):

    “Maulana Jalal-ud-din Rumi needs no introduction. For seven hundred years now his verse has inspired millions of men. Jami, the celebrated Persian poet, hailed him as a saint who was not a prophet but had a book. The Mathnawi has been known for centuries as the Quran in Pahlavi … In Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Rumi is honoured as a saint, a sage and a seer.”

    This, then, is the man about whom our anti-Ahmadiyya poster (The Pleezing One) declares so casually that he is prepared at a stroke to reject his writings!

    Afzal Iqbal continues:

    “In contemporary England, Professor R.A. Nicholson translated the Mathnawi into English and characterised Rumi as ‘the greatest mystic poet of any age’. And yet he charged him with obscenity. We are not unaware of some Western Orientalists who have levelled a similar charge against the Quran. Professor Nicholson denied the reader an opportunity to judge for himself because he translated the few verses from the Mathnawi, which he thought exceptionable, into Latin.”

    Then Afzal Iqbal continues about his own book:

    “So far as is known, this is the first attempt on the part of any student of Rumi to deal with this allegation at a level of scholarship. For the first time also, passages singled out for censorship by Nicholson are being made available to the discerning reader, who will judge for himself.”

    One of the passages Afzal Iqbal deals with (p. 299-103) is also on a website. Please see this link, and read particularly from the line: “The worried wife reaches the door and opens it”. The wife disturbs her husband and their maid having sexual intercourse, and the husband stands up and pretends that he was saying prayers!

    It is in the last chapter of this book, entitled Latin Translation of the Mathnawi, that Afzal Iqbal refutes the suggestion by Nicholson that certain passages in Mathnawi contain such explicit sexual descriptions that he did not translate them into English but rather into Latin. Afzal Iqbal writes:

    “The Mathnawi has been read in the original by millions of people for some seven centuries. We are not aware of an expurgated edition nor are we aware of a demand for one. Nicholson, in assuming the role of a censor, has sought merely to project his own inhibitions. He has passed an unwarranted moral judgment on a man he recognises as the greatest mystic poet of any age.” (p. 285)

    I am quoting Afzal Iqbal’s response because the general principles underlying them can be applied to writings of Hazrat Mirza sahib which, of course on quite different grounds, are considered objectionable. People are merely projecting their own inhibitions when they find so-called objectionable statements in his books.

    Further on he writes as follows. While reading, please bear in mind the kind of misrepresentations carried out against Hazrat Mirza sahib:

    “A serious charge has been made and the reader has been denied an opportunity to judge for himself. We propose to analyse the alleged purple patches so that the reader is able to arrive at his own conclusions. In doing so it is relevant to reiterate that we are dealing with the greatest mystic poet of any age, a poet whose range is indeed staggering, who talks in metaphors and comes out with parables and subtle recondite allusions. Rumi was conscious of the possibility of casual superficial readers stopping short at his words without making an effort to penetrate their meaning.” (p. 285-286)

    To show an example of the kind of story by Rumi that Afzal Iqbal deals with, I have scanned in pages 295 to 298, where the example begins in the middle of page 295 with the paragraph: The Maidservant and the Ass …

    Click here to view the pages as a pdf file.