What Do We Learn About Islam From Poetry?
Any religion in the world is a pivotal complex of beliefs, values and moral principles. They provide human beings with peculiar guidance of life which touches its every aspect. In terms of distinguishing the sharpest edge between good and evil, it encourages humanity and spirituality, while shaping the behavior of a person. Religion also tends to explain the origin of the Universe. By virtue of faith, it grants an individual with meaning to life. In the United States, religion is frequently equated with spirituality or a personal relationship with God.
Meanwhile, Islam teaches that there is only one and incomparable God or Allah in Arabic. The purpose of human existence lies within a personal relationship with God which involves infinite love and gratifying service. In order to learn about Islamic spirituality, it is essential to address the sayings of Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and poetry and prose of Jalal al-Din Rumi.
The Nahj al-balaghah or Path of Eloquence is considered to be classics which contain numerous advices and admonitions. According to Imam ‘Ali the submission to Allah’s Will is the best companion for a human-being. The best form of devotion to the service of God lies within not making a show of it. It is considerably better being sad and repentant because of the committed sin than to become arrogant because of a good deed. According to Jalal al-Din Rumi’s philosophy, union with God is sweeter than any comfort.
The pivotal topic is being a better person. A virtuous person is better than virtue, while a vicious person is worse than vice. One should live in a way that others would crave for his or her company, and after his or her death would make people weep. It is highly significant to forgive the weaknesses of others. The pedigree of an individual does not excuse awful deeds. It is fostered to be generous and frugal but avoid being extravagant and misery. Value of a person depends on his or her courage, self-respect and sense of honor. Imam ‘Ali teaches that there is nothing to be ashamed of in case the charity seems to be small, whereas the act of a considerably greater shame is to refuse the needy.
Jalal al-Din Rumi also condemns people’s willfulness and selfishness in his poems. Giving up inordinate desires can constitute the greatest wealth. According to Imam ‘Ali, welfare does not imply enormous wealth and numerous children, but profound knowledge and proud of obedience to Allah. Another facet of wealth is wisdom, which also constitutes the noble heritage. The best signs of distinction are theoretical and practical knowledge. When someone implements a thorough and profound thinking, the picture of any problem becomes considerably more clear and evident. Therefore, success is the combination of foresight which depends on clear thinking and precise planning along with resolution.
Jalal al-Din Rumi is known for his allegorical and spiritual poetry. He states that doing things from the soul results in joy. It is crucial not to let others lead as they may be blind but to reach out to God’s help. What is truly valuable does not coherence in the material world but the spiritual one. There is a life-force within each soul, and it is highly significant to seek it. While searching for meaning to life, one should look inside himself or herself.
While reading the works of Jalal al-Din Rumi, it becomes obvious and apparent that he was a man of exceptional tolerance. His respectful attitude towards various religious beliefs and traditions provoked criticism among those who considered themselves dogmatic. Furthermore, such position is not quite popular even nowadays. There is an instructive story about one public confrontation between Rumi and one Muslim dignitary who claimed that there is no agreement between various confessions. There is no consent between the Jews and the Christians, or between the Christians and Muslims. Meanwhile, he accused Rumi of being at one with contradictory views and beliefs and asked how he could be in agreement with all the religions, whereas they cannot agree with each other. The philosopher’s answer was full of wisdom when he told the dignitary that he was right and that he agreed with him too (Arberry, n.d.).
Once, Imam ‘Ali was asked about faith and Religion. His answer contained the explanation of the way faith is structured. The principal pillars are endurance, conviction, justice and jihad.
The pivotal attributes of endurance are piety, eagerness, fear and anticipation of death. In case someone is eager for Paradise, he or she will avoid temptations. It is crucial to abstain from sins in order not to fear the fire of Hell. If someone anticipates death, there comes the necessity to hasten towards righteous deeds, while practicing piety contributes towards conquering hardships and difficulties.
Conviction is a complex concept, as well. It states the significance of knowledge in terms of searching for explanation of truth. It emphasizes the necessity of learning instructive lessons while following the precedent of the past generations. The reason behind this lies in the desire of a person towards guarding oneself away from various sins and vices. Therefore, this person has to examine the true nature of infatuation and its causes in order to find the true ways of resisting these temptations. This search requires a profound knowledge which results in diverse lessons from the hard school of life. Consequently, this person delves deeply into the causes of the rise and fall of the previous civilizations.
Justice is also comprised of four aspects, which are the depth of understanding, profoundness of knowledge, fairness of judgment and dearness of mind. In order to comprehend a problem, studying it thoroughly is of paramount importance. Gradually, it develops a clear mind which contributes towards making right decisions. Nevertheless, it is a hard and prolonged process which requires ample patience along with forbearance. In case someone follows these steps accordingly, he or she is on the only true way towards justice; meanwhile, this person leads the life full of moral standards, principles and spirituality.
According to Imam ‘Ali, jihad consists of four branches, as well. Firstly, it is essential to persuade people to be obedient to the orders of Allah which provides the strength to the believers. Secondly, dissuading people from sins and vices is highly significant. Thirdly, someone who struggles sincerely for the sake of Allah is forgiven for detesting the vicious. Eventually, God will take revenge on his enemies in order to maintain balance in the world and will be pleased with this person on the Day of Judgment.
In his teachings, Jalal al-Din Rumi appealed to Qur’an on a continuing basis. His reference to God is always deeply personal which also reveals his nearness and closeness.
In addition, there certain terms vary in their meaning in the context of Islam in comparison with the same concepts but in their Christian sense. Therefore, faith approaches the meaning of a profound knowing instead of belief which refers to the way someone chooses to see the world. When Rumi addresses the concept of faith, he implies some experience which influences and even changes the way someone perceives life rather than following certain doctrine. Therefore, while referring to Islam, he implies the Way, the spiritual path and religious tradition.
In accordance with Imam ‘Ali’s sayings, Islam means obedience to Allah which results in a sincere faith. Believing in God’s Power implies accepting His Majesty, which involves various considerate actions in order to fulfill the obligations, placed upon human beings. Therefore, Islam does not imply mere faith but also performance of proper deeds.
Jalal al-Din Rumi also wonders what makes an act right or wrong, good or bad. In his discourse, philosopher asks the question who is the wronged party if “a saint who carries God’s secret jewel” or spiritual grace, in other words, hurts someone. Meanwhile, anyone can blame God for their own actions and choices, Rumi does not justify violence. Thus, he highlights that it is the saint who is a wrongdoer, not God. Moreover, it is essential to look beneath the commonly perceived idea of wrong and right imposed by culture. According to Rumi, the true cause lies within God’s will.
Imam ‘Ali teaches to have hope in the Mercy of Allah. It is crucial to be afraid of nothing but sins and vices. He emphasizes the necessity of acquiring patience and endurance as he compares their relation with true faith with that of a head and a body; thus, without a head, a body is of no avail. By analogy, true faith can be futile without attributes of resignation, endurance and patience.
However, there are two types of patience. The first one refers to the patience over something that causes pain, the second patience refers to the things someone covets. It is highly significant to return the greetings warmly or repay the obligation superfluously. Thus, a person who takes the initiative excels in merit accordingly.
According to Imam ‘Ali, there is nothing to be ashamed if someone does not know a thing. People imagining they know everything will undoubtedly suffer on account of their ignorance. It takes courage to admit one’s lack of education. Nevertheless, it is essential to be eager for acquiring new knowledge instead of wallowing in abysmal ignorance.
During the course of life, a person faces numerous adversities and hardships. Nevertheless, aid from Allah comes in proportion to the extent of trouble through which one is passing. It is crucial to bear calamities patiently, since they tend to bring the best qualities to the front.
The above mentioned teachings can benefit not only those who practice Islam, but also non-Muslims. It is a combination of dogmas that are universally true regardless of religious pertinence. Therefore, the notion of the exceptional value of a human being’s life and the significance of sincere and righteous deeds is understood the same way in any part of the world.