By way of a ‘refreshing’ change of subject from what is usually written about here, a good friend of mine, who is a fellow traveller on the path, decided to share some of his musings (below) with us on a certain quatrain of the great Sufi saint and poet Jalal al-Din Balkhi Rumi.
Rumi’s quatrain reads,
حيلت رها کن عاشقا
ديوانه شو ديوانه شو
و اندر دل آتش
درآ پروانه شو پروانه شو
Leave away the deceits oh lovers, become mad become mad,
Enter in the middle of fire, become moth become moth.
These beautiful lines by Mawlana are from the Diwan-e-Shams (# 2131). As is well known, Rumi uses lots of symbolism in his poetry, and these lines of his are not without them.
The first symbol he uses is that of lovers. Presumably, he means whoever is reading these lines. He states that all are lovers in the world, knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly. For example, a person likes to make lots of money, and will do almost anything to acquire it. In reality, that person is in love with money, hence a lover. Similarly, we all are lovers with respect to the objects of our love, whether they are essential or consequential objects in the world. Acquisition of the best objects in the world is innate to all humans, in the sense that we all want to acquire the best things in life, and hence we come to somehow love these ‘best things’ that we want to acquire. Now, the understanding of what the ultimate object of our love is is the essential realization that we should all attain. Since God is the ultimate reality which is above all the things that we can think of in life, it is only He that can be the ultimate object of our love, whether we realize this or not. For some, this is so much true that, according to one thinker, even disbelievers are in need of God for existence and provision (that is, they all are aware deep down that they have been given existence in by God, hence they love God for that unwillingly, and the provision of, for example, vision, intellect, internal senses, and so on, is also granted to them by God almighty, for which they are pleased with God). This is who Rumi has in mind by talking of lovers; i.e., those who have acquired the status of realizing the ultimate object of love – God almighty, the Ultimate Beloved.
After that realization, Rumi then alludes to an in someways more important point i.e., the fact that one shouldn’t be a trickster in his love with God. In other words, he states that to love something fully and actually, one should leave and get rid of all deceits and tricks that one might have in their mind. As stated by another great Muslim poet Attar Nishaburi, “if you are not faithful in love, you are in love with yourself.” Unfaithfulness is understood in his lines as a type of trick or deceit. Such a deceit, when analyzed, is very detrimental to the body and soul since it is not a deception to someone else, but to the very own self of the one who is doing the deceiving. Notice Attar’s wording that that person who is unfaithful in their love (for God) is in fact not in love with God (they subjectively think they are in love) but are in fact in love with themselves. That is why this is a trick to no one but the (so-called) lovers who in fact love nothing else but themselves. If noticed, one of the meanings behind religious activities such as praying, fasting or almsgiving is that it tests the sincerity of a believer, whether the person is a true believer or just a believer by verbal expression. In Qu’ranic terms, the latter is equivalent to being a munafiq i.e., a hypocrite, whose position in the Hereafter is seen as being at the lowest level of Hell. Returning now back to Rumi’s message, to love God then means to fully love Him, and to fully love Him is to fully and properly and completely do the acts He has commanded us to do. And we can only reach that station if we forget about all the deceits that we might have in our mind or are doing. Rumi alludes to his in his lines “Leave away the deceits oh lovers, […].”
After stating our status as lovers and telling us to get rid of all the deceits that we do relative to our Beloved, he tells us to become mad in our love (deewana shaw, deewana shaw – become mad, become mad). This madness (in Persian called diwanagi) is good and positive though. It is acquired when a person is sincere and pure in his love for God. When one becomes a mad in the love of God almighty, nothing else exists for that person except the love between him and his Beloved. As one saintly woman, Rabia al-adhawiyya, stated, at this point of madness “nothing exists between heart and heart” and that is the state Rumi is alluding to in the last part of the first line of his poem.
In the second line, Rumi says that, like moths, we should dive in the middle of the fire and get consumed by it. That is what he sees those who have acquired the status of being mad in the love of God to be doing. This station can only be reached when one fully, with body, heart and soul, contemplates and recognizes their essential activity in life, which is to worship and/or know God. Here, in using the symbolism of the moths (to refer to people), Rumi is perhaps echoing the teachings of Attar, who prior to him, had also used the same symbol in his poetry. Attar divided all people in three categories symbolized by three different kinds of moths all of which are lovers of the fire, which is the object of their love: one category of moths (i.e., people)is the one which, when they approach the fire, say they have found the meaning of love. The other category go further than the first; they touch the fire with their wings, get slightly burned by it and say they have been burnt in the love of fire. Lastly, moths of the third category go even further; because they become intoxicated by the love of fire, dive fully inside the it and get consumed in it. Notice the status of all those moths with respect to us humans: there are people who, on the elementary steps of love think that they are the actual lovers, while they have not even been touched by the inflictions that one would be touched by one love’s road (in the form of trials and tribulations through which God tests us). Similarly, there are those who, after passing most of their trials and tribulations and tests, consider themselves the best lovers of God, while forgetting about the last group, who, in spite of passing the previous two stages mentioned, are non-existent anymore in themselves but are existent only in the love of God (the moths who dive in the middle of the fire). Attar also said that “those who taste, know, [and] those who tell, lie”; this is to say that it is only the last group that actually tastes the real taste of love by being fully encompassed in the love of God, and they do not say anything because they cannot describe that ineffable status in which they are in. While the first two categories, although in love with God, have not fully reached the ultimate station of being a true lover, and hence when they try and describe something of that ineffable reality, it will be ultimately unsuccessful; for they don’t know it because they haven’t been burned in it. But even if they ever do come to know it, because it is ineffable, they will never really be able to describe it.
In saying all this, I hope that I was able to convey at least something, even if very little, of what Rumi might have meant by the above quoted lines of his. Indeed it is a blessing to be a true believer (or a lover), a status which can be acquired only with alot of hard work. But once acquired, the sweetness of its fruits can only be tasted by those who have achieved that station; it cannot be expressed in words since the it transcends the element of language altogether.