Consider it a gift from God that you have experienced afflictions in love’s quarters!
– fromKulliyyat-i Shams (Divan-i Kabir)by Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-73)
Catchy poetic quotationsfrom the ecstatic love poetry of Rumi – purportedly, the bestselling poet of recent decades in the United States – are everywhere these days. They pepper speeches at weddings, are tattooed across the bodies of celebrities, and adorn greeting cards and the walls of retreat centres, providing comfort to brokenhearted lovers and spiritual seekers alike. Contemporary readers often misunderstand Rumi’s poetry and the Islamic spiritual context from which it emerged due to a potent mixture of highly problematic translations of his poems (the one above, and those that follow, are my own work) and the seemingly endlessappropriationof his image in the modern ‘mystical marketplace’. Equally serious, though, are the misinterpretations (committed by fans and scholars alike) of the animating force…
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