The classical Persian poet
is actually one of the best-selling poets in America. Rumi's
beautiful stories and passionate mysticism have earned him
a wide following among believers of many faiths. Many of his
poems are based on traditional folktales, which he then interprets
in spiritual terms. If you want to learn something about Islam,
I recommend this unit to you very highly. Very often people
try to read the Koran, but they find it off-putting and difficult
to understand (just as a book like Leviticus might
be baffling to someone not already familiar with Judaism or
Christianity). Rumi's poetry, on the other hand, is very accessible,
while still being permeated with Islamic belief and tradition.
Here are some quotes:
Listen to this, and hear the mystery inside: a snakecatcher
went into the mountains to find a snake. He wanted a friendly
pet, and one that would amaze audiences, but he was looking
for a reptile, something that has no knowledge of friendship.
It was winter. In the deep snow he saw a frighteningly huge
dead snake. He was afraid to touch it, but he did. In fact
he dragged the thing into Baghdad, hoping people would pay
to see it...
For the man who saved the bear from the dragon's mouth,
the bear became a sort of pet. When he would lie down to
rest, the bear would stand guard. A certain friend passed
by, "Brother how did this bear get connected to you?"
You're a wild Ocean-Duck that has been raised with chickens!
Your true mother lived on the Ocean, but your nurse was a
domestic land-bird. Your deepest soul-instincts are toward
the Ocean. Whatever land-moves you have you learned from your
nurse, the hen. It's time now to join the ducks! Your nurse
will warn you about saltwater, but don't listen! The Ocean's
your home, not that stinking henhouse.
For those of you are interested
in some good old-fashioned adventure stories, you might want
to read the The
Seven Voyages of Sinbad which is a selection
from The Arabian Nights. The stories
of Sindbad are based on Persian, Indian, Arabic and Greek
folktale traditions - you will even get to see Sindbad fight
and defeat a one-eyed cyclops, just like the Greek hero Odysseus.
Sindbad and Odysseus actually have a great deal in common:
Sindbad is constantly getting shipwrecked, but always managing
to come out on top because of his quick-thinking and fearlessness.
Each time he comes back home to Baghdad laden with treasures
and riches, but he always decides to set sail again, trying
his luck just one more time.
Suddenly it fell dark, something like a huge black cloud
came swiftly over me, and I saw with amazement that it was
a bird of extraordinary size which was hovering near. Then
I remembered that I had often heard the sailors speak of a
wonderful bird called a roc, and it occurred to me that the
white object which had so puzzled me must be its egg...
There appeared a vast multitude of hideous savages,
not more than two feet high and covered with reddish fur.
Throwing themselves into the waves they surrounded our vessel.
Chattering meanwhile in a language we could not understand,
and clutching at ropes and gangways, they swarmed up the
ship's side with such speed and agility that they almost
seemed to fly...
When night came I fell asleep, but only to be awakened
once more by the terrible snake, which after hissing horribly
round the tree at last reared itself up against it, and finding
my sleeping comrade who was perched just below me, it swallowed
him also, and crawled away leaving me half dead with terror.
When the sun rose I crept down from the tree with hardly a
hope of escaping the dreadful fate which had over-taken my