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Excerpt from Secrets and Mysteries (1915-17)

The following excerpt from Secrets and Mysteries (1915-17) by Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) depicts the famous first meeting between Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (19207-73) and his mentor Shams Tabriz. Iqbal must have been aware of the weak authenticity of this story, especially since the issue was discussed by Shibli Nomani in Savaneh Mevlana Rumi (1907) but it seems that he chose to use it as a parable for making his point.

Left: Illustration by Tabassum Khalid. © 2006 Iqbal Academy Pakistan.


Rumi meets Shams Tabriz

I say over to you the message of the Sage of Rum: “Knowledge, if it lies on your skin, is a snake; Knowledge, if you take it to heart, is a friend.”

Have you heard how the Master of Rum gave lectures on philosophy at Aleppo? Fast in the bonds of intellectual proofs, drifting o'er the dark and stormy sea of understanding; a Moses un-illumined by Love's Sinai, ignorant of Love and of Love's passion. He discoursed on Scepticism and Neoplatonism, and strung many a brilliant pearl of metaphysics. He unraveled the problems of the Peripatetic, the light of his thought made clear whatever was obscure. Heaps of books lay around and in front of him, and on his lips was the key to all their mysteries.

Shams i Tabriz, directed by Kamal, sought his way to the college of Jalaluddin Rumi and cried out, “What is all this noise and babble? What are all these syllogisms and judgments and demonstrations?” “Peace, O fool!” Exclaimed the Maulvi, “Do not laugh at the doctrines of the sages. Get out of my college!
This is argument and discussion; what have you to do with it? My discourse is beyond your understanding. It brightens the glass of perception!”

These words increased the anger of Shams i Tabriz and caused a fire to burst forth from his soul. The lightning of his look fell on the earth, and the glow of his breath made the dust spring into flames. The spiritual fire burned the intellectual stack and clean consumed the library of the philosopher.

The Maulvi, being a stranger to Love's miracles and unversed in Love's harmonies, cried, “How did you kindle this fire, which has burned the books of the philosophers?” The Shaykh answered, “O unbelieving Muslim, this is vision and ecstasy: what have you to do with it? My state is beyond your thought, my flame is the Alchemist's elixir.”

You have drawn your substance from the snow of philosophy. The cloud of your thought sheds nothing but hailstones. Kindle a fire in your rubble, foster a flame in your earth!


Based on translation by A. R. Nicholson (1920)

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