The Noah Project

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Seeking Solace in mysticism

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ISLAMABAD: Tucked away in the library of Kuch Khaas, a group sat to dissect the poetry of 13th century Persian poet Rumi on Tuesday. Known as the “Mathnawi Circle”, the group members gather every week to read out and interpret select verses, forming a story, from “Mathnawi”, one of the sufi saint’s finest pieces.

Shazray Hussain, who moderated the session, has been inclined towards theology, mysticism and spirituality since she was a teenager. Moreover, it was during a recent trip to Konya — Rumi’s birthplace — that this interest was rekindled, as she became a part of the sufi tradition.

Originally transcribed in Persian, the epic poem “The Mathnawi” has been translated into various languages including Urdu and English. It is in these three languages that the participants read out some stanzas at the event. The discussion centred on the story about “The Jewish king who would kill Christians out of his fanaticism”.

The “cross-eyed” king is a foe of Jesus and his followers. He sees Jesus and Moses as different beings when in fact, “prophets were one at heart.” Hussain related the concept of “Tauheed” or Oneness of God, expanding it to individuals. As according to religion and spirituality, all beings are one, everything is interconnected in the universe, she added.

Although the verses depict the king as oppressive, it is actually his cunning vizier who plays the devil’s advocate to rule over the masses.

He is an eloquent turncoat, as discussed at the event, who can hoodwink anyone — be it the king or the oppressed. He “ties knots in water” to outwit a defenceless audience.

The participants agreed that the vizier is symbolic of the deception being fed to society by the powers that be. He could represent anyone from sensationalistic media underdogs to conspiracy theorists. While reading out a line, “Desire can make you cross-eyed in its spell,” a participant said the context reminded her of the former dictator Ziaul Haq.

Some drew parallels between the verses and conflict in current times. The Syrian crisis, sectarian violence within the country and the recent attack on a school bus carrying girls in Balochistan were all touched upon at various points during the evening.

The participants marvelled at the poetry’s relevance, the beauty of language and the precision of thought in the verses. This was the 15th session of the circle that reviews a new story from the book during each sitting.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2013.


Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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