*This article was originally written by my good friend Shahirah and it is about one of my all time favourite book.*
Read the full article here: How I Learned to Love Again: The Forty Rules of Love
What I enjoyed about this book is learning about Rumi and Sham’s journey as individuals and companions. I also liked the way it challenged me to look at people and situations with a different perspective. For instance, even though Rumi was quite happily married he still felt like he had not met his soulmate. It made me realize that a soulmate (or love) can come in various forms. Another is in the account written about Desert Rose, a woman who was forced into a life of prostitution but strongly desired to free herself from it and seek God.
One day, she sneaked out of the brothel to attend one of Rumi’s sermons only to be taunted by a police officer who had recognised her and managed to rally a crowd of other people there to drive her out of the mosque before Shams Tabriz comes to save the day. Shams is quite the superhero figure as he often comes to the rescue when those who are often looked down upon in society are mistreated. He once visited the brothel to check on Desert Rose’s well-being and when confronted by a harlot he defended Desert Rose’s pure intentions.
Rule #18:“Every man is an open book, each and everyone one of us a waking Qur’an. The quest for God is ingrained in the hearts for all, be it a prostitute or a saint. Love exists within each of us from the moment we are born and waits to be discovered from then on. That is what one of the forty rules is all about: The whole universe is contained within a single human being—you. Everything that you see around, including the things you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in varying degrees. Therefore, do not look for Sheitan outside yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary voice within. If you get to know yourself fully, facing with honesty and hardness both your dark and bright sides, you will arrive at a supreme form of consciousness. When a person knows himself or herself, he or she knows God.” – Forty Rules of Love: A Story of Rumi, Elif Shafak
If you are not familiar with Rumi you may be quick to dismiss his work because you might feel uncomfortable about a Muslim scholar who appeared to write endearingly about wine and intoxication in his poems. The “wine” that Rumi spoke of is about a love for Allah that allows us to transcend our ego, the nafs, which is the part of us that goes, “Me, me, me!” or “Look at me! Listen to me! Obey me!”. When our hearts have been neglected or misguided we begin to worship ourselves or more accurately, our hedonistic and carnal desires.
Ideally, our hearts should be so attached and enamoured by our love for God that everything we do is with God-consciousness. This is not to say we should completely abandon all worldly pursuits and start neglecting our wants and needs. Islam that is practiced with ehsan (excellence) will ultimately result in a balanced and healthy human being who leads a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Rule #32: “Nothing should stand between yourself and God. Not imams, priests, rabbis, or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership. Not spiritual masters, not even your faith. Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good. “Stay away from all sorts of idolatry, for they will blur your vision. Let God and only God be your guide. Learn the Truth, my friend, but be careful not to make a fetish out of your truths.” – Forty Rules of Love: A Story of Rumi, Elif Shafak
We may not understand God’s plans for us sometimes and why we are blessed with certain gifts or why we have to endure certain challenges but it is important to remember that everything has its time and purpose. The way He responds to our prayers, whether hastens or delays, it is not to make us feel proud or despair, but to remind us that ultimately, we were created to love and serve Him and His creations in the best ways possible. So if He tests you with with loss and pain remember that they are from the one Who loves us more than our own mothers do: Allah who is ar-Rahman (the Lord of Mercy) and ar-Raheem (the Giver of Mercy). When I learned to increase my good opinion of Allah I began to remember what it meant to love Him sincerely.
Rule #9:“Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be shortsighted as to not able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never runs out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.” – Forty Rules of Love: A Story of Rumi, Elif Shafak