Beyond Dogma: Rumi's Teachings on Friendship with God and Early Sufi Theories

Beyond Dogma: Rumi's Teachings on Friendship with God and Early Sufi Theories

Beyond Dogma: Rumi's Teachings on Friendship with God and Early Sufi Theories

Beyond Dogma: Rumi's Teachings on Friendship with God and Early Sufi Theories


Despite Rumi's (d. 1273) recent emergence as a best-selling poet in the English-speaking world, fundamental questions about his teachings, such as the relationship of his Sufi mysticism to the wider Islamic religion, remain contested. In this groundbreaking study, Jawid Mojaddedi reaches to the heart of the matter by examining Rumi's teachings onwalaya(Friendship with God) in light of earlier discourse in the wider Sufi tradition and juridico-theological Islam.Walayais not only central to Rumi's teachings, but forms the basis for the celebration of intimacy, communication with the Divine, and transcendence of conventional religiosity in his poetry. And yetwalayais the aspect of Sufism which has proven the most difficult to reconcile with juridico-theological Islam.

In addition to its focus on Rumi,Beyond Dogmapresents a perceptive analysis of the historical development of the discourse onwalayain the formative centuries of Sufism. This period coincides with the time when juridico-theological Islam rose to dominance, as reflected in the harmonizing efforts of theoretical Sufi writings, especially the manuals of the tenth and eleventh centuries. Mojaddedi's analysis facilitates a nuanced and contextualized evaluation of Rumi's teachings onwalaya,which had already attracted a range of views before his time: from arguments in favor of its superiority to Prophethood, to guarantees of subordinate deference towards the Prophetic heritage interpreted by juridico-theological scholars. In the process,Beyond Dogmaenables a fresh evaluation of the influential early Sufi manuals in their historical context, while also highlighting the significance for juridico-theological scholars of fundamental dogma in the process of consolidating their own dominance.


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

This translation by Coleman Barks of the first verse of a quatrain by Rumi is now one of the favorite lines to quote in the English language, especially at weddings. When it is read in the context of the whole quatrain, it is clear that a wedding may be an appropriate occasion for it to be used, although it refers to a specific kind of wedding: that between God and the mystic in the “field beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing” (or more literally “Islam and unbelief”). While the above translation leaves the nature of the union ambiguous, other translations by Barks expand on this theme, such as the popular example below:

This we have now
is not imagination.
This is not
grief or joy.
Not a judging state,
or an elation,
or sadness.
Those come and go.
This is the Presence that doesn’t.

Whatever objections one might have about the word-for-word accuracy of these contemporary translations by Barks, which were never intended to be literal, anyone familiar with the thirteenth-century Sufi Rumi’s oeuvre will know that the message they convey is representative of it. The celebration of . . .

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