Would Rumi feel shocked or amused by the popularity of his writing in the world?
I think he predicted it. And this is another interesting dilemma, because some European scholars have watched the wide spread of Sufism from its earliest private circles into these mass public followings often associated with pilgrimage shrines, and see this as a decline from original purity into crude vulgarization. It’s kind of a Protestant attitude – when you look at the language of these scholars it’s very apparent their anti-Catholic bias became the lens to interpret this phenomenon. Even so, the astonishing popularity of Sufism over the centuries is well documented.
But Rumi says at the beginning of the Masnavi a line I’ll never forget: “Everyone became my friend from his own opinion.” And then, “But he did not seek the secrets that are within me.” He’s talking about the challenge, the impossibility of communicating the insights, the encounters, the experiences to which he repeatedly drew attention in his work. His literary output is vast, but always he retreated into silence, saying the thing is impossible to express. He was well aware people might not get the full meaning. He wouldn’t be surprised.
Photo Aaron Huey
Read the full interview in Issue 86 SUFI