Thomas Aquinas, the Western contemporary of Persian mystic and poet, Rumi, identified Divine love as the medium through which Divine law is executed by human beings, thereby denoting the necessity of love in religion. This essay aims to explain the doctrine of love, as expounded in the verses of Rumi, in relation to the religious order with which he was affiliated, Sufism. Sufism is a separately designated esoteric branch of Islam originating in the East, with its ascetic followers renowned for their spellbound states of rapture. The majority of the original Sufis were public figures in positions of political authority, but attempting to pinpoint an accurate chronological origin for Sufism proves difficult, as the traits which define the Sufis were present even in the earliest centuries of Islam. Nile Green, however, attributes the appearance of Sufism as a collective movement to the ninth century CE, with the earliest Sufis to be the likes of Rabi’ah al-Basriyyah and Ibrahim ibn Adham. The study of Sufism without experience of its devotional practices was classed as deeply restrictive by al-Ghazali, the Muslim intellectual who declared Sufism to be the only manner of understanding the meaning of life. He says, ‘how great a difference there is between your knowing the definition and causes and conditions of health and satiety and your being healthy and sated’ (Path to Sufism, 52). Rumi is now one of the most widely translated poets in the world, his poems are routinely filleted for ‘life-lessons’ which are devoid of their original Sufi context. This essay aims to restore the philosophico-religious context for Rumi’s teachings and explain the significance of his discourse on love with respect to Sufist doctrine.
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