Fundamentals of Rumi’s Thought A Mevlevi Sufi Perspective by Sefik Can (ed. and trans. by Zeki Saritoprak) (New Jersey: The Light, 2004. 317 pages.)

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Mahdi Tourage

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Abstract

Is there room on the shelf for another book about Jalal al-Din Rumi, the
thirteenth-century mystic of Persia? Considering the great depth of his
genius, the answer has to be yes. Sefik Can’s Fundamentals of Rumi’s
Thought is one of the latest books on the subject, and is distinguished from
others in that its author is the current head of the Mevlevi order, the Sufi
order established after Rumi’s death and based on his teachings. In his biography,
the author is introduced as “the most authoritative spiritual figure of
the Order” and “the latest living Mesnevihan (Mesnevi reciter) who
received his ijazah (special certificate in the recitation of the Mesnevi) from
his spiritual master Tahir al-Mevlevi.”
This book thus reflects the Mevlevi tradition as it is understood within
its Turkish milieu today. Neatly organized into four chapters, it deals with
the political and historical background of Anatolia during Rumi’s lifetime
(chapter 1), “Rumi’s Personality and Views” (chapter 2), his influence
(chapter 3), and “Rumi’s Sufi Order and His Approach to Orders” (chapter
4). A short bibliography and an index are also provided.
Throughout many passages, one can feel the author’s love and compassion
for Rumi. His sincerity and enthusiasm compel one to set aside academic
concerns over historical accuracy and critical analysis in order to view
Rumi from a Mevlevi perspective. The book offers insight into a living
devotional approach to Rumi that often translates into an uplifting joy, which
is the hallmark of Rumi’s poems and which has animated the life of many
of his devotees. The reader will benefit from the relevant spiritual insights
offered. The section entitled “Beauty” is a good example of explaining
Rumi’s views and relating them to contemporary experiences. The author
writes:
According to Rumi, beauty takes us from ourselves, frees us from the
prison of the body, and brings us closer to another realm, to God. Thus we
find God within the impact of the fine arts on sensitive people. (p. 191)
The heart of this book is chapter 2, which features the author’s interpretations
of Rumi’s personality and views (pp. 97-246). Although a small portion
of this chapter is devoted to Rumi’s life and characteristics, most of it ...

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