Thursday, August 6, 2009

Goethe and Rumi

In 1917, Iqbal wrote in a newspaper:
Our soul discovers itself when we come into contact with a great mind. It is not until I had realised the infinitude of Goethe’s mind that I discovered the narrow breadth of my own.
In one of the poems of Iqbal, Goethe meets Rumi in heaven and reads his play Faust. Rumi offers feedback. Following is a translation by Mustansir Mir (slightly modified by me).
Jalal and Goethe
In paradise that perceptive German
Happened upon the Master of the East.
Where is a poet of such stature!—
Though not a prophet, he is possessed of scripture!
To the one who knew divine secrets
He read about the pact of the Devil and the doctor.
Rumi said, “You who bring words to life,
And hunt angels—and God—
Your thought has made its home
In the inner recesses of the heart,
And created this old world anew.
At one and the same time in the body’s frame,
You have seen the tranquillity and the restlessness of the soul,
You have been a witness to the birth of the pearl in the shell.
Not everyone knows the secret of love;
Or is fit to reach these portals.
He who is blest, and a confidant, knows
That cunning comes from the Devil and love from Adam.”


  1. JazakAllah! When the translation is so beautiful, how inspiring would be the original!

  2. The following may offer discernment and guidance in working with the powerless. The quotes in " are evidently translations from Goethe:

    'The relation towards nature as the Qur'an presents it connected with the teaching of the kindness and oneness of God - as Goethe writes it down from the Ayats of Sura No. 2 - became the main pillars on which Goethe's sympathy and affinity towards Islam was based. Goethe said we should realize "God's greatness in the small" '

    (My Comment: It strikes me how the love in the small would have to honor giving to the needy...and giving to the needy would have to honor love of and in the small. Also in the references to evil - love would either have to ignore, translate, understand, accept or transmit in some loving way the various aspects of "evil" because they are everywhere more obvious or more "raw" in working and loving the needy)

    (So then to which needy, how, when, who, what...maybe this applies - there are always so many near and far)

    Found this:
    'Goethe is also well known for his rejection of the concept of chance/accident: "What people do not and can not realize in their undertakings and what rules most obviously at its best where their greatness should shine - the chance as they call it later - exactly this is God, who here directly enters and glorifies Himself by the most trifling." '

    (I notice again this reference to the small in that reference to God in the "most trifling")

    And ...When in 1831 the cholera appeared and killed many people he consoled a friend: "Here no one can counsil the other; each one has to decide on his own. We all live in Islam, whatever form we choose to encourage ourselves."

    (I have recently been thinking about the need to "encourage ourselves" rather than to wait for another to come around to do this for us - thus sometimes leading to very complicated, dangerous and misdirected connections - advice, etc. And Goethe's speaking about the need for inner unity and consoling oneself is so appropriate for so many of us today for it's so difficult to work with and help any powerless - needy group or person unless we are at one (in the light) with ourselves...

  3. How much more steeped in Islam was Goethe then!
    The messages of love of the small, every little good or bad that happens, happens for a reason. But we understand not, and are "impatient"
    Reading your posts on Goethe, makes one realize how truly tiny and small we all are, here in this land of the "pure"
    The Words must spread.
    Can we then call Goethe a Sufi? was he a follower of Rumi as well?

  4. This REPUBLIC OF RUMI has fascinated us with the awesome posts from KHURRAM SHAFIQUE and thoughtful, insightful and scintillating comments from the regular commentators specially Connie Nash, her comments just makes one feel so prosperous about the subject and the joy of that we experience is beyond the measure of words.

    Goethe is an immortal artist and like IQBAL, our modern day finest Novelist MILAN KUNDERA has also characterized him in one of his novels IMMORTALITY.

    The novel portrays Goethe and Ernest Hemingway conversing in the afterlife.

    They have a useful confrontation. Hemingway tells GOETHE “You know, Johann, they keep bringing up accusations against me too. Instead of reading my books they are writing books about me”. GOETHE replies “that’s immortality, Immortality means eternal trial.”

  5. Structure of entropy, Connie, Bushra, Farrokh Namazi, Akhtar, Hena, thanks.

    This post has received more feedback than I was expecting. A revival of Goethe in the East is also long overdue. Let's hope that it happens.

  6. Akhtar Sahib,

    I feel the joy with you which is beyond words and at the same thank you for filling in so many missing pieces for us all with your well-informed as well as FELT words. This is a rare feat in a writer...