Photo: Mosque of Muhammed Ali Pasha. Cairo, Egypt. 1900-1920
Our inner journey is above the sky.
The body travels on its dusty way;
The spirit walks, like Jesus, on the sea.
'Sufi Doctrine of Rumi'
By William Chittick (Author)
The six books of the 'Mathnavi' and the discourses of the 'Fihi Ma Fihi' by the 'Axis of Love', Mawlana Djalal-Al-Din Rumi are like a luminous ocean of sublime poetic gnosis which can easily overwhelm the reader with their surfeit of mystical riches, pre-supposing a deep grasp of Islamic esoterism and an intimate knowledge of the teachings of the Holy Quran. This profound apprehension of the interior dimension of Rumi's Islamic spirituality requires focussed study of authoritative sourceworks in the Tradition - this beautiful treatise by William C. Chittick, originally published in Tehran in 1974, is probably the best introductory resource available in this respect - within a modest compass Chittick elucidates the authentic metaphysical underpinnings of Rumi's poetic vision and illuminates the salient points of Mawlana's Sufi doctrine in a penetrating manner. Sweeping aside both the insipid New Age redactions of Rumi and erroneous imputations of heterodoxy alike, here instead we encounter brilliant expositions of the real teachings of Sufism as the integral kernel of true esoterism transmitted within the Revelation of Islam from its inception (outside the orthodoxy of Islam there can be no legitimacy or validity in respect of Sufism.) The chapter on 'God and the World: "The Infinitude of the All-Possible" conveys ideas of amazing depth, as do the chapters on the Universal Man and the metaphysics of the Fall: incisive explorations of the operative aspects of Sufism open up the doctrines concerning Union with God, the nature of the Nafs, Knowledge and Method and the Limits of Rational Knowledge. That the highly-concentrated substance of this short but profound treatise upon Mevlevi metaphysics is of exceptional quality and authenticity is cause enough for laudation, but it msy also be noted that this is a tome of outstanding visual beauty, adorned with jewel-like miniatures and radiant illuminations from old Persian and Turkish manuscripts and codices of the Mathnavi and richly ornamented with floral motifs, elegant arabesque borders and vignette designs which make it a delight to the eye and the heart-intellect alike. William Chittick's The Sufi Doctrine of Rumi' provides an essential resource for anybody wishing to comprehend the bases of Rumi's teachings, more particularly one firmly grounded in Traditionalist thought, which invests it with a special value and calibre of insight. Seyyed Hossein Nasr's eloquent foreword is also well worth reading (as, one might mention, is Dr Nasr's own short treatise, now difficult to obtain: 'Jalal-al-Din Rumi: Supreme Persian Poet & Sage', also published in Tehran in 1974). All in all this is a work which cannot be commended highly enough. The essential primary introduction to Rumi's ideas and spiritual doctrine, this volume is worthy of close study and contemplation.