Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rumi and the Mongols..................

     Yet as Genghis Khan was establishing his brutish militarist state in Central Asia - an absolute threat to the religion of Islam - curiously resilient were the mystical practices of Sufism, already established in the western provinces and revivified by those Khorasni immigrants, including Baha Valad and his family.  Sufi lodges became welcome cultural outposts of refinement, where sheikhs, or spiritual leaders, offered messages of hope and transcendence, friendship and love, as well as musical concerts, poetry, and dance, evoking rapture.  Sufi orders, loosely similar to Western religious orders, were beginning to multiply and would become more formalized in the next decades and centuries.  As the German Middle East scholar Annemarie Shimmel summed up the contrast:  "This period of the most political disaster was, at the same time, a period of highest religious and mystical activity."
     The full force of the Mongol campaigns would be concentrated in two aggressive phases - the first, the conquest of Central Asia, and the second, commandeered by the grandsons of Genghis Khan, marked by excursions into the Middle East and Anatolia in the 1250s.  A newly configured world map spread contiguous Mongol-controlled territories from Korea to Hungary.  From the age of ten until his death, Rumi coped with the turmoil caused by this churning realpolitik of the Mongols.  Yet either ignoring, or because of, the pain and suffering caused to his family and community, as an adult, Rumi stuck resolutely to his surety of an "invisible hand" in these dark historical events: 

          While everyone flees from the Tatars
               We serve the Creator of the Tatars

He framed the issue even more starkly for his circle, often immigrants from Khorasan, writing, "If you are afraid of the Tatars, you don't believe in God."

-Brad Gooch, Rumi's Secret:  The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love

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