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Rumi and his Indian Disciple
Rhyme and Reason
Ibrahim Shehzad

Pīr -i Rūm, Murīd-i Hindī

Lying in close proximity, the dust from either corpse smells of the other.1 It is as though the two with their spiritual bond – one which brought two souls from across six centuries2 of temporal separation together will be one for all times to come – the pīr -i Rūm in unison with his Murīd-i Hindī in fulfillment of “… kas na guyad ba‘d az īn, man dīgaram tū dīgarī3” (Nobody may say thereafter, I am one and you are another).

“The spirit of Rūmī rent the veils asunder and appeared from behind a mountain. His face shone like the sun; in his old age was the freshness of youth. Upon his lips was the hidden secret of being, and he let flow out his words and sound. His speech was like a suspended mirror and his knowledge in unison with the inner fire (Iqbāl qtd. in Irfani 7).” Thus explains Muhammad Iqbāl the impact of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī on his own thought and work. For him, Rūmī was the pir (master) and himself a murīd (disciple) at his service, a speck of dust yearning to acquire the splendor of the sun and the moon.4 It is astounding to note just how much Iqbāl’s work echoes with Rūmī’s voice and the deep seated influence the pīr had on his murīd. It is as if the dam (breath) in Iqbāl’s nay (reed flute) is from Rūmī, a case of “yak dihān pinhān ast dar labhā’ay way (Rūmī 32).” (A mouth that speaks from his mouth)

For Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, ‘ishq is the beat of life, the essence of existence and the elixir of immortality. In Rūmī’s realm, ‘ishq is the highest form of love; to him, the transient, sentimental attachment between men and women is not worthy of being termed ‘ishq (Qaiser 58). Instead, for Mawlānā, ‘ishq is strictly the yearning of the self to reunite with its source, God: “Choose the love of that Living One who is everlasting, who gives thee to drink of the wine that increases life. Choose the love of Him from whose love all the prophets gained power and glory (Qaiser 59).”

Mawlānā calls ‘ishq the driving force behind man’s growth and evolution, an impulse which is at work behind every action in one’s life (Qaiser 60). The fact that he begins his Mathnawī-i Ma‘nawī by talking of the power of ‘ishq is indicative of the high status he accorded to its might and power. He calls it the tabīb-i jumlah ‘illat hā’ay mā (the physician that cures all our illnesses) (Rūmī 33) and aflātūn-o jālinūs-ie mā (The source of all our knowledge (literally: our Plato and Galen)) (Rūmī 33). He rests in ‘ishq the power to elevate the earthly body to the heavens and into the presence of the Divine.  To him, an existence deprived of the radiance of ‘ishq is the darkest of deaths:


Ātish ast in bāng-i nay-u nīst bād

Har kih in ātish nah dārad nīst bād (Rūmī 32)

(The lament of the reed flute emanates from fire (of ‘ishq ); he who is without this fire has met death.)


Iqbāl adapts Rūmī’s concept of ‘ishq into his own work and makes it a central feature of it. Indeed, doing justice to the mantle of discipleship he took up from his pīr , he adds to this concept. In his Asrār-i Khudī, he describes ‘ishq as the passion to realize one’s values and ideals (Qaiser 60). Further, in the Jāvīd Nāmah, he writes:


‘ishq sultān ast wa burhān-i mubīn

har dū ‘ālam ishq ra zayr-i nagīn (Iqbāl qtd. in Qaiser 61).

(This world and the hereafter bear testimony to the power of ‘ishq - its domain extends over both worlds.)


Moreover, in a breathtaking sequence of verses in his immortal poem Masjid-i Qartabah Iqbāl glorifies ‘ishq as being the radiance of life, the “mainstay of Gabriel,” the essence of Mustafa (sws) and a tempest so powerful that it diverts even the merciless tempest of time (“Masjid-i Qartabah”).

The dichotomy between ‘ishq and intellect is a distinct feature of both Rūmī’s and Iqbāl’s poetry. Both poets acknowledge the importance of intellect recognizing it as one of the most important factors in man’s development. In fact, Rūmī and Iqbāl both appear to advocate a synthesis of intellect and ‘ishq and even call ‘ishq a higher form of intellect. It is, however, intellect that is divorced from ‘ishq that receives unequivocal condemnation in the works of both poets. Rūmī calls this intellect an inspiration from Satan (Qaiser 77). For Iqbāl, where ‘ishq produces marvels and miracles, mere intellect or ‘aql can only watch and gasp in amazement. He describes ‘ishq as being Abraham’s (sws) inspiration and the source of all his courage:


Bay khatar kūd parā ātish-i namrūd mayn ‘ishq

Aql hay mahv-i tamāshah-i lab-i bām abhī (Iqbāl qtd. in Qaiser 80)


While ‘ishq (Abraham) jumped undaunted into Nimrod’s fire, ‘aql (mere intellect) could only watch from afar.

In Iqbāl’s realm, ‘aql is all worldly and utilitarian while ‘ishq epitomizes a lack of greed and fearlessness and is therefore the real asset of a true believer who bows to nobody except God (Qaiser 80). For Iqbāl, Rūmī was the quintessential ‘āshiq and he repeatedly refers to Mawlānā’s role in unveiling to him the essence of ‘ishq :


Suhbat-i pīr -i rūm say mujh pay huwa yih rāz fāsh

Lākh hakīm sar ba jayb, ayk kalīm sar ba kaff (“Mir-e-Sipah,” lines 9-10)

(T’is I gleaned from the master of Rūm, a single ‘āshiq is worth a million sages.)

Rūmī and Iqbāl, both go to great lengths to emphasize the need for junbish (endeavor) in a believer’s life while vehemently condemning inactivity and passiveness. For Rūmī:


Koshish-i bīhūdah bih az khuftagī (Rūmī qtd. Qaiser 84)

([Even] a vain struggle is better than lying motionless.)


To Rūmī, even inherited wealth is a curse because gaining access to it entails no effort. He describes how it does not remain sincere to its beneficiary who does not know its true value because he never worked for it. The same thought appears to echo in Iqbāl’s work who describes the son who lives on inherited wealth as being no more than a beggar (Qaiser 85). To Iqbāl, endeavor is so essential to life that majnūn, the proverbial lover must continue striving even after he finds company with his beloved Laylā because for him inactivity and contentment will spell death. He describes how in every serene stream rests the potential to become a tempestuous river and therefore until that potential is realized, action and effort is imperative (“Sultān Tipū ki Wasīyat,” lines 2-4). The impact Rūmī had on Iqbāl in this regard becomes amply clear in Iqbāl’s pīr -u murīd where he addresses Rūmī and asks him what the key to a respectable living is and Rūmī tells him that the essence of life is in constantly being on the gallop like a horse and not like a coffin which needs other people’s shoulders to carry its burden (Iqbāl 14). It remains no secret thereafter that Iqbāl’s theory with regards to action and endeavor was inspired in large part by Rūmī. He acknowledges Rūmī’s influence when he says: “I came from the tavern intoxicated without a sip from the cup, in the station of negation I was intoxicated with affirmation. It is time that I make wine from Rūmī’s cellar available. I saw the sages of Harem intoxicated in the courtyard of the church (Iqbāl qtd. in Qaiser 90)”. It is worth noticing at this point that Iqbāl rests in Rūmī’s poetry the power to shatter the darkness of ignorance and bring people back to the right path. It comes as no surprise then that Iqbāl chose none other than Rūmī to be his pīr -u murshid (master). He even advises his readers to follow his lead in making Rūmī their guide:


Zī asha‘ār-i Jalāl al-dīn Rūmi

Ba dīwār-i harīm-i dil ba awīz

(By the verses of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, decorate the wall of your heart’s dwelling.) (Iqbāl qtd. in Qaiser 91)


The concept of faqr forms an integral part of mystical thought. The use of faqr in Mawlānā’s work is in a strictly idiomatic sense and his concept of faqr stands out from the faqr of other mystics in that it does not set material poverty as a necessary condition for the state of faqr. Instead, here it refers to an attitude where one is dispossessed of the desire for worldly wealth and embodies moral purity (Qaiser 100). For Mawlānā, faqr is a characteristic of the quintessential man. To Iqbāl, this concept of faqr was so inspiring that he seems to have incorporated it into his work verbatim. Indeed he goes on to acknowledge this when he says:


Za Rūmī gīr asrār-i faqīrī

Kih ān faqr ast mihsūd-i amīrī

(Learn the secrets of faqīrī from Rūmī for his faqr is the envy of riches.) (Iqbāl qtd. in Qaiser 101)


Expounding on this concept, he describes faqr as being indistinct from ‘ishq in that both epitomize submission to the Beloved-God.  He calls faqr the struggle for the purity of heart and vision (Qaiser 103). He describes it as being the “kingdom of the ahl-i dil” (passionate people) (“Masjid-i Qartabah,” lines 87-88). It is worth noticing here that faqr for Rūmī and Iqbāl does in no way entail a renunciation of life and society or an escape from the trials and tribulations of life in any other way. In fact Rūmī describes the faqr characterized by renunciation as being the misdirected faqr of Christian monks (Iqbāl 14).

Since faqr is one of the most important aspects of mysticism, it is enlightening to realize here that Rūmī and Iqbāl present through their respective works, a different approach to mysticism where man does not turn his back to the world but lives in it as a being which is continuously jostling for a deeper relation with God through his interaction with His creation and people. Iqbāl even goes to the extent of describing faqr that is characterized by reclusiveness and renunciation as being the faqr of a kāfir (infidel). For him, “The passivity of the ascetic is repugnant to the spirit of faqr (Iqbāl qtd. in Qaiser 112).” To both Iqbāl and Rūmī, the ultimate goal of faqr is to become like Muhammad (sws) and his companions. Iqbāl elucidates:


Dārā-u Sikandar say wūh mard-i faqīr awlā.

Ho jis kī faqīrī mayn bū’ay asadullāhī (“Jab,” lines 9-10)

(Superior is his kingdom to that of the greatest of conquerors, he whose faqr reflects the being of ‘Alī (rta))


The predestination versus free will debate has for ages remained a central feature of Islamic theological discourse. Rūmī in his capacity as a mantle bearer of Islamic theology makes due mention of this debate in his poetry and gives his own worthy view on the topic. In his work overall, he appears to adopt a golden mean and does not favor either extreme. He believes that man though bound to an extent by the forces of nature possesses free will nonetheless as well as the ability to choose between right and wrong which is what makes him accountable to God. He presents, in his work, a series of remarkable arguments refuting both determinism and the notion of undetermined free will: “Determinism in the case of free will is out of question for the soul without free will is not a soul (Rūmī qtd. in Qaiser 36),” he says. Further:

Nay, (the Divine) destiny is a fact and slave’s exertion is a fact; beware do not be blind of one eye, like the tatterdemalion Iblīs (Satan). Can there ever be in my head such a dilemma as this (namely): “Shall I walk on the sea or shall I fly aloft?” (No), there is only this (kind of) vacillation (namely): “Shall I go to Mosul for trade or shall I go to Babylon for (the study of) magic?” (Rūmī qtd. in Qaiser 39)

Elaborating on his own resolution of the matter – the golden mean, he writes: “The Prophets said: “Yes: He hath created some qualities from which it is impossible to withdraw one’s self. And He hath (also) created qualities (which are only) accidental, so that a hated person becomes acceptable (Rūmī qtd. in Qaiser 39).”

Without delving in dense philosophical jargon, Mawlānā appears to resolve the whole issue with astounding ease. Not only do his arguments make a lot of sense but the use of poetry and symbolism makes them easily comprehendible also. To Rūmī, none but Satan is an advocate of determinism who attributes his original sin to God (Qaiser 42). It must also be borne in mind that Rūmī believes that one can only do true justice to free will by developing one’s self and by striving to move  from one’s own disposition to the disposition of God. This struggle eventually leads man to the pinnacle of existence which is when he becomes a true embodiment of divine grace. It is then that he acquires complete free will. Iqbāl who subscribes to Rūmī’s view on the matter describes this state of existence in the following immortal verses:


Khudī ko kar buland itnā kih har taqdīr say pahlay

Khudā banday say khud pūchay batā tayrī razā kiyā hay (“Khirad,” lines 3-4)

(Elevate thy self to a level where God’s decree becomes subject to thy will.)


The pīr ’s role in elucidating this matter to his Murīd becomes obvious in another exchange between the two in Iqbāl’s pīr -u Murīd where Mawlānā responds to Iqbāl’s question about free will and predestination by saying: “Wings carry falcons to the king, wings carry crows to the graveyard.” (Rūmī qtd. in Qaiser 47)

Here too, Mawlānā presents his case in a most breath taking manner. Wings here symbolize the constraints imposed by nature; that is, a falcon or a crow cannot choose between having wings and not having them. In so far as having wings is concerned, both are bound by predestination. However, in so far as the utility of these wings is concerned, both possess free will. The falcons use them to soar high towards God while the crows use them to dwell at low, mundane places. Therefore, with the free will that they possess, both breeds decide on the type of existence they want. It is this choice of existence which is a corollary of free will what makes man, according to Mawlānā, accountable to God.

Mawlānā stands out as being perhaps the biggest proponent of free will among mystical poets (Dr. Khalīfah ‘Abd al-Hakīm qtd. in Qaiser 47). It was therefore logical in this regard also that Iqbāl, a man who viewed action, struggle and endeavor as being essential for any sort of existence should choose him to be his pīr -u murshid.

To Rūmī, the soul represents the transcendental self whose origin and essence is God in that it has no existence apart from the existence of God. Iqbāl who uses the word khudī for this transcendental self, elucidates on this concept in the following, impeccably rhymed verses of his Armaghān-i Hijāz:


Khudi rā az wujūd-i haqq wujūdī

Khudā rā az namūd-i haqq namūdī

Nāmi dānam kih in tābindah guhar

Kujā būday agar daryā nabūdi. (Iqbāl qtd. in Qaiser 8) 

(The soul has its existence in God, its appearance from God – where else could this splendid pearl have manifested itself.)


The dilemma, however, is that this soul, which in its essence is comparable to an infinitely pure mirror of divine attributes, has rust struck on it as a result of the interplay of the nafs (man’s baser self) and man’s base ego wherewith he gets caught up in the process of trying to amass worldly fortune and repute. His utmost purpose in life becomes seeking external, bodily adornment whilst turning a blind eye towards development of his inner self. He loses sight of his potential and transient, immaterial things become his raison d’être-the falcon gives up its unbounded flight and audience with the Divine and settles in low grounds. Rūmī alludes to this existence regularly throughout his work and calls for an escape from this mundane state. He describes how the perfect man or the Insān-i Kāmil epitomizes transcendence from this state through his submission to the Divine. He is so engrossed in his love for the Divine that his whole existence revolves around his effort to acquire a favorable disposition in the sight of God. He loses his desire for worldly preeminence and his concern for the norms of space and time. He becomes bi rang-u bi nishān (colorless and formless) with regards to his corporeal existence-the drop of water acquires subsistence in the infinitely vast Divine sea. Thereafter, the lover acts through the Beloved – his actions become the actions of God. This state defines Rūmī’s view on the mystical concepts of fanā and baqā. As Iqbāl describes:

To Rūmī, fāna means the annihilation of those experiences which bar the revealing of the real self. It is the cleansing of one’s consciousness from fictions, idols and untruth and purifying the heart of greed, envy, jealousy, grief and anger so that it regains its original quality of becoming mirror-like to reflect the reality within it. Only after this state does the self reach the state of baqā (Iqbāl qtd. in Qaiser 29).

Mawlānā expounds on this state of being in the following verses: “Such a non-existent one who hath gone from himself (become selfless) is the best of being and the great (one among them). He hath passed away (fanā) in relation to (the passing away of his attributes in) the Divine attributes, (but) in passing away (from selfhood) he really hath the life everlasting (baqā).” (Qaiser 31)

It is important to note here that Rūmī, in his definition of fanā and baqā, departs from the conventional definitions of these two states. He does not regard it as being an annihilation of the self but rather a substitution of baser human qualities with grander, Divine qualities. For Mawlānā, the awliyā (saints) are in fact the afrād-i kāmil (the perfect men) and he describes their virtues throughout his work. It is about these people that he writes:


Dil farāz-i arsh bāshad nay bah past (Iqbāl 16)

(The heart is in the empyrean and nowhere else.)


He describes them as being able to perform karāmāt (miracles); as being able to turn dust to gold, infidelity to religion and even poison to honey. They have access to the treasures of the empyrean and their hand in every affair is the hand of God. Since they subsist in God, not even corporeal death can cause them to die.

In Iqbāl’s realm, the mard-i qalandar embodies khudī in its quintessential form. He transcends the limitations of time and space and breaks free from the shackles of fear and uncertainty. He attains an existence epitomized by assurance, courage and faqr. Iqbāl appears to draw from Rūmī in stating that no annihilation can ever beset this perfect self and that the quintessential khudī holds its own even in the state of fanā when it is faced with the very essence of God. He writes: “It is not the goal of our journey to merge ourselves in His ocean. If you catch hold of him, it is not fanā (extinction). It is impossible for an ego to be absorbed in another ego. For the ego to be itself is its perfection… The end of the ego’s quest is not emancipation from the limitations of individuality; it is on the other hand, a more precise definition of it; (Qaiser 31)” and further: “That man alone is real who dares – dares to see God face to face. No one can stand unshaken in His presence. And he who can, verily, he is pure gold.” (Qaiser 31)

Iqbāl’s ideal of the perfect man or the mard-i qalandar serves to expound on Rūmī’s insān-i kāmil since the two are just different names for an existence that epitomizes the complete self-the perfect khudī. For Iqbāl, the heart of the qalandar is no less than God’s empyrean for it is here that God resides. He further writes:

The hand of God is the hand of the perfect man, which is triumphant, effectual, resourceful [and] skillful. [He possesses] the traits of both man and angel and the attributes of the Lord; his heart, though carefree, is richer than the two worlds. His expectations are few, his objectives are sublime; his style is irresistible, his sight is captivating. [He’s] soft while conversing, passionate while in action; be it the battlefield or a social gathering [he’s always] pious and orderly. His faith is the focal point of Truth and the rest of the cosmos is illusion, sorcery and unreal. He’s the destination of reason, he is the output of love; he’s is the warmth of the assemblage in the circuit of the cosmos. (“Masjid-i Qartabah,” lines 74-85)

As in other parts of his work, Rūmī’s influence on this particular section of Iqbāl’s thought is also well apparent.

Rūmī, with his splendor, grandeur and magnificence was the glorious sun; Iqbāl, as it were, an antechamber to it. Having firmly grounded most sections of his thought in Rūmī’s work, Iqbāl, with his seemingly simpler, more orderly and at times more coherent poetry (Qaiser 284), opens our way to not only an understanding of Rūmī but to an active relationship with his message. He is the sāqī (cup bearer) where Rūmī’s work is bādah-i khām (raw wine), the jurist where Rūmī’s message is jurisprudence, the mirror where Rūmī’s poetry is Joseph, Rūmī where Rūmī’s ecstasy is Shams.


wallahū a‘lam bi al-thawāb

(And only God knows best)


Works Cited

Irfānī, ‘Abd al-Hamīd. The Sayings of Rūmī and Iqbāl. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Lahore: Research Society of Pakistan, 1986. Print.

Iqbāl, Muhammad. pīr -u Murīd. Lahore: R.R Printers, 1988. Print.

“jab ‘shq sikhātā hay ādāb-i khudā gāhī.” Allāmah Iqbāl Poetry. Web. 20 Apr. 2012.  <

“khirad mandūn say kiyā pūchūn kih mayrī ibtadā kiyā hay” Allama Iqbal Poetry. Web. 20 Apr. 2012.  <>

“Masjid-i Qartabah.” All Poetry. Web. 22 Apr. 2012.

“Masjid-i Qartabah.” Allama Iqbal Poetry. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <>

“mīr-i-sipāh nā sāzā.” Allāmah Iqbāl Poetry. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <>

Qaiser, Dr. Nazir. Rūmī’s Impact on Iqbāl’s Religious Thought. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Lahore: Iqbāl Academy Pakistan, 2004. Print.

Rūmī, Jalāl al-Dīn. Mathnawī-i Ma‘nawī. Vol. 1. Lahore: Hāmid & Co, 1991. Print.

“Sultān Tīpū kī wasīyat.” Allāmah Iqbāl Poetry. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <>



(A list of sources referred to in addition to the above)

Hassan, Riffat. “Iqbāl’s Ideal Person and Rūmī’s Influence.” Oct. 1983. Web. 23 Mar. 2012.

Hussayn, Imrān Liāquat. Rūmī-u Iqbāl dar hikmat-i Qur’ān. 1st ed. Karachi: Kafāyat Academy, 1986. Print.

Chughtā’ī, Akram. pīr -u Rūmī-u Murīd-i Hindī. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Lahore: Sang-i Mīl 2004.  Print.













1. An allusion to the existence of Iqbāl’s symbolic grave right beside Mawlānā Rūmī’s in Konya, Turkey.

2. Iqbāl was born almost six hundred years (1877 CE) after Rūmī’s death (1273 CE).

3. An oft-repeated Persian –mystical quote usually attributed to Amīr Khusrū (1253 CE-1325 CE). This and all subsequent translations that are not cited are the writer’s own.

4. “khāk kay zarray ku mahr o māh kar” is Iqbal’s plea to Rūmī in Iqbal’s own “pīr -o Murīd.”(Iqbal 12)

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