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Masnavi

The Masnavi or Masnavi-I Ma'navi, also written Mathnawi or Mesnevi, written in Persian by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi, the celebrated Persian Sufi saint and poet, is one of the best known and most influential works of both Sufism and Persian literature. Comprising six books of poems that amount to more than 50,000 lines, it pursues its way through 424 stories that illustrate man's predicament in his search for God.

Description

In his travelogue, the medieval globetrotter Ibn Battuta relates an anecdotal tale pertaining to the Masnavi's composition. In his youth, Rumi served as an instructor in a religious school. One day while he was lecturing to his students, he noticed a sweetmeats vendor pass by. After calling the man in and sampling his wares, Rumi went off with him. When his students subsequently tried to locate their absent instructor, they discovered that he had completely vanished from the neighborhood. Some years later, Rumi reappeared, uttering nothing but rhymed Persian couplets. His students redacted this poetry into the Masnavi.

The title Masnavi-I Ma'navi means "Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning." It is considered by some to be the most important work of Muslim literature other than the Qur'an. Rumi himself referred to the Masnavi as "the roots of the roots of the roots of the (Islamic) Religion." Although the original is still extant, many different versions of the Masnavi are published in Iran, India, and Pakistan.

Parts of the Masnavi were first translated into English by Sir James Redhouse in 1881. Many passages were translated into Latin, as the passages would have been deemed scandalous by his Victorian contemporaries due to the seemingly salacious nature of some of the verses - a common practice in the writing of many Muslim and Christian mystics who employed such allusions to describe their love of God. The first complete translation of the Masnavi into English was published by Reynold A. Nicholson between 1925 and 1940.



 

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