Welcome to the electronic school of Masnavi studies!
The Masnavi is the great masterpiece of Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the most popular poet in America -- after more than 700 years! The Masnavi consists of mainly of sufi teaching stories with profound mystical interpretations. It contains thousands of rhyming couplets (a type of poetry called, in Arabic, "mathnawî") and is a treasury of religious mysticism of a most sublime quality -- which is why it has been so famous and well-loved for so many centuries.
Dar-al-Masnavi.org is the activity of the American Institute of Masnavi Studies (AIMS) on the Internet. At present (August, 2001), it is the only activity of the Institute (although it would be wonderful someday to have a physical building, acquire a library, etc.-- God willing). The Institute is affiliated with the International Hazrat-i Mevlânâ Foundation, in Istanbul, Turkey. The president of the Foundation is the hereditary and actual world leader of the Mevlevi order--the 33rd Chelebi Efendi, Faruk Hemdem Chelebi, the 22nd generation great-grandson of Hazrat-i Mevlânâ Jalâluddîn Rûmî.
"Dar al-Masnavi" (literally, "house, or abode, of the Masnavi") is the traditional name for a study center dedicated to studying Rumi's great masterpiece of Islamic sufism.
[This Arabic term may also be transliterated as Dâru 'l-Mathnawî, Dâru 'l-MaSnawi, Daaru 'l-Masnavi, Dar al-Mesnevi, darülmesnevi.]
Historically, such study houses have been founded by wealthy patrons of the Mevlevi ("Whirling Dervish") order, which has preserved and disseminated the spiritual teachings of Rumi for over 700 years.
[The term "Mevlevi" may also be transliterated as Mawlawî, Mawlawi, Maulawi, Môlavî, Molavi, Mowlavi, Mewlewi, Mawlawiyya]
[Rumi's name may also be transliterated as Mawlânâ Jalâlu 'd-dîn Rûmî, Mowlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi; in addition, he is called Môlâvî /Molavi/Maulavi in Iran, Môlânâ Rûm/Maulana Rum in India and Pakistan, and Mawlânâ-yé Balkhî in Afghanistan].
The translated selections from the Masnavi presented on this website are the first to be presented in accurate and readable American English together with explanations of the meanings of Rumi's verses. They have been made from the original Persian (based on the earliest manuscript of the Masnavi), and could not have been done without the help of the British scholar R. A. Nicholson's highly accurate literal translation, completed in 1934 (for which the present Translator is deeply grateful). Each selection also includes a full transliteration of the original Persian, so that anyone not familiar with Persian can see the rhymes of the couplets (and, with some practice, may be able to sound out the general rhythm of the lines). Nicholson made great labors to write his two volumes of commentary on his translation of the Masnavi, but few lovers of Rumi's poetry are aware of their existence (they are not sold separately in bookstores, but as part of the entire 8-volume set of Nicholson's work, including the three volumes of Persian text-- something available only in a few libraries or ordered privately from the publisher). In addition, the translations on this website are also the first to include explanations of Rumi's verses from the most famous commentary on the Masnavi ever written-- that of the 17th century Ottoman Turkish Mevlevi scholar, Anqaravi. These explanations have been translated by the present Translator into English from a Persian translation of the Ottoman text.
If you are someone who has become attracted to Rumi's poetry through reading the various popular English renditions of his poetry, you should know that there is an important difference between popular "versions" and accurate translations of his poetry.
The popular versions have done a wonderful job of making Rumi's poetry so popular and beloved during the last fifteen years. However, because they are made by individuals who do not know Persian (who base their interpretations on literal translations made by others), they are filled with serious misunderstandings, distortions, and omissions, as well as fabrications of lines (presented as Rumi's verses, when they are the ideas of the version-makers). They are presented misleadingly to the public (on book covers, in newspaper and magazine articles, and by word-of-mouth as "Rumi translations."
If you are interested in a more accurate understanding of Rumi's words and teachings (as can best be conveyed in American English, with the limitations of the present Translator) you will need to work at it. You are strongly encouraged to make determined and consistent efforts to study the translations of, and commentaries upon, Rumi's poetry on this website. Your efforts will be richly rewarded as you gain clearer understandings, over time, of Rumi's poetic metaphors, scriptural references, and mystical teachings.
Please feel free to respond, any time, to what you have read by sending a post to the Discussion Board of this website, or by sending a communication by e-mail.
Much work has gone into formating each translation so that the reader can easily reach the explanatory notes. Just click on a particular footnote number link, read the note, remember the number of the note, then click back to the previous frame where you left off. If you are using MS Explorer, a box will appear around a particular footnote number after you have clicked on the link, and this makes it expecially easy to find where you left off in the translation.
Some people may prefer to print the translation and then print the notes separately in order to study that way.
This is a picture of Rumi's tomb in Konya, Turkey (photographer: ahanshah Javid, editor of Iranian.com).
Hanging on the wall in the center above his tomb is a calligraphy with a blue background, that is also duplicated in Persian script on the bottom of the page. These words are in Arabic, and are addressed to the spirit of Rumi: "yâ HaZrat-i mawlânâ" -- literally, "O Venerable Master-of-ours!" The title, "Our Master," ("Mawlânâ," pronounced and spelled "Mevlana" in Turkish) is universally understood to refer to Rumi.
To the left is a smaller calligraphy, also with a blue background. These words are in Arabic, and are addressed to the spirit of Rumi's father: "yâ HaZrat-i sulTânu 'l-`ulamâ" -- literally, O Venerable King of the Scholars."Just out of view is another smaller calligraphy with a blue background and an Arabic inscription that is addressed to the spirit of Rumi's son: "yâ HaZrat-i SulTân Walad"--literally, "O Venerable King's Son."
Below the photograph is a full greeting to Rumi: "O our venerable Master Jalaluddin Muhammad!-- may God sanctify his precious holy spirit!" [Yâ HaZrat-i Mawlânâ Jalâlu 'd-dîn MuHammad-- qaddasa 'llâhu sirra-hu 'l-`azîz]. These words, which contain Rumi's name at birth (Muhammad) and the name his father called him from an early age (Jalaluddin-- "glory of the Faith"), have been beautifully rendered into Persian calligraphy depicting a Mevlevi turban -- a favorite calligraphy used by Mevlevis (and which can be seen in some books about Rumi).
The circle contains the Arabic words, "bi-'smi"-- which means, "In the Name of..." Within the circle is the name, "Allaah." The whole calligraphy therefore reads, "In the Name of God" [bi-'smi 'llâh].