By Irfan Yusuf
I am Australian. My parents are from Delhi. My ancestry is Mughal. I am
basically a Turko-Mongol. Or a Mongolian Turk. Depends on my mood.
My ancestors were not nice people. In fact, they were pretty damned
awful. The Mongols turned war crimes and terrorism into an art form and
a sport, all at once. They plundered cities, burnt buildings, massacred
men and children and raped women before killing them.
Mongol atrocities make my hair stand on end when I read about them. They
used to grab infants and babies by the feet and smash them against the
wall to make their skulls crack open. They used to cut fetuses out of
the wombs of mothers using swords. These were sick people.
When they reached Baghdad, it was the London or New York of its day.
They just decimated the place. Baghdad was a city boasting thousands of
libraries. Virtually all books were burnt. Jews and Muslims fled to
India and other places.
The Mongols were my ancestors. Comparable to the Coalition forces in
Iraq? Comparable to the Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza? Worse.
My grandfather was a lawyer. He is one of my heroes, though I never met
him. Actually, my greatest hero was also a lawyer. His name was Jalal
Jalal ad-Din was born in a place called Balkh, now in modern day
Afghanistan on 30 September 1207. As a young boy, he was exposed to the
horrors of the Mongol invasion. His parents fled with him to the safety
of a city called Konya in what is now Turkey.
Jalal saw his family members and friends butchered as he was fleeing the
Mongols. He was among a large group of asylum seekers that arrived in
Konya, then the capital of the Seljuk Turkish Empire. Jalal�s father was
a lawyer, and Jalal was trained to be a lawyer.
And he was no ordinary lawyer. Jalal had a phenomenal intellect. He was
an awesome writer, a great judge and a brilliant teacher. He was perhaps
the greatest lawyer of his time. He was a senior judge, a professor of
law and had thousands of students. He also received a generous stipend
from the state, a house and servants. Jalal lived the highlife.
Then at age 37, at the height of his career, Jalal met a man who � um �
I�m not exactly sure what the man did. The man�s name was Shums. He was
an asylum seeker from a place called Tabriz, a city also ravaged by the
Mongols. Who knows what horrors Shums had seen. He was old and
disheveled. Most people in Konya looked upon Shums with disdain,
especially when he made an appearance in the esteemed presence of
Professor Jalal ad-Din.
The Professor didn�t see it that way. I believe one reason for this was
that Professor Jalal ad-Din recognized the reasons behind the disheveled
appearance and the painful eyes. This man was a holocaust survivor, just
as Jalal was.
But the people of that time were truly amazing. This man and Professor
Jalal both had every reason to hate the Mongols. They had every reason
to attack Mongol lands and terrorize the Mongol hordes. They even had
the backing of powerful states.
These men had every reason to preach a theology of hatred. Instead,
Professor Jalal learnt from Shums the message of divine love. That love
was and is so powerful that to this day people of all faiths are
benefiting from the message of Mevlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi.
Yes, that Professor Jalal is none other than Rumi, the great Muslim
mystical poet. He started out as an asylum seeker, rose to the top of
the worldly ladder and then left it all behind temporarily to learn the
message of divine love. Had he not joined the disheveled Shums, he would
have remained Professor Jalal.
But filled with divine love, he became the Mevlana, the spiritual leader
of millions of people across the world. Now, almost 900 years after his
birth, people are still discovering the Islam of surrendering to divine
love through Rumi�s words.
Rumi returned from his spiritual retreats completely transformed. He
taught and wrote with such force that his lengthy Mathnawi is often
described as �the Persian Qur�an.�
Eventually the Mongols caught up to the region of Rum, the old Byzantine
Roman heartland conquered by the Seljuk. One of Rumi�s students is
believed to have set a noble example of kindness and generosity to the
Mongol leader who felt inspired to adopt Islam. His entire army did the
same. They settled down and intermarried with Turkish Muslims.
The ancestors of these converted Mongol Turks eventually came to India
and conquered the place. Had they not been inspired to put down their
weapons, the Mongols may have raped and pillaged as far as Paris or
London. Instead, they founded one of the greatest and most tolerant
Muslim civilizations India had ever witnessed.
So now, reader, you might be able to guess why Mevlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi
is my hero. He taught a message that was more powerful than all the
suicide bombers and all the terrorist attacks in the world. He taught a
message that defeated the enemies by transforming them into friends and
Rumi had every reason to hate the Mongols. They killed half his family.
They almost killed his spiritual teacher Shums. But neither Shums nor
his student were students of hatred, vengeance and violence. They were
students of divine love.
If the Muslims of Rumi�s time could win over the Mongols, what is there
to stop us living in the relative freedom of the West from winning over
our countrymen and women? Filled with divine love, we can win over
anyone with God�s permission.
Terror pushes the hearts away from God. Terror breeds hatred and more
terror. But love is the divine magnet that drags people back to their
Lord. Love turns your worst enemy into your bosom friend.
As Saul of Tarsus wrote in his letter to the people of Corinth:
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have
become sounding brass or a tinkling symbol. And if I have prophecy and
know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to
remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I dole out all
my goods, and if I deliver my body that I may boast but have not love,
nothing I am profited.
Love is long suffering, love is kind, it is not jealous, love does not
boast, it is not inflated. It is not discourteous, it is not selfish, it
is not irritable, it does not enumerate the evil. It does not rejoice
over the wrong, but rejoices in the truth It covers all things, it has
faith for all things, it hopes in all things, it endures in all things.
Love never falls in ruins; but whether prophecies, they will be
tongues, they will cease; or knowledge, it will be superseded. For we
know in part and we prophecy in part. But when the perfect comes, the
imperfect will be superseded.
When I was an infant, I spoke as an infant, I reckoned as an infant;
when I became [an adult], I abolished the things of the infant.
For now we see through a mirror in an enigma, but then face to face. Now
I know in part, but then I shall know as also I was fully known.
But now remains faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of
these is love.
And as Mevlana wrote in his Diwan-i-Shums:
Love means to reach for the sky and with every breath to tear a thousand
Love means to step away from the ego, to open the eyes of inner vision
and not to take this world so seriously.
Congratulations dear heart:
You have joined the circle of lovers, tell me in your own words when did
this throbbing begin?
�I was absorbed in my work in this world but I never lost my longing for
One day, exhausted with no strength left, I was lifted suddenly by the
grace of Love.
To describe this mystery there are no words�
(translated by Maryam Mafi & Azima Melita Kolin)
Two men, one message. The time has come to use the weapons of divine
love to win the hearts of our country men and women.
(This article is written for my noble sister
Yasmin, may God lighten her burdens.)
** Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney-based lawyer and occasional lecturer in the
School of Politics at Macquarie University. He is a columnist for the
Australian Islamic Review, Online Opinion and altmuslim.com. He is also
1 of 3 Muslim Ambassadors for the 2005 White Ribbon Day campaign in
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