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Rumi: Words of Paradise    by Raficq Abdulla order for
by Raficq Abdulla
Order:  USA  Can
Frances Lincoln, 2006 (2004)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This beautifully illustrated volume includes fifty-five poems of the great thirteenth-century Persian mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi, selected and translated by Raficq Abdulla, accompanied by exquisitely detailed paintings and borders from 'Persian and Islamic manuscripts'.

In his Introduction, Abdulla asks why we still read the words of this man of a different era today, and answers with his belief in our 'desire for something greater than ourselves, something which emanates power, awe, love and beauty'. He tells us that he selected the poems from two major sources - the Divan to Shams-e Tabriz and the Mathnavi-e Ma'navi. He speaks of the challenges of translating across language, time and cultural experience, and explains how he went about it. And he tells us that 'Rumi wrote poetry to transform his listeners and readers, to take them out of themselves, to make them drunk with the Divine.'

I've long enjoyed reading verses from the Sufi tradition, getting more from them as my own life experience grows. Here are some that spoke strongly to me from this lovely volume. 'Passing, passing / The blossom gives way to the fruit; ... The grape on the vine / Is wine in the making, / Crush it and it comes alive.' Here's one that sounds like the process of meditation: 'I can visit thought with a diplomatic lightness ready and able / To spring away with a flick of a finger from its net when I will. / Thought is my prey waiting for my will, I'm a hunter with a heart.' And I love the imagery in 'There are always others, / Will pontificate and vilify / And pin truth down like / A dead butterfly.'

Rumi: Words of Paradise is a volume to treasure, to read and re-read for deeper meaning each time. And what better note to end on than Rumi's own: 'These words are turned to bliss when you / Read them with your own imagining heart.'

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