Rumi and Iran today
William R. Stimson
It has happened now in Iran like it did in Myanmar a short while back. Common people, secular and religious, cried out with one voice against injustice only to have their rulers bludgeon them back into silence. Today on the internet we hear not a whisper from Iran, save official lies.
But we know what is happening. It was told long ago by the great Persian-language poet – Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī – known and loved everywhere today simply as Rumi. A country’s worse enemy, Rumi hints in his poetry, lies not outside its own borders but hides within them in the form of a disregard for what is most sacred and holy – love, truth, and justice – and a cynical and crafty deployment of so-called religious law, mere rules of convention, to advance oneself, one’s kin, and one’s power-base, regardless of how much damage, or loss of life, this may inflict on others.
This is exactly what we’re seeing today in Iran and the poet Rumi, who speaks out from the deep root of that country’s religious tradition, has something instructive to say on this account. He tells us that those who have grabbed power for themselves by enforcing ways of behaving and speaking are of one sort and those who are lovers of truth and who burn with a desire for justice and fairness are of another sort entirely. The wrong way that the people on the streets may talk or act is better than a hundred right ways of their corrupt rulers. Those we have seen beaten into submission may not obey the code of doctrine their rulers are trying to impose. But they burn in their hearts with a more sacred truth.
The worst position, according to Rumi, is for a country to have an enemy that it cannot see and does not know. It is better for the nation to have a thousand known enemies than to have one which it does not know is there. The good news from Iran today is that the Iranian people know the enemy is there and they see now exactly who it is. The whole world knows it too, and sees it also.
It’s only a matter of time before the fake structure crumbles.