Author: Shems Tabrizi; William Chittick (translator); Annemarie Schimmel (preface)
Publisher: Fons Vitae (2004)
Pages: 409 Binding: Paperback
Description from the publisher:
"Imagine that you could go somewhere each morning, say to a corner of the sugar merchants' caravansary, and hear Shams Tabriz talk about the veiling of the heart, the nature of exertion, or how to move beyond the agitated state of question and answer. This book gives entry into that astonishing presence. Go there for an hour a day, however long it takes. Then read Rumi's poetry and feel their opening Friendship in you. Bless William Chittick."
- Coleman Barks
The astounding autobiography of the man who transformed Rumi from a learned religious teacher into the world’s greatest poet of mystical love.
"William Chittick’s masterful translation of the Maqalat of Shamsi Tabrizi moves Rumi’s beloved mentor from the shadows into the light, and restores Shams to the central position of prominence that he so richly deserves. This work immediately joins the indispensable short list of scholarly works on Rumi and his community. Highly recommended for all scholars and students of Sufism, Islamic Philosophy, Persian literature, and of course for all the legions of Rumi fans."
Now that Rumi has become one of the best-selling poets in North America, interest in his life and times has increased dramatically. Practically every collection of his poetry provides a thumbnail biography, highlighting his encounter with Shams-i Tabrizi, the wandering mystic who became Rumi’s beloved companion. Rumi had been a sober scholar, teaching law and theology to a small circle of students, but the coming of Shams turned him into a devotee of music, dance, and poetry. Three years after Shams’s appearance out of nowhere, he abruptly vanished, never to be seen again. It was Rumi’s longing for the lost Shams that transformed him into one of the world’s greatest poets. Rumi immortalized Shams’s name by constantly celebrating him in his poetry as the embodiment of the divine beloved.
Very little is known about the historical Shams—indeed, some have even doubted that he was a real person. Everyone interested in Rumi’s poetry has been curious about him, and beginning with Rumi’s own son and other hagiographers, a great deal of legend was built up. Over the centuries Shams became a trope of Persian, Turkish, and Urdu literatures. Modern scholarship has made little headway in explaining who Shams was or how he was able to play such a decisive role in Rumi’s life, though a good number of theories have been advanced.
Me and Rumi represents a true milestone in the study of this enigmatic figure. It makes available for the first time in any European language first-hand accounts of Shams that have never been studied by Western scholars. When Rumi and Shams sat and talked, one or more members of the circle took notes. These were never put into final form, but they were preserved and sometimes copied by later generations, ending up in various libraries scattered around Turkey. Fifteen years ago an Iranian scholar completed the long process of collating and editing the manuscripts. The book that he published, called Maqalat-i Shams-i Tabrizi, “The Discourses of Shams-i Tabrizi”, provides us with an extraordinary picture of an awe-inspiring personality.
In Me and Rumi William C. Chittick has translated about two-thirds of the Discourses into English and arranged them in a manner that clarifies their meaning and context. He provides notes and a glossary, which will go a long way toward helping readers decipher the more obscure passages. The net result is an exciting and readable book that brings Shams to life. For the first time in Western sources we are given access to him without the intermediary of Rumi and the myth-makers. Shams appears as raucous and sober, outspoken and subtle, harsh and gentle, learned and irreverent, and above all as an embodiment of the living presence of God. The book destroys the stereotypes that have been set up by the secondary literature, and it gives access to a far more fascinating and vivid personality than we have any right to expect from what hagiographers and scholars have written.
Table of Contents
1. My Years Without Mawlana
My Teaching Career
Teachers and Shaykhs I have Met
2. My Path to God
The Profit and Loss of Study
The Religion of Old Women
The Guidance of the Shaykh
The Companion of the Heart
My Interpretations of Scripture
3. My Time with Mawlana
My Spiritual Mastery
Mawlana’s Exalted Station
My Instructions to the Circle
My Harshness with Friends
My Return from Aleppo
Notes to the Passages
Index of Passages
Index and Glossary of Proper Names
Index and Glossary of Terminology
William C. Chittick was born in Milford, Connecticut. He finished his B.A. in the United States and then went to Iran, where he completed a Ph.D. in Persian literature at Tehran University in 1974. He taught comparative religion for five years at Aryamehr Technical University in Tehran, and left Iran just before the revolution. For three years he was assistant editor of the Encyclopaedia Iranica at Columbia University, and from 1983 he has taught religious studies at Stony Brook University. He is author and translator of twenty-five books and one hundred articles on Sufism, Shi’ism, and Islamic thought in general. His more recent titles include The Self-Disclosure of God: Principles of Ibn al-`Arabî’s Cosmology (State University of New York Press, 1998) and The Heart of Islamic Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2001).
Relevant Previous Publications
The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi. State University of New York Press. 0-87395-724-5, 1983.
The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-'Arabî's Metaphysics of Imagination. State University of New York Press. 0-88706-884-7. 1989.
Sufism: A Short Introduction. Oneworld. 1-85168-211-2. 2000.
Some words from Annemarie Schimmel:
When you go to Konya to visit Maulana Rumi’s mausoleum, “the Green Dome” you must not forget to pay a visit to the memorial of Shams-i Tabrizi as well, for “otherwise, Shams will be angry with you!” as the pious people in the city will tell you. Shams, Rumi’s inspiring genius, representative of Divine Grandeur and the jalal-side of the Creator-who was he? Most readers of Maulana Rumi’s verse have asked this question, and different are the answers. We, who devoted a large part of our life to Maulana, the most wonderful mystical poet in the world (not only in the Islamic world) have sometimes tried to understand the difficult and at times apparently incomprehensible Maqalat-i Shams, a work that was edited critically only recently. But whenever we began to study it, we could barely find our way through the difficulties of the style, of the allusions to unknown facts and persons, and the strangely confused text and gave up. In the certain way similar in difficulty to the Maarif of Maulana’s father Baha-i Valad, the Maqalat-i Shams seemed to evade our grasp, and again comparable to the just mentioned work, it contains highly surprising statements, expressions that shock the uninitiated reader and also those who see in him only the representative of love and sweet though painful longing. Shams takes the listener or, now, the reader to another experience- and his words should be carefully studied by those who equate mystical love with softening. As Maulana says in the beginning chapter of the Mathnavi speaking of the Sun:
The Sun who illuminates the entire world
should it draw closer, everything will burn
We are extremely grateful to William Chittick for placing before us his translation of the Maqalat, not in its original rather chaotic form but well arranged so that the reader enjoys the fascinating though sometimes shocking remarks of Shams that immediately go to heart. I think that Professor Chittick, with only his deep knowledge of Sufism and his long experience in relating complicated Sufi texts was able to undertake this work, and we are extremely grateful that he opened a door long closed so that we come somewhat closer to the mysteries of the relation between Shams and Rumi. The relation that gave the world the most wonderful poetry, poetry in honor of the Sun that nourishes and at the same time burns the heart.