The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
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Publication Date: July 2015
The 13th century was a turbulent period in Anatolia, rife with religious clashes, political disputes and endless power struggles. In the West, the Crusaders, on their way to Jerusalem, occupied and sacked Constantinople, leading to the partition of the Byzantine Empire. In the East, highly disciplined Mongol armies swiftly expanded under the military genius of Genghis Khan. In between, different Turkish tribes fought among themselves while the Byzantines tried to recover their lost land, wealth and power. It was a time of unprecedented chaos when Christians fought Christians, Christians fought Muslims, and Muslims fought Muslims. Everywhere one turned, there was hostility and anguish, and an intense fear of what might happen next.
In the midst of this chaos lived a distinguished Islamic scholar, known as Jalal Al-Din Rumi. Nicknamed Mawlana -Our Master- by many, he had thousands of disciples and admirers from all over the region and beyond, and was regarded as a beacon to all Muslims.
In 1244, Rumi met Shams - a wandering dervish with unconventional ways and heretical proclamations. Their encounter altered both their lives. At the same time it marked the beginning of a solid, unique friendship that Sufis in the centuries to follow likened to the meeting of two oceans. By meeting this exceptional companion, Rumi was transformed from a mainstream cleric to a committed mystic, passionate poet, advocate of love and originator of the ecstatic dance of the whirling dervishes, daring to break free of all conventional rules.
In an age of deeply-embedded bigotries and clashes, he stood for a universal spirituality, opening his doors to people of all backgrounds. Rumi stood up for an inner-oriented jihad where the aim was to struggle against and ultimately prevail over one's ego, nafs.
Not everyone welcomed these ideas, however, just as not everyone opens their hearts to love. The powerful spiritual bond between Shams and Rumi became the target of rumor, slander and attack. They were misunderstood, envied, vilified, and ultimately betrayed by those closest to them. Three years after they met, they were tragically separated.
But the story didn't end there.
In truth, there never was an end. Almost eight hundred years later the spirits of Shams and Rumi are still alive today, whirling amid us somewhere...
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