To Be as Godly as a Chair

I asked my students to become Rumi. The result is a beautiful potpourri of Sufi-inspired poetry.

I am teaching a course on the Qur’an this semester, and we have been exploring its various interpretations within the Islamic tradition. We recently studied mystical expressions of Islam — popularly known as Sufism — which emphasize connecting with Allah and interpreting the Qur’an through spiritual experiences. Sufi communities around the globe incorporate various artistic expressions, including dance, music, and poetry. These artistic forms serve as methods for cultivating ecstatic moments as well as ways to express personal experiences.

Perhaps the most widely known Sufi in human history was born in Central Asia during the early thirteenth century. Jalal ad-Din Rumi, who is known popularly by his pen name Rumi, was a prominent Muslim scholar, jurist, and theologian. Rumi is remembered most fondly for producing volumes of Sufi poetry, most of which he wrote in Persian. The themes in his writings reflect broader Sufi ideas, including a focus on the absolute oneness of God (tawhid) and the urgency to connect the lover with the beloved.

Rumi’s poetry influenced literary production and religious practice throughout the world. Several centuries after his death, his work continues to be translated into hundreds of languages and circulated across religious, linguistic, and geographical boundaries.

Rumi states in his poetry that one can only recognize reality by experiencing it firsthand. Taking this idea to heart, I thought the best way to teach my students about the life and message of Rumi would be to ask them to try becoming Rumi. After studying his poetry together, my students put themselves in his shoes and wrote poetry of their own in the spirit of Rumi. The result was a beautiful potpourri of Sufi-inspired poetry written by students of Trinity University. A handful of these poems are reproduced here:

The Search

Breathe, take a breath in
and remember to care.
Take notice of the vast expanses of the earth
equally as you notice the crawl of a baby,
or the gentle touch of the wind.
Remember that all of what you see
is Allah’s infinite grace.

Run white rabbit
as you search for meaning,
digging holes, chasing the sun,
do not forget
that you are as close to Allah in your discoveries
as you were
in the act of searching.

— Adam Litch, Sophomore, Neuroscience


What is a chair?
A surface with four legs and a back

But consider a stump
Can it not be a chair?

It provides rest
It knows not of right or wrong

It only knows how to give
To those who are willing to accept its gift

I can only strive
To be as godly as a chair

— Andrea Oranday, Junior, Mathematics 

Rumi’s Shoes

The act of shoe shopping
So many options
Which one is right
High Heels
To loft over others
To keep modesty close
Flip Flops
To be casual
Tennis Shoes
To give us speed in flight
Why must we choose
Why must we be different
Rumi Knows
We are two but we wear the same shoes

— Bethany Rysak, Sophomore, Geoscience

You are born of two halves
We are not left, nor are we right
Not the eyes, you are sight!
Not the mind, you are light!

Thus a celestial breath spoke
And the void relinquished its fire
Shattered paradigms reflect,
WE . . . Infinitely

— Arnulfo Tunon, Senior, Neuroscience

As I gazed upon the beach
I heard the waves cry to me

Mourn us as we reach the shore
For then, we shall be no more!

Weep not! Thou will not cease
Though you are waves
We are all part of this greater sea!

— Arnulfo Tunon, Senior, Neuroscience

Image courtesy of AJ Montpetit.

More on: , , , ,
Simran Jeet Singh
Written by