Re-interpreting Rumi’s poem

In a book, I found one Rumi’s poet:

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” In generosity and helping others, be like a river
In compassion and grace, be like the sun
In concealing others faults, be like the night
In anger and fury, be as if you have died
In modesty and humility, be like the earth
In tolerance, be like the sea
And either appear as you are, or be as you appear”

I don’t know whether it was truly spoken by Rumi, while from what I read it was presented in such oral tradition something. I read lots of books, including Rumi’s but as I remember, I never read that one (although it is everywhere in pinterest and internet). But, whatever… I think that’s sweet enough.

I was thinking, why I should be a river in the term of generosity?
why should be like the sun in term of compassion?
I mean, lots of things in the world if you just want to make the poet beautiful you can put any world on it. Then, I believe there must be a “philosophical” insight on it. So I tried to re-read it again, and find another place to satisfy my curiosity.

I found a simple explanation from one Indonesian writer, Maman Suherman in his page:

1. In generosity and helping others, be like a river, flows endlessly and never expect back
2. In compassion and grace, be like the sun.Giving warmth to anyone, regardless.
3. In concealing others faults, be like the night. Covering tightly without ever leak any of it.
4. In anger and fury, be as if you have died. Silent, don’t do anything
5. In modesty and humility, be like the earth. Always put yourself “lower” and elevate others.
6. In tolerance, be like the sea. Be tolerant. Ready to accommodate the views of a different view
7. And either appear as you are, or be as you appear. Just be yourself, as authentic as you are. Consistent between inner and outer.

Well, I don’t know.
I believe that understanding Sufism is not such an easy work to do. It is like me reading the Odyssey, usually I sleep after read about 1-2 pages. It is more effective than a sleeping pills to make you feel tired and sleepy :p

But, just like any other forms of art and culture, I believe that Rumi’s works also try to give another advice and insight to the community in that period, and even for today’s people.
The main problem is, we… we already access every good quotes, poems, advice, and so on from everywhere. But do we getting better? Do we change?  Some yes… some nope.

I remember, once in Indonesia there was an ulema* who had a speech in a prostitution. He simply asked “Ok, everyone.. raise your hand if you don’t know that prostitution is prohibited”
No one raised their hand.
Then the ulema said “See? Then every bad things done by us mainly not because we don’t know it is bad, but more because ‘exogenous’ variables. It can be social, economics, or cultural factor”

Back to the Rumi’s sweet quote. Take for example:
” In anger and fury, be as if you have died.
Well, sorry Rumi… in fact, sometimes we should to show that we angry. There always people who will keep doing their mistakes again and again and again if we just do a silent. A mom should get mad sometimes to her kids when the kids do something bad or dangerous.
A best friend should get angry to her friends sometimes, to remind them if they are on the wrong track.
Sometimes, we need to get angry for someone we truly love. Just to make them getting better.
Although, personally I prefer anger as the last choice after you discuss and give your advise.

But no one from us can guess what really inside Rumi’s head. There always more than one commentary for every poet. That’s why it becomes one branch of art, because it become sweet and beautiful base on your own interpretation. It is like your read a good book and your imagination tried to figure out all of the situation and people in that book. Once there is a movie try to adapt that book, you will started to say about how bad that movie was… not really because the movie is bad, it just because it different with what you already imagined.

So, let this poet flows beautifully in our calm mind, soul, imagination, and interpretation.


ulema: Islamic scholar recognized as having specialist knowledge of Islamic sacred law and theology.