The Masnavi that is also sometimes written as Mesnavi in English is a poetic form in Persian, Ottoman and Urdu literature. This poetic form was born in Persia and had a patronage of Ottoman Sultans for centuries. This is evident by the fact that most of the Masnavi that are still available for research are either in Persian or in Persian lashed Urdu. With the advent of Muslim rule in India, this poetic form got a new home in the courts of Delhi and Deccan sultanate where it flourished for centuries before they were replaced by other popular poetic forms such as Ghazal and Nazam. The Masnavi consists of an indefinite number of couplets, with the rhyme scheme AA, BB and CC etc. To know about Masnavi, continue to read this insightful article on it.
History Of Masnavi
The subject matter of Masnavi is varied and ranges from love and courtship to religion and philosophy. There is no cap on meter as well and a Masnavi can incorporate one or all the 7 meters that are available in Persian and Urdu poetry. Usually, a Masnavi has no limit in terms of verses and can range from 24 to 24000 verses at the same time.
Masnavi Poets: Talking of Masnavi, the most well known Masnavi is the Masnavi-i Ma'navi. This was composed by a 13th century Persian Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi. The Masnavi of Rumi is famous throughout the world for their detailed discussions on contemporary philosophies and religions. It consists of six books of poems containing more than 25,000 verses that are primarily denoted to intra as well as inter-religious discussions. These discussions later melt in to discussions of philosophies. Many other poets such as the Ottoman poet Fuzûlî have also used this form. His Leylâ ve Mecnun was written as a Masnavi.
Masnavi-ye ma'navi: Rumi's Masnavi-ye ma'navi or spiritual couplets has got various tales from various Persian, Arabic. Sufis consider Masnavi as important as Koran. In fact in Persian it is famously known as the Koran. It gets its inspiration from Rumi's disciple and Rumi has also dedicated it to him. This was Rumi's close friend called Humam al-Din Hasan. He lived with Runi for at least 10 years and after Rumi demise succeeded him as the head of the Sufi order called Mawlawi. Mawlawi was originally founded by Rumi himself. Masnavi comprises of twenty six thousand sonnets in Persian language. Rumi had put his years of study, research and teaching into the compilation of Masnavi. It is enriched with allusions to the Koran and the life of Prophet Muhammad. It is not just blandly informative but it is also very creative, full of emotions, sentiments and wit. The intention of this book is to help put the reader on to the path of spiritual awakening, through Islamic Sufi mysticism. The book purely shows how Rumi's life was surrendered to god and spiritualism. He believed that god is the ultimate reality of the world. He also believed that every living thing has god in it as all living creatures are created by god himself. His only desire was to achieve union with the supreme consciousness. Therefore he considered accumulation of wealth or attachment to people and things as a futile act as it has nothing to do with one's ultimate unity with the lord. He believed in the achievement of knowledge that existed beyond the books and the only way to achieve is through surrendering yourself to the god. He considered as 'the dying before dying' as the ultimate mystery of love. Masnavi is not a straightforward guide to spiritual path like Koran, in fact it does not answer any straightforward question. It is rather a collection of thoughts, images, poetry, stories growing out of other stories, lyrical fables. Rumi has described himself in the book how some of his followers get frustrated by his method of storytelling; they do not approve the way Rumi does not provide a clear answer to anything. Rumi answered to this frustration of people by saying that the stories or anecdotes that he includes in his teaches are not there for their entertainment value but the erader must learn to take the lesson out of these stories, they must know what he is hinting at and should not expect to be spoon fed. He says that even Koran included storytelling to teach its readers valuable lessons of life. In his book II of Masnavi, Rumi has described the pitfalls of considering the accumulation of wealth and attachment as the ultimate aim of life and following, running behind those things in life. He has compared it as mistaking lightning for the light of the sun. Emphasizing on this he says that:
“A lack of knowledge cannot discern;
It mistakes a flash of lighting for the sun.
Lightning is transient and faithless;
Without clearness you will know,
The transient from the permanent.
Why it is lightning said to laugh?
It is laughing at whoever
Sets his heart upon its light. “