Posted by: Mark Nielsen | November 30, 2008

Rumi Part 3: The Friend of My Friend Is Not My Enemy

… and even if he is my enemy, I am still commanded to love him.

“The miracle of Jesus is himself, not what he said or did about the future. Forget the future. I’d worship someone who could do that.”
— Rumi, renowned 13th century Sufi poet & mystic

As I mentioned yesterday, I first came to read and respect Rumi, a major Muslim poet, through Anne Lamott, a Christian writer who quotes him often. More recently, Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan who has done “social gospel” conferences with Lamott, made powerful use of several Rumi poems at the Men’s Rites of Passage I attended in August.

I have heard for years that Muslims respect and even revere the historical Jesus of Nazareth. And in the references Rumi makes to Jesus, to his Spirit and his miracles (especially the raising of the dead), I see it to be true.

Yet I don’t quite accept the basic interfaith principle that all spiritual paths are equally legitimate. At minimum, there’s still that troublesome “Only Son of God” claim of Jesus that one has to deal with somehow.

Then again, that’s most likely why the redemption and mercy that Jesus and His Spirit offer need to be fresh, new, transformative forces for every believer, in every generation. For the God-shaped spirit within each of us has a specific form and character. Rumi clearly knew that form well, and that form has not changed since the dawn of mankind.

Maybe this is how Jesus himself (the eternal Jesus, the constantly re-creating Jesus, the Jesus who will restore God’s complete reign on the Last Day) can also redeem (or at least make use of) the words of a Muslim poet who lived eight hundred years ago. So what if he’s a poet whose path “turned left”, mostly because all of those in his immediate neighborhood were left-turners.

In the eternal sense, then, Rumi is not an enemy but a brother in Christ. I may be estranged from some parts of our family for the time being, but most of us will end up under the same heavenly roof sooner or later.


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