Theological and Rhetorical Significance of Mathnavíy-i-Mubárak

By Frank Lewis

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #30
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Michigan, USA
October 6–8, 2000
(see list of papers from #30)

    Bahá'u'lláh composed several formal poems in rhyme and meter. One of these poems, the Mathnavíy-i-Mubárak, concerns Bahá'u'lláh's disclosure of his station to the Bábís and to humanity. Bahá'u'lláh's Mathnaví alludes to the world-famous Mathnaví of Jalal al-Din Rumi, whose followers founded the spiritual confraternity known as the "Whirling Dervishes" (Mevleviye or Mawlaviyyah Order), which was quite active in Istanbul and Edirne during the time of Bahá'u'lláh's exile.

    This paper suggests the theological and rhetorical significance of Bahá'u'lláh's use of the discourse of Sufism, 'specifically Sunni Persian poetry; discusses the importance of Rumi among nineteenth-century Iranians, in particular the Bábís and the Bahá'ís; outlines the date and circumstances of composition of Bahá'u'lláh's Mathnaví; proposes some of the factors to consider in establishing a critical edition of the poem; and proposes possible understandings and translations of some of the more difficult passages or allusions.

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