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Rumi Past and Present, East and West Hardcover – March 1, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Who is the bestselling poet in the United States? Allen Ginsburg? Robert Frost? Walt Whitman? How about Jalal al-Din Rumi? Rumi-mania has struck hard, inspiring rock bands, high fashion, modern dance, and opera. All this from the son of an Islamic preacher born in the foothills of the Pamir Mountains in 1207. If you'd like to separate the hype from the facts, look no further than Franklin Lewis's pièce de résistance, Rumi: Past and Present, East and West, the last word in Rumi scholarship. The first half is a biography of sorts, in which Lewis examines the available information about Rumi's father, his mentors, their teachings, and Rumi's own activities. In the second half, he takes up Rumi, himself, his writings, his message, and the Mevlevi order that grew up around him. He summarizes Western scholarship on Rumi, and perhaps most interesting for the poetry lover, he evaluates translations of Rumi, going back as far as the early 19th century and right up to Coleman Barks and Deepak Chopra. For an academic, Lewis writes with a refreshing swiftness, aplomb, and wit--characteristics Rumi would appreciate. --Brian Bruya

From Library Journal

Jal?l al-Din Rumi, the 13th-century Persian Muslim scholar and Sufi mystic, has been a best-selling poet in America in recent years. While his name is commonly associated with images of Whirling Dervishes (practitioners of the Sufi order known as the Mawlawi, which he founded), Rumi was also a professor of several medieval sciences. And he taught tolerance. In fact, when the United Nations declared 1995 "A Year of Tolerance," it cited Rumi's calls for tolerance among people of all persuasions and races. Indeed, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists attended Rumi's funeral. His inspiring mystical odes also transcended boundaries, especially his main work, Mathnawi, which highlights aspects of Sufism and how they relate to the world. In this excellent book, Lewis (Middle Eastern studies, Emory Univ.) presents a comprehensive overview of the Sufi poet-philosopher and his influence, past and present. He includes a wealth of information about Rumi's teachers, followers, writings and teachings, and influence in the Muslim world and in the West, as well as new translations of his poetry and prose. This definitive biography of an already well-documented figure is highly recommended for all collections.
-Ali Houissa. Cornell Univ. Ithaca, NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld (March 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851682147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851682140
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,846,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A friend of mine loaned me this book last week to read. Being a great lover of Rumi's poetry, I was ecstatic to have a look at it. The author covers the early life of Rumi, his life in Konya, the great masters who taught him. I was stuck by the copious scholarly notes, the accumulated detail of Mr. Lewis' sources, all annotated.
There is a full chronology of the author's life, his family, his Sufi roots, his writings. There exists a number of pages of pure poetry in clear, modern, unrhymed translations. Examples from the Mithwani, Rumi's epic, and the lyric poetry. But make no mistake, this is not a book about only the poetry, it is, without a doubt, the finest scholarly approch to Rumi's life, filled with Persian accents on proper names, sometimes a little difficult to get through, but these were the names. I advise taking notes on the proper names because they appear often and are unusual to the English reader.
There is no finer book on this subject and must be read by anyone who loves Rumi. It is not easy reading, yet beautifully printed in the British style. Gorgeously done.
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By A Customer on May 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Franklin Lewis's scholarly approach to the life, teachings, and poetry of Rumi is quite refreshing in this New Age era. The summary above includes my general sentiments, although I found the accents helpful in learning to pronounce the proper names. My favorite part of the book was the analysis of the Rumi "translations." I also enjoyed the fresh translations included in this book and would like to see more. Overall, an A+ approach for those of you who want a serious Rumi work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rumi's works are valuable as social science in their reference to psychological development (the journey of soul). In order to understand Rumi, one must take a classical hermeneutical stance to uncover his intended meanings. This can only be done well if one understands Rumi himself. Franklin Lewis' text is now the greatest aid in so doing: there is no other extant text that gives such a thorough and accurate portrait of Rumi. It offers in-depth description and analysis of his antecedents, as well as the 13th century contemporary influences on his own psychological development. Other than Rumi's works themselves, no other book has been written that allows such insight into who he really was. Professor Lewis has written a work that is an invaluable aid in hermeneutically understanding Rumi, and in providing a richness of context through which one can better decode Rumi's own meaning-making.
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Format: Paperback
If I could give this book TEN STARS, I would. Prof. Franklin Lewis has done a superlative job in bringing out different facets of Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi and his father Baha al-Din, his mentor Borhan al-Din, his charismatic awakener Shams al-Din, along the way clearing up various myths and baseless rumors about these men. Not only does Prof. Lewis paint a full picture of the context for Rumi's development, he gives us a long, in-depth analysis of various phases of Mawlana's life, then provides a shorter "recap" synopsis of his career; presents us with exciting, authentic translations of 50 Rumi poems; gives us a candid assessment of various translators old and new of Rumi's works; outlines the interesting history of the manuscripts of his works; traces the history of the Mevlevi Order; and much more (among other things, I was grateful for his mention of the excellent but relatively unknown Rumi translator Ibrahim Gamard, whose website on Rumi is a goldmine of excellent scholarly translations of many sections of the Masnavi, the Divan, etc. And while your at it, also see Iranian-American poet Zara Houshmand's excellent rhyming translations of Rumi's quatrains at [...])

Anyone at all interested in Mawlana in more than a passing fashion simply MUST have Prof. Lewis' Rumi book on their shelves. What a treasure trove!

Now, here's hoping that Prof. Lewis will turn his considerable talents to expand his doctoral dissertation on Hakim Sana'i (d.1131) into a lengthy book on that great Persian Sufi poet-sage (who was such an inspiration to Rumi). And, maybe further down the road, he'll bring us books on Farid al-Din Attar and the later Persian poet Hafiz?? Here's hoping...

Just this one fine book on Rumi is a lifetime achievement.
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Format: Paperback
I agree with the other reviewers that the scholarship that went into creating this biography of Rumi and his historical era was exceptional. The level of detail present in this book would be hard to come by in a biography of a more recent historical figure.

My one issue with this book is the general lack of Rumi's poems. I would estimate that there were about 30 or so full poems translated in this book. Clearly, the writer's focus was on Rumi's life, but why title it "...The Life, Teachings and Poetry..." if only to include a brief sampling of the poet's works. Rumi was a mystical poet who translated his life and religious understanding into his work. Without a greater breadth of his work, it is hard to understand who he is. I was all the more disappointed by this because the translations in the book were excellent. He wisely decided to translate the content into a lyrical form suitable to English rather than trying to imitate the original Persian poetic forms that Rumi used.

I feel like this book could have been more complete with more poems. Don't buy this book expecting to read much of his work. Buy this book if you want detailed scholarship on Rumi, his teachers, and his times.
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