A homage to—vegetarian—Jalaluddin Rumi

Yesterday (Sept. 30) was Rumi's birthday

'Shadeed-az-kwa nee ast munazin/Ya rafeer ul-qist amnazeer/Choon ke ast shadaaz raftam ke azdaan/Wahen ul-khirama, za dizt'un bu'azir'?

(I've existence and I value it so much/So have all the beings on earth and they too, try to preserve it/ Then, how can I kill even the tiniest creature/Just to satiate my palate?).

You can't even hazard a guess that a 12-year-old Muslim boy nearly a millennium ago in Balkh (Eastern Iran and present-day Afghanistan) wrote this quatrain in Dari (Afghan variant of Persian) and turned his back on non-vegetarianism until he (Rumi) breathed his last at the age of 66 in Konya (Turkey) in 1273. Arguably the greatest of all mystics, Jalaluddin Rumi's birthday falls on September 30. It's time to remember Rumi for his enlightened and noble vision as well as for his compassion towards all and sundry. 

Rumi believed that all lives were sacred: Taa'shif nifaak b'astz sang (Even a seemingly lifeless stone has a degree of consciousness; respect it). Like all mystics, esp. like Rabia Basri, Rumi was a staunch vegetarian and shunned even milk and milk products (Sheer mun-haraam nuzt: To me, even milk is forbidden). He even refrained from sacrificing animal/s as an Islamic ritual on Eid-Al-Adah (Bakrid). 

This is the apogee of compassion and fellow-feeling. Here the point is not to condemn non-vegetarianism, quoting Rumi in defence of vegetarianism. It's just a symbol; a metaphor, to be precise. This shows the totality of compassion and a complete banishment of violence of any imaginable sort. 

Animals aren't inferior creatures. Rumi says in Turkish, 'Ye'k dez charinda-ul-insaan rish'h'aaz' (Look at all animals as you look at humans). This is of paramount importance. This creates sensitivity that further blossoms into universal empathy. The sanctity of every life is to be saved and preserved: 'Kahin nish shudam el-fazeer-un-nisaar.'

Highly influenced by Upanishad, Rumi's Masnavis and parables echo Upanishadic dictum: Annam yatha manam (jaisa anna, vaisa man in Hindi). Rumi makes us believe that what we eat, directly influences our thinking. If we consume an animal, its blood and gore will make us act like a slaughterer: 'Un qasaab, gosht-e-zakaaf'.

I often wonder, in these times of rampant, nay mindless, Whatsap messages and posts when Rumi's authentic and mostly inauthentic (and also, unverified) 'teachings' inundate our screens and gadgets, why don't we circulate and popularise his spiritually trenchant views on animal-killing for one's palate? 

Isn't it an issue that ethically perturbs us? Even most of the PETA activists are not aware that Rumi and all mystics were vegetarians despite being Muslims? To quote Rumi again: Tazkeen nikharast, tahzeen mikarast (Not just read and forget, but also ruminate). We must mull over Jalaluddin Rumi's ethical dietary instructions interspersed in his gigantic oeuvre. 

Allama Iqbal aptly said, 'Waqt hai ke unhein phir se padhein aur samjhein/Tahzeeb aur tamaddun ko abhi seekhna hai Rumi se' (It's time to pore over Rumi's poetry and ponder/Mankind and civilization will have to learn a lot from him).

Let's take a solemn vow on Rumi's birthday (Sept. 30) that we all shall try to be compassionate towards all creatures. That'll be the greatest and most apposite homage to the poet of the millennium.

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