As a poet who wrote in Persian at a Seljuk capital where many other languages were spoken, Jalal al-Din Rumi has been described as an archetypal representative of a Persianate culture that flourished across an immense area and in the most diverse circumstances. The Mawlawi Sufi order that was established by his son, Sultan Valad, as a way of preserving his legacy remained the most influential repository of Persianate culture throughout the Ottoman Empire. At its heart was the most famous of Rumi’s poems, the Masnavi-ye Maʽnavi, which was revered as ‘the Quran in Persian’. In more than 25,000 couplets, the Masnavi includes so many stories and discusses so many subjects that an attempt to describe only one of them as of primary significance may well seem arbitrary or misleading. Nevertheless, the importance of the Masnavi in the Mawlawi order is inextricably linked with the experience of ecstasy.
The lectures that comprise the panel will offer four different approaches to the ecstatic experience that Rumi described in his poetry. The first will consider the impact on Rumi of the mysterious Qalandar Shams of Tabriz. It will therefore discuss the way in which ecstasy is aroused. The second will consider the structure of the Masnavi as an attempt to reproduce a sense of ecstasy within those who read it or listened to it. It will therefore discuss the way in which ecstasy is transmitted. The third will examine the analysis of ecstasy among Mawlawi dervishes by Ismaʽil Anqarawi, the greatest of the commentators upon the Masnavi. It will therefore discuss the way in which ecstasy is understood. The fourth will examine the way in which a Mawlawi sama that arose through ecstatic dance became a liturgical performance. It will therefore discuss the way in which ecstasy is enacted.