A Hidden Source of Knowledge: Uncovering “Book Seven” of Rūmī’s Mathnawi Through Anqarawī’s Commentary

It is commonly accepted by Rūmī scholars that the Mathnawī is composed of six volumes. Scholars have also argued that due to Rūmī’s illness the last story of the Mathnawī, “The King and His Three Sons,” remains incomplete, which further supports the idea that Rūmī’s masterpiece was written only in 6 volumes (Furūzānfar, 1936/1315, p.158).
However, a few sources indicate the possibility of an extra volume known as “Book Seven” of the Mathnawī. One notable example is a manuscript by the famous Ottoman commentator, Ismā‘īl Anqarawī (d. 1631) penned in 1310 A.H. He not only added a seventh volume to the original six of the Mathnawī, but also presented his commentary in seven books and discussed the alleged seventh volume—the true authorship of which has yet to be established—extensively. As related by Kātip Çelebi, among early Mathnawī commentators, only Anqarawī attributed a seventh book to Rūmī. This book, however, was likely forge and was based on a text copied in 814 A.H. (Kashf al-Ẓunūn, Istanbul: vol II, p. 1587-1588).
It is the aim of this paper to examine this alleged “Book Seven” and outline its differences with the rest of the Mathnawī. I will explain why this extra book of the Mathnawī might have been penned and why Anqarawī included it in his commentary. I will point out to the major grammatical flaws and the difference in the style of poetry in the seventh book in comparison with the rest of the Mathnawī. Anqarawi was a high-ranking Mevlevi shaykh, an esteemed teacher of the Mathnawī and preacher in mosques and madrasahs, thus an active expositor and, as it were, practitioner of the text. Anqarawi exemplifies the relation between the Mevlevi Sufi Order and Ottoman government; he benefited greatly from Ottoman patronage and his commentary on the Mathnawī was, in fact, commissioned by the Sultan. Thus, I argue that production of a “spurious” text along with absorption of it into the tradition through detailed commentary is a further dimension of the license of mystical exegesis, as well as part of the ongoing intellectual movement through which the Mevlevis sought to validate and expand their religious and political authority, and, hence, extend their popularity and influence both amongst the masses and the Ottoman rulers.