Word For Peace Special
By Dr. Nousheen Baba Khan
This book review throws new light on the concept of true and Unconditional Love in Sufism as envisaged by Jalalud-Deen Rumi (R.A), which has been serving as a guiding light for seekers and sincere lovers generation after generation. Thus, Elif Shafak’s Forty Rules of Love is a valuable addition to the existing literature on the subject. Her book will remain a constant kind reminder for us as well in future history.
Word For Peace wishes this seminal work all the best and strongly hopes that it proves to be a milestone that inspires more Sufi lovers across the world and enhances the foundational principles of Sufism.
Dr. Nousheen Baba Khan has done a momentous job, and we thank her very much indeed for reviewing this book, depicting and documenting important facets of divine love!
Coming from a background of research in social sciences, she has touched upon a major theme of love in her flowering review. Let’s see how beautifully and effectively she has evolved a new perspective on love.
We wish this book review is well received!
All the very best!
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
Founding Editor, Word For Peace
For those who find themselves lost in the sweet agony of a love that knows no bounds, the kind that defies convention and demands nothing in return, Elif Shafak’s Forty Rules of Love is an essential read. Through her masterful prose and intricate storytelling, Shafak takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and soulful exploration, guiding them through the many shades of love and its perpetual power.
As a woman writer, Elif Shafak has succeeded in capturing the essence of human experience and beyond by setting the story in thirteenth-century Central Asia and modern-day America. Shafak skillfully explores the timeless themes of love, pain, yearning, and loss, simultaneously delving into the complexities of contemporary society. And in all these the discovery of the self each desire unfolds.
Forty Rules of Love is not just a book. Rather, it is a journey of the heart, an invitation to experience the many facets of love and discover its true power. It is a testament to the human spirit, and a tribute to the transformative power of love that transcends time and place, and resonates across generations and cultures.
The First Rule:
As I reached page 30 of the book, Shams of Tabriz was about to reveal the first rule to the innkeeper. I found myself pausing for a few seconds, eyes closed, and my heart racing with anticipation. With a name like Shams of Tabrizi involved, I knew that these rules could not be ordinary guidelines that one could skim through. At that moment, I felt a tinge of fear grip me. What would the rule be? Would it challenge my beliefs, make me question my rational being, and values, or push me out of my comfort zone? But one thing I was sure off I was in for a journey of the heart and soul, one that would take me beyond the realm of ordinary existence and into the depths of human experience. I opened my eyes and began to read the following:
“It is the first rule, brother. How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.”
The above rule is self-explanatory but an example will help the readers connect better.
Suppose your beloved utters the following: “I’m not stretching the relationship beyond certain limits and neither thinks it convenient that you stretch it” for any XYZ reasons. The statement clearly reveals a fear and a sense of preserving the bond that is deeply rooted within him. He not trying to make her aware of the inconvenience, rather he is fearful of losing her. As he asks her not to stretch the relationship beyond its natural limits because he feels that limiting the boundaries of love will help him cherish her forever.
The woman’s perspective on love is vastly different from that of her beloved. She sees love as a liberating force, something that frees her from societal norms and expectations. She doesn’t believe in imposing any labels or boundaries on their relationship. She doesn’t need a name for it or a place where they can meet, because, to her, their love transcends physical and social constraints.
In fact, the woman’s approach to love is all about remaining true to oneself and embracing vulnerability. She believes that the beauty of love lies in its ability to make us vulnerable, to strip us of our masks and defenses, and to expose our true selves. She understands that this can be a scary prospect, but it is also what makes love so powerful and transformative.
For her, there is no need to fear the vulnerability that comes with love, because it is through this vulnerability that we learn and grow. She encourages her beloved to embrace this vulnerability and to trust in their love because it is only by doing so that they can truly experience the depth and beauty of their relationship.
In essence, the woman’s perspective on love is one of freedom, authenticity, and courage. She seeks to break free from the shackles of societal norms and create a relationship that is built on mutual trust, respect, and immense passion. She believes that love should be an empowering force that helps us become our true selves, rather than something that restricts or limits us when we make love, we are near or far, together or away.
This example highlights how our perception of love and relationships is a reflection of our inner selves. The man’s fear of losing his beloved is rooted in his own insecurities and beliefs about love. On the other hand, the woman sees love as something that liberates her from societal norms, demands, and expectations. This contrast shows how our individual experiences and beliefs shape our understanding of love and how we choose to express it.
The first rule out of Forty Rules of Love emphasizes the importance of examining our own beliefs and perceptions in order to truly understand ourselves and our relationships. By recognizing our own fears and biases, we can begin to see love as a force of compassion and liberation, rather than something to be feared or limited.
Readers, can you examine yourselves and say whether this fear is also within you? Have you ever stopped to think about how you see yourself and your relationship with your beloved? Have you allowed fear and blame to cloud your vision, or have you embraced love and compassion instead? It is up to you to decide how you will respond to this request, and whether you will let fear and self-doubt hold you back, or whether you will embrace love and compassion and see yourself and your relationship in a new light.
The author is a social activist, writer and researcher of the Sufi orientation.