178 - Eyes Wide Shut: Rūmī and Philosophical Sufism

Posted on 1 June 2014

The Persian poet Rūmī and mystical philosopher al-Qūnawī carry on the legacy of Sufism.

Further Reading

• A. Akasoy, “What is Philosophical Sufism?” in P. Adamson (ed.), In the Age of Averroes (London: 2011), 229-49.

• W.C. Chittick, “Mysticism vs. Philosophy in Earlier Islamic History: the al-Ṭūsī, al-Qūnawī Correspondence,” Religious Studies 17 (1981), 87-104.

• W.C. Chittick, “Sadr al-Din al-Qūnawī on the Oneness of Being,” International Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1981), 171-84.

• W.C. Chittick, The Sufi Path of Love: the Spiritual Teachings of Rumi (Albany: 1983).

• W.C. Chittick, In Search of the Lost Heart: Explorations in Islamic Thought, ed. M. Rustom, A. Khalil and K. Murata (Albany: 2011).

• A. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill: 1975).

• R. Todd, The Sufi Doctrine of Man: adr al-Dīn al-Qūnawī’s Metaphysical Anthropology (Leiden: 2014).


Ahmed 1 June 2014

Thanks Peter, it was a delight to hear of the great Rumi in a philosophy podcast! Which makes me curious: Do you have any plans on covering the great Indian poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal in the future? (Of course that would be 19-20th Century so not sure whether it would belong in this section or not.)

Yes, actually. I am planning an episode on 20th century philosophy in the Islamic world and will, really just in an attempt to give a few star examples, discuss Iqbal and a couple of other figures in that episode. It will end this series on philosophy in the Islamic world (along with an interview on developments in the 20th c.).

Ahmed 2 June 2014

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Thanks, looking forward to it!

Tahafut Al-Ta… 18 August 2014

In reply to by Peter Adamson

thanks for hints of the future. Do you have any more specific poems by the future poet or Rumi (besides chickpeas ones) that you would recommend or do you have a list somewhere of his most philosophical poems? Thanks.

A devoted listener who has finally caught up with the podcast.

Peter Adamson 19 August 2014

In reply to by Tahafut Al-Ta…

The best thing I found is Chittick's The Sufi Path of Love: the Spiritual Teachings of Rumi which is in the bibliography above. It has extensive quotation from his poetry in English translation.

Zarrin Caldwell 8 July 2019

In reply to by Tahafut Al-Ta…

Only just listening to this episode on Rumi. Rumi's works number in the thousands of pages as far as I know. So, I bought a compendium of some of his most well-known poems/stories. It is called The Masnavi I Ma'Navi of Rumi (translated by E.H. Winfield). You can find this on Amazon.  I also found a good article on how Rumi's works need to be seen more in their original Islamic context vs. "new age" western perspectives and I thought this was informative.


Nakul Nitin Gote 20 June 2019

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Hello Peter, when you cover Iqbal, please presnt your views on Iqbal's Islamic radicalization through time (e.g., there was a time when he wrote, "We are Hindi and India is our land", which later chaged to, "We are Muslims and the whole world belongs to us". He also provided the "intellectual" stewardship for the creation of the first modern Islamic state called Pakistan). It wouldn't be inappropriate to discuss his jealousy of Tagore, Tagore's winning the Nobel prize and being invited by the Shah of Iran, and the role that played in his change of stance. A lack of political correctnes and a truckload of good old correctness while discussing such topics would also be much appreciated. :)

Actually the episode with coverage of Iqbal went up ages ago. I am pretty sure I didn't cover all the points you mention though I did talk about his role in Islamic nationalism and the movement that led to Pakistan, I believe.

Navid 5 June 2014

‘Be’ (phonetic ‘kun fayakun’), and from it pours creation, it always existed within time, from the very beginning of time, but is none existent until that manifestation, so put another way, once it is apparent within the virtual, it had always existed, but before its virtual appearance, it was none existent, a dichotomy of manifestation. So the un-manifest events are only a network of potentials within the conceived thought of creation, Allah being the best of planners, this circular time moment allows the whole of created events to exist simultaneously, from the first instant of that moment spinning back to the first instant of that moment; while the potential of expanding events within the revolving moment, in the abstract of un-manifest thought, exists simultaneously, so the un-manifest thought of Allah exists as a infinite potential of all possibilities, while simultaneously, every single manifest thought existed from the first instant of the moment.

This presents an added aspect, if every single event happens at the same instant, it has no central point of origin, it has an infinite origin, it can have no central point source as space itself is a manifest creation, so nothing can have an outside and an inside, a point of generation, it is pure generated imaginative thought, the physical is a manifest reality, so linear time, voluminous space, physical matter, are all manifest and do not apply to the generating source.

Orhan 6 June 2014

Hi Peter,

thank you very much. I enjoyed it a lot.
I have a question ... are you going to cover related philosophies to sufism in this program in a near future
For example Perennial philosophy (e.g. Frithjof Schuon, Rene Guenon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr) ?

Well, yes and no. I probably won't cover the most recent version of that - though actually touching on Nasr in the 20th c episode wouldn't be a bad idea, I will think about that. But I will certainly be mentioning Sufism numerous times in the coming episodes, like in the context of Sadra and developments in the Mughal and Ottoman periods.

dukeofethereal 28 November 2017

The orientalist have stripped of Islam from the works of Rumi. Rumi was no perenilalists, he was a strict orthodox Muslim. 


Here is a video of Abdal Hakim Murad (Dr Timothy Winter) responding to a question regarding Sufism and Perennial Philosophy.



Doris 6 February 2018

Hi Peter! Adore this podcast and love sharing it with friends.

I was wondering if you had a translation of Rumi's poetry that you'd recommend?

I'm a reader, but poetry is kind of new for me. Thanks for everything!

Peter Adamson 7 February 2018

In reply to by Doris

Actually it is not obvious from the title but the book I cite above, Chittick, The Sufi Path of Love, is mostly translations from Rumi and that is what I used. I can't claim to have an expert view on the best translation available but Chittick is a leading expert in this area so it would be a safe bet.

Farzana 5 February 2021

Salam. Enjoyed the podcast thoroughly. Wondering if you are planning to continue and include Islamic metaphysics in coming days. 

Do you mean, am I going to do 20th-21st century Islamic philosophy at some point? (I covered this a bit in the original series but not that much.) To be honest, probably not - or at least not for a while since I have a lot of other traditions to cover still. But maybe I don't understand the question.

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