“If you — wandering Sufi — are looking for the supreme treasure, do not look outside. Look within, and seek that.”
We climb the mountains, dive deep into the oceans, fly high as an eagle, paint a moment in time, dance to the rhythms to stretch our mental and physical capabilities. We strive to overcome our demons, speak through our soul, pushing past our ego, and keep our spirits full of generosity and compassion. We develop our social interactions, doing our best to be noble and reach oneness with divine reality. Still, it happens that we stumble and our mind creates illusions, wanders aimlessly in the den of inequities and searches externally for peace. As our brain is wired to cause and effect, just then, we look for anchor stories from the greatest sage to rise above the stagnation.
Delving in the Book of Rumi, translated by Maryam Mafi, is a new collection of 105 Stories and Fables that Illuminate, delight and inform from the six-volume spiritual epic, The Masnavi. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, known as Rumi, was a 13th Century Iranian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic originally from Greater Khorasan. The book is invariably transcendental gift that tames the ego, explores understanding, heals the brokenhearted, gives hope and inspires unity and unconditional love.
Maryam Mafi an Iranian author, translator and an expert on Rumi, dazzles with didactic and entertaining well-known stories of Rumi that capture his mystic wisdom. She has skillfully preserved the exciting and dramatic integrity of Masnavi, which, still in the 21st century, resonates with our personal experiences and evokes courage to reach agape love. Maryam Mafi, a graduate of Tufts, American and Georgetown Universities, she is tirelessly on the mission to acquaint the west with Eastern literature.
Interview with Maryam Mafi
Jupilings: What attracted you to Rumi, to begin with-
MM: I came across a book on Rumi by an English scholar called, The Way of Passion; and I was set on fire! I felt as if all my questions about spirituality and life, in general, were finally explained to me in the simplest, most eloquent manner.
Jupilings: Rumi’s masterwork “Masnavi”, how does it impact our modern lives-
MM: The Masnavi is often referred to as the Persian Quran. We can learn unrivalled guidance from Rumi in his Masnavi, ageless insights into how to live our lives more honestly and with integrity, even in these times of extreme conflict and mistrust.
Jupilings: What was the biggest challenge when translating “Masnavi”-
MM: Comprehending the original Sufi concepts.
Jupilings: What does Rumi celebrate–
MM: Beyond all- Love.
Jupilings: What are Rumi’s views on women-
MM: He has great respect for women and considers them no less than men.
Jupilings: What does spirituality mean to you–
Jupilings: Please walk us through the process of literary translation, (how do you choose a book,…)-
MM: Well, I’ve been translating Rumi for the past 20 years so I can tell you about how I choose a poem or a story. Generally, I pick the pieces instinctively, or they’re all-time favourites; like the stories in my latest book, “The Book of Rumi”, which I’ve translated into prose and will be available on Amazon in December. If I need to organise the works under various headings or chapters, I sort them out afterwards not before I translate them. Other translators probably do it the other way round; the rational way! I go with my heart!
Jupilings: Three tips to work with publishers-
MM: I feel blessed that so far my publishers have always come to me. I used to work for a publisher when I finished university so I’m familiar with the other side of the spectrum and it can be quite daunting for writers. You could begin by writing to every single publisher who publishes books like the one you have written and hope one of them replies. It’s a similar process for finding a job. These days though, self-publishing is very popular and often great books are picked from amongst them and published later by publishing companies.
Jupilings: Do you have a daily ritual when you are working on a book-
MM: Yes, I start work first thing in the morning; often after a yoga and meditation practice. I don’t like to break my day, so I work straight through often missing lunch. I might go for a long walk if I feel stuck or just to get some movement in my body. I don’t work late at night anymore because my eyes get too tired from the screen.
Jupilings: Tips on personal branding as a literary translator-
MM: I’m the worst person to answer this question, I only work on material I like and have been dedicated to translating my spiritual master, Rumi; and hopefully other Sufi masters in the future. So I wouldn’t call that commercially branding myself successfully!
Jupilings: What does women empowerment mean to you-
MM: Trusting our instincts and our intellects; but above all, trusting our hearts.
Jupilings: What do you do to conquer fear or self-doubt:
MM: I think fear and self-doubt are two playful little monkeys who love to play with our egos because they’re cut from the same cloth. As long as we know who they are and what they represent we can negotiate with them. I like to think that they’ll eventually leave us alone at one point in our lives and find better entertainment.
Jupilings: What is your life motto-
MM: I like to say: ‘This too shall pass,’ and adhere to it every time I come across a difficulty. However, I think it’s more complicated than that. I tend to think the old fashion way, that we have a moral obligation to do our absolute best physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, to help another human being, in whatever capacity, when we are in a position to do so.
Also, I do sincerely believe that when you do good, eventually at some point good shall be done to you. The cliché of what goes around comes around may sound simple, but it’s one of the most valuable basic truths of life.