Rumi s Views on Moral Education
By: Hamid Reza Alavi
Goals of Education
Moulavi said that the goal of man’s creation was ‘knowledge and guidance’. In another part of his ‘Masnavi’ he introduced ‘knowledge of the truth’ as the purpose of man’s creation. Therefore, Moulavi believed that knowledge should only be for God. The possessors of such knowledge were those who were affected by their knowledge and insight, and their intellect restrained them from doing any evil or committing sins.
Moulavi placed a particular emphasis on ‘intent’. He said that, for example, when a poet composed poetry with a special intent, his intent played the main role on his work. Therefore, all men benefitted from their deeds and sciences they learnt on the basis of their intent and goal. If these intents and goals were good, the results and benefits of their deeds and behaviors would be unimaginable and very good.
A man, who offered his prayer for God, would thus definitely be rewarded in this world and the hereafter. One could therefore, understand that each of the disciplines were a means and instrument that could lead man to God, truth, true peace and tranquility if his intent or goal was good and met God’s approval.
However, these disciplines could not by themselves, give sublimity to man. These were not consolatory. Sciences that were tools for submission, sublimity and transcendence were for leading man towards the goal of creation, and should not be taken as the final goal. Moulavi emphasized that all the branches of sciences and knowledge were for the sake of man.
Therefore, it could be said that those, who loved God, should really love Him, and their final desire should be for God alone. In this case, it was possible for us to speak of a loving worship with God as one of the most important goals of man’s creation. Thus, it was up to all the virtuous and wise scientists and scholars to not involve themselves in words, utterances and appearances. They should not forget the real goal behind the words and controversies.
Education had two main goals from Moulavi’s viewpoint - ultimate and intermediary. The following could be extracted from Moulavi’s poems and writings regarding the ‘ultimate aims’ (Beheshti, Abujafari and Faqihi 2000, p. 211-219).
Annihilation in God
This implied abiding in Him with absolute devotion and servitude to God. Moulavi believed that the ultimate and final perfection of human beings lay in disengagement from existence or being and in reaching an abiding state after annihilation. This was the meaning of living in proximity to God.
Annihilation in God meant becoming free from darkness, involvements, material and worldly attachments, and disillusionment with everything other than God. A man annihilated in God did not see and did not want any other save God (Beheshti, Abujafari and Faqihi 2000, p. 211-212).
This particular kind of death meant that man died or isolated himself while living, from nature and material attachments. He was borne in divine world, fought against carnal desires, lived free from ambition, disgrace, position and eminence. In this way he destroyed all devilish temperaments and dispositions. He reached a position that killed the evil-prompting self, made him free. He was then reborn with divine and spiritual life and humanly admirable dispositions - this was the second birth of human being.
Intuition or knowledge by heart
In addition to the value of formal sciences, Moulavi believed that a seeking mystic or possessor of intuition through gnosis had really achieved the infinite Divine knowledge. He had undoubtedly been revealed some secrets of being, even a sea of sciences and facts that others were deprived of. This knowledge from intuition and inspiration was not only endless, but it was always in a state of being created and presented new sciences and discoveries for the wayfaring mystics at every moment.
Immediate receiving of God’s bounty or emanation
In the beginning, a mystic went through the way along with his or her educator or leader, but the highest position or rank was attained when he or she received the bounty and favor of God. In such a case, even the seeker became the channel of Divine bounty immediately.
As for intermediary goals, the following points could be extracted from Moulavi’s works.
Cultivation and guidance of intellect and thought
Moulavi deemed it necessary to cultivate and guide the intellect and thought towards spiritual experience and intuition. He considered it to be the goal of education. Moulavi said that the real knowledge was the intuitive knowledge that a man received immediately from God, and it was endless. The superficial sciences could not be considered real because of their limitations and instability. However, if people received these sciences correctly, followed them well, acted according to them, cultivated and guided their intellect and thought in their light, they would gradually achieve the real knowledge.
Solving the existential problems
From Moulavi’s point of view, the existential problems of human beings were behind the philosophy of creation. Imprisonment of the spirit in the body, fear of future, man’s attachment to lust, shackles of anger, fame, position etc, negligence of the real ‘ego’ and of the original home, defect in thinking and intellect, loneliness - were among other things on whose basis existential problems occurred. Solving these problems was the goal of the mystical education in Moulavi’s viewpoint.
Moulavi said that appealing to spiritualties, acquisition of the soul’s virtues, avoiding vices, and seeking help from those endowed with divine breath and spiritual soul could solve these difficulties. And finally, the basic solution of these problems was ‘love’. A lover always dwelled in happiness and exhilaration. He or she complained of nothing and no one. There was no short sightedness, meanness, malignancy, cynicism, arrogance, temptation, greed, self-interest, or grief over affairs of this world and the hereafter in the heart of a mystic.
Love satisfied the thirst of spirit, satiated the heart, and dissolved the lover in the Lord. The joy that he or she enjoyed was heartfelt because the right cause for enjoyment and happiness was internal, not external. No happiness was possible through possessions, position, fame, or prestige; rather, it was emitted from the inner being.
Moulavi (2000) believed that acquisition of knowledge should be for the sake of God. In other words, man’s intention from learning and the dissemination of knowledge should be the nearness to God (p. 1-2). The knowledge of such scholars was not superficial, because superficial sciences could lead to negligence (Rum: 7). It was intellect and reason that governed their lives (ibid, p.2). Even their religiosity was based on knowledge.
According to the Prophet of Islam ‘the best of you in faith, was the best of you in knowledge’ (Mohammadi Rey Shahri 1993, p. 121). So, the faith of such scholars was the best and firmest kind of faith. This was so because Imam Baquer had said that those who acquired knowledge, their knowledge would lead them to righteous deeds (ibid, p. 131).
Therefore, it could be concluded that human beings received benefit from the sciences they learnt according to the intentions they had. It was in the light of their good intentions that real tranquility was received and they were led to God and truth (ibid, p. 32). The Prophet of Islam said that if a person learnt science for hypocrisy and worldliness, God would remove blessing from his life and make the life troubled and difficult for him (Mohammadi Rey Shahri, 1993, p 479).
Due to the viewpoint of Moulavi, it was important that the teacher considered individual differences between the students. The teacher must pay attention to the fact that their addressees and students were quite different in aptitudes, attitudes, interests, knowledge, etc., and therefore, the sayings and teachings of the teacher should be in accordance with these differences.
It was also up to the teacher to consider the spiritual capacity of his students. The word ‘reminding’ indicated that Moulavi believed that man had the best potential aptitudes within himself, and one of the responsibilities of the tutor and teacher was to nurture those aptitudes.
Moulavi believed that all teachers should really pay attention to the individual differences of their students, and speak to them according to their merits and powers of understanding.
Not every person deserved receiving wisdom and higher ranks of knowledge and insight (Rumi 2000, p. 50-51, 19-20, 34). The Prophet of Islam said that God’s prophets have been ordered to speak with people in accordance to the level of their understanding and intellect (Al- Hakimi 1991, p. 167).
Moulavi confirmed the knowledge of those who were not superficial in sciences and attained ‘certainty through their sense-perception’ as well as, higher ranks of knowledge (Jafari, 1994, vol.2, p.616). He complains of an imitational science, where a learner did not apply his or her intellect, and did not understand anything through thinking and reflection. They relied only on suspicion (2000, p. 357). Therefore, those, who were satisfied only with using their senses for cognition, knowledge thus obtained would be an obstacle for them. It will debar them from achieving all kinds of perfection (Jafari 1994, vol. 11, p. 375).
Imam Ali introduced the real science at the root of every good (Ghorar-al-Hekam). Moulavi introduced ‘ignorance’ as ‘disbelief’ and ‘knowledge’ as a factor, which removed such disbelief (Jafari 1994, vol. 7, p. 156). He also believed that knowledge had a particular luminosity. Therefore, it could be said that persons without knowledge were in the dark and without effectiveness (Moulavi, 2000). Therefore, Moulavi believed that it was knowledge that caused piety to be effective and fruitful (Jafari 1994, vol. 14, p. 50).
Moulavi emphasized informal education, in addition to formal education. According to Moulavi, the skies and the earth spoke with the one who understood. However, everyone comprehended the wise words of the universe according to their spiritual ability. Also, life could teach the highest lessons to human beings provided they took those lessons (Rumi 2000, p. 15, 19-20, 71).
According to Moulavi, it was up to people and students to reinforce the power of thinking and reflection in themselves so that they could understand the real and hidden aspect of every fact and achieve to understand very comprehensive and deep meanings of every thing (Rumi 2000, p. 8, 20, 38, 40, 49, 53, 60).
Moulavi was of the opinion that speeches, deeds and characteristics of teachers and educators could actually affect students (Rumi 2000, p. 21). Moulavi believed that man already had the best aptitudes given to him by nature. So, the main role of educators was to realize and actualize these potential aptitudes in pupils and not to create new aptitudes in them (Rumi 2000, p. 22).
According to Moulavi, motivation, interest and enthusiasm in seeking and the acquisition of science and knowledge could be very effective factors in the success of individuals. If one wanted to attain comprehension of truth, it would be quite necessary to make his thought free from all carnal desires and all worldly goals, which were against the Divine aims (Rumi, 2000, P.4). The Quran confirms this fact that: O you who believe! Be careful of (your duty to) God and believe in His Apostle: He will give you two portions of His mercy, and make for you a light with which you walk and forgive you (Hadid (57: 28)
It was in the light of real knowledge that man achieved a status in which he could see the Being or the Universe as it was. That was the reason why Moulavi repeated this prayer of the Prophet of Islam - “O God, show us the things as they are for it is in the light of real possessors of such knowledge that the entire world was filled with light, and all human beings were guided” (Rumi 2000, p. 2).
If man wished to understand the truth, it was quite necessary to purify his thought from all sorts of temptations and those intents and objectives which were not Divine and god-like. Moulavi asked God to show him the entire universe as it was so as to not stray. Worldly belongings that appeared very beautiful and attractive for some superficial people were in fact objects that those who have not understood their reality would fall in love with and never identify their true worthlessness. From the viewpoint of Moulavi, ‘knowledge and sciences’ could both ‘guide’ or ‘make man to go astray’.
Knowledge guided a man onto the straight path if he was free from the shackles of materialism and temptations. Moulavi emphasized that if man could overcome lust and carnal desires, even for a moment, all the knowledge of the prophets would become clear for him. However, those, who were pawns of selfishness and egoism and had not been delivered out of passing fancies and urges, could not possess useful knowledge for themselves or others. This was because worldliness and profanity made man’s intellectual eye blind and separated him from the real knowledge.
Moulavi even believed that teaching the ill-natured people was like giving a sword to a thief. That is the reason why Moulana said that giving the sword to a deaf and blind drunk was better than to give knowledge to the base and abject. Knowledge, wealth, and status would create havoc, turbulence and disturbance for the ill natured.
For a man who possessed intellect with insight and intuition and had ‘knowledge and action’ - that is, he thought well and was driven to do deserving deeds, the others would assuredly hold humility, and be humbled before such an intellect. Moulavi spoke of ‘the pleasure of knowledge and Divine action’. He deemed Divine acceptance as sufficient for his own ‘knowledge’ and ‘action’ and he also expressed his repugnance toward any thing other than this.
Nevertheless, Moulavi did not agree with those sciences and actions that had no spiritual effect, and sprung from blind following and repetitions. He asked God that he be freed from such sciences and actions before his death.
From his viewpoint, the real knowledge tried to impart the ‘certitude’ and ‘certitude’ tried to see ‘the Beloved’. Moulavi believed that such love could not be found in the pages of usual books, because this real love came from pure hearts and souls that were free of the shackles of egotism and therefore had come to a position where they could see and understand the truth as it was.
Moulavi introduced the ‘love’ as a real school that its teacher was God and all human beings were the students. The knowledge received in such a school was ‘infinite’ because ‘the Beloved’, that is the Lord of the worlds was ‘infinite’ This was the reason why Moulana ordered man to acquire knowledge that was not limited to ‘signs and marks’.
Moulana believed that one could be delivered from usual schools, pages and repetition of lessons. The seekers of truth did not become tired of such inborn and instinctive knowledge. The sciences that were found in the usual schools were something different from ‘love’. Thus, a man who appealed to the Divine love was as if he had obtained all the real sciences and it was not necessary for him to have any other distinction or sciences. Because when the knowledge was blended in man’s heart and soul, it really helped and saved him.
Moulavi used the words ‘spirit’, ‘knowledge’, and ‘love’ with each other. He believed in the light of such knowledge, that the real life was ingrained with love, which pervaded the man’s body, and the body received the spirit and life. It was in the light of ‘love’ that a man’s intellect transformed into pure gold and found its true worth.
Thus, Moulana insistently asked the jurisprudents with a superficial understanding to seek the ‘knowledge of love’, learn and teach it. This was so because this knowledge could save man in this world, as well as, in the hereafter. Therefore, the enlightened gained knowledge of reaching closer to God through their hearts.
The following educational principles could be extracted from Moulavi’s works (Beheshti, Abujafari & Faqihi, 2000, p. 220-232):
1. Submission to God
Moulavi had emphasized this principle in many of his writings and poems. By obeying this principle, human beings received a particular insight, in the light of which they would not see or want anything save God. They would not attach to anything other than Him, and would worship Him alone. In fact, the real philosophy and reason for all worships was submission and servitude to God.
2. Following the Educator
Moulavi had expressed the need of human beings to have an aware and reliable educator. He believed that following such an educator would take man to perfection and elevation. Such educator knew the soul, faculties of the soul, existential dimensions of the soul, temptations and deceptions of the soul, and the spirit’s pains. This was why this educator could help others and treat them well. These educators were physicians and guides, and pure bondsmen of God that never thought of the material and worldly pleasures.
3. Motivation and Request
Moulavi said that the basis and foundation of attaining truth was the request or a wanting that increased man’s efforts and activities to this end.
4. Effort and Activity
Moulavi considered effort and activity as great factors for bringing man to goals and aims. He had also introduced these two factors as the cause of man’s happiness and joy.
5. God’s bounty and grace
In addition to effort and activity, the grace of God was a major factor for bringing human beings to perfection.
6. Esteem or the dignity of man
Moulavi believed that in addition to the satisfaction of material and superficial needs of a person, we should not neglect their higher and supreme needs. Man had a constitution that could be a manifestation of God and be light from Him. Therefore, he should not lose himself, his self-esteem or dignity.
Moulavi believed that there was no monasticism or renunciation in Islam. He introduced joining a society as the way of attaining growth, elevation and perfection. Moulavi said that membership in a society made man valuable and spiritual. This caused man to avoid egoism and individualism. It was in the light of joining the society that the spirit of compassion, altruism, patience, trust or good judgment, and affection were cultivated in human beings. That was the reason why the principle of sociability was considered in Islamic worships.
Moulavi stated the importance of individual differences in psychological and intellectual characteristics of each person, and the necessity of observing these factors in life and education. In his view, educational policies should be consistent with the rate of comprehension, understanding, intelligence and aptitude of each student.
Moulavi was of the opinion that this principle was the educational principle of all Divine religions and the recommendation of all high mystics; while severity and imposing an ignorant plan for education indicated crudeness.
The educational methods from Moulavi’s viewpoint could be considered in two categories - methods of student education and methods of self-training.
Methods for educating students
The following could be extracted from Moulavi’s works as some of the important educational methods for students.
1. Suggestopedia or mimesis method
Moulavi emphasized the effective role of this method in education. He believed that the admonishment of others through one’s deeds was more attractive.
2. Affection Method
Moulavi believed that an educator could make students attached to him or her and provide the ground for the student’s acceptance of learning and place trust in the educator.
3. Encouragement or punishment Method
Moulavi agreed that education was based on encouragement and affection. In spite of this, he sometimes spoke of punishment when encouragement or kindness was not effective in teaching a student. Importantly, the intention of the teacher should be educational and correction of the student’s behavior. It must not however be a kind of revenge, acting out of self-interest or self- comfort.
4. Good Admonishment or Positive Advice Method
Moulavi introduced good admonishment or good exhortation as the educational method of God’s prophets. He used this method in many cases and in different stories and exemplum. He referred to two major points in this regard – firstly, if admonishment was prudent, tactful and its conditions observed, it would have a great influence and effect; secondly, the main condition for effectiveness of admonishment was readiness of the one who was to receive it. Many a stubborn men opposed friendly advice, or justified them.
5. Counseling Method
Moulavi had spoken of this method in many cases, and had mentioned its role and importance in helping individuals for making cognitive changes, creating new insights and finding solutions to different problems.
6. The Method of taking an object lesson
Moulavi had introduced the taking lessons as a sign of intellect, insight and growth. He believed that a man could take many lessons from the history of the past.
7. Storytelling Method
Storytelling was one of the most frequent used methods of Moulavi. He had explained many facts in different kinds of stories.
8. Exemplum Method
Moulavi had used exemplum to clarify different subjects to permeate them to his audiences and addressees. He had described, in some cases, difficult and complex subjects by running several subsequent exempla.
Methods for training Self
The following self-training methods were some of the important methods that could be extracted from Moulavi’s works in this regard (Beheshti, Abujafari & Faqihi 2000, p. 235- 262).
1. Fulfillment of Knowledge
According to Moulavi, the heart of the matter of knowledge was commitment and action. The criteria of humanity should be searched for in practical obligation and commitment. We should not be beguiled by superficial knowledge of some people. If knowledge was combined with action, it not only brightened the soul of its owner, but also guided the ignorant people.
A man, who had no commitment to gaining knowledge about self, was like a tree that had no root. On the other hand, in Moulavi’s view, the basis of knowledge was intuition. This particular kind of knowledge could only be obtained through action. It should also be noted that in the event of acting according to superficial sciences (not the science of intuition), one could eventually achieve the desired perfection and knowledge from intuition in a gradual manner.
2. Loving God
Moulavi considered love as the most basic educational method for mysticism, and believed that spiritual education and development were only possible through having such a love, as love had a power to change or revolutionize the personality of the lover and purify him from himself and from his unbecoming attributes, habits and behaviors, and led him to harmony with the beloved.
3. Watching over the soul and self- examination
Moulavi talked much about watching over the soul and self-examination and their role in self-training. He considered them as factors that led human beings to perfection, self-revelation, indulgence of heart and passage through different stages of a mystic’s journey.
4. Reciting the Quran
Moulavi said to us, regarding the Quran, not to consider it like other words and usual concepts because its appearance had a great inner form. If we read the Quran and speculated on the deep meaning of each verse, our soul will gain such a magnitude that enthusiasm for spiritual flight would leave it restless with no moment of calm.
5. Remembrance and Thinking
Moulavi was of the opinion that man’s thinking should be combined with remembrance of God, because this remembrance produces dynamism, purification, and magnificence of thinking. It also caused separation and purification from all sorts of evils and vices. It not only enlightened man’s thought, but also it cultivated his inner senses.