This article suggests new readings for two controversial lines of Persian mystical literature, and is divided into two parts. Part one concerns a line of Sanāʾī (d. 525/1131) in his Ḥadīqat al-ḥaqīqat: ‘Sūfīs undergo two festivals in a moment, while spiders make jerky out of flies.’ We present an interpretation for this enigmatic statement by an intertextual reading of lines by Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (d. 672/1273), which arguably constitute subtle commentaries on Sanāʾī’s works. In Part two, we propose that the doctrine of the ‘Changing of Temperaments’ can help explain the notion of ‘spiritual food’. Part three examines the following line in Rūmī’s Mathnawī: ‘Every druggist (‛aṭṭār) whose intellect became acquainted with Him dropped the trays into the water of the river.’ We argue that this line subtly alludes to a controversial ghazal of Farīd al-Dīn ‛Aṭṭār (d. 618/1221), which can provide a new symbolic key to understanding the somewhat obscure meaning of certain words in this line. As the title of this article, taken from a line in the Kulliyyāt-i Shams, suggests, Rūmī clearly and repeatedly acknowledges the influence of ‛Aṭṭār and Sanāʾī on his work. Using an intertextual interpretive method and a close reading of the works of Rūmī, Sanāʾī, and ‛Aṭṭār, we propose new interpretations of the lines in question that are more homogeneous with the text of the Mathnawī.
Early in Mathnawī Book Two appears a heavily-debated hemistich: “An interval was needed in order that the blood might turn to milk.” Here Rūmī uses three distinct means to introduce the notion of “Transfiguration of the Senses”: a religious conceit; an allegory – in fact, a common Persian-language proverb; and a brief explanation of Ḥusām al-Dīn’s spiritual ascension. Lacking familiarity with Rūmī’s symbolic language and the transfigurational concept he wishes to introduce, commentators have been unable to reconcile the proverb with the account of Ḥusām al-Dīn’s ascension. To further complicate the issue, Aflākī attributes the delay to the grief of the recently widowed Ḥusām al-Dīn. Here, using textual, contextual and intertextual analysis, we decode Rūmī’s symbolic language and explain “The Transfiguration of the Senses,” as well as Ḥusām al-Dīn’s role as its catalyst. Our findings also lead to a revised chronology of Ḥusām al-Dīn’s spiritual journey and his relationship with Rūmī.