Rūmī’s Mathnawī, Book Two

The Transformation of Blood to Milk and the Transfiguration of the Senses

In: Journal of Sufi Studies
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  • 1 University of IsfahanIran
  • | 2 Indiana University BloomingtonBloomington, IndianaUSA
  • | 3 University of IsfahanIsfahanIran
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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.

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