Rumi is sympathetically presented by these translators, who it is clear, absolutely love him and desire nothing less than to share him with you. The interesting introduction to their little book gives solid if sometimes slightly out-of-date information about the period. The framework of dramatic upheaval and invasion they paint is currently questioned by scholars who think Rumi and his family had left Samarkand some three years before the Mongols destroyed it. They focus, quite correctly, on Rumi's relationship with Shams of Tabriz, a key figure in Rumi's spiritual development. Here he is romantically described as "although of shabby appearance and rough manner ... a highly advanced Sufi walking the spiritual path of love ...". However, Franklin Lewis in his outstanding study, Rumi: Past and Present, East and West
, shows that Shams was an eloquent author and engaging speaker, well-versed in the philosophical and theological discourse of his day.
Rumi is appropriately described as "the sun that warms and transforms hearts, attracting people from all creeds, classes and religions." At the end of the book there is a small section of "Terms and Symbolism" that explain what Rumi meant when he used the terms Lover, Beloved, Drunkenness, etc. Although this firmly anchors Rumi's work in its origins, readers have not been invited or guided to go any further. The translators unfortunately do not clarify what their objectives were in producing this little work.
The "Roba'is" or quatrains presented here have been translated from the respected Persian scholar Forouzanfar's critical edition of Rumi's Divan--which Lewis regards as the closest we have to the corpus of what Rumi originally wrote. These would have benefited by being presented in some order, perhaps under subject headings. As it is, the 100 quatrains are simply presented one after the other without offering any time for "digestion". The sometimes inelegant English also serves to interrupt the flow and arouses irritation, eg "First he tempted me with infinite caresses. He burnt me in the end with pain and sorrow." "It is time for prayer, time to find what is your real need." For all this, Whispers of the Beloved, once one learns how to handle its quirks, is crammed with enough profundities to keep one going for a very long time. --Amar Hegedus
From the Back Cover
Born in Balkh (present-day Afghanistan), Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) is one of the greatest Persian mystics and poets the world has known. His message of love speaks directly to the heart and transcends the limitations of language and the boundaries of time.
In the vast depths of Rumi's work the short quatrains, the Rubaiyat, are like crystals. They sparkle with the many hues of the rainbow and contain worlds inside. As we hold them iin our hands they capture us with their mystery. Transparent and clear they open doors into the wonder of inner spaces and longing. Whispers of two lovers in a crowd.