I love this poem by Rumi, the Sufi mystic:
I called through your door,
“The mystics are gathering
in the street. Come out!”
“Leave me alone.
“I don’t care if you’re dead!
Jesus is here, and he wants
to resurrect somebody!”
Although there are significant differences between Muslim and Christian perspectives of Christ, I have nevertheless find that there is a profound reverence for Jesus in Sufi writings which at times leave me in awe. Although there are strange dips into apocryphal stories (for example, in another poem Rumi touches on the Gnostic legend of Jesus as one who made the clay birds fly) at other times I think he really captures the essence of who Jesus was in his humanity.
In this poem Rumi reminds us that life before death is just an important aspect of his teaching as life after death. On days when we feel dead inside we need reminding that more is called for than simply waiting for the end. We are called to respond with true entrusting here, now. Jesus is here and he wants to resurrect somebody.
3 thoughts on “Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis”
I think that the gnostic legend also makes it into the Qur’an …
It is worth noting that Rumi was a Persian born Muslim (1207-1273). He is the principal inspiration for the Mawlawiyya order of Sufis (known in Turkey as the Whirling Dervishes). Some believe he founded the order.
The reference to the birds made from clay as found in the Quran (sura 3, 43-49) is in context a declaration that Jesus (‘Isa) was a miracle worker, principally a healer of the sick. “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord that I shall create for you from clay the form of a bird and I shall breathe into it and it shall become a bird by the permission of God, and I shall heal the blind, and the leprous, and bring the dead to life by the permission of God …”
In the Quranic passage one might find a parallel with the creation of Adam, the breath of life is given so that humans come into being (sounds familiar from Genesis 1 & 2). Note that the making of the bird is a “sign” which is intended to authenticate ‘Isa (Jesus) as God’s prophet.
Now the clay-birds miracle is mentioned in several pre-Quranic sources and in different settings. The gnostic Gospel of Thomas does have an episode when Jesus is aged 5 fashioning 12 sparrows from clay. However in the Arabic Infancy Gospel Jesus makes both animals and birds from clay. Reference to clay-birds made by Jesus also appears in the Jewish Talmud in Toledoth Yeshu.
Later Ibn Ishaq (704-767), the first biographer of the prophet Muhammad, recorded in his account of Muhammad’s life that the Christians at Najran argued for the deity of Jesus on the basis of his miracles and included in their “proofs” that Jesus made “clay birds and then breathed into them so that they flew away.”
Actually it’s the ‘Infancy Gospel of Thomas’ rather than the ‘Gospel of Thomas’. There’s a copy of the text here for those interested.
I was aware of the Qur’an reference, and presume that’s where Rumi came across the legend, but I was not aware it was in the Talmud as well.
Interesting that the infancy gospels seem to have such a wide impact in ancient times as personally I find that genre quite uninspiring. I’d rather read the apocalypses like ‘The Thunder, Perfect Mind’ and more stock standard gnostic gospels like ‘The Gospel of Thomas’.
Shows the power of story I suppose.