The novel “Forty Rules of Love” by renowned Turkish writer Elif Shafak is open to various interpretations and commentary. There are many questions and few answers. Not because this gifted and learned writer offers us any doubt, but because to this day, Hadhrat Mevlana Gemaluddin Rumi remained unknown in some of his segments of life, and Shems an undisclosed secret. It isn’t straightforward to determine who is the main character in the novel, although the subtitle says: a novel about Rumi. In my opinion, both Shems and Rumi are the bearers of the shop, especially Shems, because by their attitude towards those who punished their lives: the leprous beggar from whom they all flee; – shows all the rejected to the face of the true Sufi.
We have to admit that when we (Shems) violate the word of the Holy Qur’an, we sometimes see him as a schismatic and unprecedented lunatic who cannot control his actions, like he is a character in adult porn games, or even worse, in free sex games. We forget that he is “covered,” Elijah and that he does so with a specific purpose. Shems is a blasphemer looking for ways of approach.
We ask ourselves the question of who is Shems? What drove him to become a wandering dervish and to neglect the worldly, surrendering to love? His real mission is to transform man, to convince him that the dark side of life has many values as well and that luxury, the ego, the effort to make the environment think that you know everything, that you are above others, leads to spiritual ruin.
Why is Shems looking for Mevlana? Did a secret voice whisper to him that he would do a favor to humanity? Until Jalaluddin Rumi gets close to him, he leads a normal family life. He has learned murderers, his huts on Fridays have a considerable number of attentive listeners. Rumi is respectable, respected. All the people of the city appreciate his word because it is deep and thoughtful. He pays attention to his clothes, and he drives a carriage into town. In a word, it interprets the word of God and lives religiosity, not spirituality. You come alone bowling to him and showing awe—an ivory tower.
So it is until the encounter with Shems when under his influence, new perspectives open up, and he changes radically. As Elif Shafak puts it: “Throw a rock into the lake. The effect will not only be visible, but also much more permanent. The stone will disturb the still water.” So, with his incredible spiritual power, Shems was able to stir the still waters of Mevlana.
Shems wanders around the various countries and does not settle down anywhere. He is a dervish who has cleansed his heart of this worldly specter, who does not care what he looks like or what his first impression will be on someone. He is a missionary determined to point, influence, and transfigure.
Have you read this book, or any other by the author? Does it sound like something you’d enjoy? Let’s chat in the comments!