The Richard Stevens Masnavi Group
“Where is the Musician in my soul? That its singing May echo in a thousand heads the enchantments of love. I said I will not speak, but I will; Fulfilling promises is not a notable virtue of mine”
(Divan 223, v 1-2, translated by Dr Fatemeh Keshavarz)
We meet every Tuesday evening on Zoom from 6 to 8 pm to read Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi’s Masnavi in Nicholson’s magisterial translation. We intersperse our readings with readings from the Divan e Shams e Tabriz in various translations.
Please contact the group facilitator Yaver Abidi at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the group or the material.
Tickets are available below.
These meetings are free to Study Society Members – direct links are available here.
To explore unlimited access to all weekly classes and traditional member gatherings please have a look at our subscription benefits here.
You can contact the group facilitator Yaver Abidi at email@example.com to learn more about the group.
- You can find a full version of the Masnavi in Farsi and English at masnavi.net
- You can also find scanned copies of all volumes of Nicholson’s Masnavi and Arberry’s translation of 400 ghazals from the Divan e Shams e Tabriz at www.archive.org
- Very useful resources about Rumi can be found at dar-al-masnavi.org
- You can also find a passionate and personal exposition of the poetry of Mawlana in a series of podcasts at Radio Rumi blog.umd.edu/radiorumi
We read together and discuss the Masnavi from our diverse perspectives. We are lovers of Rumi, not scholars, our group includes people of diverse faiths, cultures and spiritual interests who are both non-Persian and Persian speakers. We recognise that you can begin from different starting points and yet the Masnavi can help you connect with your own tradition and to make your own spiritual journey.
Our group abides by certain values:
- First and foremost, we respect the voice of Mawlana and strive to grasp his wisdom, guidance, encouragement and inspiration in translations made by those who approached him free of judgement and artifice
- We seek to explore the roots of his teachings in the Quran and Hadith and in the almost endlessly rich trove of historical stories and sources that he drew upon
We are non-judgemental in our approach and welcome everyone’s insights and reflections
- The Study Society’s headquarters at Colet House has been a home for Mevlevi turning for more than 60 years, and it is here that the founder of our group Richard Mevlevi (Richard Stevens) first fell in love with Mawlana more than 55 years ago. Colet House’s calm and welcoming atmosphere has helped many of us to open ourselves up to Mawlana
About Jalaluddin Mohammad Rumi
Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), respectfully called Mawlana (or Our Master) was the greatest mystical poet of Islam. Born in Vakhsh in northern Afghanistan to an accomplished Islamic scholar and shaykh, Bahauddin, Jalaluddin himself reached the highest levels of attainment in Islamic theology and jurisprudence. His family settled in Konya in central Turkey when he was 10.
In his 40th year he encountered the wandering dervish Shamsuddin of Tabriz, an encounter that was to transform his life from earnest theologian to ecstatic poet and besotted lover. In the last 26 years of his life he produced 60,000 couplets in the form of his 3,200 ecstatic poems (ghazals) and his more didactic work, the six-volume Masnavi e Maanavi. He also produced 2,000 quatrains (rubai) and his prose teachings are summarised in Fihi ma fihi.
The Masnavi is a veritable ocean of his teaching, full of colourful stories, rich allusions and deep meaning. What makes it and all of Rumi’s poetry extraordinary is not just its poetic worth, it lucidity or its luminosity but that almost 800 years after its ecstatic utterance, it is still of the greatest relevance and meaning to countless people across the world.
About Reynold Alleyne Nicholson
Reynold Alleyne Nicholson (1868-1945), was the greatest Rumi scholar in the English language. He was a professor for many years at Cambridge where he dedicated his life to the study of Islamic mysticism in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish. His monumental achievement was his work on Rumi’s Masnavi (done in eight volumes, published between 1925-1940). Although couched in late Victorian English (and sometimes in Latin in its more explicit passages), his Masnavi has never been surpassed either for the faithfulness to the original or his ability to sense the true intent of often obscure and archaic Persian. Indeed, it and the accompanying commentary is used as a reference amongst native Persian speakers.
Although Nicholson was neither a Muslim nor a Sufi, his works exhibit a spiritual understanding and an empathy that has not been surpassed. It is almost as if he stood naked of his preconceptions and his own sensibilities in the light of the Master when he translated the Masnavi. We are blessed indeed to have this great work.
About Richard Lovell Stevens
Richard Stevens was born in Northern Rhodesia to an English colonial administrator and his wife Joan Stevens, who was a well-known historian of Jersey. Having studied art in London, Richard encountered Mevlevi teaching at the Study Society when he was nineteen. Over the years, he met many Mevlevi shaykhs in the UK and in Turkey. He learned to play the ney and daf, to turn and to create calligraphy in the kufic style.
Richard’s devotion to Mawlana (or Mevlana as he would call him) was absolute and his love for Rumi was profound. Many of us in the group were privileged to read the Masnavi and the ghazals with Richard; who encouraged us to read with open minds and without excessive analysis or judgement. Sadly, Richard left us to join his beloved Mevlana in the summer of 2019. Our group is dedicated to his memory and we hope to continue his spirit.
“When you have closed your mouth on this side, open it on that, for your shout of triumph will echo in the placeless air”
(Divan 911, v 9, translated by AJ Arberry)