There are some books that we feel while reading them that they relate to us. That’s how I felt while reading The Forty Rules of Love for the award-winnig novelist and the most widely read woman writer in Turkey, Elif Shafak. It felt like I’m living the plot, and I could connect with the characters, especially Ella….
In The Forty Rules of Love, Shafak combines two stories, one taking place in the thirteenth century, based on the special relationship that brought together the Sufi poet Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, and the second taking place in the twenty-first century, its main character being Ella, who represents a regular modern woman.
Bottom-line, I loved this book. Throughout my reading, I highlighted different definitions, quotes, verses and stories that touched me, and that I’d like to share hereafter.
“Earth: The Things That Are Solid, Absorbed, and Still.”
– “When I was a child, I saw God, I saw angels; I watched the mysteries of the higher and lower worlds. I thought all men saw the same. At last I realized that they did not see.”
– “Doesn’t God say, I am closer to you than your jugular vein? God is not some place far up in the sky. He is inside each and every one of us. That is why He never abandons us. How can He abandon Himself?”
– “How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so we are.”
– “The path to the truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge, and ultimately prevail over your nafs with your heart. Knowing yourself will lead you to the knowledge of God.”
– “Choose love, love! Without the sweet life of love, living is a burden – as you have seen.”
– “Cities are erected on spiritual columns. Like giant mirrors, they reflect the hearts of their residents. If those hearts darken and lose faith, cities will lose their glamour. It happens, and it happens all the time.”
– “Don’t judge the way other people connect to God; to each his own way and his own prayer.”
– “Love is the water of life.”
– “One thing that has helped me personally in the past was to stop interfering with the people around me and getting frustrated when I couldn’t change them. Instead of intrusion or passivity, may I suggest submission? Some people make the mistake of confusing submission with weakness, whereas it is anything but. Submission is a form of peaceful acceptance of the terms of the universe, including the things we are currently unable to change or comprehend.”
– “Treasures are hidden among ruins. A broken heart hides treasures.”
– “That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.”
– “Loneliness and solitude are two different things. When you are lonely, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path. Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely. But eventually it is best to find a person, the person who will be your mirror. Remember only in another person’s heart can you truly see yourself and the presence of God within you.”
– “Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given, but also for all that he has been denied.”
– “East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.”
– “Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, love can only be perfected in pain.”
– “The quest for love changes us. There is no seeker among those who search for love who has not matured on the way. The moment you start looking for love, you start to change within and without.”
– “A genuine spiritual master will not direct your attention to himself or herself and will not expect absolute obedience or utter admiration from you, but instead will help you to appreciate and admire your inner self. True mentors are as transparent as glass.
They let the light of God pass through them.”
“Water: The Things That Are Fluid, Changing, and Unpredictable.”
– “Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”
– “It’s easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human beings with all their imperfections and defects.”
– “Real filth is the one inside. The rest simply washes off. There is only one type of dirt that cannot be cleansed with pure waters, and that is the stain of hatred and bigotry contaminating the soul. You can purify your body through abstinence and fasting, but only love will purify your heart.”
– “If you want to change the way others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself.”
– “Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.”
– “If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is tantamount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.”
“Wind: The Things That Shift, Evolve, and Challenge.”
– “In this life stay away from all kinds of extremities, for they will destroy your inner balance.”
– “It is easy to enjoy the good and dislike the bad. Anybody can do that. The real challenge is to love the good and the bad together, not because you need to take the rough with the smooth, but because you need to go beyond such descriptions and accept love in its entirety.”
– “Numbing the pain is not the same as healing it. When the anesthesia wears off, the pain is still there.”
“Fire: The Things That Damage, Devastate, and Destroy.”
– “Sometimes, it is necessary to destroy all attachments in order to win over yourself.”
– A drunk once asked Rumi: “Why has wine been forbidden.” Rumi’s reply was:
“If the wine drinker
Has a deep gentleness in him,
He will show that,
But if he has hidden anger and arrogance,
And since most people do,
Wine is forbidden to everyone.”
– “Religious rules and prohibitions are important, but they should not be turned into unquestionable taboos.”
– “Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough.”
– “For the silk to prosper, the silkworm had to die.”
– “Where there is love, there is bound to be heartache.”
“The Void: The Things That Are Present Through Their Absence.”
– “You see Ella, all I can give you is the present moment. That is all I have. But the truth is, no one has more than that. It is just that we like to pretend we do.”
– “Fear not the plots, deceptions, or tricks of other people. If somebody is setting a trap, remember that so is God. He is the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf sits outside God’s knowledge. Simply and fully believe in that. What God does, He does beautifully.”
– “It is never too late to ask yourself: ‘Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?’ Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it is surely a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.”
– “By and large over time, pain turns into grief, grief turns into silence, and silence turns into lonesomeness, as vast and bottomless as the dark oceans.”
– “Every winner is inclined to think he will be triumphant forever. Every loser tends to fear that he is going to be beaten forever. But both are wrong for the same reason: Everything changes except the face of God.”
– “Ask anyone who has heard the call to morning prayer for the first time and he will tell you the same thing. That it is beautiful, rich, and mysterious. And yet at the same time there is something uncanny about it, almost eerie. Just like love.”
– “And that is how Ella had come to understand that if there was anything worse in the eyes of society than a woman abandoning her husband for another man, it was a woman abandoning her future for the present moment.”
There are some books that we feel while reading them that they relate to us. That’s how I felt while reading The Forty Rules of Love…It felt like I’m living the plot, and I could connect with the characters, especially Ella…. The characters in the story all convey experiences of personal growth. Being a dervish for all his life, Shams has learned about the settled life and stability from his companion Rumi. Rumi, on the other hand, has completed his transition from a scholar and teacher to a great poet after meeting, and then losing Shams. The basic and common element that moved the lives of the characters in this novel and led to their growth is love. But it was Ella’s story with Aziz that had touched me greatly. Ella resembles the regular modern woman. She’s got her own family, a pleasant home, and recently started a new job. Basically, she has got everything needed to make her happy. Nevertheless, Ella still felt a gap and emptiness deep within… until she met, loved and lost Aziz. It was this unconditional love that gave Ella the power and courage to face a judging society and give up the regular in order to seek and enjoy the present moment. I think what Ella did was a personal achievement, for she was able to experience happiness throughout a year more than she has ever experienced in her entire life.
This is probably my last post for this year, and I am pleased to farewell 2013 and welcome 2014 with a lesson learned from this inspirational book, and thus I wish…
My wish for 2014 is to have Ella’s courage to break all boundaries and cherish the present moment, which after all, is all what we really have. Last but not least, I wish for grand love, similar to the love that Ella experienced, and which led her to Rule Number 40, which later became a lesson that she passed to her daughter, and which I too hope to one day pass to my children and grandchildren.
Rule Number 40
“A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western… Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple.
Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire!
The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”
I wish you all a happy, peaceful and love-full new year 🙂