Disguised Commentary on the Qur'an

The Question of Form and Content in Rūmī's Mathnawī

  • AbdulGafar Olawale Fahm University of Ilorin
Keywords: commentary, Qur’an, Mathnawī, Rūmī, theology


Mathnawī, Jalāluddīn Rūmī’s magnum opus, is among the most quoted mystico-didactic epic poems in the Islamic world. The purpose of this research is to provide an assessment of the 13th-century scholar’s work as exegetical commentary on the Qur’an. A theological approach has been adopted to identify the major teachings in the work. In this study, after a brief introduction of Rūmī and his vision of the Qur’an, the research evaluated the Mathnawī from historical, mystical, exegetical and literary perspectives. It identifies the stories of Prophets and their people in his poetic lines and provides a holistic categorization of issues about them found also in various verses of the Qur’an as a possibility of commentary on the Qur’an. In order to establish a meaningful relationship in terms of the form and content in the work, stories of prophets mentioned in the Qur’an are analyzed to facilitate comprehensive assessment. This also serves as a guide to Rūmī’s interpretation of the Qur’an. It was discovered that Jalāluddīn Rūmī in his work pays particular attention to the spiritual attributes of each prophet. An overall evaluation of the Mathnawī shows that Rūmī did not only use Qur’an verses or words but also rational arguments, stories, and anecdotes to drive home his commentary on the Qur’an.


Browne, Edward Granville. A literary history of Persia. Routledge, 2013.
Dalal, Ghulam Abbas. Ethics in Persian Poetry: With Special Reference to Timurid Period. Abhinav Publications, 1995.
De Bruijn, Johannes Thomas Pieter. Persian Sufi poetry: an introduction to the mystical use of classical Persian poems. Routledge, 2014.
Fard, Ali Ashgar Mirbagheri. "Islamic Mysticism and Persian Literature: The Case of Rumi's Mathnawi." Al-Shajarah: Journal of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) 8, no. 2 (2012).
King, James Roy. "Narrative Disjunction and Conjunction in Rumi's" Mathnawi"." The Journal of Narrative Technique 19, no. 3 (1989): 276-286.
Lewis, Franklin D. Rumi-Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teachings, and Poetry of Jalâl al-Din Rumi. Oneworld Publications, 2014.
Musharraf, Maryam, and Leonard Lewisohn. "Sahl Tustari’s (d. 283/896) Esoteric Qur’anic Commentary and Rumi’s Mathnawi: Part.1.
Noegel, Scott B., and Brannon M. Wheeler. The A to Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism. Vol. 176. Scarecrow Press, 2010.
Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical dimensions of Islam. Univ of North Carolina Press, 1975.
Schimmel, Annemarie. "Mawlana Rumi: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow." The Heritage of Rumi (1994): 12-29.
Yusuf, B. Lanre. "Sayyid Qutb: A study of his tafsir." Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust (2009).