Indian Commentaries on the Iranian Masnavi

The spread of Persian language and literature throughout the Indian sub-continent made it possible for Persian mystical works written in Persia, Central Asia and Anatolia to spread among the Sufi orders in South Asia.  Among the books which became a frequent source of inspiration for South Asian Sufis was the Masnavi of Jalâl al-Din Rumi.  Because this book was so frequently taught, countless commentaries were written about it, so that Sufi tyros and disciples could better understand any linguistic difficulties in the Persian. Of course, these commentators – like the commentators in Anatolia who wrote Turkish-language commentaries on the Masnavi – were not shy to introduce their own ideas, which may not always have reflected the points Rumi himself addressed.

   At times Rumi was portrayed as a pious Sunni and at times as a convinced Shiite; some accounted him a miracle-working saint, able to break a myriad laws of nature with a single gesture, while others conceived of him as a dedicated follower and promoter of the school of Ibn ‛Arabi.  As a result, these commentaries sometimes added new difficulties for the readers of the Masnavi in the sub-continent, particularly because Persian and Arabic were frequently second or third languages for these learned Sufis of the sub-continent, who might not therefore be aware of all the nuances of the contemporary usage of these languages in Rumi’s time and place of writing.
This article presents a brief overview of four of the most important authors of Masnavi commentaries written in South Asia and a few particulars about each of their works, along with a critique of their achievement, and an evaluation of their usefulness for contemporary scholarship on Rumi:

حسن لاهوتی
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