Friday, January 10, 2014

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee - Love Is Fire and I Am Wood

Love Is Fire and I Am Wood:
Laylâ and Majnûn as a Sufi Allegory of Mystical Love

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

published in
Sufi: Journal of Mystical Philosophy and Pratice,
Summer 2011

Laylâ and Majnûn is the best-known love story of the Middle East, and for the Sufi is an allegory of mystical love. Sufis are lovers of God, wayfarers travelling through the desert of the world, making the journey from separation back to union with God. For these mystics the relationship with God is that of lover and Beloved, and it is the longing for their Beloved that turns them away from the world, drawing them deeper and deeper into the mystery of the heart. These lovers of God have made Laylâ and Majnûn their own story, full of symbols and images of this great love affair of the soul, a love affair as mad, dangerous and destructive as that experienced by the young man Qays, whose love for Laylâ changes his name to Majnûn, the mad one.
Laylâ is the beloved, Majnûn the lover, and his story is that of the seeker consumed by longing, burnt by love. In Nizami's version, written at the end of the twelfth century, their relationship is rich in Sufi symbolism—as when Majnûn, driven by the pain of separation, creeps to Laylâ's tent:

All the radiance of this morning was Laylâ, yet a candle was burning in front of her, consuming itself with desire. She was the most beautiful garden and Majnûn was a torch of longing. She planted the rose bush; he watered it with his tears.

.... Laylâ could bewitch with one glance from beneath her dark hair, Majnûn was her slave and a dervish dancing before her. Laylâ held in her hand the glass of wine scented with musk. Majnûn had not touched the wine, yet he was drunk with its sweet smell.
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