Rūmī's Mystical Design

Reading the Mathnawi, Book One

By Seyed Ghahreman Safavi & Simon Weightman
Foreword by Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Subjects: Islam, Religion, Sufism, Middle East Studies, Mysticism
Series: SUNY series in Islam
Paperback : 9781438427966, 290 pages, October 2009
Hardcover : 9781438427959, 290 pages, October 2009

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Foreword by Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr
1. Contextualizing the Mathnawī
Mawlānā’s Life—An Outline
Mawlānā’s Religious Outlook
Mawlānā’s Literary Antecedents
2. Reading the Mathnawī
The Mathnawī as Given
The Question of Structure
Some Further Considerations
Synoptic Reading and the Principles of Parallelism and Chiasmus
Rhetorical Latency
Two Iranian Exemplars
The Synoptic Reading of Book One of the Mathnawī
3. A Synoptic Reading of Book One of the Mathnawī
4. Book One as a Whole and as a Part
The Synoptic Analysis of Book One as a Whole
The Rationale of Book One as a Whole
The Linear and the Nonlinear Ordering of Book One
Book One as a Part
5. Conclusion
How Mawlānā Composed the Mathnawī
Mawlānā’s Hidden Organization as the Writer’s Plan
Th e Design of the Mathnawī
Select Bibliography

Reveals the sophisticated design of Rumī’s Mathnawī, showing that this seemingly unstructured work both describes and functions as spiritual training.


This landmark book reveals the structure of Rumī's thirteenth-century classic, the Mathnawī. A beloved collection of 25,000 picturesque, alliterative verses full of anecdotes and parables on what appear to be loosely connected themes, the Mathnawī presents itself as spontaneous and unplanned. However, as Seyed Ghahreman Safavi and Simon Weightman demonstrate, the work has a sophisticated design that deliberately hides the spiritual so that readers, as seekers, have to find it for themselves—it is not only about spiritual training, it is spiritual training. Along with a full synoptic reading of the whole of Book One, the authors provide material on Rumī's life, his religious position, and his literary antecedents. Safavi and Weightman have provided readers, students, and scholars with a valuable resource: the guide that they wished they had had prior to their own reading of this great spiritual classic.

Seyed Ghahreman Safavi is Research Associate of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the University of London, and Director of the London Academy of Iranian Studies. He is the author of The Structure of Rumī's Mathnawī: New Interpretation of the Mathnawī as a Book for Love and Peace. Simon Weightman is Former Head of the Department of the Study of Religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the University of London. He is the coauthor (with Rupert Snell) of Hindi.


"This is possibly the best explanation of the significance of the entire work ever written, certainly so in English. The authors bring out dimensions of the ornate and sophisticated structure of the Mathnawī, of which other authors have had at best only inklings." — William C. Chittick, author of The Sufi Doctrine of Rumī