Soroush speech in Houston

From: Ali M. ali@swri.edu

On Sunday (March 9, 1997), more than 200 people attended Dr. Soroush's talk on Molavi (Rumi) in Houston, Texas, at short notice. Dr. Soroush received a standing ovation from the audience, and began his talk with a short introduction about Molavi. He mentioned that he has been researching "Masnavi" (One of Molavi's collection of poems) for the past 15 years.

Dr. Soroush categorized the understanding of God and Islam into three types. 1- Feqh-hi (laws): In this way of understanding God, one will consider God as a creator who establishes laws and will punish those who disobey, and reward those who follow. This understanding of God and religion requires renewal and reform to be dynamic, and if it is not, it will rot and become a habit for people ,which inturn looses its meaning. This is the most popular understanding of God.

2- Kalaami (words): This is an analytical understanding of God and his power, and realization of how perfect he has created this world. This is the Islam of thinkers and philosophers, and prophets did not advocate this understanding.

3- Fardi (individual): This is a personal way of understanding God. It is an understanding of religion through individual personal experiences. This is the way that lovers (Asheghaan) of God and Sufiee's experience God. Molavi evolved through all these stages to understand God.

Then Dr. Soroush explained briefly about life of Molavi. He was the son of a Mojtahed (Islamic scholar) and he himself became one. He Studied in Syria and became a mojtahed at the age of 24.

At the age of 40, he met Shams Tabrizi and during the two months of associating with him, he totally evolved into a new person. He became interested in understanding Islam through Music, singing, and dances, and was criticized by his peers because of such non-traditional acts. He ignored them, and continued his Sufi way of life until his death at the age of 68.

Dr. Soroush defined Molavi as a person whose mind was always flying high in the sky and occasionally landed to refuel, unlike Hafez who was grounded on earth like rest of us. He recited many poems of Molavi, which I enjoyed greatly and made me very interested in reading more about this great Iranian poet. At the end, Dr. Soroush received a very enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience again.

During the questions and answers period a lot of interesting subjects were discussed. One that I would like to mention is when someone asked about a poem by Molavi which says "fish rocks from the head and not from the tail, corruption comes from a turban (am-maameh) and not from wine" (This is my translation, I apologize if I am wrong in translating it). He said such a poem does not exist in the Masnavi.

Furthermore, he said that he is very disappointed about two researchers who have mentioned poems from Molavi that do not exist too. First is Kasravi (who is dead now) which has criticized Molavi because of a poem degrading women. Dr. Soroush said such a poem does not exist in the Masnavi. Second is Shamloo who has recently criticized Molavi because of a poem that also does not exist. Shamloo has mentioned that Molavi has a poem which says if you see a snake and a Ghazvini (a person from Ghazvin), kill the Ghazvini because he is more dangerous. Dr. Soroush said he has read the Masnavi several times, and has never seen these poems.

I personally enjoyed this cultural talk, and became very interested in this subject. I found Dr. Soroush very knowledgeable regarding Molavi, and I believe he has memorized most of the Masnavi. This was very apparent from his answers to audience's questions. I asked to if I could purchase the tapes of his talk, and I was told that all of his speeches in U.S. would be sold in a collection soon. I personally recommend all those who are interested in Iranian literature and Molavi to get this tape of Dr. Soroush.

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