Love knows no rules, no boundaries. An intrinsically weaved emotion in the light of all the good resting in the hearts, love liberates. The Forty Rules of Love written by Elif Shafak, the acclaimed author of nine books, and the most read female author in Turkey, is a story of Ella Rubinstein who has a perfect husband, children, and home. Ella is bestowed with a life that many would dream of. She once loved, but the sands of time brought in a slow storm leaving her parched of emotions. What was left of her was nothing but the compulsion of responsibilities alone. Ella had made peace with herself but little did she know that a manuscript of Rumi’s and Shams of Tabriz’s bond by an unknown author from a faraway land would change her perception towards life and she would leave in search of love following her heart alone.
The book travels back and forth in time including the episodes of Ella’s life in Northampton and then there are episodes from the life of Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, two mystic characters, narrating their love beyond all the galaxies, in Aziz’s manuscript. Shams, a spiritual mystic from Konya was different from the other dervishes. He redefined spirituality and challenged the ways of society in many ways. Soon he made more enemies; the only friend he found was in Rumi, one the most learned, respected, and sought after men. It was this sense of spiritual love between the two that brought poetry to Rumi making him the most loved poet for centuries. Their story is about the transcendent union and unbearable separation. Their story is about love. And then there is Ella, in a parallel story, devoid of love, discovering Shams in Aziz.
The plot of both the stories, although placed in two cultures very distinct from each other, is very captivating for the readers. The supporting characters too conspicuously add charm to the roles of the protagonists. All the episodes in the book are aptly framed within the five elements of nature – earth, water, wind, fire, and void, essentially carrying the forty rules of love of the highest spiritual order.
“When I was a child, I saw God
I saw angels;
I watched the mysteries of the higher and the lower worlds. I thought all men saw the same. At last I realised that they did not see….” – Shams of Tabriz
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Rumi and Shams perform the whirling dance of the dervishes before the people of Konya for the first time. The intensity with which the whole scene is written is exemplary.
“Giving himself over to the hands of God, the first dervish started to whirl, the hems of his skirts gently swishing with a separate life of their own. We all join in and whirled until there remained around us nothing but Oneness. Whatever we received from the skies, we passed on to the earth, from God to people. Each and every one of us became a link connecting the Lover to the Beloved. When the music ceased, we jointly bowed to the essential forces of the universe: fire, wind, earth, and water, and the fifth element, the void”
Rich with Sufi mysticism, the book shall make you traverse through lands unknown; explore the depths in your heart and width of your mind. If you have been reading Rumi’s poetry and are in love with those, then this is the book for you, for it will take you a step closer in understanding his verses. And if you have not read Rumi before, then this book shall make you curious to explore beyond.
“Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence” – one of the rules of Shams
Price: INR 499 | £8.99
Review By: Nazneen Kachwala