The Forty Rules of Love

A good friend from Jordan gave me this book when she was visiting earlier this year. This strange tale by Elif Shafak, "The Forty Rules of Love" , weaves two stories together. One, taking place in the 1200s, is about a Persian poet, Rumi and his encounter with a whirling dervish, Shams. Shams is a Sufi and he spends much time with Rumi, discussing the Forty Rules of Love with him.

The second story is about Ella and Aziz in 2009, with Ella (a Jewish-American housewife) struggling in an unhappy marriage. She is getting back to work as a literary reviewer and is given Aziz' book to review. The book touches her deeply, and she contacts Aziz, a Scotsman who has himself become a Sufi.

It was an interesting introduction to a very foreign, Muslim world for me, and a quick read. I was not able to relate to many of the "Rules of Love" set out, but the fortieth one does indeed resound, so I will quote it here:

A life without love is of no account. Don't ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western ... Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water."

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