Rumi: Liberation

I have been gazing at the mosques of Istanbul–elegant, with grand semi-spherical domes and their lean minarets. These point heavenward, as if they could pierce the sky’s grander azure dome. What do they mean, at least to me? One of Rumi’s rubaiyat has given me the key to interpretation. They symbolize not ambition but liberation–that inner freedom which the heart strives for, nearly attains, lets slip, and once again seeks.


He wishes me to get out of myself.
He wishes me to sit in freedom.
I was constantly involved with ambition,
and now he tells me to break all 
       the chains.

May we break all the chains of ambition and be free.

[Translation by Kabir Helminski from The Pocket Rumi (Boulder: Shambala, 2008).]

View of two minarets and dome from the exterior of Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque, 1616)

View of two minarets of Nuruosmaniye Camii (1755) from its interior courtyard.

[Cover photograph: View of Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) and Hagia Sophia Mosque from the Bosphorus.]

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