Was Rumi an evolutionist?
By Hamed Ross
science & religion through the centuries
By contrast, many religious adherents, theologians, and philosophers reject human evolution in favor of a hierarchical process which descends from higher and more abstract realms towards the physical one. All physical evolution, to them, has spiritual precedents. Objections to evolution span from creationists, with their literal scriptural interpretations, to philosophical objections on scientific grounds. These opposing approaches define a conflict within our culture concerning the workings of the universe and the meaning and source of evolution. The conflict affects secular people as well as Christians in the United States and Muslims all over the Middle East. The tension between these two groups has been building in recent years. The battlegrounds are the educational institutions and the fickle court of public opinion. Central to this cultural battle is both the theory of evolution and the perceptions about the role of religion in our society. The conflict is particularly active among the millennial generation of young Americans, ages 18-29. The battle is a decade-long debate known as the God wars. According to recent Pew research, this group is the first to seriously question the existence of God.1 Nearly one-third of this age group expressed some level of doubt, and that figure has almost doubled in the last five years. According to CNN, “More young people are expressing doubts about God now than at any time since Pew started asking the question a decade ago.” 2 In the midst of a divisive conversation about spirit and matter, what can Rumi offer? Rumi and the Vakil of the Prince of Bukhara The specific passage quoted above is an excerpt from a story called The Vakil of the Prince of Bokhara. It is about a representative (vakil) of the prince of Bokhara who attempts to flee his master’s wrath, but, overcome by a sense of duty and love, returns to the prince to face what he assumes will be the death penalty for his disobedience. Rumi’s poem describes a series of deaths and rebirths, a recurring theme in the Masnavi. 1 Kapur, Sahil, “Belief In God Plummets Among Youth.” 13 June 2012. Talking Points Memo. http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo. com/2012/06/belief-in-god-plummets-millenials.php. 28 August 2012. 2 Merica, Dan, “Pew survey: Doubt of God growing quickly among millennials.” 12 June 2012. CNN. http://religion.blogs.cnn. com/2012/06/12/pew-survey-doubt-of-god-growing-quickly-among-millennials/. 25 August 2012.
Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1