Rumi is not alluding to reincarnation or evolution. Rather, he is describing the stages and states of the lover who is captured and transformed by love for the Divine. In this metaphor, love for the master overcomes the vakil’s will for self-preservation. The vakil becomes eligible for advancement by placing his head at his master’s feet. This is what Rumi was suggesting by his poetic series of deaths and rebirths, from mineral to vegetable to animal to human and angelic. For a sufi, love of the Divine overcomes personal will and each sacrifice to the Divine spawns a rebirth of new spiritual growth. As Rumi says, “Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?” In his subtle wisdom, Rumi instructs us that dying to lower qualities is a necessary part of being born to higher ones. It is also worth noting that although this may be intended as a description of spiritual development, the process of evolution may be regarded as a similar developmental process in which better adapted qualities supersede the death of less adaptive qualities. Rumi’s poetic genius allows us to see connections between the physical and spiritual realms through cycles of birth, death and rebirth. Other Related Thematic Examples The main theme of Rumi’s poem is the relation between love, death and rebirth in the most metaphorical sense. This is good advice for the spiritual traveler. But this does not mean the specific passage quoted above is limited to spiritual teaching. There are layers of meaning and it may be interesting to flush a few more details out of this passage. Six hundred years before Rumi and twelve hundred years before Darwin, Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib expressed a similar theme in one of his traditions. This teaching is conveyed by Hazrat Mir Ghotbeddin Mohammad Angha:3 Komeil, accompanying Amir al Momenin Ali in the suburb of Kufa, a city of Iraq, asked: “Show me my nafs and help me to become aware of it.” Amir al Momenin Ali replied, “Of which nafs are you eager to become aware?” “Is there more than one nafs?” asked Komeil. “Yes,” explained Amir al Momenin Ali “there are four: nafs of growth; nafs of sensibility (animal spirit); nafs of pure intellect; and nafs of wholeness and Divinity. Each one of the nufus (plural of nafs) has powers and qualities of its own.”
Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1
3 Angha, Hazrat Mir Ghotbeddin Mohammad, “Nafs, Spirit & Heart.” Number 1 Volume 8. Sufism Journal. http://www.sufismjournal.org/psychology/psychology.html. 28 8 2012.