Rumi Being Ruined By Coleman Bark's Mistranslation





Despite my admiration for professor Coleman Barks who has single-handedly made Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi "Rumi" a household name here in our beloved America, I entirely disagree with this particular translation.




A quatrain by Rumi, "Translated" by Coleman Barks

"Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened.  Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading.  Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."


Here is the original Quatrain by Rumi in Persian:


رباعي حضرت مولانا جلال الدين بلخي رومي

امروز چو هر روز خرابیم خراب
مگشا در اندیشه و برگیر رباب
صدگونه نماز است و رکوعست و سجود
آنرا که جمال دوست باشد محراب


Here are my literal/line by line translations of it along with the necessary explanations:


امروز چو هر روز خرابیم خراب

My translation:

Today like everyday, I feel ruined and broken.

Coleman Bark's Translation:

"Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened."

How did Barks come up with 'empty and frightened' and 'wake up'?

Rumi mentions the Persian word Kharab twice in above line which means:
Kharab-خراب in English = broken, ruined, ruinous, demolished, desolate, impaired, damaged, decayed, spoiled, rotten, destroyed, wrecked or devastated.

"we wake up" is purely Coleman Bark's invention since Rumi never mentions it in above line.

مگشا در اندیشه و برگیر رباب

My translation:

Don't open the gate of contemplation, grab a Rubab [Afghani Lute].

Coleman Bark's Translation:

"Don't open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument."

Again, how did Barks come up with "door to the study and begin reading"?

Rumi never mentions 'reading and studying' in above line. Rumi clearly teaches us to stop worrying and contemplating about life by keeping the door of negative thoughts closed.


صدگونه نماز است و رکوعست و سجود
آنرا که جمال دوست باشد محراب


Coleman Bark's Translation:

"Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

My translation:

There are hundred ways to kneel, prostrate and pray
For the one whose Mihrab [a Muslim's prayer niche towards the Mecca]
is the Beauty of the Friend [God].

How did Coleman Barks come up with "Let the beauty we love be what we do"?
I don't see that anywhere in the above original Persian Quatrain of Rumi. As shown in my literal translation above, in Rumi's original Quatrain, we can clearly read the Persian verse containing 'Beauty" and "Mihrab" as  following: 'for the one whose Mihrab [a Muslim's prayer niche towards the Mecca] is Beauty of The Friend'. Therefore, contrary to Barks' invention "Let the beauty we love be what we do", Rumi is specifically making a reference to 'Beauty of The Friend (God)'.

Rumi's mentioning of Mihrab-Muslim's prayer niche- is also entirely missing from Barks' "Translation". If you're not familiar with Mihrab within the Islamic prayer concept while facing the Mecca, please visit and read the following short explanation of Mihrab along with images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihrab


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Thank you for visiting Maulana Rumi Online, a blog dedicated entirely to the life, works and teachings of Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi better known simply as Rumi here in our beloved America. Just as a memory refresher, all articles, e-books, images, links and reading materials listed in this Blog are solely for Educational purposes. This Blog is designed and maintained by yours truly, your comments, critiques or suggestions are quite welcome and greatly appreciated. As for my own Rumi Translations, you are welcome to copy and use them as long as it's not for commercial purposes. For best viewing, please try this Blog on Google Chrome Browser. This is a very long Blog though, so please make sure to use the Scroll To Top or Bottom Buttons at the left side, or Back To Top Button at the bottom right corner of your screen for smooth navigation. If you have any question, comment, critique or suggestion, please contact me by clicking the Contact Box embedded at the right middle corner. As Rumi would say, "Come, come, whoever you are, come back again.."!








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