Review:The Forty Rules of Love: Elif Shafak.
The following review is of the beautiful work of fiction by Elif Shafak, “The Forty Rules of Love.” The story moves between the story of Ella Rubinstein, a modern day American wife and mother, and the story of Shams of Tabriz and Rumi, set in 12th century Turkey.
Ella is in a long, term marriage that has lost its spark. Her husband is unfaithful but successful and she distracts herself by cooking and looking after her teenage children. Needing a new challenge, she accepts a job as a reader for a literary agent. Her first assignment is to read a novel by an enigmatic Scottish author Aziz. Z. Zahara.
Ella reads about the fabled poet Rumi, whose world view was transformed by the travelling whirling dervish, Shams of Tabriz and his forty rules of love and life. Fascinated, Ella corresponds with Aziz and learns more about his life and the Sufi way. Her world is transformed like Rumi’s and she begins to want more.
This is a lovely book full of spiritual insights into how to live life. Each chapter begins with the letter b and the story falls into five parts. Part one is Earth; the things that are solid, absorbed and still. Part two is Water; the things that are fluid, changing and unpredictable. Part three is Wind; the things that shift, evolve and challenge. Part four is Fire; the things that damage, devastate and destroy and finally the culmination of both stories are within part five, the Void; the things that are present through their absence.
We learn about the significance of the number forty. Ella turns forty and Aziz writes her an email; “Forty is a beautiful age for both men and women. Did you know that in mystic thought, forty symbolises the ascent from one level to a higher one and spiritual awakening? When we mourn, we mourn for forty days. When a baby is born it takes forty days for him to get ready to start life on earth. And when we are in love we need to wait for forty days to be sure of our feelings. The flood of Noah lasted forty days and forty nights. In Islamic mysticism there are forty degrees between man and God. Likewise, there are four basic stages of consciousness and ten degrees in each, making forty levels in total. Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days and nights. Muhammad was forty years old when he received the call to become a prophet. Buddha meditated under a linden tree for forty days. Not to mention the forty rules of Shams. You receive a new mission at forty, a new lease of life!
This is a beautiful and life affirming story. I have transcribed the forty rules and although God is mentioned, the rules can be applied, whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs, to any higher being or Source. ©Pam Burn 2010.