Book Review: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak


Love knows no rules, no boundaries. An intrinsically weaved emotion in the light of all the good resting in the hearts, love liberates. The Forty Rules of Love written by Elif Shafak, the acclaimed author of nine books, and the most read female author in Turkey, is a story of Ella Rubinstein who has a perfect husband, children, and home. Ella is bestowed with a life that many would dream of. She once loved, but the sands of time brought in a slow storm leaving her parched of emotions. What was left of her was nothing but the compulsion of responsibilities alone. Ella had made peace with herself but little did she know that a manuscript of Rumi’s and Shams of Tabriz’s bond by an unknown author from a faraway land would change her perception towards life and she would leave in search of love following her heart alone.

The book travels back and forth in time including the episodes of Ella’s life in Northampton and then there are episodes from the life of Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, two mystic characters, narrating their love beyond all the galaxies, in Aziz’s manuscript. Shams, a spiritual mystic from Konya was different from the other dervishes. He redefined spirituality and challenged the ways of society in many ways. Soon he made more enemies; the only friend he found was in Rumi, one the most learned, respected, and sought after men. It was this sense of spiritual love between the two that brought poetry to Rumi making him the most loved poet for centuries. Their story is about the transcendent union and unbearable separation. Their story is about love. And then there is Ella, in a parallel story, devoid of love, discovering Shams in Aziz.

The plot of both the stories, although placed in two cultures very distinct from each other, is very captivating for the readers. The supporting characters too conspicuously add charm to the roles of the protagonists. All the episodes in the book are aptly framed within the five elements of nature – earth, water, wind, fire, and void, essentially carrying the forty rules of love of the highest spiritual order.

“When I was a child, I saw God

I saw angels;

I watched the mysteries of the higher and the lower worlds. I thought all men saw the same. At last I realised that they did not see….” – Shams of Tabriz

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Rumi and Shams perform the whirling dance of the dervishes before the people of Konya for the first time. The intensity with which the whole scene is written is exemplary.

“Giving himself over to the hands of God, the first dervish started to whirl, the hems of his skirts gently swishing with a separate life of their own. We all join in and whirled until there remained around us nothing but Oneness. Whatever we received from the skies, we passed on to the earth, from God to people. Each and every one of us became a link connecting the Lover to the Beloved. When the music ceased, we jointly bowed to the essential forces of the universe: fire, wind, earth, and water, and the fifth element, the void”

Rich with Sufi mysticism, the book shall make you traverse through lands unknown; explore the depths in your heart and width of your mind. If you have been reading Rumi’s poetry and are in love with those, then this is the book for you, for it will take you a step closer in understanding his verses. And if you have not read Rumi before, then this book shall make you curious to explore beyond.

“Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence” – one of the rules of Shams

Back Cover of the Book

Price: INR 499 | £8.99

A Packet of Milk

I was getting late for office that day and was rushing back home on my bike after the morning routine when I saw a packet of milk right in the middle of the road. “Someone must have mistakenly dropped it”, I thought and slowed down a bit to find out who it was but couldn’t figure out and moved ahead. Then I thought of picking it up and giving it away to some child on the street who could satisfy his hunger. Having gone back and forth with this though once or twice I took a U-turn to pick up the milk packet lying unattended and just as I was getting closer, I saw a rider smashing the packet under his wheel. All the milk was scattered on the road before my eyes.

I gave an angry look to the biker but soon understood that it wasn’t his fault. He didn’t do that on purpose. My delay in making a decision was the real culprit. And I understood that all the good intentions make the least sense when you cannot take a decision in time.

Nazneen Kachwala

1st June 2019

A Sweet Stranger

Sometimes it takes ages to know someone and at times just a moment is enough.

Bollywood (Often)

Well, in my story this is partially true.

Around a month ago while I was up for a morning walk in the park, I was interrupted to slow down by someone I met for the first time. He walked towards me with a smile, greeted a good morning, gave me a sugar toffee and went on to walk in the opposite direction than mine. After a few minutes, we crossed our paths again and this time he gave me a small piece of coconut that he got as an offering from the nearby temple. I accepted it with a smile of gratitude. Next day I saw him again and he saw me too but he didn’t look at me and I too randomly ignored. Ever since then we kept seeing each other in the park quite often and occasionally exchanged smiles.

Two days ago, I met him again. This time, reading the inscription on my t-shirt he came to me with a broad smiling face and said, “You don’t look weird.” and gave me a small coconut piece. I laughed as I knew what he was talking about and popped the soft chunk into my mouth. When I walked a few steps ahead, again in the other direction than his, I realized that I was fasting that day and wasn’t supposed to have it. Unfortunately, I had to spit it out but could not hold on to my amusement as what just happened was rare. I don’t ever remember myself mistakenly putting anything in my mouth ever since I have been fasting for Ramadan or otherwise.

His charisma was such that I forgot about my Roza. He is a 70-year-young man whose name I know not. I call him a sweet stranger.