A Comparative Study of ‘Faith’ from Kierkegaard’s and Rumi’s Perspective

Masoumeh Bahram

University of Leeds



This paper analyses and compares the ideas of Kierkegaard and Rumi on faith and love. After outlining the very divergent historical contexts in which these two thinkers set forth their ideas, the study then identifies and explains the main and additional secondary keywords related to the concepts of faith and love. This includes the three stages of existentialism, as differently expressed by Kierkegaard and Rumi. The similarity in their thinking is described, as is also the dissimilarity in their lives, contexts and modes of contemplation. Finally, both the ideas are evaluated. The conclusion is that faith and love are concepts not amenable to scientific analysis, and the ideas of these scholars are for all people in all ages.


Kierkegaard and Rumi have provided the world with profoundly beautiful insights into the nature of God and of our human life. Not only do they enjoy the capability of pleasantly comprehending Almighty God, but they also know very well how much pain we suffer in this world. They do try to alleviate humanity’s sufferings and add to its joy by getting help from the geometry of their thoughts and knowledge. In a word, I firmly believe that Kierkegaard and Rumi want to deliver a well-known message to the people of our time, and it is for this reason that they link themselves to our minds, feelings and emotions and stand for us in this age of bewilderment and consternation that we face. They suggest that one can derive courage in order to live daringly, grant a new significance to life, cope with its hardships and spend it calmly and pleasantly, on the condition that one would be able to enjoy faith and love within oneself. Indeed, Kierkegaard (1813-1855), who was the founder of existentialist philosophy and a reviver of Christian theology, and Rumi (1207-1273), who was the greatest mystical poet of Iran, were able to provide a special vision of faith.

Faith is one of the most important subjects in theology and the philosophy of religion. Although it is an ancient subject, it is a vital element of theology. Undoubtedly, a comparative study can be used as a beam of light to illuminate a deeper understanding of faith from the perspectives of Kierkegaard and Rumi. There is, therefore, no need to emphasize the importance of conducting analytical assessments of the subject. It is, however, necessary to explain that I myself am so enraptured by Kierkegaard’s and Rumi’s remarks about God, faith, and the love of God that, in the course of doing the research, I have felt God with all my heart. It is a feeling that renders me incapable of explaining it or finding ways to rationalize and find logical reasons for it. The only feeling that can be explained is the permanent sense that, if I did not have God, it would be impossible for me to understand the meanings of those most beautiful words: love, sympathy, piety, and spiritual beauty and self-possession.

My seminal question in this paper is whether the concepts of ‘faith’ and ‘love’ have a joint meaning as viewed by Kierkegaard and Rumi in spite of many differences that they may have. The main objective of this research is to undertake a comparative study based on views expressed by Kierkegaard and Rumi about concepts such as faith and love, because these two terms constitute the core of the meditations these two scholars carry. The methods that can be used and relied on to document Kierkegaard’s and Rumi’s views are content analysis and comparative study.



Historical background related to Kierkegaard

Søren Kierkegaard was born in Copenhagen on 15th of May 1813. Kierkegaard studied theology and philosophy at the University of Copenhagen. He was the founder of existentialist philosophy. It seems that the most important movement in modern philosophy was existentialism. In fact, it came into existence at the beginning of the nineteenth century and it was a German language-based philosophy. It is especially true that it is not a school of philosophy; rather, it is an intellectual movement in philosophy which includes various schools of thoughts. Although this philosophical movement served to strengthen some other disciplines such as psychology and theology and heavily influenced the contemporary Western European philosophical movement, ‘it is quite natural that Søren Kierkegaard should be influenced by the philosophy of his day’ (Thomte, 1948: 7). It also gradually extended its area of influence into British and American philosophy.

Kierkegaard questioned the teaching of the Danish church and argued that there was no relationship between the real Christian life and that of the official church hierarchy, seeing the latter as an example of how duties had become tools for personal gains. It can be seen that if duties are not undertaken for God, this is something worse than unbelief. He also accused the church of forgetting the spirit of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, he opposed Hegel’s philosophy, which I will discuss in the relationship between faith, love and reason.

There are other philosophers who opposed Hegel’s philosophy and one of them is Schelling, who argued that this philosophy does not consider the existence and individuality as separate existences, but rather they exist as networks of a whole system of meaning. Jaspers also followed Kierkegaard and believed that in Hegel’s philosophy every secret has been eliminated and everything has become known.

It is important to recognise that Kierkegaard’s published work amounts to several books, including Alternative, Fear and Trembling, and Repetition.


Historical background related to Rumi

Rumi was born on 30th of September 1207 in Balkh. His father named him Jalal al-Din, which means “The Splendour of the Faith”. When he was twelve years old, the news of the atrocities of Mongol armies who were now approaching Balkh forced his family to emigrate from Khurasan and to embark on a desperate journey which finally took them to Konya in the present-day Turkey. His father, Baha al-Din, or “The Glory of the Faith”, was a learned theologian and preacher, who soon obtained a high position among the city’s scholars and was called “the King of the Scholars”. When Baha al-Din died in 1231, Rumi took over his role as the Sheikh. In 1244 he met a mysterious dervish, Shamsoddin-e Tabrizi (the “Sun of Religion” from Tabriz).

These two mystics started discussing the difference between Mohammad the Prophet and Bayazid Bastami: Mohammad, though a Prophet, called himself ‘his slave’ whereas Bayazid the mystic exclaimed Sobhani ‘How great is my glory’. This topic would be much in keeping with the interest of both. For six months the two mystics were inseparable, so much so that the family and the disciples complained – Rumi neglected his classes, his friends, and everybody, completely lost in the company of Shamsoddin (Schimmel, 1978: 18).


Rumi gave up his public preaching, and his disciples who were deprived of their Master’s insightful teachings were angry. Shams, who knew much about human obsessions and shortcomings, felt that it would be better for him to leave Konya to avoid conflict with Rumi’s friends and disciples who could not understand Rumi’s love and respect for Shams. Shaken and heart-broken, Rumi ordered Sultan Valad, his eldest son, to find him. Sultan Valad managed to find and bring him back, but soon, in 1247, Shams disappeared, for the second time, never to be seen again. In a poem about Rumi’s love for Shams, Sultan Valad, Rumi’s son, “vividly describes the passionate and uncontrollable” love that “overwhelmed his father” at the time:

Never for a moment did he cease from listening to music (Sama), and dancing;

Never did he rest by day or night.

He had been a mufti: he became a poet;

He had been an ascetic: he became intoxicated by love.

‘T was not the wine of the grape: the illumined soul drinks only the wine of

light (Nicholson, 2000: 20).



When Shams left, Rumi selected Salahul-Din Zarkub, one of his most intelligent students, as his companion and deputy; and after Salahul-Din’s death, Husam Chelebi became his companion and deputy, succeeding him as the leader of the Mevlevi Order. Rumi, who had hardly listened to Persian music and poetry before Shams, was so much influenced by Shams that he avidly listened to music and composed poetry, believing that Shams was within him listening and dancing to music and that the mystic songs that he produced were the result of Shams’s continuous conversations with him, or that they were even composed by Shams.

Rumi’s greatest work is the Mathnavi-e Manavi or The Spiritual Couplets in                          six books containing about 25000 rhyming couplets, which he dictated to Husam over the last fifteen years of his life. Jami, a later Iranian mystic poet, called it the Koran in Persian (Arberry, 1961: 11).


His other major works are the Divan-e Shams-e Tabriz (Collected Poetry of Shams-e Tabriz), amounting to some 40000 double lines or more lyric verses, the Ruba’iyat or Quatrains, of which there are about 1600, Fihi ma Fihi and Munaqib el-Arifin. Rumi has influenced many thinkers and poets, not only in the Islamic world but also in the western countries. According to Iqbal:

Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi needs no introduction. For seven hundred years now his verse has inspired millions of men. Jami, the celebrated Persian poet, hailed him as a saint who was not a Prophet but had a book. Hegel considered Rumi as one of the greatest poets and thinkers in world history. The twentieth-century German poet Hans Meinke saw in Rumi ‘The only hope for the dark times we are living in’. The French writer Maurice Barres once confessed, ‘When I experienced Mevlana’s poetry, which is Vibrant with the tone of ecstasy and with melody, I realised the deficiencies of Shakespeare, Goethe and Hugo’ (1983: xvii).


According to Bruijn:

After the death of Jalal al-Din Rumi on December 17 in 1283, Husam Chelebi became the leader of Konya Mowlavi Order and in 1284 when Husamul-Din died, Sultan Valad, Rumi’s son, took his place as head of the Mevlevi order, successfully trying to increase the reputation of the Order and writing Ma’arif (Divine Sciences), similar to Fihi ma Fihi (1997: 111-112).


The additional secondary keywords denoting the concepts of faith and love

Faith and love are the most important keywords for Kierkegaard and Rumi respectively. I would suggest that the concept of love as has been raised by Rumi is equal to that of faith for Kierkegaard, and indeed they only differ in the terms they have used. The keywords ‘faith’ and ‘love’ were chosen because they reveal themselves at the highest level where mankind’s soul begins to soar.

Kierkegaard believes that some people in this stage seek only apparent pleasure and beauty and this is a declining period of life. Ethical life comes next as a second stage: that is to say one’s personality elevates and escapes from the tight cage of pleasure-taking and binds itself to observe and obey some moral principles. For instance, he tells the truth whether it gives him pleasure or otherwise. But the third stage comes when a person reaches to a point of spiritual change that is neither a function of ethical rules nor enslavement to pleasure, but is unquestioningly the function of God’s command. It is wholly devotion and submission. However, such devotion may not carry any experiential evidence or even rational reasons.

One important note is that the word ‘love’ is the most beautiful and significant keyword from Rumi’s perspective. For example, in Chapter 1 of Mathnavi, verses 220-225 describe only the concept of ‘love’ instead of ‘faith’, where the good people sacrifice themselves to Almighty God, and as far as the concept is concerned, the notion of ‘love’ in its entirety as used by Rumi, and that of ‘faith’ as raised and introduced by Kierkegaard follow the same direction. Similarly, if we have not known Kierkegaard, we might assume his book Fear and Trembling is the exact copy of Rumi’s couplets 220-225 as these have been interpreted. This also vividly reflects an exact connection of two scholars to a viewpoint. As Hegel learned about Rumi’s meditation and on the other hand as Kierkegaard has a good command of Hegel’s meditations, it seems that Kierkegaard may have had the same opinions as Rumi had on some occasions. As Tim May argues, things ‘that are similar are more likely to borrow from one another’ (2001: 208).

The following are secondary keywords that have contact with the concepts of faith and love and have been discussed directly or indirectly in this paper:

  1. 1. An entire risk or one-sided gambling: In this position mankind puts himself under the care of God completely, only because his soul hears a nice and agreeable voice sung by Almighty God. Kierkegaard and Rumi portray in their works the astonishing adventure of Abraham at a moment when he was about to offer to God his only son, Esmail or Isaac. This shows that Abraham is losing his dearest asset in order to desist from pleasure-taking and has absorbed himself in the Divine commandment. In fact, risking one’s life and submitting to God’s command are part of the same existentialist faith.
  2. 2. To be sacrificed and accept death: To be sacrificed and give one’s life as a pledge in Rumi’s works is, I think, the same stage of faith that Kierkegaard reveals in his own works. They both believe that the only spiritual condition under which a man can reach the high status and most excellent experience is that he should humbly sacrifice himself even, rather than his son. The important term “sacrifice” has been portrayed most delicately throughout the second and third books of Mathnavi as well as in the book Fear and Trembling. As both these eminent scholars state, when love and faith take the field the lover or the true believer accepts his death in the presence of his beloved and makes his death as an intermediating means of watching the most bright and beautiful face of his highly-esteemed friend. Love and faith essentially mean escaping from “I and we” and locating in “you and he”.
  3. 3. The concept of freedom: Freedom means a complete release from everything except God. Here also Rumi’s introduced love approaches Kierkegaard’s faith, and they become united such that they form a single attitude to a truth with two titles. At this instance, Rumi points to the same personality that Kierkegaard nominates and refers to it as a stage of mundane pleasure that must be necessarily ignored in order to reach a perfect faith. Rumi has the same view on liberty, namely, a release from inside, self- idols, devilish uncleanness, impurities, and thereby reaching the high peak of existence.
  4. 4. Being ruined: The concept of being ruined is a keyword with profound significance that has been included in Mathnavi exactly in line with faith as posited by Kierkegaard. It implies that a lover or true believer is ruined in the presence of God until he finds his great treasure (faith and love), and the purpose of being ruined means departing this life, being dissolved into one’s beloved and leaving behind self-estrangement.
  5. 5. Madness: This is the same supra-ethical and supra-rational stage which can be described only in terms of faith and love. For example, Abraham’s act, which seems to most people without a faith to be a type of madness, can be interpreted only through an entire love and faith of the type posited by Kierkegaard.
  6. 6. Both Kierkegaard and Rumi point to three stages of existentialism, with all human beings finding themselves at one of these stages. The key concepts of these stages include aesthetic, moral and religious stages according to Kierkegaard’s thinking, and nafs-e-Ammara, nafs-e-Lavvama and nafs-e-Motmaenna according to Rumi’s. Although different words are used to denote the key concepts in these three stages by Kierkegaard and Rumi, they are nevertheless united in meaning, and the consequence of their discussions is the fact that what we can do is that we can either remain in the dark or accept that God is able to throw light on our ignorance if we wish.

Kierkegaard’s and Rumi’s ideas about ‘Faith’   and ‘Love’

To explain the concept of faith and love, Kierkegaard and Rumi make a distinction between three stages of being and believe that all human beings are at one of these three stages:


  1. 1. The Aesthetic stage in Kierkegaard’s thinking is when the love of joy guides the person’s life.  Life is defined as a search for beauty and joy and the person who lives in this stage lives as animals do. He/she eats to work and works to eat and has physical joys without any responsibility. His/her love is only for transient things and beings. He/she may have reached the age of 40, but is still childish and his/her love of joy is still limited to momentary sensations and defined by his/her own individual desire. Unfortunately, most people are stuck in this stage and the only concepts they know are desire and joy. Here strong willpower is non-present and the individual is not committed to anything but his own personal joy. If we define life by Hegelian scientific laws and Hegelian logic, human beings can never pass this stage. For instance, a physician who smokes is definitely aware of the harmful effects of smoking on the body and knows that he has to stop smoking. Nevertheless, he/she continues smoking because human beings never stop doing things they like to do just as a result of awareness or advice or rational discussions with themselves or others. He would stop smoking only when he comes to believe, to have faith in, the fact that smoking is damaging to his health.

Rumi also defines mankind’s psychological being in terms of three layers of self which need to be transcended before human can achieve selflessness and dissolution in God.

Nafs-e-Ammara is the worship of other men and women, wealth and power. Nafs or Ego, in this state, because of its essentially “beastly” nature, can be compared with various animals, in particular the ass, dog, pig and cow. In other words, Ego is the mother of all idols, forcing mankind to be obsessed with lust, greed and love of power:

Yourself (nafs) is the mother of all idols: the material idol is a snake, but the spiritual idol is a dragon.

‘T is easy to break an idol, very easy; to regard the self as easy to subdue is folly, folly.

From the self at every moment issues an act of deceit; and each of those deceits a hundred Pharaohs and their hosts are drowned.

O son, if you would know the form of the self, read the description of Hell with its seven gates (Ovanessian, 1991: 145).


Nafs-e-Ammara, which always embarks on new quests for lovely joys, superficial beauties and worldly powers, can never be satisfied. Its cravings are similar to the taste of salty fish: the more one eats, the more one desires water. In this situation, the person expects others to obey and worship him as the leader; and to achieve this, he commits atrocities beyond human imagination. Therefore, he/she becomes an instrument in the hand of carnal desires obsessed with wealth and power. Taming the wild animal of Nafs-e-Ammara requires a great amount of perseverance, but eventually it can be tamed by reason at its lower levels and by love of God at its higher levels. This is because reason is not capable of convincing the self when it comes to mankind’s existential problem with being.

What is the remedy for the fire of lust? The light of the Religion: your (the Moslems’) light is the (means of) extinguishing the fire of the infidels.

What kills this fire? The Light of God. Make the light of Abraham your teacher. (Zamani, 2000: 1052 Book No. I).

O son, burst thy chains and be free! How long wilt thou be a bondsman to silver and gold? (Zamani, 2000: 62 Book No. I).


  1. 2. The moral stage in Kierkegaard’s thinking: in this stage the person is moral in thought and in practice. He/she is virtuous and, if married, has a real and faithful married life. Here women are not man’s properties and are not just there to tempt and be seduced; they have personalities of different types and try to find their spiritual road to perfection. In this stage, the individual is determined to discharge his/ her responsibilities and, by using his free will, makes moral choices. Thus, his behaviour has general regular patterns and he/she leads a life of positive being alongside other people.

Nafs-e-Lavvama in Rumi’s thinking is comparable to ‘conscience’ in the Koran (chapter 75 verse 2: ‘And I do call to witness the self-reproaching spirit’). This is a higher layer of being in which the person is consciously involved in a conflict against the lower layers of his Nafs and animalism. One begins to analyze oneself and to purify and control one’s desires through reason. However,

Reason can only help him to reach the door of wakefulness. S/he must   respond to the call of self-knowledge, experience it, and hear it from within him/her and not learn about it from knowledge gained in books or from listening to others (Arasteh, 1974: 117).

The Man of God is wise through Truth:

The Man of God is not a scholar from a book (Shah, 1980: 108).


This stage is liberation from instinctive acts and attainment of real self. One of the best ways to tame the Nafs is through constant fasting and ascetic exercises until it becomes an obedient animal. ‘Rumi, even at that early age, like many saintly people, he used to eat only once in three or four days or once during the week’ (Shah, 1989: 6). Another way is little sleep:

The fishes and fowls are confounded by my wakefulness day and night.                 Before this (state of mine) I used to wonder why the vaulted sky does not sleep;

But now the sky itself is amazed at my wretched condition.

Love has cast on me the spell of devotion,

The heart being enthralled by this spell no longer sleeps (Iqbal, 1983: 140).



Nevertheless, apart from reason and intuitive self-knowledge, patience is needed. It prevents one from becoming obsessed with one’s devotions. Even constant fasting and prayer may easily be abused by Nafs to result in pride, which is the anathema of love and spiritual unity.

  1. 3. The religious stage in Kierkegaard’s thinking: here the individual achieves faith, which is an enthusiastic energetic movement toward eternal happiness, a movement which is strengthened by will. Its enthusiastic energy can overcome all forms of hesitation and doubt. Thomte points out that ‘faith is achieved when one comes to have immediate consciousness. Faith means the belief in the omniscience of God’ (1948: 11). It is achieved when we think of God as witnessing all our actions and when we consider God’s satisfaction as the criterion of good or bad in everything. Faith is not based on knowledge; it is not an immediate intuition reached before or after deep thought, nor is it a happy feeling which is free of doubt and hesitation. Faith is not a collection of teachings, it is a teacher itself. Faith is a movement, a leap from one realm to another. The result of the leap, however, is not a continuous abiding state; it is, in fact, a very unstable state which is always in conflict with its opposite, which is lack of faith. Consequently, the truth of faith can never be ‘objective’. It is always personal, internal, and as a result ‘subjective’. It can never be described.


Objectivity emphasizes “what” is said; subjectivity emphasizes “how” it is said… objectivity only asks about the forms of thought, subjectivity asks about inwardness. At its maximum this “how” is the passion of infinity and the passion of infinity is itself truth’. In brief, subjectivity is (1) a passionate concern for one’s being, which is threatened by death, relating oneself at all times to this concern; (2) it demands an adherence to anything which the individual finds edifying; (3) it entails an isolation in freedom and an uncertainty of even possessing subjectivity; (4) finally, it is a suffering which is masked from the world (Garelick, 1965: 27).



Kierkegaard believes that any attempt to find reasons or to rationalize the existence of God is blasphemy, because when you try to prove the existence of somebody who is alive and present, you are suggesting that his/her being can be neglected or ignored. God himself warns us against trying to prove his existence. God is so present and obvious that any reason used to show clearly his existence and presence is irrelevant.

To believe and have faith is, on the one hand, acknowledging and moving toward truth and, on the other, taking a dangerous risk. For example, Abraham surrendered to God’s command and decided to sacrifice his son. Such a sacrifice could not be logically or morally justified. In fact, it was completely immoral and illogical. Nevertheless, he decided to do it and as a result become the “father of the faithful”. To sin is to risk one’s faith.  It is sin that leads to estrangement and separation from God. Sin destroys the possibilities of communication with God. Nevertheless, it is the same separation, the same gap that makes faith possible and leads to a possible future reunion.

Kierkegaard believes that man must first reject the objectivity of the aesthetic life where in he is a slave to things. Next he must develop the   responsible inwardness of duty and self-fulfilment, but a still greater subjectivity is found in the life in which exists a passionate tension of concern for eternal blessedness (Arbaugh, 1968:  211).



Furthermore, Kierkegaard says that if man wants to save himself from his deplorable condition and cure his spiritual problems, he should believe in God. He also believes that, once man has reached this stage, he is no longer likely to return to the previous stages of merely aesthetic or merely moral existence.

Nafs-e-Motmaenna in Rumi’s thinking (soul at peace and absorbed in God) is the highest stage of the self. Here the individual is dissolved in his/her Love of God and can travel in Love and find happiness. Love is associated with the experiential dimensions of Sufism, not the theoretical. It must be experienced to be understood. Eventually, the lover is totally immersed in the ocean of Divine love. In this stage, lover and beloved are never without each other, and they act and react through each other. Therefore, longing makes lovers thin and pale.

Love makes the ocean boil like a kettle, and makes the mountains like sand (Nicholson, 1926: 164 Book No. V).

But desire of the lovers makes them lean, (while) the desire of the love ones makes them fair and beauteous (Nicholson, 1926: 248 Book No. III).


Here Rumi directly states that he is God, but as it is explained by Ovanessian:

This is what is signified by the words Anal-Haqq ‘I am God.’ People imagine that it is a presumptuous claim, whereas it is really a presumptuous claim to say Anal-abd ‘I am the slave of God’; and Anal-Haqq ‘I am God’ is an expression of great humility. The man who says Anal-abd ‘I am the slave of God’ affirms two existences, his own and God’s, but he that says Anal-Haqq ‘I am God’ has made himself non-existent and has given himself up and says ‘I am God’, i.g. ‘I am naught, He is all: there is no being but God’s.’ This is the extreme of humility and self-abasement (1991:411).


‘I am God’ actually expresses humility in the sense that it means ‘I am pure and I hold nothing within me except Him’. Rumi believes that there is a mysterious relationship between the lover and the beloved that can never be explained by rational thought. Although reason helps us in correcting our mistakes, it is insufficient for handling our existential problem. Love is fundamentally an experience situated beyond reason and cannot be described in words.

No matter what I say to explain and elucidate

Love, shame overcomes me when I come to love itself (Chittick, 1983: 194).

Although the commentary of the tongue makes (all) clear, yet tongueless love is clearer (Nicholson, 1926: 10 Book No. I).

When it comes to Love, I have to be silent

To describe Love, intellect is like an ass in the morass,

The pen breaks when it is to describe Love (Schimmel, 1982: 101).

The proof of the sun is the sun (himself): if thou require the proof, do not avert thy face from him! (Zamani, 2000: 92 Book NO.I).

In other words,

Love is also like Ibrahim, before whom the lover is willing to be sacrificed like Ishmael. It is the beautiful Yusuf, and it is Jesus with his life-bestowing breath, just as it is Solomon whose magic seal subdues djinns and who understands the language of the birds, the secret words of the heart. Love is David, in whose hand iron becomes pliable and who can soften even an iron heart. But it is also the highest manifestation of the long line of prophets, the Prophet Muhammad, the perfect manifestation of Divine Love: “Love comes like Mustafa in the midst of the infidels (Schimmel, 1992: 187).


In addition, Rumi believes that love is like faith and ‘the rewards of a life of faith and devotion to God are love and inner rapture, and the capacity to receive the light of God’ (Mabey, 2003: 116). To sum up, Rumi’s account of his spiritual journey is simple: ‘Three short phrases tell the story of my life: I was raw, I got cooked, and I burned’ (Lewis, 2000: 404).

The relationship between faith, love and reason (Similarity)

Kierkegaard was very critical of Hegel’s rationalism. This was because Hegel (1770-1831) believed that all realities are parts of a system and whatever is real is rational, and vice versa, based on dialectical relationships .Hegel was not opposed to religious beliefs, but was rather against the interpretation of Christianity that did not work alongside human rationality. Hegel puts emphasis on a religion fully based on human rationality that produces a human personality characterised by morality. He thought that if we commit sins we become distant from God, so philosophy and religion are the bridges that remove such distance or separation.

In response to Hegel’s attempt to rationalise Christianity, Kierkegaard experienced a complete religious reaction, and as the leader of religious existentialism from within the Protestant tradition he provided an existential interpretation of the irrational faith of the Christian world. In his struggle against Hegel’s philosophy, he argues that there are feelings that simply cannot be expressed. ‘Kierkegaard ridicules the idea of proving the existence (Dasein) of God. In fact, it is logically impossible to prove his existence (Dasein). God’s presence is proved by worship and not by intellectual proofs’ (Thomte, 1948: 11).

Kierkegaard opposed Hegel’s rationality, giving priority to desire and arguing that in Hegel’s system individuals have no rights and everything is determined by history. Indeed, while for Hegel rationality is important and the real is rational, Kierkegaard emphasises the feelings that arise from personal desires – and the deeper the feelings, the more inexpressible they are. In addition,

The philosophy of Hegel with its world-historic epochs has reduced Christianity to a triviality, which at any moment might be transcended by another epoch and men had forgotten the significance of existing as human individuals; they had lost themselves in a speculative contemplation of world history (Thomte, 1948: 14).


Rumi often contrasts Universal Reason with Partial Reason and believes that Partial Reason fathers those scholarly studies which are void of inspiration and illumination. Partial Reason can err, whereas Universal Reason is infallible and immune from mistakes. It is also steadfast. Rumi explains that Partial Reason is consequential in resisting the temptations of Nafs-e-Ammara, but this is only when it is connected to Universal Reason. In other words, Partial Reason is incapable of saving our souls and, like Ahriman, can prove to be a devious guide.

When the lover (of God) is fed from (within) himself with pure wine, there reason will remain lost and companionless.

Partial (discursive) reason is a denier of Love, though it may give out that it is a confidant (Nicholson, 1926: 107 Book No. I).


Rumi believes that we cannot prove the existence of God by Partial Reason and logic. He also emphasizes the uselessness of philosophical arguments in the relationship of man to God. Furthermore, he says that ‘logic never gets beyond the finite; philosophy sees double; book-learning fosters self-conceit and obscures the idea of the Truth with clouds of empty words’ (Nicholson, 1914: 69). He symbolically refers to Satan as the first who tried to solve the problem of existence by dispute:

The first person who produced these paltry analogies in the presence of the Lights of God was Iblis.

He said, Beyond doubt fire is superior to earth: I am of fire, and he (Adam) is of dingy earth.

Let us, then, judge by comparing the secondary with its principal: he is of darkness, I of radiant light.

God said, “Nay, but on the contrary there shall be no relationship: asceticism and piety shall be the (sole) avenue to pre-eminence” (Zamani, 2000: 974 Book No. I).




To sum up, Kierkegaard and Rumi both believed that human concepts or affairs are not susceptible to being proved by reasoning. As a result, faith and love cannot be reached through the limited channels of reasoning. In fact, we cannot pass through reason’s channel towards faith. Consequently, there is no relationship between faith and reason. Faith has its own special way which is the love of God.


Two thinkers, from two distant parts of the world, from two widely separated centuries, and in spite of their cultural and religious differences, express thoughts and ideas about faith and love of God which are, although expressed in different languages, virtually the same.

Their similarity, however, does not extend to their personal and spiritual lives and the difference can be observed the following aspects:

  1. 1. Rumi’s personal and spiritual life and his methods of contemplation were not similar to those of Kierkegaard or any other philosopher, religious teacher, preacher, or even Sufi. He believed that what can be learned from the teachings and sayings of the schools does not open the path to God and that human beings, if wishing to be the wayfarers of God’s path, ought to wash away their papers, set fire to books, avoid schools and Sufi temples and embark on selfless quests within their individual beings, purified of their egotistic selves. He believed that even the asceticism practiced in the Sufi temples, because often tarnished with hypocrisy and exhibitionism, is likely to become a point of pride, a distractive occupation, a truth- covering veil that needs to be removed if one is to get closer to God.

Thus Shams had helped Rumi to transform his being into what Shams himself named “The Third Path” or “The Third Script”; a path, a script which is different from that of philosophers’ and Sufi’s; a script that no one can read and even he himself, now empty of all that made him what he was, can no longer recognize (Zarrinkub, 1998: 156-7).


  1. 2. Rumi practised and taught “The True Spiritual Dance” (Sama Raast) which required asceticism, self-discipline, and continuous fasting and was essentially different from the ecstatic dances of Sufis. Every single Sama, wherever it was carried out, signified for him a journey within, a spiritual journey in a roofless temple void of pillars, decorations and luxuries, in whose purified, sacred atmosphere all terrestrial entities became celestial. Sama was so sacred to him that any delay could only be excused if he was involved in prayer or compensated by prayer. It gave him a feeling that was above and beyond love, a condition that could not be expressed. It gave him annihilation and dissolution in the eternal Being.
  2. 3. Kierkegaard was a Christian and influenced by philosophers before him. Rumi was a Muslim and influenced by Koranic parables and the sayings and practices of Islamic and mystic saints (Orafa). In the general categories of mystic saints, Rumi belonged to the ecstatic mystics (Orafai-e Atefi Maslak) who are associated with emotion and enthusiasm. His path was, thus, quite different from that of rational mystics (Orafai-e Aghlani) who believe in controlling their emotions, rational contemplation, and logical reasoning. ‘Rumi says, Attar was the spirit, Sana’i the two eyes and I tread in the tracks of Sana’i and Attar’ (Lewisohn, 1999: 171).
  3. 4. Unlike Kierkegaard who is a mystic philosopher, Rumi is a poet whose medium of communication is a literary language of high intellectual and stylistic calibre.  In his poetry, he avoids logical arguments and reasoning and makes extensive use of parables and allegories to make issues tangible and approachable for all potential readers. Thus, sophisticated mystic arguments are expressed in terms that make them accessible. In fact, Rumi despises philosophical debates as too lowly and decadent to be incorporated in transcendental mystic representations. He openly scorns philosophy and philosophers regarding mysticism (Erfan) as far above philosophers’ level of understanding and incomprehensible by methods used in philosophy: “The logician’s leg is wooden/ a wooden leg is hardly complying”.
  4. 5. Rumi’s understanding of being, unlike Kierkegaard’s, is mystic and not philosophical. Thus, he uses an allegorical approach with symbols, metaphors, similes, and other literary figures, which have always been in use among mystics as the best means of expression. Among these one can mention Light, Love, Drunkenness, Madness, One-Sided Gambling, Annihilation, and Dissolution.

Evaluation of Kierkegaard’s and   Rumi’s ideas

The present paper is in agreement with Kierkegaard’s and Rumi’s ideas about faith and love, but it appears that in the early stages of the movement toward faith, seeking help from theoretical reasoning as a source of illumination is inevitable. In fact, at the beginning of our quest to discover and understand God, reasoning and logic can prove to work better than anything else in approaching God. Furthermore, in order to counter rationalism, one needs to be rational and logical in thought.

It also seems to be evident that, at the beginning of the movement toward God, there exists a direct relationship between mankind’s power of reasoning and faith or love, so that human rationality and his logical reasoning direct his/her thoughts toward a better understanding of God and religion. Nevertheless, in the higher stages of faith and love, rationality and logical thinking seem to lose their validity and relevance and there remains no need to rely on them, unlike what Kierkegaard believes to be the case. In the course of history, both oriental and occidental philosophers have made attempts to prove the existence of God by approaching the question through rational research and logical reasoning. Most of them, however, have finally come to conclusions similar to those of Kierkegaard and Rumi, that God’s existence and presence can only be certified by the spiritual eye and by faith.



Description and explanation of main and secondary words as used in this research study were valuable tasks that have been undertaken by using the research findings of past valid commentators; and this appears to be a typical new piece of work. In addition, the tendency to move towards faith in God is rooted in the deepest resources of human being and as a result humanity has always been in quest of a true understanding of his/her God. The resultant thoughts have created systems of beliefs and philosophical systems. One of these philosophical systems is “existentialism”, which has provided the world with a beautiful point of view about God and human life. This philosophical system developed in the first half of the nineteenth century, during a time when the church of Denmark and those of other European countries had distorted religion into a means of self-aggrandisement for their leaders and when Hegel had provided the world with his completely rational and logical interpretation of religion.

In response to what the church had done with religion and to Hegel’s interpretation of religion, Kierkegaard declared that the only way to the true understanding of God was an unalloyed pure faith which does not rely on rational reasons. His ideas, which were somehow similar to those of Schilling and Nietzsche, were supported and augmented by Jaspers and had a significant influence on the contemporary philosophy of being.

Kierkegaard speaks of three existential stages of human being (the aesthetic, the moral, and the religious stages) and considers the religious stage to be the highest form of being human and the closest stage to God. He also states that one can never discover truth by finding objective reasons. Truth has an internal connection with the human core of being, and thus to discover truth, one needs to focus on a thorough introspective search by means of faith. As a result, in his philosophy, truth is given an internal, spiritual aspect. As he has stated, ‘God is not an object but the subject.’ He knew that the method he was recommending for reaching truth is, due to being non-rational, not to be taught and communicated to others. Therefore, he stated that there is no relationship between rational reasoning and faith and that faith cannot be achieved by finding logical reasons for the existence of God.

It seems evident that mankind’s deplorable state and the disastrous collapse of values have resulted in such an immeasurable increase in mankind’s mental and spiritual problems and illnesses that rationality and logic can by no means be the sole source of cure for human. What is needed and seems inevitable to cure this deplorable condition is true faith and a universal attempt to get closer to God. It is predicted that in years to come, an increasing number of people will try to find solutions to their problems by approaching religious thoughts and systems like those of Kierkegaard. This tendency should increase more and more as they discover that their problems and conflicts cannot be solved by recourse to technology and the findings of either human or natural sciences.

Rumi’s spiritual life is usually defined in terms of his transforming encounter with Shams. He was one of the greatest religious teachers of his time, well-versed in different aspects of Islamic thought and law, teaching in Konya. To this religious teacher came a wandering mystic, Shams of Tabriz, who became a godly incarnation for him, miraculously transforming him into a mystic thinker and poet. Rumi’s love for Shams was a spiritual inundation, destroying the obstacles of egotism (Nafs-e-Amareh), logical bickering of Partial Reason (Aghl-e-Jozei), and self-obsession; it was a form of connection with a world in which there was no distinction between me and you. Hence, through music, Sama, and constant prayer and fasting, Rumi made connections with a world overflowing with spiritual ecstasy. He believed that all impediments are easy to overcome, but overcoming obsessions with one’s self is the hard task, and that human beings cannot achieve the status of wayfarer of truth ( Salek-e Rah-e Hagh) until he/she has transcended  selfhood. This is, however, only possible through love of God which makes one capable of transcending the egotistic hunt for sensation and desire and self-centred perception of being in order to reach an assured selflessness and dissolution in God. Once in this state the beloved and the loved, the observed and the observer, are a unified one. Even if apparently separated, their actions and reactions are from the same source of being.

In fact, love is a phenomenon that cannot be interpreted and defined in terms of intensity and extensity. It transcends all descriptions and expressions. As a result, the resort to logical reasoning of Partial Reason prevents human beings from entering a path which ends in dissolution and Partial Reason denies the significance of love. Therefore, Rumi considered a philosophy which deals with the hows and whys of being as being essentially in disparity with love and faith, which necessitate surrender and acceptance.

A great number of scholars consider Rumi’s Mathnavi-e Manavi (Spiritual Couplets), on which Rumi spent the last fourteen years of his life, to be the greatest poetic and mystic masterpiece ever written in the history of mankind.



Ali, A. Y. (1999) The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: Amana.

Arasteh, A.R. (1974) Rumi the Persian, the Sufi. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.


Arbaugh, G. E. and Arbaugh G. B. (1968) Kierkegaard’s Authorship. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd.

Arberry, A. J. (1961) Tales from the Masnavi. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd.

Barks, C. and Moyne, J. (1999) The Essential Rumi. London: Penguin Books.

Blaxter, L. (1996) How to Research. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Bruijn, J. T. P. (1997) Persian Sufi Poetry. Great Britain: Curzon Press.

Bryman, A. (2001) Social Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chittick, W.C. (1983) The Sufi path of Love. New York: Albany.

Garelick, H. (1965) The anti-Christianity of Kierkegaard. Netherlands, Rutgers: The State University.


Holsti, O.R. (1969) Content Analysis for the Social Science and Humanities. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.


Howard, V. Hong and Edna, H. Hong. (1967) Søren Kierkegaard’s journals and papers. London: Indiana University Press.

Iqbal, A. (1983) The life and work of Jalal-ud-din Rumi. London: The Octagon Press.

Lewis, F.D. (2000) Rumi-Past and Present, East and West. England and USA: One World.

Lewisohn, L. (1999) The Heritage of Sufism. England: One World Oxford.

Mabey, J. (2000) Rumi: A Spiritual Treasury. England: One World Oxford.

May, T. (2001) Social research: issues methods and process. Buckingham: Open University

Najjar, I. (2001) Faith and Reason in Islam. England: One World Oxford.

Nicholson, R. A. (1914) The Mystics of Islam. London: G. Bell and Sons Ltd.

Nicholson, R.A. (1926) The Mathnawi Jalaluddin Rumi. London: The Cambridge University Press (six books).

Nicholson, R.A. (1940) Commentary of the Mathnawi Jalaluddin Rumi. London: The Cambridge University Press.

Nicholson, R.A. (2000) A Rumi Anthology. England: One World Oxford.

Ovanessian, O. (1991) Introduction to Rumi with Commentary and Annotations to the Mathnavi-i-Manavi. Tehran: Nashr-i-Nay.

Pattison, G. (1997) Kierkegaard and the crisis of faith. London: Great Britain.

Shah, I. (1980) The Way of the Sufi. London: The Octagon Press.

Shah, I. (1989) The Hundred Tales of Wisdom. London: The Octagon Press Ltd.

Schimmel, A. (1978) The Triumphal Sun. London: East-West Publications (U.K.) Ltd.

Schimmel, A. (1982) As Through a Veil; Mystical Poetry in Islam (First edition). New York: Columbia University Press.

Schimmel, A. (1992) I Am Wine You Are Fire. Boston and London: Sham Bhala.

Thomte, R. (1948) Kierkegaard’s philosopher of religion. London: Princeton University press.

Thulstrup, N. (1984) Kierkegaard’s concluding unscientific post script. U.S: Princeton University press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Zamani, K. (2000) A Comprehensive Commentary of Mathnavi-e-Manavi. Tehran: Ettelaat (six books).

Zarrinkub, A. (1998) Step by Step to Meeting God. Tehran: Elmi.

This site uses cookies to offer you a better browsing experience. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.