Appropriately, I begin this series with the patron of this blog, غیاث الدین ابوالفتح عمر بن ابراهیم خیام نیشابورﻯ, in proper Persian transcription, Ghiyāth ad-Din Abu’l-Fatḥ ‘Umar ibn Ibrāhīm al-Khayyām Nīshāpūrī. In the West, though, he’s most commonly known as Omar Khayyám (in the Victorian era, when Edward FitzGerald’s famous translation of Omar’s poetry became wildly popular, the custom for indicating long vowels in Persian transcription was to use the acute accent; nowadays, the macron is preferred; hence, “Khayyám” vs “Khayyām”).
Omar is best known in the west as the author of the Rubáʿiyát. This is the plural of rubáʿi, which simply means “quatrain” (a verse of four lines). The rubáʿi was a very popular genre of verse in Persia, and hundreds of rubáʿiyát are attributed to Omar. Beginning in 1859, the English poet Edward FitzGerald translated a number of the rubáʿiyát attributed to Omar, publishing them under the title The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (for keen-sighted readers, I’m not being inconsistent. The apostrophe, representing the glottal stop, should properly be between the first “a” and the “i” in rubáʿiyát–thus, it’s pronounced “roo-BAH-ee-yaht”, not “roo-BYE-yaht”. However, FitzGerald left it out, for whatever reason. Thus, when I print the title as he gave it, I’m following suit; but when discussing the genre as such, I’m leaving the glottal stop in). Over the remainder of his life, FitzGerald produced five editions of the Rubáiyát. This book became immensely popular in the Victorian age, and while less well-known now, it is still moderately popular, and has never been out of print.
The religion of the Sufi is not separate from the religions of the world. People have fought in vain about the names and lives of their saviors, and have named their religions after the name of their savior, instead of uniting with each other in the truth that is taught. This truth can be traced in all religions, whether one community calls another pagan or infidel or heathen. Such persons claim that theirs is the only scripture, and their place of worship the only abode of God. Sufism is a name applied to a certain philosophy by those who do not accept the philosophy; hence it cannot really be described as a religion; it contains a religion but is not itself a religion. Sufism is a religion if one wishes to learn religion from it. But it is beyond religion, for it is the light, the sustenance of every soul, raising the mortal being to immortality.
–Inayat Khan, in The Spiritual Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Vol. I, The Way of Illumination, Section I – The Way of Illumination, Part III : The Sufi; courtesy of Wikiquote
What is the Sufi’s belief regarding the coming of a World Teacher, or, as some speak if it, the “Second Coming of Christ?” The Sufi is free from beliefs and disbeliefs, and yet gives every liberty to people to have their own opinion. There is no doubt that if an individual or a multitude believe that a teacher or a reformer will come, he will surely come to them. Similarly, in the case of those who do not believe that any teacher or reformer will come, to them he will not come. To those who expect the Teacher to be a man, a man will bring the message; to those who expect the Teacher to be a woman, a woman must deliver it. To those who call on God, God comes. To those who knock at the door of Satan, Satan answers. There is an answer to every call. To a Sufi the Teacher is never absent, whether he comes in one form or in a thousand forms he is always one to him, and the same One he recognizes to be in all, and all Teachers he sees in his one Teacher alone. For a Sufi, the self within, the self without, the kingdom of the earth, the kingdom of heaven, the whole being is his teacher, and his every moment is engaged in acquiring knowledge. For some, the Teacher has already come and gone, for others the Teacher may still come, but for a Sufi the Teacher has always been and will remain with him forever.
–Hazrat Inayat Khan, Vol. I, The Way of Illumination Section I – The Way of Illumination, Part III : The Sufi; courtesy of Wikiquote