The Rubayyat of Omar Khayyam
Ever since the extraordinarily popular renderings into English of the Persian Omar Khayyam by Edward Fitzgerald in the late nineteenth century, the Rubaiyyat has been linked in Western minds to sensuality, hedonism and the craving for the illicit. The apparent theme of religious skepticism, keenly felt by readers of the era, added to the widespread appeal of an Eastern sage whose pithy compositions on life, death, love and faith seemed to echo the Victorian zeitgeist. Although later translators drew attention to Fitzgerald’s highly idiosyncratic ordering of the original verses, the liberties taken in their translation, and the doubtful authorship of many of the original verses, Khayyam’s fame and controversy were henceforth assured both in the West and in his original home, Iran.
Only a small number of his public interpreters have ever examined his quatrains (the meaning of ‘Rubaiyyat’) against the traditional cultural setting of Persian Sufism, whose adherents claim the poet as an authentic voice of Sufi thought and doctrine. The Rubayyat in Rehab presents 99 quatrains translated from the Persian by the author from a selection of original manuscripts, together with interpretations which explore the specific language of Sufi symbolism. The result is a fundamental rehabilitation of the verses of Omar Khayyam as an expression of the psychological and spiritual theory and practice of mystical discipline known as Sufism.