Book Review: The forty Rules of Love by Elif Safak

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So here’s the story of the book:

Ella Rubenstein, a forty years old housewife, unhappily married, gets employed as a reader fir a literary agent and her first assignment is to read the novel ‘Sweet Blasphemy” by Aziz Zahara, and as such the book itself becomes a story within the story.

  1. Aziz and Ella start a relationship with back and forth emails, mainly made up of Ella’s unhappily married life (midlife crises) and Aziz’s philosophical replies
  2. Sweet Blasphemy – the novel is about the relationship between poet Rumi and Sufi mystic Shams.
  3. The book in itself includes also other stories, such as the story about Aladdin, Rumi’s’ son, who is angry and disappointed for his father’s relationship with the mystic world; Kenya – Rumi’s daughter who falls in love with Shams; and others whose role in the book is to explain the relationship between Rumi and Shams, each telling from their viewpoint in a separate chapter, titled based on the story-teller.

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So unless you read it with a clear mind you can easily get lost in the book, however each and every character and each and every chapter will try to answer one question “What is true spiritual love”. By showing and explaining us the forty rules of love the book emphasized real love, the unconditional love, that only few of us can aspire to. Love of God, love for friends, love for you lover, love for animals, flowers, people – there’s no limit to love – and love should be without criticism in both ways. Nothing is less important and no one kind of love is superior to another kind of love. We love everything to the maximum we know and can with the love we feel for that particular thing/person.

But there’s more to this book which requires a closer look at the details, e.g. each chapter begins with b. which represents the word bismilahirahmanirahim ((in the name of Allah, the Benevolent and Merciful). For Sufi mystics the secret of the Koran lies in the verse Al-Fatiha, the essence of which is contained in the word bismilahirahmanirahim The dot after the letter b embodies the universe. Challenging clichés of the fundamentalist Islamic orient and the commercial Judeo-Christian occident, the novel proposes Sufism as a quest for spirituality which can fill the void at the heart of both.

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The book’s vision of non-judgmental Sufi path to Islam that rejects religious fundamentalism, its compatibility with each and every one that feels love and/or has be broken by it from primitive drunks and whores to 21st-century vagabonds, working or non-working housewives, up to intellectual leaders of the world has made the novel a bestseller and deserves to be a global publishing phenomenon.

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