The Foreword to The Way of Love kind of sums it all up in terms of encapsulating the whole spirit of this great work of art. In the very opening sentence Neo Shameeya Molefe states that

“Sufism was alarmed by the materialism and ritualism that crept into Islam. Its main point was to seek direct contact with God through contemplation and mystical encounter.”

She then continues to elaborate how commercialization and objectification of love had compromised the true meaning of selflessness, Tawhid (the Oneness of God) and other quintessentially spiritual aspects of the Islamic Way.

Mphutlane Wa Bofelo should know that as a socio-cultural activist who is also a devoted Muslim there is no force in the world that is as bold and as necessary as Love. Knowing this he seems to have consciously suffused his whole being in The Way of Love. This is first reflected in his shying away from employing complex poetic forms and bombastic jargon in stating his points. In a poem titled Compatibility Or Marital Bliss In Five Parts, part 3 simply reads:

She is fond of dogs
He adores cats
They have fishes for pets
It’s all a coincidence
And part 4 reads:
She roots for the sharks
He swears by the bulls
They only watch cricket

But to add to the biting wit that we who have heard performing his poetry have come to cherish, part 5 reads:

He’s into hookers
She’s celibate
It’s their twentieth anniversary

What is clear as one reads the volume is that the poet is not speaking in his own individualistic voice, but he is purely a conduit for the All.

On page 75 the poet reflects: “in losing our love and compassion we lose our souls and therefore blunt our capacities to rise to a deeper consciousness of Allah and inner awareness and realization of our intrinsic and genuine being which is much higher than our carnal self and base egos.

But then as the title of the book denotes, the poems are livicated/dedicated to the universally inspirational works of Jalalludin Rumi and other Sufi Poets. Rumi is the 11th century Sufi Poet who until the age of 37 was a scholar and a popular teacher who was hugely inspired by a wandering Dervish, one Shams of Tabriz once dedicated these peculiar words to his enlightened friend: “What I had thought of before as God, I met today in a human being.” And similarly in Dancing With Glory, Bofelo writes: “Kill the self and look inside you/ You will see God whirling/ To the diwan of your heart/Burn all temples and shrines/ Salvage God from the prison …” This Azanian son is quite simply carrying forward the tradition of the Sufi.

Mphutlane has decided this beautiful ode to True Love to one of the poets who once penned such lines:

The Debtor Sheikh:

Sheikh Ahmad was continually in debt
He borrowed great sums from the wealthy
And gave it out to the poor dervishes of the world.
He built a sufi monastery ,
And God was always paying his debts, turning sand
Into flour for this generous friend

This poem by Rumi is as equally harmonized by Mphutlane’s Song For Dennis, which I suspect is a dedication to none other than Dennis Brutus, the late great Azanian socialist and poetical genius. The headily nuanced tone of the poem as it praises the beauty of the natural world and juxtaposes it with the destructive works of man is brilliantly articulated, evidence that Bofelo is a person who cares deeply for humanity, justice and our place in the greater scheme of things. He writes:

The night with its beauty
Called us into the interior
Of our imaginations
Deep inside ourselves
We met Sankatana
Our arrows stroke
Fear in the hearts
Of cowards
As our feet stomped
The ground
The earth singing
Our war songs
Songs of love
For the world
Of our ideals …

All in all The Way Of Love is an ode to not just the deep and mystical ways of Love, but to the way that Love is really the beginning and the end of all worthwhile endeavours. In poetry we can discern the voice of the river, whether it has remained pure or has been polluted by the wayward actions of men who have lost their way, poetry reminds those who would listen that our salvation lies in our submersion in Love.

I simply cannot call your name
Without declaring love.


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