The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak


The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak kept popping up on my social media timelines, in the books-related forum I am part of. Almost everyone who had read the book fell in love with it. Why not? The book talks about love, with its parallel stories separated by centuries. The book is promoted through Rumi, the 13th CE mystic poet from central Asia. But it is really about Shams of Tabriz, the person who put him on the path of poetry.

Forty Rules of Love by Elif ShafakThe love story in the present times moves between two lovers separated by everything possible on earth but connected through modern means of communication. The love story of the yore happens in the city of Konya, where the Maulana lived. Shams came like a light in his life, made him discover himself, get in touch with his divinity and turn into a poet. His poems are what the world would know him for, long after he is gone.

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The cornerstone of the book though is the Forty Rules of Love that are sprinkled across the narrative. These are the pearls of wisdom or insight or whatever you think of them. To me, they are the path a seeker has to follow to discover divine love. These make interesting reading. The beauty of the narrative is that they have been woven well into the stories of the book.

Some quotes that I enjoyed:

Cooking was about learning the basics, following the instructions, and being respectful to the wisdom of ages. All you have to do was use time-honored traditions, not experiment with them. The modern age belittled such things.

Intellect and Love are made of two different materials. Intellect ties people in knots and risks nothing, but love dissolves all tangles and risks everything. The Intellect is always cautious and advises ‘Beware too much ecstasy, whereas love says, ‘Oh, never mind! Take the Plunge!’ Intellect does not easily break down, whereas love can effortlessly reduce itself to rubble. But treasures are hidden among ruins.

Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the one of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.

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Be thankful, not only for what he has given you but also for all that he has denied you.


Patience means to be farsighted enough to trust the end of the process. It means to see the thorn and see the rose, to look at night and see the dawn. Lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.

The midwife knows when there is no pain, the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new self to be born, hardship is a necessity. Just like clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong. Love can only be perfected in pain.

The moment you start looking for Love, you start to change within and without.   

True mentors are transparent as glass. They let the light of God pass through them.

The whole universe is contained within a single human being – You.

Fret not where the road will take you. Instead, concentrate on the first step. That’s the hardest part and that’s what you are responsible for. Do not go with the flow, be the flow.

One does not become a believer overnight. You go through cycles of believing and unbelieving, and this is the way forward, one step at a time.

A true saint, wherever he goes becomes the chamber of prayer, it is our heart that makes a difference.

Seven stages of Truth:

  • One: The soul is entrapped in worldly pursuits and serving ego by blaming others
  • Two: When the ego is dissolved and you blame yourself for everything
  • Three: Surrender leading to patience, perseverance, wisdom, and humility
  • Four: A Higher level of consciousness leading to generosity, gratitude, and contentment
  • Five: A constant state of happiness
  • Six: When one becomes a light for the world with some healing powers
  • Finally, in the 7th stage, you attain perfection and one who reaches here can not speak about it, though not many reach here. Isn’t it very similar to the Kundalini rising with three granthis to pierce through?

Hell is here and now, so is heaven. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy, fight we tumble straight into the fires of hell.

Whatever you speak, good or evil will somehow come back to you. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain unreciprocated.

A Sufi never apportions blame.

True power resides in submission – a power that comes from within.

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The narrative is powerful and flows like an unhindered stream. One part of the story keeps you rooted in the present. While the other takes you back to the days of Shams and Rumi. You float with the wisdom and it passes between them. It is a story that holds your hand and takes you into the world of Sufis.

Anyone with a seeker’s mind would enjoy reading it.

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  1. Very aptly described. Anyone who is a seeker of love and life, would love this book. I keep re-reading the book at regular intervals, to refresh my heart and mind with the pearls of wisdom from Shams of Tabriz.

    After all, Kingmakers are as important as the Kings.❤️


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