When I was growing up as a kind we had two copies of The Rubaiyat in our home – one which had been my late mother’s (bought, I think, before her marriage to my father), and one which was my late father’s (similarly bought before their marriage). Nothing was ever thrown out in our household. My wife would say, “Nothing has changed there, unfortunately.”
I still have my mother’s copy of The Rubaiyat (see copy of its cover below) but my Dad gave his copy away to a very dear friend of his - a devout Catholic - not long before his (Dad’s) death, with the remark, “This book makes more sense to me than what your Church teaches.”
The question of whether or not the Persian poet and astronomer Omar Khayyam (pictured below) was a Sufi mystic is a hotly contested issue. My view is that of Edward J FitzGerald, The Rubaiyat’s most famous English translator and interpreter, who wrote: “No doubt many of these Quatrains seem unaccountable unless mystically interpreted; but many more as unaccountable unless literally. Were the Wine spiritual, for instance, how wash the Body with it when dead? Why make cups of the dead clay to be filled with—‘La Divinité’ by some succeeding Mystic?”
I don’t think that Khayyám was either a Sufi mystic or a promoter of Epicurean hedonism. To me, he was an early exponent of, and apologist for, Mindfulness and, in particular, the practice of mindful living, that is, living mindfully and consciously in the present moment - in other words, simply being aware of the fact that each moment spent wisely, and with awareness, is to live in the now, and to be truly present in and fully engaged in the moment. Take, for example, this well-known quatrain:
Beware that is fresh as sweet young grass
Let’s not worry about what tomorrow will amass
Fill my cup again, this night will pass, alas.
The bird is “on the Wing”. Watch it fly away ... it will, of course! Further, as is written in another quatrain, “The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.” Observe them both, without judgment, condemnation or fear, for is it not the case that ...