Towards the end of Elif Şafak's The Forty Rules of Love, specifically the book-within-a-book Sweet Blasphemy which is largely a retelling of the real-life story of Shams and Rumi, Shams gets married to Rumi's student and foster-daughter Kimya. She's very much in love with him, as we see from the chapters written from her point of view. The wedding night is described from Shams's point of view, and he feels desire for her too, but he refuses to sleep with her as her husband:

I kissed her again. The warmth of her lips sent waves of desire across my entire body. She smelled of jasmine and wildflowers. Stretching out beside her, I inhaled her smell and touched her breasts, so small and firm. All I wanted was to enter her and get lost inside her. She offered herself to me the way a rosebud opens to the rain.

I pulled away. “I’m sorry, Kimya. I can’t do this.”

He steadfastly refuses to sleep with her throughout their marriage, even when she tries all the tricks in the book to seduce him. Why?

I don't recall anything about Shams taking an oath of celibacy. Nor can it be anything to do with his being a Sufi, because in Islam there's no such thing as clerical celibates or 'monasticism' in the typical Christian sense. He talks so much about love, so why does he refuse to make love with this girl, despite the fact that she wants to, at least part of him wants to, AND they're married?

4 Answers 4


I am sure Shams was just answering the verse that Kimya asked him to interpret from Quran. If we closely examine the book, we come to a point that Kimya was never told the final of the four stages of interpreting the translation. The idea that a "Sufi is a celibate" or "they are free from worldly desires" is so weak in this case. It was a duty for Shams to answer Kimya. If we closely observe the situation after this we can know Kimya turned into a Sufi. The proofs are:

  • Shams never did anything without any reason.
  • Rumi didn't even feel/smell that something unnecessary or bad was on. (He knew the intention behind Shams Tabriz's act)
  • Refraining from sexual desire (She got the answer and the point that this act of Shams was an answer/clue to God and a lesson for her). This also destroyed the desires of Kimya's Nafs/Self-an important part of Sufism nouned as "unlearning" in the book.
  • Silence (It's the beauty of a Sufi, and the path to God)
  • Hunger (It's the beauty of a Sufi, and its reward is God)
  • Stare (That's the only thing a Sufi keeps. God dwells in the eyes of Sufi)

These are the points that support the hidden truth behind the tale.


Kimya at the time was fifteen years old. When Prophet got married to Hazrat Aisha she was 8 years old but the marriage was solemnized when she turned eighteen. Thus, it was only right that Shams stayed away before his wife had reached the right age.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! Can you include some quotes from the book to support this answer? I don't remember Shams mentioning anything about age, but did he say anything specific which could be interpreted that way?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 10, 2020 at 8:58

I believe it has something to do with him not believing he had a future to offer to Kimya. Like how Aziz refused to do the same with Ella and the two characters have some parallels, but then again you could argue that why didn’t Shams believe in the present moment.

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    Welcome to Literature Stack Exchange! Please could you edit to elaborate on this answer with some more detail? I'd be very interested to see an analysis of parallels between the Shams-Kimya and Aziz-Ella relationships. On this site we usually prefer detailed answers with explanation :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 31, 2018 at 14:31

The only explanation to me is that he didn't love her, if he had slept with her, it would be giving in to lust only.

  • 1
    Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Please be aware that this site is not a forum, so the rules are a bit different from what you are used to. For example, answers should not be simply brief comments but provide arguments based on the text discussed in the question. You could significantly improve your question by adding quotes or other material from the novel to support your point. I recommend that you also take the tour and read How do I write a good answer? in the Help Centre.
    – Tsundoku
    Aug 23, 2020 at 13:33
  • That's a very good possibility, and maybe I should reread to see if the text indicates this. Some quotes from the book to support this idea (e.g. based on Shams's beliefs about love, or details of his behaviour towards Kimya) would really help this answer.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 23, 2020 at 17:19
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    Further to the above comments, you can use the edit link under the question to add the kinds of detail suggested. References (preferably with link to source) distinguish an authoritative answer – which will usually receive many up-votes – from mere personal opinion, which risks being downvoted. If you love literature, I encourage you to edit your post and to post other (well-explained and referenced) answers. :-) Aug 23, 2020 at 23:12

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