The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak is the story of a strangely relatable woman named Ella. She is a 40-year-old English woman – married, mother of three teenagers and a homemaker (weird how I could still relate to her). When Ella ends up reading the manuscript of a novel on Rumi and his companion Shams of Tabriz’s Forty Rules of Love, she discovers herself and a sense of purpose that was always missing in her life.

But Forty Rules of Love did not just inspire Ella to take a step toward a better life. Although there are quite a few ideas and concepts in the book that I disagree with, the book did not fail to change my perception of love and life. Here are my top 15 Tabriz’s rules of love that I go back to in times of despair:

Rule # 1

How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we (Page 30)

Rule # 5

Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence (Page 66)

Rule # 6

Loneliness and solitude are two different things. When you are lonely it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path. Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely. But eventually it is best to find a person, the person who will be your mirror (Page 72)

Rule # 7

Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. [Be] thankful not only for what [you have] been given but also for all that [you have] been denied (Page 73)

Rule # 8

Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be so shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full (Page 74)

Rule # 9

East, west, north or south makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you will travel the whole wide world and beyond (Page 86)

Rule # 10

The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new Self to be born, hardship is necessary (Page 86)

Rule # 13

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come? (Page 101)

Rule # 15

It is easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human beings with their imperfections and defects. Remember, one can only know what one is capable of loving. There is no wisdom without love. Unless we learn to love God’s creation, we can neither truly love nor truly know God (Page 110)

Rule # 18

If you want to change the ways others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself. Unless you love to learn yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses (Page 135)

Rule # 19

Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That is the hardest part and that is what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Don’t go with the flow. Be the flow (Page 136)

Rule # 26

The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back – not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space and they will come back to us in due time (Page 207)

Rule # 29

Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to live everything to the fate and to not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance. The music of the universe is all pervading and it is composed on 40 different levels. Your destiny is the level where you play your tune. You might not change your instrument but how well to play is entirely in your hands (Page 221)

Rule # 36

This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain unreciprocated (Page 330)

Rule # 38

It is never too late to ask yourself, “Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?” Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again (Page 336)

It was a challenge to pick 15 out of the 40 rules the book discusses. I tried to list only those that directly apply to my life at the moment. I’m quite sure with time I will relate more and more to the rest of the rules as well. Nonetheless, these rules have hit home and surely do help me when I’m feeling low.

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I’m Siham - a 25-year-old Pakistani, born and raised in the UAE. Currently doing a boring desk job in Dubai - but my passion lies in reading, writing and motivating people.


  1. Wow. I love it. This one’s my favorite, “Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step.” It IS the hardest step.

    • Siham Reply

      Definitely something that we can relate to considering our ambitions in life 🙂
      My favorite is “Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”

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