An Iranian story
This is a very famous Iranian story about Layla and Majnun. People started to tell this story around the 800s AD. In the 1100s, the Iranian poet Nizami Ganjavi wrote a very famous poem about the lovers. He wrote in Persian, not in Arabic.
First things are bad
In the story, Layla and Majnun met when they were young, at school. They fell in love, but their families were fighting and Layla’s father wouldn’t let her marry Majnun. In one version, Majnun’s teacher beat him because he didn’t learn anything, just mooning over Layla all day. (It’s a little like the earlier Greek story of Pyramus and Thisbe, or the story of Hero and Leander.)
Then they get worse!
Majnun went crazy without Layla. He started wandering around in the desert writing poetry. His family left him food where he would find it. People started to call him “crazy.” Layla’s dad was even more convinced that she shouldn’t marry someone who just wandered around in the desert like that.
And even worse!
So Layla’s father arranged for her to marry another man. She married him and moved away, but she always loved her Majnun. He wrote her love poetry from the desert. When Layla died, Majnun traveled to her grave. He wrote this poem:
‘I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla
And kiss this wall and that wall.
It’s not love of the houses that has taken my heart
but of the One who dwells in those houses.’
Now the sad ending
And then he died by her side. That’s the end of the story.
It’s a tragedy, like many love stories. But, like many Islamic poems, it’s also a Sufi way of describing how people should love God.