Wisdom in business: The legacy of Rumi and Sun Tzu

IN the heart of Kuala Lumpur, the vibrant capital of Malaysia, there stood a quaint bookstore named “The Wisdom Haven”.

Its owner Lim, was a man of few words but deep wisdom. He believed that the timeless teachings of Asian philosophers like Rumi and Sun Tzu held profound significance in the dynamic landscape of Malaysian business.

One sunny morning, a young entrepreneur Aisha ventured into The Wisdom Haven. She had recently launched her startup in the bustling tech hub of Cyberjaya and was searching for guidance amidst the fast-paced world of Malaysian entrepreneurship. The bookstore’s shelves were filled with an eclectic mix of ancient wisdom and contemporary knowledge.

As Aisha perused the collection, her gaze fell upon a well-worn copy of Rumi’s poetry. Though she had heard his name in passing, she had never explored his work before. Curiosity piqued, and she gently picked up the book and started reading.

Rumi’s verses seemed to transport Aisha to another realm. His words spoke of love, unity and the journey of the soul, stirring something deep within her. It struck her that Rumi’s profound teachings were not confined to spiritual enlightenment alone; they held potent lessons for navigating the complex world of business, especially in Malaysia’s multicultural and diverse market.

Aisha’s exploration of Rumi’s wisdom led her to delve deeper into the rich tapestry of Asian philosophy. Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” resonated deeply with her entrepreneurial spirit. His ancient Chinese wisdom on strategy and leadership had long been revered in the business world.

One fateful day, while Aisha was engrossed in Sun Tzu’s teachings, Lim approached her with a warm smile. He had noticed her growing interest in these Asian philosophers and was eager to share a story that connected their wisdom to the Malaysian business landscape.

“Allow me to share with you a story, Aisha,” Lim began, “of two Malaysian entrepreneurs who embodied the teachings of Rumi and Sun Tzu.”

The story unfolded in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, where two business leaders, Amir and Farah were vying for a lucrative contract. Amir was known for his cutthroat tactics and relentless pursuit of profit. Farah, however took a different approach. She had immersed herself in the wisdom of Rumi and Sun Tzu, seeking to harmonise her business ambitions with her cultural values.

As the contract negotiations heated up, Amir unleashed aggressive strategies, believing that winning at any cost was the only way to succeed. Farah, on the other hand, drew inspiration from Rumi’s emphasis on empathy and connection. She embraced Sun Tzu’s principles of adaptability and strategy, keenly observing the shifting dynamics of the negotiation.

Over time, it became evident that Farah’s approach was yielding positive results. Her client appreciated her cultural sensitivity, adaptability and collaborative spirit. On the contrary, Amir strained the relationship with his aggressive tactics, causing tension with the client.

In the end, Farah secured the contract through understanding, adaptability and collaboration, echoing Rumi’s wisdom: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray.”

Lim paused for a moment and then asked Aisha, “What do you think of this story?”

Aisha smiled, her eyes filled with newfound insight. “It’s a powerful reminder that success in the Malaysian business landscape can be achieved without compromising our values and principles.

“Rumi and Sun Tzu’s wisdom can guide us towards a more compassionate and strategic approach to business that aligns with Malaysia’s multicultural fabric.”

Lim nodded in agreement and continued, “Indeed, these ancient philosophers offer a timeless blueprint for success in Malaysia. Their teachings remind us that true leadership is not about dominance but harmony, not about competition but collaboration.

“In a nation defined by its diversity, their wisdom can help us strike a balance between ambition and cultural sensitivity.”

As Aisha left The Wisdom Haven that day, she carried with her a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper understanding of how the wisdom of Rumi and Sun Tzu could transform the Malaysian business landscape. She knew that she would share these teachings with her fellow entrepreneurs, for the journey towards a more enlightened approach to business had just begun.

In the heart of bustling Kuala Lumpur, The Wisdom Haven continued to stand as a beacon of ancient wisdom in the modern world, reminding all who entered that the path to success in Malaysia lay in compassion, strategy, and the profound teachings of Asian philosophers.


The significance of Asian philosophers such as Rumi and Sun Tzu in Malaysian business cannot be ignored, as exemplified by the tale of Aisha, Lim’s bookstore The Wisdom Haven and the Malaysian entrepreneurs Amir and Farah.

Key takeaways from their experiences include:

  • Cultural sensitivity: In Malaysia’s diverse and multicultural market, understanding and respecting cultural nuances can be a powerful tool for building successful business relationships.
  • Adaptability and strategy: Sun Tzu’s principles of adaptability and strategy remain invaluable for entrepreneurs in the face of rapidly changing business environments.
  • Compassion and collaboration: Rumi’s teachings on love, unity, and empathy offer a blueprint for fostering collaboration and creating win-win solutions in business.
  • Balancing ambition and values: Success in Malaysian business doesn’t have to come at the expense of values and principles. Entrepreneurs can find harmony between their ambitions and cultural values.

Entrepreneurs in Malaysia can confidently apply these valuable insights to successfully navigate their rapidly evolving market, all while embracing the timeless wisdom of both Rumi and Sun Tzu. By doing so, they can secure a prosperous future for their businesses. – Oct 7, 2023


Dr Ahmad Zaharuddin Sani Sabri is a former director at the Institute of Tun Dr Mahathir Thoughts.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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