Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (also given as Jalal ad-did Muhammad Balkhi, best known as Rumi, l. 1207-1273 CE) was a Persian Islamic theologian and scholar but became famous as a mystical poet whose work focuses on the opportunity for a meaningful and elevated life through personal knowledge and love of God. He was a devout Sunni Muslim and, even though his poetry emphasizes a transcendence above religious strictures and dogma, it is grounded in an Islamic worldview. Rumi's God is welcoming to all, however, no matter their professed faith, and one's desire to know and praise this God is all that is required for living a spiritual life.
He was born in Afghanistan or Tajikstan to well-educated, Persian-speaking parents and followed in his father's profession as a Muslim cleric, establishing himself as a well-respected scholar and theologian until he met the Sufi mystic Shams-i-Tabrizi (l. 1185-1248 CE) in 1244 CE and embraced the mystical aspects of Islam. After Shams disappeared in 1248 CE, Rumi searched for him until he realized that Shams' spirit was with him always, even if the man himself was not present, and began composing verse which he claimed to receive from this mystical union.
Rumi's poetry is characterized by a deep understanding of the human condition which recognizes the grief of loss as well as the ecstatic joy of love.
Rumi's poetry is characterized by a deep understanding of the human condition which recognizes the grief of loss as well as the ecstatic joy of love. The power of transcendent love, whether for another person or God, is central to his work and conveyed through images, symbols, and stories drawn from the Quran, the hadiths, Persian mythology, legend and lore, as well as specific tableaus of daily life.
He composed his verse by spinning in circles, receiving the images he put into words, and dictating these to a scribe, thereby developing the Sufi practice of the whirling dervish as a means of apprehending the Divine. He is considered one of the greatest Persian poets of the medieval era as well as one of the most influential in world literature and his works continue to be bestsellers in the present day.
Early Life & Name
Rumi was born in the city of Balkh in modern-day Afghanistan. It has been suggested that his birthplace was Vakhsu (also given as Wakhsh) in Tajikstan but Balkh is more probable as it is known that a large Persian-speaking community flourished there in the early 13th century CE and, more significantly, one version of his name signifies his place of origin – Balkhi – “from Balkh”.
Almost nothing is known of his mother, but his father, Bahauddin Walad, was a Muslim theologian and jurist with an interest in Sufism. Sufism is the mystical approach to Islam, which rejects dogmatic strictures in favor of a personal, intimate relationship with God. Sufism is not a sect of Islam, but a transcendent path of personal spiritual revelation based on Islamic understanding. Although many orthodox Muslims of the time (and still today) rejected Sufism as a heresy, the city of Balkh encouraged its development and supported Sufi masters. How deeply Rumi's father immersed himself in Sufism in unknown, but Rumi was instructed in the mystic aspects of Sufism by one of his father's former students, Burhanuddin Mahaqqiq, which lay the foundation for his later acceptance of this spiritual path.
Sign up for our free weekly email newsletter!When the Mongols invaded the region c. 1215 CE, Rumi's father gathered his family, as well as his disciples, and fled. On their travels, Rumi is said to have met the Sufi poet Attar of Nishapur (l. 1145-c. 1220 CE) who gave him one of his books which would exert considerable influence on the young man. Rumi's group does not seem to have had a definite destination in mind at first as they are said to have traveled through the regions of modern-day Iran, Iraq, and Arabia before settling in Konya, Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). By this time (c. 1228 CE), Rumi had been married twice and had three sons and a daughter. When his father died, Rumi took over his position as sheikh of the religious school in the community and continued his father's practices of preaching, teaching, observing religious rites and practices, and ministering to the poor.
His name, Rumi, comes from this period as Anatolia was still referred to as the province of the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire, 330-1453 CE) it had been until 1176 CE when most of it was lost to the Muslim Turks. Someone who came from Anatolia, therefore, was referenced as a rumi, meaning a Roman.
Shams-i-Tabrizi was a Sufi mystic who worked as a basket weaver, traveling from town to town, engaging with others but – according to legend – finding no one he could fully connect with as a friend and equal. He began to focus his travels on finding someone who, as he said, “could endure my company” and, one day, a disembodied voice answered his prayers asking, “What will you give in return?” to which Shams answered, “My head!” and the voice then replied, “The one you seek is Jelaluddin of Konya” (Banks, xix). Shams then traveled to Konya where he met Rumi.
There are a number of different accounts of this meeting but the one most often repeated is the story of the meeting in the street and Shams' question to Rumi. In this version, Rumi was riding his donkey through the marketplace when Shams seized the bridle and asked who was greater, the Prophet Muhammad or the mystic Bayazid Bestami. Rumi instantly answered that Muhammad was greater. Shams responded, "If so, why is it that Muhammad said to God 'I did not know you as I should' while Bestami said, 'Glory be to Me' in asserting that he knew God so completely that God lived and shone from within him." Rumi replied that Muhammad was still greater because he was always longing for a deeper relationship with God and acknowledged that, no matter how long he lived, he would never know God completely while Bestami embraced his mystical experience with the Divine as a final truth and went no further. After saying this, Rumi lost consciousness, falling from his donkey. Shams realized this was the man he was supposed to find and, when Rumi awoke, the two embraced and became inseparable friends (Banks, xix-xx; Lewis, 155).
Rumi's grief at the loss of his friend found expression in the poetic form of the ghazal which laments loss at the same time as it celebrates the experience being mourned.
Their relationship was so close that it strained Rumi's established rapport with his students, family, and associates and so, after some time, Shams left Konya for Damascus (or, according to other reports, Khoy in Azerbaijan). Rumi had him return, however, and the two resumed their former relationship which took the form of mentor-mentee on one level, with Shams as the teacher, but primarily as intellectual equals and friends.
They were conversing one evening when Shams was called to the back door. He went out to answer, did not return, and was never seen again. According to one tradition, he was murdered by one of Rumi's sons who had grown tired of the mystic monopolizing his father's time and distancing Rumi from his students. According to another, Shams chose that moment to depart from Rumi's life, possibly for the same reasons.
Either way, Rumi needed his friend back and went to find him. Scholar Coleman Banks elaborates:
The mystery of the Friend's absence covered Rumi's world. He himself went out searching for Shams and journeyed again to Damascus. It was there he realized,
Why should I seek? I am the same as
he. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself!
The union was complete. (xx)
Rumi understood there was no such thing as loss of a loved one because that person continues to live and speak and act through one's self. The depth of a close personal relationship cannot be diminished by the absence of the beloved because the beloved has become a part of the self. Rumi the theologian became Rumi the mystic poet at this realization and began composing verse which he believed came from Shams.
Rumi the Poet
Rumi's grief at the loss of his friend found expression in the poetic form of the ghazal which laments loss at the same time as it celebrates the experience being mourned. One would not be feeling such depth of loss, so a ghazal would say, if the experience had not been so beautiful; one should, therefore, be grateful for that experience even as one mourns. Rumi's early poetry was published as the Divan of Shams Tabrizi (a divan meaning a collection of an artist's short works) which Rumi believed to have been composed by Shams' spirit dwelling with his own.He continued focusing his energies on poetic compositions to express divine truths which he felt most people overlooked. People lived from day to day without recognizing the underlying form of the Divine in all that they did, Rumi asserted, and his poetry was an attempt to both express this and show how one could bring divinity into all of one's daily activities, no matter how seemingly mundane, to infuse one's life with elevated meaning and purpose. Barks comments:
These poems are not monumental in the Western sense of memorializing moments; they are not discrete entities but a fluid, continuously self-revising, self-interrupting medium. They are not so much about anything as spoken from within something. Call it enlightenment, ecstatic love, spirit, soul, truth, the ocean of ilm (divine luminous wisdom), or the covenant of alast (the original agreement with God). Names do not matter. Some resonance of ocean resides in everyone. Rumi's poetry can be felt as a salt breeze from that, traveling inland. (xxiii-xxiv)
Rumi drew on the entirety of his life – the lived experiences in the physical world as well as the numinous glimpses of eternity – to compose his verse but the underlying and resonating power of all of his poems was love. To Rumi, love was the great elevator from the mundane to the sublime, from the horizontal experience of everyday life to the vertical ascent to God in all of one's daily activities, no matter how simple. His efforts have been recognized in the creation of poetry which continues to resonate around the world.
Rumi's best-known works are the Masnavi, the Divan of Shams Tabrizi, and the prose works of the Discourses, Letters, and Seven Sermons. The Masnavi's title refers to the form of the work. A masnavi (known as mathnawi in Arabic) is a Persian form of poetry comprised of rhyming couplets of indefinite length. Rumi's Masnavi is a six-volume poetic work, considered not only his masterpiece but a masterpiece of world literature, exploring people's relationship to God as well as to themselves, each other, and the natural world. Scholar Jawid Mojaddedi writes:
Rumi's Masnavi holds an exalted status in the rich canon of Persian Sufi literature as the greatest mystical poem ever written. It is even referred to commonly as “the Koran in Persian”. (xx)
Although there is no doubt that Rumi drew on Shams' spirit for inspiration, he was well-educated in Arabic and Persian literature and folklore and especially inspired by earlier Persian poets such as Sanai (l. 1080 - c. 1131 CE) and Attar of Nishabur. Sanai, who resigned his position as court poet to pursue the Sufi path, wrote the masterpiece The Walled Garden of Truth in which he explores the concept of the unity of existence, claiming that “error begins with duality”. As soon as one distances one's self from others – or God – one establishes an “us vs. them” dichotomy which leaves one isolated and frustrated. One must embrace the totality of existence, recognizing no distance between one's self, others, and God, in order to understand the nature of existence and forge a personal relationship with the Divine. Artificial divisions of religious dogma only serve to isolate while acceptance of others' religious beliefs and practices enlarges one's own experience of God in whom there are no divisions, only acceptance and unconditional love.
Another well-known story in the Masnavi is the brief and simple tale in Book One about the lover who knocks on the door of his beloved's house (vv. 3069-76). When she asks, “Who's there?” he answers, “It is I!” and is consequently turned away. Only after being 'cooked by separation's flame' (v. 3071) does he learn from his mistake and perceive the reality of the situation. He returns to knock on her door, and this time, on being asked “Who's there?” he answers, “It is you”, and is admitted to where two I's cannot be accommodated. (xxv)
The lover and the beloved are one, whether on the earthly plane or the higher reaches of the Divine, and artificial definitions, shallow understandings, and prejudices only serve to separate one from true understanding of one's place in the universe and prohibit one from the possibility of honest communion with God. The more one insists on a “right way” to praise, serve, and worship God, the further one separates one's self, as illustrated in the poem Moses and the Shepherd.
In this poem, Moses (known as Musa in Islamic tradition) overhears a poor shepherd who is praising God saying how he would comb God's hair, wash his clothes, care for his shoes, serve him milk, and clean his house, he loves Him so much. Moses sharply rebukes the shepherd, telling him that God is infinite and has no need for any human to do any of these things and the man should refrain from speaking such nonsense. The shepherd accepts the rebuke and wanders away into the desert. God then chastises Moses, saying:
You have separated me from one of my own. Did you come as a Prophet to unite or to sever?
I have given each being a separate and unique way of seeing and knowing and saying that knowledge.
What seems wrong to you is right for him.
What is poison to one is honey to someone else.
I am apart from all that.
Ways of worshipping are not to be ranked as better or worse than one another. (Banks, 166)
Moses repents, tracks down the shepherd, and apologizes. The shepherd forgives him, telling him that he has already come to the realization that the nature of God is nothing like he imagined. Rumi, as narrator, comments, “Whenever you speak praise or thanksgiving to God, it is always like this dear shepherd's simplicity” (Banks, 168). This poem exemplifies Rumi's practice of using stories from the Quran, or other Islamic literature, to make a point his audience would already be apt to accept.
In the Quran, Surah 18:60-82, Moses is depicted in similar fashion when God sends him to follow Al-Khidr (God's representative). Al-Khidr tells Moses outright that, if he would follow him, he must not question any of his actions. Moses agrees but then questions Al-Khidr repeatedly. At the end of the story, Al-Khidr explains himself and it is apparent that Moses had no patience in accepting God's plan without knowing what that plan might entail and the end result. The use of a famous religious figure as a character who still needs to be taught, and is open to learning from God, would encourage humility in an audience who were nowhere near Moses' spiritual stature.
The greatest lesson one could learn, according to Rumi, could not be “taught” but had to be experienced, and that was the elevation of the soul through love. When one falls in love with another person, one does not limit that response by ticking off a list of what one should or should not do to please the other; one simply falls in love and allows the relationship to then dictate one's behavior.
In this same way, Rumi says, one should fall in love with the Divine and only then will one realize what is important in life and what can safely be let go of. Although Rumi was a devout Muslim, he refused to allow the dogma of his religion interfere with his relationship with God or other people. His poetry remains relevant in the present day for this very reason: the transcendence of Divine love does not recognize artificial human constructs and is open and welcoming to all people, no matter what they may believe or whether they believe at all.
Rumi expresses this concept in a number of poems but clearly in his Love Dogs in which a man continually cries out to God until he is silenced by a cynic who asks him why he continues to pray when he gets no answer. The man stops praying and falls into a fitful sleep in which Al-Khidr comes and asks him why he stopped his prayers. The man answers, “Because I've never heard anything back” and Al-Khidr answers, “This longing you express is the return message.” Rumi then speaks directly to the reader saying, “Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. /That whining is the connection” (Banks, 155-156). The human experience of longing for a relationship with the Divine, according to Rumi, is the answer to one's prayers. One should then embrace that longing as love, replacing doubt and confusion with faith and the comfort of the beloved one has longed for.
Rumi continued to compose his Masnavi (which was never completed) until his death in 1273 CE. By this time, he was known as Mawlawi (also given as Mevlana, “our master”) for his spiritual wisdom, insight, and skill in composing verse. His death was mourned by the diverse community of Konya –Muslims, Jews, and Christians united in grief at his passing – and the entourage followed the poet's remains to where they were interred in the sultan's rose garden beside Rumi's father's. The Sufi community Rumi had developed, the Mevlevi Order, built a grand mausoleum over his grave in 1274 CE which, today, is part of the Mevlana Museum of Konya, Turkey, a site visited by admirers from all over the world who still come to pay their respects to the master.
Rummikub [ pronunciation? ] is a tile-based game for 2 to 4 players, combining elements of the card game rummy and mahjong. There are 106 tiles in the game, including 104 numbered tiles (valued 1 to 13 in four different colors, two copies of each) and two jokers. Players have 14 or 16 tiles initially and take turns putting down tiles from their racks into sets (groups or runs) of at least three, drawing a tile if they cannot play. In the Sabra version (the most common and popular), the first player to use all their tiles scores a positive score based on the total of the other players' hands, while the losers get negative scores. An important feature of the game is that players can work with the tiles that have already been played.
This is the fascinating story of the Rummikub game, whose conception is obscured in the past, over 70 years ago. – Mr. Ephraim Hertzano originally made his living selling toothbrushes and other plastic accessories as well as cosmetics. The game started as a brilliant idea that had occurred to Mr. Hertzano, living in Romania, when card-playing was outlawed under the Communist regime. Mr. Hertzano envisioned playing a game that would use small tiles instead of cards to play, a game that could be played by young and old alike, and that had no ties to any language or religion. He wanted to create a game that would bring people together and one day change the world’s leisure time. He called it Rummikub. Accompanied with a vision just as bright and as grand as the initial idea, it became an overnight hit. The Hertzano family moved to Israel in the 1940’s after World War II, continuing the development on Rummikub in the backyard of his house in Bat Yam, and eventually became a professional game developer after publishing it to the market
Rumi - History
Rumi, 1207– 1273 CE, was a 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi’s influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions in the Muslim world and beyond. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world’s language. Rumi has become a widely read and popular poet, even in the US.
About Rumi: from Coleman Barks 
You will find several selections of his works translated below. Rumi speak of Love in much of his poetry, and there is some equation of love with the divine, as well. His works help the discussion of the concept of God, and the definition of Love.
Be silent that the Lord who gave thee language may speak,
For as He fashioned a door and lock, He has also made a key.
I saw the winter weaving from flakes a robe of Death
And the spring found earth in mourning, all naked, lone, and bare.
I heard Time’s loom a-whirring that wove the Sun’s dim Veil
I saw a worm a-weaving in Life-threads its own lair.
I saw the Great was Smallest, and saw the Smallest Great
For God had set His likeness on all the things that were.
Love is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries.
A lover may hanker after this love or that love,
But at the last he is drawn to the KING of Love.
However much we describe and explain Love,
When we fall in love we are ashamed of our words.
Explanation by the tongue makes most things clear,
But Love unexplained is better.
Woman is a ray of God, not a mere mistress,
The Creator’s Self, as it were, not a mere creature!
Where will you find one more liberal than God?
He buys the worthless rubbish which is your wealth,
He pays you the Light that illumines your heart.
He accepts these frozen and lifeless bodies of yours,
And gives you a Kingdom beyond what you dream of,
He takes a few drops of your tears,
And gives you the Divine Fount sweeter than sugar.
He takes your sighs fraught with grief and sadness,
And for each sigh gives rank in heaven as interest.
In return for the sigh-wind that raised tear-clouds,
God gave Abraham the title of “Father of the Faithful.”
In the adorations and benedictions of righteous men
The praises of all the prophets are kneaded together.
All their praises are mingled into one stream,
All the vessels are emptied into one ewer.
Because He that is praised is, in fact, only One.
In this respect all religions are only one religion.
Because all praises are directed towards God’s Light,
These various forms and figures are borrowed from it.
10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Rumi
More than seven centuries after his death, Rumi’s poetry still has the capacity to fascinate his readers.
The 13th century Sufi theologian and poet Jalal al-Din Mohammad Rumi is one America’s best-selling poets. His work is read at weddings, performed by artists and musicians in cramped Brooklyn basements, and endlessly quoted on Instagram.
But few people know much about the man behind these timeless lines of poetry. In Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love, the author Brad Gooch seeks to give modern readers a glimpse into Rumi’s life by studying the poet’s travels and his spiritual formation.
Gooch told The Huffington Post that, like many others, he was fascinated by the beautiful and sensual imagery in Rumi’s poetry. While researching the book Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America, he befriended a group of Sufi Muslims who met in New York City’s Upper West Side. It was there that he became exposed to the religious and spiritual dimension of Rumi’s work.
“I think the romance of the quest for meaning, of the spiritual quest, is what’s so special and seductive about Rumi,” Gooch told HuffPost. “He has displayed how human light and divine light reflect each other and go back and forth in this incredible romance and passion to search for meaning.”
Below, HuffPost gathered 10 things you probably didn’t know about this celebrated theologian and poet.
1. Rumi was born in Central Asia, most likely in present-day Tajikistan, near the border of Afghanistan.
There’s some disagreement about where Rumi was born, but Gooch concludes it was the town of Vaksh, in modern-day Tajikistan.
This region of the world had once been part of the larger Persian Empire, and a result, influenced by the Zoroastrian religion. Beginning in the mid-7th century, Arab tribes began to conquer the land, adding Islam to the mix of religions practiced in the region. By the time the poet was born on September 30, 1207, Gooch says, Buddhist influences were also present in the area.
“There was a great clash of cultures but also synergy of cultures in that part of the world that is really important to understand,” Gooch said. “It’s kind of the perfect place for him to grow up.”
2. His father and grandfather were well-known Muslim preachers and jurists, and he was expected to follow this more traditional path.
Rumi came from a line of preachers. His father, Baha Valad, was an occasional preacher at the local mosque and a Sunni jurist. Baha Valad was strict about keeping religious rules and regulations, although he was influenced by Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam that Rumi would later be identified with.
“They were respected people,” Gooch said.
3. As a boy, Rumi reported seeing angels.
There are several stories told about Rumi’s early childhood. When he was five years old, he reportedly saw angels. These episodes agitated the small boy. His father reassured him that the angels were showing themselves in order to offer their favors.
Within years of Rumi’s passing, his grandson had a writer interview people who had known him about the poet’s early life. In fact, many of the stories we have about Rumi’s early years emerged after his death.
“It’s an interesting way of indicating an early interest in religion, spirituality and poetic imagination in Rumi.”
4. Rumi spent part of his life as a refugee and migrant.
Baha Valad resolved to move his family from Vakhsh between 1210 and 1212. At that time, according to Gooch, Genghis Khan was preparing his armies to invade Tajikstan. His father could have also been propelled to leave the town because of local political problems, or by the desire to see Mecca. Whatever the trigger, by the time the family had moved away from their homeland, the Mongols came down and destroyed the great cities that his family had known.
“Rumi never saw his homeland again, never returned,” Gooch said. “They really became refugees and migrant.”
5. The map of Rumi’s life stretched over 2500 miles as his family’s migration lasted nearly two decades.
Rumi’s family traveled from Vakhsh to Samarkand in Uzbekistan, to Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and finally to Turkey, where Rumi spent the last 50 years of his life.
The experience of moving exposed Rumi to many different languages and religious practices.
“He was truly migrant in this sense of passing through all these places. You see it in the impermanence of things embraced in Rumi’s poetry,” Gooch said.
6. Rumi studied religion in a madrase, or college, in Aleppo, which is the scene of such tragic destruction today.
After Rumi’s father died, his boyhood tutor took charge of his spiritual education. Rumi was encouraged to study in Damascus and Aleppo so that he would bolster his presence as a religious teacher and a leader of his father’s community. The education he received at Aleppo was religious in the sense that the center of it was the Quran. He was also exposed to Arabic poetry.
An important part of education at that time was learning to emulate your teacher and receive certain ideas from them.
“There was a very developed academic, scholarly culture especially in Baghdad, Aleppo, and Damascus, and with that a lot of pride, a lot of status,” Gooch said. “The idea of fame or making your name was very important in those kind of scholarly circles.”
7. He was likely never called “Rumi” during his lifetime.
The term means Rumi means “from Rome,” referring to the Byzantine Roman Empire. The empire included present-day Turkey, where Rumi lived most of his adult life. His birth name was Mohammad. Because the name was so common, people were given nicknames. When he began to see visions of angels, his father gave him the title of “Khodavandgar” which is Persian for “Lord” or “Master.” His father also called him “Jalaloddin,” meaning “Splendor of the Faith.” Later in his life, Rumi was called “Mowlana,” or “Our Teacher” or “Our Master.”
It’s likely that he was never called Rumi, the name he’s known by around the globe today.
“If you’re reading anything from the time people are calling him Khodavandgar, Mowlana, and family members are calling him Jalaloddin Mohammad,” Gooch said.
8. When Rumi met his great teacher, companion, and beloved Shams of Tabriz, he was already in his late thirties, Shams about sixty years old.
By this time, Rumi is known in Konya, Turkey, for being a respected jurist, a scholar and a preacher. But he wasn’t satisfied, and felt a little ill at ease with his role. Gooch called it a “mid-life crisis.”
Shamsoddin, or Shams of Tabriz, was a mystic and a religious seeker. As a personality, Gooch said that he was irascible and misanthropic, interesting and difficult, never really satisfied. At the same time, he was steeped in learning and prayer and mediation.
The two met on a street in Konya and immediately fell into a philosophical discussion. They recognized each other as kindred spirits. Rumi spent the next three months in seclusion with Shams, who tried to pull Rumi toward seeing music and poetry as spiritual practice.
According to Gooch, the parity of this relationship bent the social norms of the time. It also put a stress on Rumi’s family and community.
“Eventually, Shams of Tabriz leaves either on purpose or he was murdered,” Gooch said. “No one really knows, but that really moves Rumi towards a period of what would seem like madness.”
9. Rumi did not begin writing poetry seriously until the traumatic disappearance of Shams of Tabriz from his life.
Shams’ disappearance deeply disturbed Rumi, but it also helped him evolve spiritually.
“Rumi tried to deal with the suffering caused by Shams’ departure, and he realizes this love he’s seeking is within himself,” Gooch said. “That, in some sense, Shams is within him.”
Rumi went on to write over 3,000 ghazals, lyrical, rhymed poems often dealing with themes of love, and over 2,000 robaiyat , or four-line rhyming poems. He also wrote a six-volume spiritual epic in couplets, known as the Masnavi.
10. Rumi’s funeral procession in Konya was unusual for the time.
Rumi died on December 17, 1273. He had been a devout Muslim for all his life, praying five times every day and keeping all the required fasts. But by the end, he also wrote about belief in a “religion of love” that crosses over traditional denominational boundaries. In the Masnavi, he wrote, “The religion of love is beyond all faiths, The only religion for lovers is God.”
Rumi gave his followers special instructions to treat the night of his death like they would a joyous wedding night. The mystic had planned his own funeral, complete with singers, musicians, dancers, Quran reciters, and imams. For Rumi, the presence of the singers and dancers indicated that the deceased was both a Muslim and a lover. But there were also Jewish rabbis reciting psalms, and Christian priests reading from the Gospels at Rumi’s funeral ― which left some of his Muslim followers bewildered. They hadn’t realized just how much Rumi had become a well-respected figure within other religious communities.
Gooch says, “[Rumi] was thinking somewhat outside the box in finding in mysticism the origins of all religions.”
The anniversary of Rumi’s death is still celebrated as Wedding Night, or Seb-i Arus in Konya, Turkey every year. The festivities include a Whirling Dervish ceremony, a meditative whirling practice that is believed to help practitioners connect with God.
The mystic writes in the Masnavi, “When you discover the source of sunlight…Whatever direction you go with be east.”
This story has been updated to reflect that scholars disagree about where exactly Rumi was born.
Rumi, and the Knowledge Not Manifest
In this era of evidence based science, the practice of medical sciences is expected to conform to standards derived from scientific inquiry. Psychiatry is not exempt from this purported paragon and the American Psychiatric Association publishes and updates guidelines that virtually dictate the parameters of psychiatric practice. These guidelines are based on a body of scientific knowledge that has been assigned the following hierarchy:
- I Systematic Reviews of well controlled Randomized Controlled Trials (meta-analysis) or single RCT with narrow confidence interval
- II Cohort studies or lesser quality RCTs
- III Case- controlled studies
- IV Case series (no control group)
- V Expert opinion
This effort to consolidate and rank medical knowledge is commendable to the extent that it makes it easily accessible to practitioners and informs them of the following
- What modalities of interviewing, testing and treatment have been proven to be useful.
- Which ones are useful in specific situations.
- Which ones are useless or even harmful.
This allows for a safer and more time-efficient practice. However, with the increasing intrusion of corporate and political influences into the psychiatric domain it is not always the knowledge that best improves patient care that is vested with the most importance. The schematizing and concretion of information has also made healthcare professionals complacent in that the single-minded focus on guidelines is often at the expense of honing clinical skills and ignoring the large corpus of knowledge that does not receive the blessing of specialized journals. This is a trend that begins in schools of Medicine and continues into residency programs and practice. The end result is a formulaic approach that passes the patient through a prism of diagnostic criteria, clinical scales, recommended treatments and insurance coverage limitations. This often results in the patient receiving the treatment that leaves the treatment provider feeling the most satisfied rather than the patient. It also encourages a professional culture that is dismissive of tradition and increasingly divested of the human factor.
Through the requirements of funding, the direction of new inquiry is itself hostage to results from existing studies one must first peruse vast volumes of existing research and extract from them enough evidence to prove the viability and the usefulness of the study one wants to undertake. This evidence must of course come from studies that fall under the above mentioned categories and are from "reputable" journals.
Most major medical research conducted in the United States begins with an economic endeavor in mind and is affiliated in some way with a corporation. The National Institute of Health provides only a quarter of the hundred billion dollars or so that fund biomedical research every year. The rest comes from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies with only 3-4% being privately or charitably funded. Financers dictate the methodology and the scope of experiments and investigators have little power to deviate from the objective laid out before them.
Following numerous mergers in the past two decades that gave rise to the pharmaceutical giants, biochemists have found a drastic change in their laboratories-they have discovered that they are expected to be mercenaries more than scientists. Gone are the days of Alexander Fleming, Marie Curie and others like them who had the luxury to put their thoughts into action in their laboratories with little or no intrusion from others. Fleming, who created the medication that has saved more lives than any other in the history of pharmacology, was working alone when he made his discovery. Had he been single-mindedly bent on pursuing the next "block-buster" drug and following guidleines he would have ignored the unwanted fungus in his Petri-dish. He would have thrown the "contaminated" sample out without bothering to investigate the area of inhibited bacterial growth around the fungus.
Such events are not a rarity in the history of medical sciences. In psychopharmacology, most of the original breakthroughs came about either serendipitously or by an individual taking the initiative on his own, such as in the case of the antipsychotic Chlorpromazine and the mood-stabilizer Lithium. Due to its elitist and exclusionary nature, evidence-based science runs the risk of becoming what the French philosopher Michel Foucault called a "regime of truth" and which he described as:
"Each society has its regime of truth, its "general politics" of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true"
Pushed to an absurd extent the evidence based construct can become an impediment to progress rather than a handy tool.
This article is not meant to be a critique of research methods or a call to arms against evidence based practice. To have a set of rules and guidelines is often helpful in overcoming a treatment impasse and avoiding unwanted outcomes. However the stark reality in the domain of mental health is that suicide, frequency of readmission, prolonged use of medication and social impairment have shown no discernible difference. Perhaps it is time to make research findings a facilitating factor in our endeavors rather than let them become blinkers for our curiosity and imagination. We would not be the first ones to admit to this error. We will be following in rather august footsteps. In 1895, Freud wrote one of his most ambitious works "The Project for a Scientific Psychology". Being among the most accomplished neuroanatomists and neurologists of his time, he meant it to be the beginning of an effort to give all psychic phenomena an anatomical and physiological basis. Having finished it, he did not attempt to publish it (it was eventually published after his death) and wrote to his close friend Wilhelm Fliess that he was
"not at all inclined to leave the psychology hanging in the air without an organic basis. But apart from this conviction [that there must be such a basis] I do not know how to go on, neither theoretically nor therapeutically and therefore must behave as if only the psychological were under consideration."
Freud was faced with the choice to either continue constructing psychoanalytical theory as he observed it in his patients' and his own inner experience or to try and formulate it only in conformity to a neurobiological construct. Having accepted that the latter was not possible without stunting his ideas, he proceeded with the former and gave modern psychology its foundations. Till today, many of the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) are based on the descriptions outlined by Freud and subsequent Freudian psychoanalysts.
This now brings me to a fundamental idea that has long been ignored in the scientific realm and which is hard for many to even consider due to the nature of modern education which fragments knowledge under the pretext of specialization and leaves us bereft of the capacity to see the whole picture. Before I discuss this idea itself, let me attempt to prepare the ground for it. Let us examine evolution from the dual perspective of the poet and the scientist.
"First he appeared in the class of inorganic things
Next he passed therefrom into that of plants
For years he lived as one of the plants,
Remembering naught of his organic state so different
And when he passed from the vegetative to the animal state
He had no remembrance of his state as a plant."
"I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear Death?"
When was I less by dying?
These lines are from the book "Mathnavi "written by the Persian Poet Jalaluddin Rumi over five hundred years before Erasmus Darwin wrote a book entitled "Zoonomia" and almost six hundred years before Erasmus's Grandson, a certain Charles Darwin, wrote "The Origin of Species". Rumi received an education that was imbued in the mystic tradition and emphasized meditation and reflection. His instruction on the workings of nature came from the dervish Shams Tabrizi who constantly advised him to release his imagination from all constraints.
Now, a passage from "Zoonomia"
"Would it be too bold to imagine that, in the great length of time since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind would it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which the great First Cause endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!"
And now Darwin, from "The Origin of Species"
"Probably all organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed. There is grandeur in this view of life that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."
While most Rumi scholars would agree that it is a spiritual rather than a physical evolution that Rumi was describing, is it possible to deny the parallels in the visions of these three great men?
The idea I spoke of above is this: that more often than not the ephemeral wisdom of the philosopher, the artist and the mystic has presaged by eons the theories of science. Aristotle's "Physica" and "De Anima" would hardly pass the rigorous scrutiny for evidence based knowledge today. Aristotle speaks of the philosophical principles underlying the behavior of matter rather than the physical. Yet without those two books it is hard to imagine that modern physics or modern psychology would exist. What was once poetry is now science what was once metaphysics is now physics what was once science fiction is today science.
This does not mean to imply that we should abandon modern science, nor that we should rely on fiction and ancient wisdoms to treat our patients. The point is that we continue to face the same choice that Freud did after failing in his "Project". The first path we can take is to operate mechanistically and let our interaction with the patient be a mere filling in the blanks of reaching a diagnosis and a treatment plan that conforms to the latest available evidence. The second, which is "the road less traveled by", is to immerse ourselves in the subjective experience of the patient and make our own observations and conclusions without incarcerating our natural curiosity and our imagination. We must do so, of course, only after we are good clinicians and understand the science and know the "evidence". But in doing so we can move beyond being automatons content with a status quo of failure and become the innovators that psychiatry so desperately needs. What requires no evidence to proclaim it is the power of the human mind. All knowledge has risen from it.
I do not believe we have fully harnessed the potential of what transpires in the "dyad" of the patient and the therapist. We do not have to wait for the day that we can witness every electrical impulse, every transfer of energy, every shift of blood that underlies what change for the better we may be able to facilitate. Opening our own minds to the subjective experiences of others and working with them to unravel the knots that are psychological conflicts must not become an abandoned art. On the contrary, we must work to improve it and bring it formly into the "scientific" realm.
The inner world of the patient is what gives an existential shape and form to the pathology. By ignoring it we limit both our understanding of mental illness and the extent to which we can help others.
Garden of Secrets: The Real Rumi
I first learned about Rumi's poetry in my Persian textbooks as a young boy growing up in Iran. Thirty years ago, when I left my homeland, I took a few Persian poetry books with me, and one of them was of course Rumi's. A major part of my life has been spent abroad'in India, Japan, and the United States'and in all these countries, Rumi has been a spiritual companion to me. Over the years, I have witnessed with delight the rising popularity of his poetry in the Western world. This is largely thanks to the free-verse English translations of his poems, notably by Coleman Barks, whose 1995 book The Essential Rumi has sold hundred of thousands of copies'a rare achievement for a poetry book. I am delighted to see this phenomenon not only because Rumi, this thirteenth-century Persian poet, is part of my cultural roots but also because he represents one of the greatest mystical minds in human history, and his poetry and thought provide effective spiritual solutions to many of today's problems in our materialistic, divided, and violent world. Despite Rumi's popularity, several aspects about him and his poetry are less known or misinterpreted in anthologies and translations of his work.
The Sufism of Khorasan
The fact that Rumi's poems reach us across cultures, languages, and centuries is a testimony to his universal love and vision. But it is important to remember that this vision was rooted in his historical, geographical, cultural, literary, and spiritual background. I have sometimes noted that Rumi's popular image, and the translations of his work, tend to uproot him from his cultural soil and transplant him to today's world with its "politically correct" language and notions. Rumi did not appear in a vacuum he stood on the shoulders of giants spanning centuries before him.
From the hagiographies that his son (Sultan Valad) and his disciples (Feridun Sepah-salar and Shamsuddin Ahmad Aflaki) have left, we know that Jalaluddin Mohammad, later to be known as Rumi, was born on September 30, 1207, and raised in the city of Balkh, which was then the capital of the Persian kingdom under Mohammad Kharazm-shah. Balkh, together with the historical cities of Neyshabur, Mash'had, Marv, and Herat, were parts of the province of Khorasan. After Afghanistan was separated from Persia under British influence in the nineteenth century, the Khorasan province shrank to its present extent within Iran, and its eastern sector, including Balkh, Marv, and Herat, became part of Afghanistan.
Khorasan is one of the major centers of religious and mystical thought in history. Its fertile intellectual soil has nurtured Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Greek, Manichaean, and Islamic traditions. It was also one of the two birthplaces of Sufism (the second being Mesopotamia). Among the earliest Sufi masters, for instance, was Ibrahim bin Adham, who was a prince in Balkh in the eighth century ad but left his palace (much like the Buddha) in search of a spiritual life. Other eminent Sufi masters, poets, and philosophers from Khorasan include Bayazid Bastami (804—874), Abol-Hasan Kharagani (960—1033), Abu-Said Abul-Khayr (967—1049), Abdullah Ansari (1006—1089), Abu Hamed Ghazzali (1058—1111) and his younger brother, Ahmad Ghazzali (1061—1126), Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 980—1037), Omar Khayyam (1048—1123), Sana'i (?—1131), and Attar (1145—1221). All of these luminaries preceded Rumi.
The Sufism that emerged in Khorasan should not be understood merely as the mystical dimension of the Arabic religion of Islam (although it reflected that as well), for this would be like regarding Zen Buddhism as Indian because the Buddha lived and taught in India. Drawing on its rich mystical and literary heritage, Khorasanian Sufism has made great contributions to mystical thought. These are too enormous to be discussed in detail here, but in order to place Rumi in his proper context, I should mention the following points:
1. The earliest didactic literature on Sufism was produced by Sufi masters from Khorasan. Some of these books were systematic theoretical treatises, for example, Hujwiri's Kashf al-Mahjub ("The Revelation of the Veiled"). Some were chronicles of Sufi masters, for instance Ansari's Tabagat al-Suffiya ("Generations of Sufis") and some were anthologies of parables narrated in poetry, such as Attar's Asrar Nameh ("Book of Mysteries"). Legend has it that Attar presented a copy of this book to the teenaged Rumi when Rumi's family stopped in Neyshabur on their flight from Balkh to avoid the onslaught of Genghis Khan's hordes. It was in this tradition of didactic literature'more specifically, writing parables in poetry'that Rumi devoted the last decade of his life to composing the Masnavi Ma'navi ("Spiritual Couplets") in doing so, he drew from Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Persian, Greek, and Indian sources. (Masnavi is a Persian pronunciation of the Arabic Mathnavi, "rhymed couplet." Rumi's Masnavi has six books, totaling about 25,000 couplets.)
2. The Khorasanian Sufis used Persian poetry as their main medium for mystical expressions. Sana'i, Attar, Rumi, and Jami (1414—1492) fall in this category. In some of his poems, Rumi views himself as heir to Sana'i and Attar (for example: "Attar was the soul, and Sana'i was its two eyes I have come after them" quoted in Schimmel, 37). Sufi poetry was often used in conjunction with music'a practice called sama, "listening" to music, but which sometimes also included dancing, such as the whirling dance developed by Rumi, and later institutionalized by his son Sultan Valad as a major spiritual practice in the Mawlaviyyeh (Mevlana) Sufi order (hence the so-called "whirling dervishes").
3. The Khorasanian Sufis drew a clear demarcation between the realm of philosophy and science (ilm) and the realm of esoteric knowledge and mysticism (irfan, an Arabic-Persian translation of the Greek word gnosis). They stated openly that the logic of the head was not capable of understanding the secrets of the heart. Rumi says, "The legs of argumentative logicians are wooden," implying that philosophical talk is one thing, walking on the spiritual path quite another. That is why Sufis did not seek a "scientific God" (as some of us try to do), although they appreciated the function of science in its own realm. As Rumi put it, "Water beneath the boat is life support, but poured into the boat sinks it to death." The word "heart" (dil in Persian, galb in Arabic), which frequently appears in Rumi's poetry, is not simply a symbolic organ for our emotions, but a faculty of inner knowing it is a "garden of secrets."
4. The Sufis regarded God, not as an aloof heavenly king, but as their Beloved on this earth and in this life. They developed a rich symbolic language, full of feminine terms, by which to express their love, prayers, and ecstasy to the Divine. This language represented a shift from the masculine terms by which God had been addressed in Arabic and other languages.
Despite many translations of Sufi Persian poetry, including Rumi's, a reliable and comprehensive work in this field is yet to be published. Hence many of the nuances of the original will be lost on English-speaking readers. For instance, zulf, the beautiful, long, curved hair of the woman, symbolizes the interlinked, chainlike manifestations of God in creation, with beauty within beauty, lines and space within lines and space, and mystery within mystery. Consider this couplet from Masnavi 5:1917:
"Chain" in the first instance refers to the attachments and desires of which the poet'the lover of God'is willing to rid himself but grasping the chain of the Beloved's hair is like homecoming, so Rumi recommends enjoying the beauty and mystery of creation rather than renouncing it. It is akin to the famous Christian saying "Be ye in the world, but not of it." It will be difficult to grasp this couplet (and many others like it) without understanding Rumi's mystical language and background.
5. The Khorasanian Sufis are famous for their references to "intoxication" (sukr or masti) by the pure divine wine (sharab, mey, or badeh) as a metaphor for the state of mystical love, selflessness, and senselessness, or what Sufis call fana ("extinction," akin to the Buddhist idea of nirvana, which similarly means "extinction" in Sanskrit). We often encounter terms like wine, jug, grape, cup, cupbearer, tavern, drunkard in the poetry of Omar Khayyam and Rumi, and later in the works of Shiraz poets like Hafiz. Such expressions should not be understood as meaning that the poets were alcoholics!
Rumi the Poet
Rumi was connected with the mystical tradition of Khorasan through several important persons in his life. The first was his father, Baha Valad, who was a Muslim preacher and teacher. Fortunately, we have a collection of Baha Valad's discourses and writings, the Ma'aref Baha-Valad ("The Teachings of Baha Valad"), which clearly shows affinities with mystical doctrines as well as devotion to God and to a pious spiritual life. The young Rumi was very fond of reading this book.
In 1216, fleeing the Mongols, Baha Valad, along with his family and disciples, left Balkh and journeyed westward. Ultimately they settled in the city of Konya in Anatolia, which was then ruled by the Seljuq dynasty. Baha Valad spent his last years teaching in a religious school built for him by the Seljuq king, Sultan Alaleddin Kaygubad.
While growing up in Balkh, Rumi had a tutor, Burhanuddin Muhaggeg Tirmazi, who was himself a disciple of Baha Valad. After Rumi's father died in 1231 (at the age of eighty) and left his school to Rumi, Burhan came to Konya and took on the responsibility of training the young Rumi. Again we are fortunate to have an extant book of Burhan, which shows strands of mystical thinking that resemble those of Baha Valad. On Burhan's orders, Rumi spent several years in Aleppo and Damascus (in Syria) to study with the great Islamic scholars living there. While in Damascus, Rumi probably also attended the discourses of the renowned Sufi master Ibn Arabi, who taught the doctrine of vahdat al-vojud, "the Oneness of Being," which is also the philosophical basis of Rumi's poetry: the One Divine Reality is the source, manifestation, and point of return for the All.
Rumi was thus highly educated in both Persian and Arabic language and literature, and in Islamic scriptures, philosophy, and law. We also know that Burhan trained him in Sufi practices such as forty-day solitary retreats (chelleh). In this way, Rumi became a reputed teacher and master in Konya, based in his father's school.
On November 29, 1244, Rumi (then aged thirty-seven) met perhaps the important person in his life'a wandering dervish, probably aged sixty, named Shams ("Sun") of Tabriz (a city in northwest Iran). Shams is a mysterious figure, often believed to have been illiterate, and it puzzles Rumi's fans to think how a person like Shams could have transformed the great scholar Rumi into a passionate poet. What went on between these two? Who was the master and who was the disciple? To answer these questions, we need to consider two facts. First, Shams was not an illiterate beggar dervish. True, he was not a scholar, but he had studied with scholars and Sufi masters, and the extant book of his discourses (Magalat Shams, "The Discourses of Shams," written down probably by Rumi's son) shows him as an insightful and learned man. Second, Rumi was ready for Shams: he had been prepared by his father and teacher to take on the Sufi path of love, enlightenment, and ecstasy. Shams simply opened the mouth of a fiery volcano, and thus poured out all the beautiful, insightful, and ecstatic poems of Rumi.
The Relationship of Rumi and Shams
If Shams and Rumi had not met, neither of them would have remained in history. Such was the significance of the meeting of these two souls. But what was the nature of their relationship?
We know that after meeting Shams, Rumi began singing his lyric poems collected in the Diwan Shams ("Book of Poetry Dedicated to Shams"), also known as the Diwan Kabir ("The Great Book of Poetry"). This book contains about 3500 lyric sonnets (ghazal) and close to 2000 quatrains (rubaiyat), totaling over 42,000 lines. The book is full of passionate love poems, some of which specifically mention Shams's name. One consequence of uprooting Rumi from his mystical tradition is the misinterpretation of these poems as homosexual expressions (this theory has been articulated in the West as Rumi's poetry has become popular in recent years). Here I do not mean to criticize or praise a particular sexual orientation, but only to reflect on Rumi's love poems as he meant them. Several points are noteworthy in this regard:
1. In Rumi's original biographies, we do not find evidence that he or Shams were homosexual.
2. Shams stayed with Rumi in Konya for no more than four years (1244—47), while Rumi worked on the Diwan Shams for the rest of his life.
3. It is misleading to interpret the custom of another culture by the norms of one's own. For example, in the Middle East, when people greet each other, women kiss women and men kiss men on the cheek. To do so in the Western countries today would imply homosexuality. In Western societies, on the other hand, a man does not kiss his male friend but may kiss his friend's wife on the cheek, which in turn is a taboo for people living in the East. In Japan, kissing in public is very unusual: during my years in Japan, I seldom saw even a mother kissing her own baby in public, but that does not mean that Japanese mothers do not love their children!
4. Rumi was not the first Persian Sufi poet to write love poems, and this history should give us a context in which to analyze this issue. In the majority of Rumi's love poems that mention Shams, the expressions of love are for God, the Creation, the All, the soul, and the Beloved (much as in the poems of Persian mystics before and after Rumi). Shams's name appears in the last line. This way of ending the ghazal with a name was (and is) a common practice in Persian poetry, but while other poets usually use their pen names, Rumi used Shams's name out of love and devotion. Rumi also has many ghazal poems which he ends with his own pen name, Khamoosh ("Silent").
5. There is a Sufi tradition called soh'bat ("conversation"): two seekers, loving and respecting each other, regularly meet and share their experiences and wisdom the pair could be a master and a disciple, or even two masters. This practice is believed to strengthen the spiritual wayfarers. Rumi treasures Shams as his ham-soh'bat ("conversation friend") because a spiritual friend of that caliber does not come by easily in one's life. Shams also has many sayings in praise of Rumi. These men were like two mighty rivers that flew and merged in the ocean of love.
Having mentioned these points to clarify the Rumi-Shams relationship, I should add that Rumi, like other mystic poets, was not oblivious to human love. For Sufis, God's love is the fabric of the entire creation. Sometimes we experience this love in relationship with the Source, the Divine this is what Rumi calls ishg hagigi, "the true source of love." And sometimes we express or receive love in the creation and in humans (ishg mojazi, "love derived from the Source"), which is a reflection of the divine love. What is important is the quality of our love'whether it is selfish or "intoxicating and illuminating."
A Bird from the Celestial Garden
Rumi died during a Sunday sunset, December 7, 1273, and since then his tomb has been a shrine for his lovers and spiritual pilgrims. The poet known in the West as Rumi (because he lived in "Rum," as the Persians called the Byzantine kingdom in Anatolia) is in the East respectfully called Mowlana (Mevlana in the Turkish pronunciation meaning "our master").
As a final note, I would like to contrast two popular images of Rumi in the West. At one extreme, some view him simply as a poet of love and praise him as an artist, "much like Shakespeare and Beethoven" (as one of Rumi's modern translators once remarked). At the other extreme, Rumi is viewed merely as the originator of a Sufi order, and thus remains far from our ordinary life. While there are elements of truth in both of these popular images, neither is, I believe, how Rumi would have regarded himself. The first camp looks at the fruit of his poetry without paying any attention to the tree, ignoring the fact that Rumi was a deeply religious person, a man of faith, who prayed, fasted, and meditated within the Islamic tradition (facts that some may find uncomfortable given the often negative image of Islam in the West). The second camp confines Rumi to a particular sect and puts this vast tree in a box. The spirit of his poetry is both vast and deep, rooted in rich mystical traditions, ancient wisdom, and Persian literature. The more we delve into these roots, the better can we connect to the flight of this "bird from the celestial garden" (as he calls himself) in the expanse of the spiritual sky.
Aflaki, Shamsuddin Ahmad. Manageb al-Ã‚refin ("The Virtuous Acts of the Gnostics"). Edited by Tahsin Yazici. 2 vols. 2d ed. Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu Basimeri, 1976-80 (reprinted, Tehran: Donya-ye Kitab, 1983). Partial English translations include James Redhouse, Legends of the Sufis (Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1976 ), and Idries Shah, The Hundred Tales of Wisdom (London: Octagon, 1978). A recent complete translation is John O'Kane, The Feats of the Knowers of God (Leyden: Brill, 2002).
Rumi, Mowlana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi. Kulliyat Shams Tabrizi: Diwan Kabir ("Poetry Collection Dedicated to Shams Tabrizi: The Great Book of Poetry"). Edited by Badi al-Zaman Foruzan-far. 10 vols. Tehran: Tehran University Press, 1957—1963. Rumi's ghazals have been translated into English by Nevit O. Ergin from the Turkish translation of Abdolbaqi Gulpinarli and published in twenty-two volumes (various publishers, 1995-2003). Rumi's rubaiyat have been translated by Ibrahim Gamard and Rawan Farhadi, The Quatrains of Rumi (San Rafael, Calif.: Sufi Dari Books, 2008). Partial translations of the Diwan include Reynold Nicholson's Selected Poems from the Diwan Shams Tabrizi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1898), and A. J. Arberry, Mystical Poems of Rumi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).
Masnavi Ma'navi ("Spiritual Couplets"). Edited by Reynold Nicholson. Tehran: Amir Kabir Press, 1957. Complete scholarly translation and commentary in eight volumes by Reynold Nicholson, London: Luzac, 1925—40. Partial translations include E. H. Whinfield, Teachings of Rumi: Masnavi (London: Octagon, 1979 ) and A. J. Arberry, Tales from the Masnavi and More Tales from the Masnavi (London: Allen & Unwin, 1961-63).
Schimmel, Annemarie. The Triumphant Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.
Sepah-salar, Feridun. Risaleh dar Ahwal-e Mowlana Jalaluddin Moulavi ("Treatise on the Life of Master Jalaluddin Mowlavi"). Edited by Sa'id Nafisi. Tehran: Igbal, 1946.
Tirmazi, Burhanuddin Mohaggeg. Ma'aref ("The Teachings"). Edited by Badi al-Zaman Foruzan-far. Tehran: Ministry of Culture, 1961.
Tabrizi, Shamsuddin Mohammad. Magalat Shams Tabrizi ("The Discourses of Shams Tabrizi"). Edited by Mohammad Ali Movvahed. 2 vols. Tehran: Kharazmi, 1990. A partial, biographically arranged translation from the original Persian is William Chittick, Me and Rumi: The Autobiography of Shams-i Tabrizi (Louisville, Ky.: Fons Vitae, 2004). A complete version (made from the Turkish translation) has been recently published: Refik Algan and Camille Adams Helminski, Rumi's Sun: The Teachings of Shams of Tabriz (Louisville, Ky.: Moonlight, 2008).
Valad, Baha. Ma'aref ("The Teachings of Baha Valad"). Edited by Badi al-Zaman Foruzan-far. 2d ed. 2 vols. Tehran: Tahouri, 1973. A partial translation is Coleman Barks and John Moyne, The Drowned Book: Ecstatic and Earthy Reflections of Bahauddin, the Father of Rumi (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2004).
Valad, Sultan. Valad Nameh ("The Book of Valad"). Edited by Jalal Humai. Tehran: Igbal, 1936.
Here are 55 Rumi quotes to inspire deeper connections
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
What you seek is seeking you.
Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.
Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?
Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.
Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees.
Why should I be unhappy? Every parcel of my being is in full bloom.
Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.
Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death.
There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?
Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.
Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.
Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.
I know you’re tired but come, this is the way.
This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.
The wound is the place where the light enters you.
And so it is, that both the devil and the angelic spirits present us with objects of desire to awaken our power of choice.
Wherever you are, and whatever you do, be in love.
Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.
Reason is powerless in the expression of love.
You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.
These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.
Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy, absentminded. Someone sober will worry about things going badly. Let the lover be.
Your heart is the size of an ocean. Go find yourself in its hidden depths.
I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.
Take someone who doesn’t keep score, who’s not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing, who has not the slightest interest even in his own personality: he’s free.
When the world pushes you to your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray.
Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.
I am not this hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within.
Be full of sorrow, that you may become hill of joy weep, that you may break into laughter.
Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Cleverness is mere opinion. Bewilderment brings intuitive knowledge.
Be empty of worrying. Think of who created thought.
Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.
The lion is most handsome when looking for food.
The very center of your heart is where life begins – the most beautiful place on earth.
Don’t you know yet? It is your light that lights the worlds.
Love is the bridge between you and everything.
Seek the wisdom that will untie your knot. Seek the path that demands your whole being.
To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.
Dance until you shatter yourself.
It’s your road, and yours alone, others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.
Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open.
As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.
Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. Be crumbled, so wild flowers will come up where you are.
What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.
The only lasting beauty is the beauty of the heart.
The universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself everything that you want, you already are.
Close your eyes, fall in love, stay there.
If light is in your heart, you will find your way home.
Achieve some perfection yourself, so that you may not fall into sorrow by seeing the perfection in others.
This is a subtle truth. Whatever you love you are.
Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
What is planted in each person’s soul will sprout.
In each moment the fire rages, it will burn away a hundred veils. And carry you a thousand steps toward your goal.
Who was Rumi? Five Interesting Facts
(TRT): There has been a lot of talk lately surrounding a possible movie which will tell the life story of 13th century Turkish-Persian mystic Rumi. But who exactly was the enigmatic poet?
The news is that David Franzoni, the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind “Gladiator,” is writing a new script for a biopic of the popular 13th century Turkish-Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi. Filming is scheduled to start next year.
However, the movie has attracted controversy even at this early stage.
Why? Well, there’s talk that Leonardo DiCaprio might be cast as Rumi, while Robert Downey Jr. will play Shams Tabrizi, Rumi’s mentor who had a powerful influence on his later writings.
Some social media users have voiced anger that “white” men might be cast to play the two men. They ask why such actors are being cast when there are so many actors from the Middle East who can play the roles.
Hollywood’s alleged attempt at “whitewashing” the history of Turkey and Persia (modern day Iran), has led to an outcry on the internet.
But who was Rumi, the man at the centre of this discussion? Let’s take a closer look at his life.
1. Rumi has several different names
Rumi’s full name was originally Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi.
He is popularly known as “Rumi” – a name which comes from Arabic and literally means “Roman.” He acquired this name because he spent much of his life in the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in Anatolia, which had previously conquered the area from the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire.
He is also known as Mawlana in Iran and Turkey, which is a term of Arabic origin meaning “our master.”
Another word of Arabic origin, Mevlevi – meaning “my master” – is also often used to refer to him.
2. He found inspiration in the friendship of Shams Tabrizi, a great Persian scholar
Rumi was a traditional religious teacher until the age of 37, when he met a wandering dervish (a Muslim who attempts to get closer to God by leading a life of poverty) named Shams Tabrizi, who changed the course of his life.
Shams, who soon after became a devotee and intimate friend of Rumi, is credited as his spiritual mentor and is mentioned with great reverence in his poems.
Remembering his first encounter with the man, Rumi wrote: “What I thought of before as God, I met today in a human being.”
Their partnership was short-lived. Three years after they met Shams disappeared. It’s rumoured he was murdered by one of Rumi’s jealous followers.
3. His poems are an explosion of different emotions
His poems are passionate, spiritual and intense. He would frequently write about topics such as human desire and the nature of love.
An example of his fine artistry can be seen in his poem Daring Enough to Finish:
Rumi always encouraged tolerance, peace and compassion. In his famous epic poem the Masnavi – one of the most influential pieces of Islamic literature – he wrote:
4. He is credited with originating the dance of the whirling dervishes
The dance of the whirling dervishes is a form of Sama, or religious ceremony, which originated among Sufis (Muslims who focus on the inner, mystical dimension of Islam). It’s still practiced by Sufi dervishes of the Mevlevi order, which traces itself to Rumi and follows his teachings.
In the dance the dervishes aim to attain perfection and reach God by abandoning their egos and personal desires.
They do this by listening to spiritual music, focusing on God, and spinning in circles.
So, how did Rumi come to create the dance?
The story goes that he was walking through a marketplace one day when he heard the rhythmic sound of the goldbeaters’ hammering.
At this point Rumi heard the words “La ilaha ilallah” in Arabic, which translates to “There is no god but Allah (God),” spoken by the apprentices hammering the gold, and was so overcome with happiness that he stretched out both of his arms and started spinning in a circle.
And with that, the dance of the whirling dervishes was born.
5. He has many famous admirers, even today
Despite having died over 700 years ago, Rumi still has a strong following all over the world – probably because of the universal message of his work. Collections of his writings frequently top bestseller lists in the US.
Versions of Rumi’s love poems have been performed by Hollywood figures such as Madonna, Goldie Hawn, and Demi Moore in A Gift of Love, a CD produced by Deepak Chopra.
Philip Glass, an American composer, composed music to accompany Rumi’s poetry in Monsters of Grace, a chamber opera specially organised for the 800-year anniversary of Rumi’s birth in 2007.
Recordings of Rumi poems have also made it to the USA’s Billboard’s Top 20 list.
Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī b. Bahā’ al-Dīn Walad b. Ḥusayn b. Aḥmad Khaṭībī was born on 6 Rabī c I 604/September 30, 1207 in or near the ancient city of Balkh in a region of Khorāsān (now in Afghanistan) and died on 5 Jumāda II 672/December 17, 1273 in Konya (now in Turkey). His birth name was the same as his father’s: Muḥammad. From an early age, his father called him Jalāl al-Dīn (“The glory of the Religion”). He was also called by the Arabic title, Mawlānā (“our Master”), as was his father. In addition, his disciples called him by the Persian title, Khodāwandgar (“great Master”). He was known as Rūmī (“Roman”) because he spent most of his life in the region known by Muslims as “Rūm,” the Anatolian peninsula most of which had been conquered by the Saljūq Turks after centuries of rule by the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire.
Mawlānā has long been viewed as one of the greatest Persian poets and has been called “surely the greatest mystical poet in the history of mankind” (Arberry, 1949, p. xix). He is the author of the following poetic works: Dīvān-é Kabīr (“Great Collected Poetic Works”) or Dīvān-é Shams-é Tabrīzī (which contains, in the earliest manuscripts, more than 3,000 ghazaliyāt or lyric poems, 40 tarjī c āt or stanzaic poems, and over 1800 rubā c īyāt or quatrains) and Mathnawī-yé Ma c nawī (“Couplets of Deep Spiritual Meaning”), considered his greatest work that was composed in his later years, which contains over 25,000 authentic verses). Over the centuries, many verses and poems, as well as “improvements” within verses, have been added to the manuscript tradition and more inauthentic verses and poems are claimed as belonging to Mawlānā in contemporary books and articles. His prose works, believed to have been compiled after his death, are Fīhi Mā Fīhi (“Whatever Is In It, Is In It,” also known as the “Discourses of Rumi”), Majālis-é Sab c a (“Seven Sessions,” also known as the “Sermons”), and Maktūbāt (“Letters”).
The basic story of Mawlānā’s life is well known: how he emigrated from Balkh with his family just prior to its destruction by the Mongol army of Genghis Khan, travelled from place to place (including Mecca) with his family before living in several towns in Anatolia (in present day Turkey) and moving finally to Konya (the ancient city of Iconium), succeeded his father who was a renowned religious scholar, met the wandering dervish Shams al-Dīn of Tabrīz who had a transforming impact on his life, became troubled by the jealousy of his followers that led to the first disappearance of Shams, sent his oldest son (Sulṭān Walad) to bring Shams back from Damascus, became completely distraught when Shams disappeared permanently, then became more profoundly creative than ever before as a mystical poet, and was succeeded (following the death of his chief disciple, Ḥusām al-Dīn Chalabī) by Sulṭān Walad, who was the first to organize the tradition of the Mawlawī (Mevlevi) Sufis-later known in the West as the “Whirling Dervishes.”
Here, certain aspects of his life have been selected for emphasis, some of which challenge assumptions and claims that occur frequently in many of the books and articles about Mawlānā.
According to Sepahsālār, who wrote that he was Mawlānā’s direct disciple, Mawlānā’s birth was in the year 1207 C.E. (p. 22). And Aflākī also accepted this year in his hagiography (p. 73), written at the request of Mawlānā’s grandson (between 1318-1353) and mentioned the full date as September 30, 1207 (6 Rabī c al-Awwal 604 A.H.). However, some Mawlānā scholars have thought there was evidence of an earlier birth year, but this view has not been accepted by most scholars (Lewis, pp. 317-20).
There is evidence, based on his father’s journal, Ma c ārif, that Mawlānā was born in Wakhsh (now in Tākijistān), about 240 kilometers northeast of Balkh in the valley of the Wakhsh River (which flows into the Āmū Daryā, or Oxus River), where his father lived and worked as a jurist and preacher between 1204 and 1210 (Bausani, 1965, p. 393 Meier Schimmel, p. 11 Lewis, pp. 47-49). The town of Wakhsh was culturally a part of the city of Balkh. In the year 1212, Mawlānā’s father moved with his family to Samarqand (now in Uzbekistān). He presumably returned to Balkh at some point, since he and his family emigrated from there to Anatolia about 1216 or 1217. Since there is reason to believe that Mawlānā lived in Balkh for some period of time, this gives justification to view him as from Balkh, a “Balkhī.”
Mawlānā’s father, Bahā’ al-Dīn Walad, may have been born and raised in Balkh. However, there is no supporting evidence that he was a well-known religious scholar in Balkh (Lewis, pp. 46-47, 54-55) rather, a miracle story developed that was based on a dream that he recorded in his journal, that the Prophet Muḥammad declared him to be the “Sultan of Religious Scholars.” Presumably, he lived in Balkh for periods of time as a preacher, scholar, and spiritual teacher. He may therefore also be viewed as a “Balkhī,” a man from Balkh. Books about Mawlānā commonly say little about his father except to describe him as a Muslim scholar and judge. However, Bahā’ al-Dīn was an unusual mystic, whose focus was not on discourse but on direct experience of the Presence of God through prayer, dreams, visions, and intimations. There is evidence that Mawlānā’s own mystical teachings were strongly influenced by his studies of his father’s journal of mystical experiences and insights (Lewis, pp. 82-86, p. 107).
A number of stories about Mawlānā’s life were added or altered in order to fit hagiographical needs. For example, claims were made that he was a descendant of Abu Bakr (the first successor of the Prophet Muḥammad) and that his grandmother was a royal princess (the daughter of the Khwārazmshāh, the King of Khorāsān or eastern Persia). These assertions have been refuted by scholars (Forūzānfar, 1988, p. 8 Lewis, p. 91).
The legend that Mawlānā’s grandmother was a princess has been used to support a claim made by some Turkish scholars that Mawlānā was Turkish and that his native language was Turkish (based on an assumption that the ruling family in that part of Central Asia was a Turkish dynasty). A related claim is that Mawlānā later learned an “Anatolian Persian dialect” (Önder, pp. 198-99). These claims are contradicted by the fact that there are no more than two dozen verses containing Turkish words out of all the thousands of verses composed by Mawlānā in his Dīwān (Lewis, pp. 548-49) and very few words in his Mathnawī. In addition, the poetic works of his son (Sulṭān Walad) and his grandson (Ūlū cĀrif Chalabī) are entirely in Persian, except for a small number of poems in Turkish.
A claim (made in the 15th century) that Mawlānā met the great Sufi poet c Aṭṭār as a child enables him to be viewed as “blessed” with a similar poetic gift (Lewis, pp. 64-65). The assertion (also made in the 15th century) that Mawlānā’s father was a disciple of the famous Sufi master Najm al-Dīn Kubrā can be considered legendary, since it remains unsubstantiated (Lewis, pp. 30-33, 92).
Many books and articles about Mawlānā’s life depict him as a conventional religious intellectual, an Islamic scholar and judge (as his father tends to be described), who suddenly was transformed into a mystic after meeting Shams-é Tabrīzī. While there is no doubt that his experiences with Shams-é Tabrīzī were greatly transformative, Mawlānā had previously undergone nine years of Sufi training under his father’s leading disciple and successor, Sayyid Burhān al-Dīn Muḥaqqiq al-Tirmidhī, known as the “Knower of Secrets” (Sirr-Dān). Sayyid Burhān al-Dīn arrived in Konya in 1232, a year after Mawlānā’s father died.
During part of these years of Sufi discipleship, the Sayyid directed Mawlānā to go to Syria and master the traditional Islamic domains of knowledge. He first went to Aleppo, where he studied at the Madrasa-yé Halāwiyya (a college of the Ḥanafī school of Sunnī Islamic law) and where he associated with some disciples of his father. After completing his studies, he returned to Anatolia and the Sayyid directed him to do several forty-day spiritual retreats. The Sayyid was said to be so impressed by Mawlānā’s spiritual state, after completing these retreats, that he declared him to be without equal in the world in the major branches of knowledge as well as of hidden spiritual secrets (Aflākī, pp. 83-84). In the year 1241, Mawlānā received word that Sayyid Burhān al-Dīn had died and went to visit his teacher’s tomb (in Qaysarīya). Sayyid Burhān al-Dīn was a mature mystic who loved to quote from the Sufi poetry of Sanā’ī.
Mawlānā was married all his life from about the age of eighteen, and he was very devoted to his two wives. His first marriage was to Gawhar (“Pearl”), whom he had known since childhood. She was the daughter of one of his father’s disciples (Sharaf al-Dīn Lālā of Samarqand), who had accompanied the family during their migrations. The marriage took place in the town of Lāranda (present day Karaman), which was not far from Konya. It was there, during period of seven years, that Mawlānā’s sons, Bahā’ al-Dīn Muḥammad Walad (known as Sulṭān Walad) and c Alā’ al-Dīn Muḥammad were born it was also where his mother, his wife’s mother, and his brother c Alā’ al-Dīn died. The family then moved to Konya in 1228. His wife died there at a young age, and later on he married a widow (who had a son), Kerrā of Konya, with whom he had a third son, Muẓaffar al-Dīn Amīr c Ālim, and a daughter, Malika.
Mawlānā’s second Sufi master, Shams-é Tabrīzī, arrived in Konya on November 29, 1244 (Aflākī, p. 84). Aflākī called him “Mawlānā Shamsu ‘l-Ḥaqq wa ‘l-Dīn Muḥammad, ibn c Alī, ibn Malakdād al-Tabrīzī” (p. 614). According to early Mawlawī (Mevlevi) tradition, the spiritual tradition of Mawlānā’s successors, he was said to be 60 years of age (Forūzānfar, p. 50). Later on, Shams asked to marry a young woman raised in Mawlānā’s household named Kīmiyā, and after they married they lived in Mawlānā’s household (Sepahsālār, p. 133).
Although Shams-é Tabrīzī has been described for more than a century as an illiterate wandering dervish [qalandar] who was charismatic and had antinomian or heretical tendencies, we now have much more information about him in the English language (thanks to scholars such as Franklin Lewis and William Chittick) that was previously available only in Persian (Muwaḥḥid, 1990 and 1998). We now know, based on the notes of his discourses (Maqālāt-é Shams-é Tabrīzī) that were recorded by his disciples (one of whom was Mawlānā’s son, Sulṭān Walad), that he had a solid Islamic education in the Arabic language and that he was a Sunnī Muslim who followed the Shāfi c ī school of Islamic law (Maqālāt, pp. 182-83). He must have memorized the Qur’ān, since he taught young boys its memorization (Chittick, p. xvi).
Shams al-Dīn placed much importance on “following” [mutābacat], meaning following the Sunnah or the example of the behavior that was modeled by the Prophet Muḥammad. Shams was critical toward a number of well-known Sufi masters (contemporary and past ones) because they did not follow the example of the Prophet sufficiently, and some apparently felt they were so spiritually advanced that they had little need for it (Lewis, p. 150, 156-58).
Based on this understanding, the initial meeting between Shams and Mawlānā can be seen in a new light: Shams was searching for one of the great hidden saints of God, and one of the proofs of such a person would be a humble veneration and love of the Prophet Muḥammad, combined with a strong commitment to following the Prophet’s pious way of life. This would be in contrast to other Sufis who made claims of receiving extraordinary spiritual favors from God but who had a lack of commitment to following the Prophet’s example.
In Aflākī’s hagiography there are two versions of the famous meeting. The first account is generally preferred by popularizing Western authors because it fits their view that Mawlānā had been a mere Muslim scholar and theologian until he met Shams, who introduced him to radical mystical teachings.
According to the first version (pp. 84-87), Shams challenged Mawlānā with quotes from the Prophet Muḥammad and the (ninth century C.E.) Sufi, Bāyazīd al-Bisṭāmī (also spelled Abū Yazīd):
“Say who was greater: Ḥażrat-é Muḥammad the Prophet or Bāyazīd?” He answered, “No, no! Muḥammad Muṣṭafà, the leader and chief of all the prophets and saints! And greatness belongs to him!” Shams then said, “Then what does it mean that Ḥażrat-é Muṣṭafà said (to God), ‘Glory be to You! We have not known You as You deserve to be known’ and Bāyazīd said, ‘Glory be to me! How great is my state! And I am the King of kings!’”
Mawlānā is then depicted as falling from his mule from awe of that reply, shouting, fainting, and sleeping for an hour. After returning to his senses, he is described as taking Shams by foot to his (religious) college, into a small cell in which no one was given passage until forty days were completed, or three months according to others.
Aflākī’s second version (pp. 619-20) portrays Mawlānā as a faithful Muslim who revered the Prophet Muḥammad more than anyone, and Shams-é Tabrīzī is depicted as the one who fainted after hearing Mawlānā’s reply:
For Abū Yazīd, (his) thirst became pacified by a gulp (of water), he spoke from (feeling) satiated, and the jug of his comprehension was filled by that amount. And that light was (suited to) the measure of the window of his house. But for Ḥażrat-é Muṣṭafà-(may the) peace (of God) be upon him, there was tremendous thirst, (there was) thirst after thirst.… Necessarily, he spoke about thirstiness and every day he became increased in his supplications for (greater) nearness (to God). And (so) of these two assertions, the assertion of Muṣṭafà is greater. Because (Abū Yazīd) arrived (near) to God, viewed himself as full, and did not look (for) more. But Muṣṭafà-peace be upon him-saw more every day and went further. (And) day by day, hour after hour, he witnessed more of the Lights, Grandeur, Power, and Wisdom of God. For this reason he said, “We have not known You as You deserve to be known.”
An earlier account was written by Mawlānā’s disciple, Sepahsālār, who wrote (about 40 years after Mawlānā’s death). According to this version (pp. 126-28), the two sensed each other’s presence in Konya, went in search, and ended up sitting on opposite benches. When Shams asked the question, he quoted Bāyazīd first and the Prophet second. Mawlānā replied,
Although Bāyazīd is one of the perfected saints and knowers among the attained companions of the heart, yet he held himself back when (he was) in the circle of sanctity in the known station and kept himself fixed there. The greatness and perfection of that station became revealed to him concerning the exalted qualities of his (own) station, and he declared the explanation of unification by these words. And although Ḥażrat-é Rasūlullāh-may the peace and blessings of God be upon him-traversed seventy great stations every day, such that the first had no relation to the second, when he reached the first station he expressed gratitude (to God) and he knew that it was an extensive journey. When he reached a second degree and he witnessed that it was a higher and more noble station than (the one before) it, he asked (Divine) forgiveness concerning the first level and his contentment with that station.
Both are then described as falling into a state of spiritual ecstasy, after which Mawlānā took Shams into a small cell that belonged to a close disciple (Shaykh Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn Zarkôb) for a period of six months.
An even earlier account, by Mawlānā’s son, Sulṭān Walad (p. 34), provides only a brief poetic description of their meeting without any details of their initial conversation.
The earliest account is by Shams-é Tabrīzī himself, as recorded by his disciples begins with a criticism of Bāyazīd (p. 685):
And the first words I spoke with (Mawlānā) were these: “But as for Abū Yazīd, why didn’t he adhere to following (the Prophet’s example) and (why) didn’t (he) say ‘Glory be to You! We have not worshipped You (as You deserve to be worshipped)?’” Then Mawlānā knew to completion and perfection (the meaning of) those words (of the Prophet). But what was the final outcome of these words? Then his inmost consciousness made him drunk from these (words), because his inmost consciousness was cleansed (and) purified, (and) therefore (the meaning of) it became known to him. And with his drunkenness, I (also) knew the pleasure and delight of those words-for I had been neglectfully unaware of the pleasure and delight of these words.
These accounts indicate that Mawlānā was already an advanced Sufi, as well as a religious scholar. And they suggest that Shams-é Tabrīzī found Mawlānā to be the hidden saint he had long searched for, one who was advanced on the Sufi path who continued to follow the Prophet Muḥammad, and who acknowledged that the Prophet journeyed far beyond any of the Muslim Sufi masters who came after him in the mystical worship of God.
A contemporary claim has been promulgated that Mawlānā and Shams-é Tabrīzī were “lovers” on the physical level as well as the spiritual. However, this view is ill-informed about significant features of medieval Persian culture: such a relationship would have been incompatible with the homoeroticism of the time. And to believe that such was the case misunderstands the nature of lover-beloved themes in Persian Sufi poetry that had been an established convention for three hundred years (Lewis, pp. 320-24). An example of one such theme relates to the Sufi practice of cultivating intense love of the spiritual master until there is “annihilation in the presence of the master” [fanā fī ‘l-shaykh] as a stage on the path to “annihilation in the Presence of God” [fanā fī ’llāh]. Furthermore, such a claim ignores the basic master-disciple roles in numerous fields of knowledge, professions, and crafts throughout Muslim history-in particular, the training of a disciple by a Sufi master based on traditional Islamic ethics. Mawlānā condemned sodomy and effeminate behavior in numerous places in his poetry (such as Mathnawī 5:363-64, 2487-2500 6:1727-32, 3843-68). And Shams-é Tabrīzī condemned homosexual acts as unmanly and blameworthy in the presence of God (p. 773).
Mawlānā wanted to spend most of his time with his newly found spiritual master. During the initial period of Shams’ stay in Konya (of about 16 months), Mawlānā’s disciples had felt neglected and when their jealousy steadily increased, Shams-é Tabrīzī left Konya and went to Syria. Two dates were given by Aflākī for this departure: March 21, 1245 (p. 88) and March 11, 1246 (pp. 629-30) the later date is considered more reliable since it was written in Arabic (Lewis, p. 177 Muwaḥḥid, 2000, p. 207). It appears that he returned and left again for Syria a second time, seven days after his wife Kīmiyā died, about December 1246 (Aflākī, p. 642, Muwaḥḥid, p. 207). He returned only after Mawlānā sent his son, Sulṭān Walad, with a group to invite him back. According to Aflākī, Shams was murdered by some of Mawlānā’s jealous disciples on a Thursday sometime during the Islamic lunar year that occurred between May 1247 and April 1248 (p. 686). The total time that Mawlānā spent with his greatest spiritual master appears to have been less than three years: from the end of November 1244 to April 1248, minus a seven month stay in Aleppo (mentioned by Shams himself, p. 359, a stay that apparently preceded going to Damascus) and minus his time in Damascus and the travel time between Damascus and Konya for two or three journeys.
Aflākī’s claim (in his hagiography that was completed eighty years after Mawlānā died) that Shams was murdered has been challenged and rejected by scholars (Muwaḥḥid, p. 199-203 and Lewis, p. 185-93). First of all, it seems unlikely that Mawlānā’s family and disciples could have kept such a murder secret from him. Neither his son Sulṭān Walad nor Sepahsālār mention a murder in their works that are earlier than Aflākī’s work (Lewis, p. 185). No witnesses saw Shams die, because he supposedly disappeared miraculously after being wounded (Aflākī, p. 684). Although there is a shrine in Konya dedicated to Shams-é Tabrīzī, the claim that his body was thrown down a plugged-up well in Konya and buried next to the body of the founder of Mawlānā’s religious college, Amīr Bahā al-Dīn Gawhartāsh (Aflākī, pp. 700-01), has been refuted because only one grave was found, presumably that of Gawhartāsh (Lewis, pp. 188-90). Even if Mawlānā was told that Shams was murdered in Konya, he clearly did not believe it, because he made two trips to Syria to look for Shams (Sepahsālār, p. 134). And finally, there is evidence that Shams-é Tabrīzī may have been buried, not in Konya, or in Tabrīz (where there is also an alleged tomb of Shams), but in the town of Khôy (now in Iran, about 50 kilometers east of the present Turkish border, on the road to Tabrīz), where a Sultan of the Ottoman Empire went to pay his respects to the tomb of Shams in the early 16 th century C.E. (Mowaḥḥid, p. 209).
More pertinent are Shams’ reported statements about leaving permanently, such as his threat to disappear in such a way that, “I will become so absent that no trace of me as a created being will be found” (Sepahsālār, p. 134 see Sulṭān Walad, pp. 50-51). And he hinted that he would need to leave permanently in order to further Mawlānā’s development as a spiritual master. For example, in one speech recorded by his disciples (pp. 163-64) in which he appears to have addressed Mawlānā he said:
Since I am not in the situation where I might order travel for you, I will place (the need for) travel upon myself for the welfare of your work, because separation is a cook… What is the value of that work (of yours)? I would make fifty journeys for your welfare. My travels are for the sake of the (successful) emergence of your work. Otherwise, what’s the distinction for me between Anatolia and Syria? There’s no difference (if) I am at the Ka c ba (in Mecca) or in Istanbul. But it’s certainly the case that separation cooks and refines (the seeker).
After Mawlānā made two journeys to Damascus and failed to find Shams, his son, Sulṭān Walad wrote (p. 50, 52):
He did not find Shams-é Tabrīz in Syria (instead) he found him within himself, like the clear moon. He said, “Although we are far from him in body, without (consideration of) body and spirit we both are one light. Whether you see him or me, I am him (and) he is me, (O) seeker…” He said, “Since I am him, (for) what do I search? Now (that) I am his very substance, I may speak from my (very) self.”
After a period of several years of suffering greatly because of the disappearance of Shams, Mawlānā declared (in 1249) that Shams had appeared to him in the form of one of his close disciples, named Shaykh Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn Zarkôb. He put Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn in charge of training his disciples, which made them almost as jealous as they had been toward Shams. But Mawlānā found out about this out and threatened to abandon his disciples completely unless they ceased complaining. In popular works about Mawlānā, Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn tends to be portrayed as little more than a illiterate tradesman. Although he evidently could not read or write, he was actually the most senior dervish. He had been a Sufi disciple of Sayyid Burhān al-Dīn together with Mawlānā. In addition, Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn had also been a disciple of Shams-é Tabrīzī (Sepahsālār, p. 134). Furthermore, Mawlānā recommended that his son accept Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn as his Sufi shaykh (Sulṭān Walad, p. 275) and he arranged for his son to marry Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn’s daughter, Fāṭima, whom Mawlānā had taught to write and read the Qur’ān (Aflākī, p. 719).
Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn maintained his post of teaching and training the disciples to become dervishes for a period of ten years and died in 1258. Mawlānā then saw the reflection of Shams in another disciple, Ḥusām al-Dīn Chalabī, whom he promoted to be the teacher of the disciples. It was Ḥusām al-Dīn who inspired Mawlānā to compose rhymed couplets [mathnawī] in the manner of Farīd al-Dīn al-Dīn c Aṭṭār, and Mawlānā then began to compose his Mathnawī.
After the death of Mawlānā in 1273, Ḥusām al-Dīn became his first successor until his death in 1283. Mawlānā’s son, Sulṭān Walad, then humbly accepted the most senior and advanced dervish of his father’s disciples, Karīm al-Dīn Walad-é Baktamūr, to be the chief trainer of the disciples for a period of seven years (Sulṭān Walad, p. 275). After Karīm al-Dīn died (about 1291 or 1292), Sulṭān Walad became the clear leader of the disciples and founded the first branches of the “Mawlawī” form of Sufism beyond Konya. Other Sufi orders of the time commonly engaged in mystical practices involving music and ecstatic dance-like movements, but these practices became of central importance to the Mawlawī order. The ecstatic whirling so frequently done by Mawlānā during “mystical concerts” [samā c ] was first formalized into the famous Mawlawī whirling prayer ritual by Pīr c Ādil Chalabī, who died in 1460 (Bausani, p. 394 Lewis, p. 444).
According to Aflākī, Mawlānā did not engage in the “mystical concert” in his youth, but was later encouraged to do so by his wife Kerrā’s mother. When he began to participate, he would mainly wave his hands, a common practices of Sufis in such sessions. Later, Shamsé Tabrīzī showed him how to whirl [charkh zadan] (Aflākī, p. 681). According to Sepahsālār, on the other hand, Mawlānā did not participate in such gatherings until after he met Shams-é Tabrīzī, who indicated to him, “Enter into the mystical concert, for that which you are seeking will become increased in the mystical concert” (p. 65). It should be stressed that Muslim Sufis had already been engaging in the ecstatic movements of the mystical concert for four centuries before Mawlānā’s time, since the middle of the 9 th century C.E., starting in Baghdad, a practice that spread very quickly, especially among Persian Sufis (During, p. 1018). There are indications that Mawlānā composed poetry specifically to be recited, chanted, or sung during mystical concerts-and that he composed poetry while engaged in such sessions, especially when whirling (Lewis, p. 172, pp. 314-15).
Very rarely does one read in English the words, “Rumi was a Muslim.” In most of the popularized translations and versions of Mawlānā’s poetry, his strong adherence to Islamic piety is minimized or ignored: verses are changed or skipped in order to avoid references to the Qur’ān or the Traditions (Aḥādīth) of the Prophet Muḥammad, and even references to prayer and the mention of God are often avoided. Such minimizations of Mawlānā’s commitment to Islam have also helped interpretive poetic versions of his poetry to become amazingly popular in the United States (often misrepresented as “translations” when the authors do not read Persian). Many of these books give the impression that Mawlānā was so transformed by Shams-é Tabrīzī that he transcended his allegiance to Islam, became a universal mystic who was knowledgeable about other religions, was indifferent to the distinctions between forms of worship, and cared little about the religious adherence of people who were attracted to him. However, there is little evidence that he knew much about other religions, other than what he learned from a traditional Islamic education (Gamard, p. xv).
The following verses, translated from Persian or rendered into popularized poetic versions do not occur in the authentic works of Mawlānā, yet they are frequently claimed as his in books, articles, and lectures:
“What is to be done, O Moslems? for I do not recognise myself. I am neither Christian nor Jew, nor Gabr, nor Moslem” (trans. Nicholson, 1898, p. 125). “Not Christian, or Jew or Muslim, nor Hindu, Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion or cultural system” (Barks, p. 32). “Cross and Christians, from end to end, I surveyed He was not on the Cross. I went to the idol-temple, to the ancient pagoda no trace was visible there” (trans. Nicholson, 1898, p. 71). “Come back, come back, no matter what you think you are. An idol worshipper? A non-believer? Come back. This gate, no one leaves helpless. If you have broken your vows ten thousand times, come back.” (trans. Abramian, p. 4). “Come, come, whoever you are, wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving, it doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times, come-come yet again, come!” (Feild, ii). “That one who has tasted the wine of union with the supreme soul, In his faith, the Ka’be and an idol temple are one” (trans. Shiva, p. 33). “This is me: Sometimes hidden and sometimes revealed. Sometimes a devoted Muslim, sometimes a Hebrew and a Christian. For me to fit inside everyone’s heart, I put on a new face every day” (trans. Shiva, p. 178). “I go into the Muslim mosque and the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church and I see one altar” (Barks, p. 246).
However, Mawlānā’s authentic works show that he was a very devout and pious Muslim, as well as a great Muslim mystic and poet. His poetry is filled with references to the Qur’ān and the Traditions of the Prophet Muḥammad. For example, he wrote about his masterpiece, the Mathnawī, as “the roots of the roots of the roots of ‘the Religion’ (of Islām) in regard to unveiling the secrets of obtaining connection (with God) and (spiritual) certainty (of the Truth)… it is the remedy for hearts, the brightening polish for sorrows, the revealer of (the meanings of) the Qur’ān…” (Book 1: Preface). He said, “I am the servant of the Qur’ān as long as I have life. I am the dust on the path of Muḥammad, the Chosen one. If anyone quotes anything except this from my sayings, I am quit of him and outraged by these words” (Rubācīyāt, F-1173, trans. Gamard and Farhadi, p. 2). And he also said, “Now, you should know that Muḥammad is the leader and guide. As long as you don’t come to Muḥammad first, you won’t reach us” (Fīhi Mā Fīhi, no. 63, trans. Gamard, p. 161).
– Abramian, Vraje. Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu Saeed Abil-Kheir. Prescott, Arizona: Hohm, 2001.
– Aflākī, Shams al-Dīn Aḥmad. Manāqib al- c ārifīn (edited by Yazıcı). Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımavi, 1959 reprinted, Tehran: Dunyā’ī Kitāb, 1362/1983.
– Aflākī, Shams al-Dīn Aḥmad. The Feats of the Knowers of God (Manāqeb al- c arefīn) (trans. John O’Kane). Leiden: Brill, 2002.
– Barks, Coleman with John Moyne). The Essential Rumi. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
– Bausani, A. “Djalāl al-Dīn Rūmī.” The Encyclopedia of Islam: New Edition, Vol. II (C-G). London: Luzac, 1965.
– Chittick, William C. Me and Rumi: The Autobiography of Shams-i Tabrizi. Louisville, Kentucky: Fons Vitae, 2004.
– During, J. “Samā c ”. The Encyclopedia of Islam: New Edition. London: Luzac, 1995, pp. 1018-19.
– Feild, Reshad. The Last Barrier. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.
– Forūzānfar, B. Zendagānī-yé mawlānā jalāluddīn muhammad mashhūr ba-mawlawī. Tehran: Kitāb-Forôshī Zavvār, 1988.
– Gamard, Ibrahim. Rumi and Islam. Woodstock, Vermont: SkyLight Paths, 2004.
– Gamard, Ibrahim and Farhadi, Rawan. The Quatrains of Rumi. (See below.)
– Lewis, Franklin. Rumi-Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teaching and Poetry of Jalāl al-Din Rūmi. (See below.)
– Meier, Fritz. “Bahā-i Walad: Grundzüge seines Lebens und seiner Mystic.” Acta Iranica 27. Leiden: Brill, 1989.
– Muwaḥḥid, Muḥammad c Alī. Shams-é tabrīzī: 583-645. Tehran: Ṭarḥ-é Naw, 1990, 1996.
– Nicholson, R. A. Selected Poems from the Dīvāni Shamsi Tabrīz. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1898.
– Önder Mehmet. Mevlāna and the Whirling Dervishes. Ankara, Turkey: Güven Matbaası, 1977.
– Schimmel, Annemarie. I Am Wind, You Are Fire: The Life and Work of Rumi. (See below.)
– Sepahsālār, Farīd al-Dīn Aḥmad. Zendagīnāma yé mawlāna jalāl al-dīn mawlawī [also known as Risāla-yé sepahsālār] (edited by Nafīsī). Tehran: Iqbāl, 1946.
– Shiva, Shahram. Rending the Veil: Literal and Poetic Translations of Rumi. Phoenix, Arizona: Hohm, 1995.
– Tabrīzī, Shams al-Dīn. Maqālāt (edited by Muwaḥḥid). Tehran: Sahāmī, Intishārāt-é Khwārazmī, 1990, 1998.
– Walad, Bahā’ al-Dīn Muḥammad. Ma c ārif (edited by B. Forūzānfar). Tehran: Kitābkhāna Tawrī, 1954, 1974.
– Walad, Bahā’ al-Dīn (Sulṭān). Walad-nāma [also known as Mathnavī-yé waladī or Ibtidā-nāma] (edited by Homā’ī). Tehran: Mū’asisa-yé Nashr-é Homā’ī, 1316/1937, 1376/1997.
EDITIONS OF MAWLĀNĀ’S WORKS IN PERSIAN
– Mathnawī-yé macnawī (edited by R.A. Nicholson). London: Luzac in three volumes: 1925, 1929, 1933. (This edition is based upon the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawī, starting from Book III: 2836.)
– Mathnawī (edited by Muḥammad Isti c lāmī, in seven volumes, with commentary). Tehran: Zavvār, 1987. (This edition is based entirely upon the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawī.)
– Mathnawī-yé ma c nawī (edited by Tawfīq Subḥānī). Tehran: Maydān-é Ḥasan ābād, 1994. (This edition is based entirely upon the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawī.)
– Kulliyāt-é shams yā dīwān-é kabīr-é mawlānā jalāluddīn muḥammad mashhūr ba-mawlawī (edited by Badī c uzzamān Forūzānfar). Tehran: University of Tehran (in nine volumes), 1336-1346/1957-1967. [Not to be confused with Kulliyāt-é shams-é tabrīzī (edited, not entirely, by Forūzānfar), Tehran: Amīr Kabīr, 1336/1957, one volume, revised and reprinted since the last part (the final ghazaliyāt, the tarji c āt, and all of the rubā c īyāt) were taken from inferior sources before Forūzānfar had completed the final volumes of his edition.]
– Fīhi mā fīhi az goftār-é mawlānā jalāluddīn muḥammad mashhūr ba-mawlawī (edited by Badī c uzzamān Forūzānfar). Tehran: Amīr Kabīr, 1951.
– Fīhi mā fīhi mīrās-é dorokhshān-é lisān al- c ārifīn mawlānā jalāluddīn muḥammad mawlawī-yé balkhīkhorāsānī (edited by Ḥusayn Ḥaydar Rokhānī). Tehran: Intishārāt-é Sanā’ī, 1999.
– Majālis-é sab c a-yé mawlānā (edited by Ferīdūn Nāfiẕ). Tehran: Nashr-é Jāmī, 1984.
– Majālis-é sab c a: haft khāṭābah (edited by Tawfīq Subḥānī). Tehran: Intishārāt-é Kayhān, 1986.
– Maktūbāt-é jalāluddīn rūmī (edited by Tawfīq Subḥānī). Tehran: Markaz Nashr-é Dāneshgāhī, 1992.
ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF MAWLĀNĀ’S WORKS DONE BY SCHOLARS
– Masnavi i Ma’navi: Teachings of Rumi, The Spiritual Couplets of Maulána Jalálu-‘d-dín Muhammad i Rúmí (trans. E. H. Whinfield). London: Trubner, 1887, reprinted. (An abridged translation, sometimes paraphrased.)
– The Mathnawí of Jalálu’ddín Rúmí (trans. Reynold A. Nicholson). London: Luzac in three volumes: 1926, 1930, 1934 with Commentary in two volumes: 1937, 1940. (The only complete translation and the only complete commentary in English the translation is based upon the earliest manuscript of the Mathnawī, starting from Book III: 2836.)
– Tales of Mystic Meaning (trans. R. A. Nicholson). London: 1931 reprinted, Oxford: Oneworld, 1995. (A short selection based on his complete translation.)
– Tales from the Masnavi (trans. Arthur J. Arberry). London: George Allen & Unwin, 1961 More Tales from the Masnavi, 1963. (Accurate translations of the major stories, omitting “digressions”.)
– The Essence of Rumi’s Masnevi: Including His Life and Works (trans. Erkan Türkmen). Konya, Turkey: Eris Booksellers, 1992, rev. 1997. (Contains selected translated passages with Persian text and succinct commentaries.)
– Rumi: Spiritual Verses, The First Book of the Masnavi-ye Ma’navi (trans. Alan Williams). London: Penguin, 2006. (In iambic pentameters.)
– Rumi: The Masnavi, Book One (trans. Jawid Mojaddedi). London: Oxford University, 2004 Rumi: The Masnavi, Book Two, 2007. (In rhyming iambic pentameters.)
– Mystical Poems of Rumi (trans. Arthur J. Arberry). Chicago: University of Chicago, 1968 Mystical Poems of Rumi: Second Selection, Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1979 Mystical Poems of Rumi, University of Chicago, 2009 in one volume. (The new edition contains translations of all 400 of the ghazaliyāt with corrections, especially of the second volume, made by Franklin Lewis Arberry’s translations supersede those done by Nicholson in 1898, Selected Poems from the Dīvāni Shamsi Tabrīz, since he made improved translations of 40 of the ghazaliyāt, and omitted the other seven, which are no longer considered authentic.)
– The Quatrains of Rumi (trans. Ibrahim Gamard and Rawan Farhadi). San Rafael, California: Sufi Dari Books, 2008. (The complete translation of Forūzānfar’s authentic edition of the Rubā c īyāt, Volume 8, of the nearly 2,000 quatrains attributed to Mawlānā a thematic arrangement with improved Persian text and explanatory footnotes with 116 of the quatrains determined to be composed before Mawlānā’s time placed in an appendix.)
– Discourses of Rumi (trans. A. J. Arberry). London: John Murray, 1961. (A complete translation.)
– Signs of the Unseen: The Discourses of Rumi (trans. W. M. Thackston Jr.). Putney, Vermont: Threshold, 1994. (A complete translation.)
– Sermon no. 6 (trans. Franklin Lewis). Rumi-Past and Present, East and West: the Life, Teaching and Poetry of Jalāl al-Din Rūmi, pp.130-33. (See below.)
Selected Translations From All of Mawlānā’s Works
– Schimmel, Annemarie. The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalaloddin Rumi. London: Fine Books, 1978. (A thematic arrangement.)
– Schimmel, Annemarie. I Am Wind You Are Fire: The Life and Work of Rumi. Boston: Shambhala, 1992 republished as Rumi’s World: The Life and Works of the Greatest Sufi Poet, 2001. (A thematic arrangement.)
– Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi. Albany: State University of New York, 1983. (A thematic arrangement, with translations of 75 complete ghazaliyāt and a few quatrains.)
– Lewis, Franklin D. Rumi: Past and Present, East and West-The Life, Teachings and Poetry of Jalāl al-Din Rumi. Oxford: Oneworld, 2001 revised paperback edition, 2003. (A comprehensive work that includes translations of 40 complete ghazaliyāt and a few quatrains.)
– Lewis, Franklin. Rumi: Swallowing the Sun. Oxford: Oneworld, 2008. (Contains translations of 73 complete ghazaliyāt, some quatrains, and other selections.)