Jalaladdin al – Rumi

Rumi was born in the city of Balkh in 1207, at a time when all of Asia was suffering from social, political, and military problems. His father, Muhammad Bahauddin al-Siddiqi, was part of the tenth generation of the descendants of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the first caliph of Islam. According to Tahir al-Mawlawi, Rumi’s mother was also from the descendants of the Prophet. He was the blessed fruit of a hallowed family tree. Being known as the Sultan al-Ulama (the Leader of Scholars), his father was a man of truth and an heir of the Prophet. Like many friends of God, he was persecuted and eventually compelled to migrate. Accordingly, he left the land of Kharzam, where he was born, and underwent a lengthy journey that encompassed various destinations.

First, he and his family visited the Holy Land, the cities of Mecca and Medina. From here, he traveled and remained for some time in Damascus, where he met many pious persons, such as Ibn Arabi, and exchanged spiritual enlightenment with them. Accompanying his father, the young Rumi, six or seven years in age, witnessed these and other events; his inquisitive senses enabled him to experience all of these with remarkable clarity. The young Rumi was able to understand his environment even at such a tender age and he was able to penetrate into the secret world of Ibn Arabi. As an endowment of his presence with Ibn Arabi, the child received kindness and favors. Despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding their migration and the many difficulties that accompanied them, the family’s journey provided them with a variety of favors and inspiration. Like Abraham, Moses, and the Prophet of Islam, may God’s blessings be upon all of them, Rumi was able to continuously find these blessings and favors. Welcoming what fate gave him, he became a receiver of numerous bounties provided by God.

The journey took this blessed family to the city of Erzincan, and later to that of Karaman. It was during his time in the latter city that Rumi studied, for a short period, in the Halaveye School. In addition to this school, he studied Islamic Sciences in several religious schools in Damascus and Aleppo. After graduating, he returned to the city of Konya, which he considered his hometown and a place of special regard. It was there that he married Gevher Hatun, the daughter of Shamsaddin Samarqandi. After some time Rumi’s father, Sultan al-Ulama, died, returning to God, under the supervision of Burhanneddin al-Tirmidhi, Rumi began his long spiritual journey. After several years, at the suggestion of Ruknuddin Zarqubi, Rumi met with Shams al-Tabrizi who was then on a visit to Konya. It was through his meeting with Shams that he furthered his spiritual journey and eventually developed into the person who is now known the world over for his spiritual depth. What has been mentioned so far, in fact, represents an attempt to open a few small windows on the life of an exceptional personality in this creation, whose capacity is open to the lofty world. This is also an attempt to present the life of an important representative of the Muhammadi spirit (i.e., the practice of the Sunna)—displaying several snapshots of a man determined to dedicate his existence to the world of the afterlife.

It is not my intention to stir the waters that comprise the lives of such remarkable and pure personalities with debates and questions that ultimately will only agitate and obscure. However, one must wonder whether Rumi opened the horizon of Shams or whether Shams took Rumi to the world of the unseen. Who took whom to the realty of realities—the peak of love and joy? Who directed whom to the real Besought and the real Beloved? Answering these questions is beyond the capacity of most ordinary people. One can say, at least, the following: During this period of time, two skillful and acute spirits came together, like two oceans merging into one another. By sharing the Divine bounties and gifts received from their Lord, they both reached peaks that most people would not be able to reach easily on their own accord. Through their spiritual cooperation, they established camps on the peaks of knowledge, love, compassion, and joy for God. As much as they enlightened those of their own age, they also influenced all centuries to follow; an effect that is still present today. The spring of sweet water which they represent continues to nourish the thirsty. They have been continuously remembered over the centuries for their beautiful contributions to countless lives. Here it is important to note that Rumi was informed by numerous sources in the flow of ideas, including his father, the great master of scholars. During his journey, he seemed to leave many of his contemporaries behind—his love and compassion flowed like the waters of the world’s oceans; so much so that while continuing to live physically among humans, he managed to become ever closer to God. It seems he never elevated himself above others except through his writings, both during his life and after his entering the life of eternity; he provides a star of guidance that echoes the spiritual life of the Prophet of Islam. Accordingly, he is among the few people who have exerted a great influence through both space and time.

Rumi, the Master, was not a pupil, a dervish, a representative, or master as is known amongst traditional Sufis. He developed a new method that was colored with revivalism and personal independent reasoning by taking the Qur’an, the Sunna, and Islamic piety as his points of reference. With a new voice and breath, he successfully brought both those of his generation and those of times to follow to a new divine table. As far as his relationship with God is concerned, he was a man of love and passion. As for those who turn to him for the sake of God, he represents a compassionate bearer of God’s divine cup of love. Yes, as the rains of mercy fall forth from the clouds of the sky, if the collections of his poems were to be wrung out, God’s love and the love of His Messenger would gush forth in showers. His Mathnawi, exuberant with his spirit, a book which is in part didactic and was put in the form of a book by his disciple Husameddin Çelebi, represents his largest, most monumental treatise. While it stems from his involvement with the floods of a high level love and passion, it was presented in smaller waves so that their essence might be understood by a larger part of humanity who did not share the same capacity. His other work, Divan al-Kabir, is both informed by and presented in this higher level of love and passion and better represents his own abilities.

Maṭnawīye Ma’nawī Mevlâna Museum, Konya, Turkey

In the Mathnawi, feelings and thoughts are put in such a way that they do not confuse our intelligence and in such a style that it does not surpass our understanding. As for the Divan al-Kabir, everything is like an erupting volcano. Its meaning is not easily understood by most. A careful investigation will show that this great book of Rumi’s thought will explain such concepts as baqa billah maallah (to live by God with God) and fana fillah (annihilation in God) in the context of a larger understanding of the world of the unseen. Those who are capable of realizing this excitement in Rumi’s Divan will find themselves in extreme bewilderment before a flood of love and ecstasy that is comparable to an erupting volcano. In these poems of the master, which are not easily accessible for most people, the limits of reason are surpassed, the meanings of the poems are elevated above the norms for humanity, and the eternal nature of the unseen world shadows the ephemeral colors and forms of what one encounters in their physical being.

Double-page illuminated frontispiece, 1st book (daftar) of the Collection of poems (Masnavi-i ma’navi), 1461 manuscript

Jalaladdin al-Rumi was nourished by the fruit of numerous sources of ideas, including religious seminaries, Sufi lodges, and Sufi hermitages associated with strict Sufi asceticism. Rumi attained an understanding of the Ultimate Reality. He cultivated the heavenly through his own methods. Eventually, he became a central star, the North Star, in the sky which houses sainthood. He was like a bright moon that rotates on its own axis. He was a hero who reached the places where he should have reached and stopped where he should have stopped. He read carefully what he saw and evaluated well what he felt. He never displayed or participated in any improper behavior during his journey to God. Even though the numbers were vast, Rumi never lost any of the bountiful gifts he received from the world of the unseen, not even to the weight of an atom. Like many of his predecessors, he voiced these divine bounties through his poetry in an impressive manner. He often voiced his love and excitement in seemingly magic words which resembled the finest of precious gems. Within the vagueness of the poetry, he mastered the art of explaining his ambiguous statements in ways that opened their meaning to friends, but remained obscured to outsiders.

These statements which were at times both clear and ambiguous are the voice and breath of his own horizon—he was not acquainted with other pens or the wells of ink which supplied them. Although one can find a few foreign words or works falsely attributed to him, Rumi’s anthology represents a warmth, the music of his own heart, a music which brings all who hear it under its influence with a captivating control.

Rumi possessed a very delicate disposition, often appearing more compassionate than a mother to her child. In short, he was an exceptional personality, particularly in his projection of the spirit of God’s Messenger in his own time. This is illustrated in his collected works, including Mathnawi, Divan al-Kabir, some collected letters associated with familial relations, and his special behavior with friends. Those who witnessed this were greatly excited to see the perfect heir of the Prophet and would say with great humility and respect, “This is a grace from God. He gives it to whom He wants” (al-Maida, 5:54).

Rumi was a man of genuine sincerity and loyalty. He lived by what he felt in his heart as long as it did not contradict the teachings and laws of religion. While making his faith the focus of his life, while showing the others the way of life, while blowing into the ney, while dancing like a butterfly, his heart was burning with love and longing; it had always ached and moaned like the monotone ney. Those who were not aching could not understand him. Those who were rude and tactless could not feel what he felt. He said, “I want a heart which is split, part by part, because of the pain of separation from God, so that I might explain my longing and complaint to it.” Saying this, he searched for friends who had similar longings and complaints.

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