Rumi

Pers. /rddooh"mee/, n.
Jalal ud-din Pers. /jah lahl" oohd deen", ood-, ja-/. See Jalal ud-din Rumi.

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in full Jalāl al-Dīn al-Rūmī byname Mawlānā (Arabic: "Our Master")

born с Sept. 30, 1207, Balkh, Ghūrid empire
died Dec. 17, 1273, Konya, Anatolia

The greatest Sufi mystic and among the most renowned Persian poets.

He was a teacher at a madrasah in Anatolia when he met Shams al-Dīn ("Sun of Religion"), a wandering dervish who revealed to him the inner mysteries of divine majesty; their intimate relationship scandalized Rūmī's followers, who likely had Shams al-Dīn murdered. The disappearance of his companion turned Rūmī to poetry, and his Dīvān-e Shams ("Collected Poetry of the Sun") contains verses on his love and longing for Shams al-Dīn. His main work, the didactic epic Mas̄navī-ye Maʽnavī ("Spiritual Couplets"), widely influenced Muslim mystical thought and literature. He is believed to have composed poetry while in a state of ecstasy and often accompanied his verses by a whirling dance. After his death, his disciples were organized as the Mawlawiyyah (Mevlevī), a Sufi order called in the West the "whirling dervishes," and his influence on Turkish culture is inestimable. His poems, originally in Persian, have been translated into a number of languages, including English, and have enjoyed a worldwide following into the modern period.

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▪ Sufi mystic and poet
in full  Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī , also called by the honorific  Mawlānā 
born c. Sept. 30, 1207, Balkh [now in Afghanistan]
died Dec. 17, 1273

      the greatest Sufi (Ṣūfism) mystic and poet in the Persian language, famous for his lyrics and for his didactic epic Manavī-yi Maʿnavī (“Spiritual Couplets”), which widely influenced Muslim mystical thought and literature. Rūmī's influence on Turkish cultural life can scarcely be overstated. After his death, his disciples were organized as the Mawlawīyah order.

      Jalāl al-Dīn's father, Bahāʾ al-Dīn Walad, was a noted mystical theologian, author, and teacher. Because of either a dispute with the ruler or the threat of the approaching Mongols, Bahāʾ al-Dīn and his family left their native town in about 1218. According to a legend, in Nīshāpūr, Iran, the family met Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (Aṭṭār, Farīd al-Dīnʿ), a Persian mystical poet, who blessed young Jalāl al-Dīn. After a pilgrimage to Mecca and journeys through the Middle East, Bahāʾ al-Dīn and his family reached Anatolia (Rūm, hence the surname Rūmī), a region that enjoyed peace and prosperity under the rule of the Turkish Seljuq dynasty. After a short stay at Laranda (Karaman), where Jalāl al-Dīn's mother died and his first son was born, they were called to the capital, Konya, in 1228. Here, Bahāʾ al-Dīn Walad taught at one of the numerous madrasahs (religious schools); after his death in 1231 he was succeeded in this capacity by his son.

      A year later, Burhān al-Dīn Muḥaqqiq, one of Bahāʾ al-Dīn's former disciples, arrived in Konya and acquainted Jalāl al-Dīn more deeply with some mystical theories that had developed in Iran. Burhān al-Dīn, who contributed considerably to Jalāl al-Dīn's spiritual formation, left Konya about 1240. Jalāl al-Dīn is said to have undertaken one or two journeys to Syria (unless his contacts with Syrian Sufi circles were already established before his family reached Anatolia); there he may have met Ibn al-ʿArabī, the leading Islamic theosophist whose interpreter and stepson, Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Qunawī, was Jalāl al-Dīn's colleague and friend in Konya.

      The decisive moment in Rūmī's life occurred on Nov. 30, 1244, when in the streets of Konya he met the wandering dervish—holy man—Shams al-Dīn (Sun of Religion) of Tabrīz, whom he may have first encountered in Syria. Shams al-Dīn cannot be connected with any of the traditional mystical fraternities; his overwhelming personality, however, revealed to Jalāl al-Dīn the mysteries of divine majesty and beauty. For months the two mystics lived closely together, and Rūmī neglected his disciples and family so that his scandalized entourage forced Shams to leave the town in February 1246. Jalāl al-Dīn was heartbroken; his eldest son, Sulṭān Walad, eventually brought Shams back from Syria. The family, however, could not tolerate the close relation of Jalāl al-Dīn with his beloved, and one night in 1247 Shams disappeared forever. In the 20th century it was established that Shams was indeed murdered, not without the knowledge of Rūmī's sons, who hurriedly buried him close to a well that is still extant in Konya.

      This experience of love, longing, and loss turned Rūmī into a poet. His poems—s (ghazal) (about 30,000 verses) and a large number of robāʿīyāt (robāʿī) (“quatrains”)—reflect the different stages of his love, until, as his son writes, “he found Shams in himself, radiant like the moon.” The complete identification of lover and beloved is expressed by his inserting the name of Shams instead of his own pen name at the end of most of his lyrical poems. The Dīvān-e Shams (“The Collected Poetry of Shams”) is a true translation of his experiences into poetry; its language, however, never becomes lost in lofty spiritual heights or nebulous speculation. The fresh language, propelled by its strong rhythms, sometimes assumes forms close to popular verses. There would seem to be cause for the belief, expressed by chroniclers, that much of this poetry was composed in a state of ecstasy, induced by the music of the flute or the drum, the hammering of the goldsmiths, or the sound of the water mill in Meram, where Rūmī used to go with his disciples to enjoy nature. He found in nature the reflection of the radiant beauty of the Sun of Religion and felt flowers and birds partaking in his love. He often accompanied his verses by a whirling dance, and many of his poems were composed to be sung in Sufi musical gatherings.

 A few years after Shams al-Dīn's death, Rūmī experienced a similar rapture in his acquaintance with an illiterate goldsmith, Ṣālāḥ al-Dīn Zarkūb. It is said that one day, hearing the sound of a hammer in front of Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn's shop in the bazaar of Konya, Rūmī began his dance. The shop owner had long been one of Rūmī's closest and most loyal disciples, and his daughter became the wife of Rūmī's eldest son. This love again inspired Rūmī to write poetry. After Ṣālāḥ al-Dīn's death, Ḥusām al-Dīn Chelebi became his spiritual love and deputy. Rūmī's main work, the Manavī-yi Maʿnavī, was composed under his influence. Ḥusām al-Dīn had asked him to follow the model of the poets ʿAṭṭār and Sanāʾi (Sanāʾī), who had laid down mystical teachings in long poems, interspersed with anecdotes, fables, stories, proverbs, and allegories. Their works were widely read by the mystics and by Rūmī's disciples. Rūmī followed Ḥusām al-Dīn's advice and composed nearly 26,000 couplets of the Manavī during the following years. It is said that he would recite his verses even in the bath or on the roads, accompanied by Ḥusām al-Dīn, who wrote them down. The Manavī, which shows all the different aspects of Sufism in the 13th century, often carries the reader away with loose associations of thought, so that one understands what subjects the master had in mind at a particular stage of his life. The work reflects the experience of divine love; both Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn and Ḥusām al-Dīn were, for Rūmī, renewed manifestations of Shams al-Dīn, the all-embracing light. He called Ḥusām al-Dīn, therefore, Ḍiyāʾ al-Ḥaqq (“Light of the Truth”); ḍiyāʾ is the Arabic term for sunlight.

      Rūmī lived for a short while after completing the Manavī. He always remained a respected member of Konya society, and his company was sought by the leading officials as well as by Christian monks. Ḥusām al-Dīn was his successor and was in turn succeeded by Sulṭān Walad, who organized the loose fraternity of Rūmī's disciples into the Mawlawīyah, known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes because of the mystical dance that constitutes their principal ritual. Sulṭān Walad's poetical accounts of his father's life are the most important source of knowledge of Rūmī's spiritual development.

      Besides his poetry, Rūmī left a small collection of occasional talks as they were noted down by his friends; in the collection, known as Fīhi mā fīhi (“There Is in It What Is in It”), the main ideas of his poetry recur. There also exist some letters directed to different persons. It is impossible to systematize his ideas, which at times contradict each other; and changes in the use of symbols often puzzle the reader. His poetry is a most human expression of mystical experiences, in which each reader can find his own favourite ideas and feelings—from enthusiastic flights into the heavens to matter-of-fact descriptions of daily life. Rūmī's influence on Turkish cultural life can scarcely be overstated; his mausoleum, the Green Dome, today a museum in Konya, is still a place of pilgrimage for thousands.

Annemarie Schimmel

Additional Reading
Afzal Iqbal, The Life and Thought of Mohammad Jalal-ud-din Rumi, 2nd ed. rev. (1964), is the only English biography of Rūmī; unfortunately it is not critical. A full evaluation in a Western language is still lacking. Biographical notes are found in the numerous translations of Rūmī's works by R.A. Nicholson and A.J. Arberry, chiefly in the latter's Discourses of Rūmī, a translation of the Fīhi mā fīhi (1961). Other translations by Arberry included Tales from the Manavi (1961), More Tales from the Manavi (1963), Mystical Poems of Rūmi (1966), and Mystical Poems of Rūmi: Second Selection (1979). Nicholson's translations, more poetic than Arberry's literal ones, include The Mathnawi of Jaláluʾddin Rumi, 8 vol. (1925–40) and Rumi, Poet and Mystic (1950, reprinted 1978).

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Universalium. 2010.

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