(Last Updated on : 27-12-2008)
Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi, also known as Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi was born in Balkh, in contemporary Afghanistan, on 30 September 1207. However, some of the scholars claim that Rumi was born in a place named Wakhsh that was located at the river Wakhsh in present day Tajikistan. The place Wakhsh was actually a part of the larger Balkh. Rumi was one of the most famous and influential classical Sufi authors in the 13th century. He was a popular Persian poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian and he spread his message of Sufi philosophy through the help of poetry and literary works. He was deeply influenced by the thoughts of the great Sufi philosophers like Farid ud-Din Attar, Hakim Sanai, Bayazid Bistami and Samse Tabrizi. The most notable ideas that Rumi has spread throughout his entire life include the likes of Persian poetry, Ney, Persian philosophy, Sufi philosophy, and Sufi dance.
Jalaludin Rumi was greatly influenced by the Persian heritage that he got from his birthplace and native language. The entire family of Rumi went on pilgrimage at his young age and after performing Hajj, his family settled in the Anatolian city Konya (capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, now located in Turkey). Rumi lived most of his life in this place and he also composed one of the crowning glories of Persian literature and profoundly affected the culture of the area. Rumi lived in Konya till his death and after his death, his son Sultan Walad and his disciples founded a new Sufi order, the Mawlawiyah Sufi Order. The order is also known as the Order of the Whirling Dervishes and is quite famous for its Sufi dance known as the Sama ceremony.
Jalaludin Rumi met with the famous classical Sufi author, Farid ud-Din Attar while travelling towards Anatolia and it is believed that Attar immediately recognized Rumi's spiritual eminence. Attar gave the boy one of his books, named Asrarnama and the book was about the entanglement of the soul in the material world. The young Rumi was greatly influenced by this meeting with Attar and later on Attar became one of the greatest inspirations for Rumi's works. Rumi practiced Sufism as a disciple of one of his father's students, Sayyed Burhan ud-Din Muhaqqiq Termazi for nine years, until Burhan ud-Din died. However, Rumi's entire life was changed after he met the dervish Shams-e Tabrizi on 15th November, 1244. Shams and Rumi were two great mystical friends till the death of Shams. Rumi spontaneously composed ghazals for more than ten years after meeting Shams, and the ghazals were collected in the Divan-i Kabir or Diwan Shams Tabrizi.
Jalaludin Rumi has written most of his works in the New Persian language. However, though the works are written in Persian, the translations of Rumi's works are quite popular among the South Asian, Turkic, Arab, and Western countries. Rumi's poetry has influenced both the Persian literature and also the literature of the Urdu, Bengali, Arabic and Turkish languages. The most important and masterly work of Jalaludin Rumi was the Mathnavi-i-Maanavi (Couplets of Inner Meaning) or Masnavi, for which; he spent a long period of twelve years in Anatolia. He dictated the six volumes of this masterwork during that period, to a goldsmith, named Hussam. This book is also considered to be one of the greatest books of all time in the world. Apart from this book, all his other works like table-talk (Fihi Ma Fihi), letters (Maktubat), Diwan, and the hagiography Munaqib el-Arifin, also contain important parts of his teachings.
The general theme of Jalaludin Rumi's thought was quite similar to that of other mystic and Sufi poets of Persian literature. The theme was of the concept of tawhid or union with his beloved (the primal root) from which/whom he has been cut off and become distant and his longing and desire to restore it. His famous work, the Masnavi brilliantly weaves fables, the scenes from everyday life, Qur'anic revelations and interpretation, and metaphysics into a vast and elaborate material. Rumi is also considered as an example of Insan-e Kamil or the Perfect Man. Jalaludin Rumi passionately believed in using music, poetry, and dance as a path for reaching God and he felt that music helps the devotees to focus their whole being on the divine. It was in fact Rumi, who founded the base of the Mevlevi tradition and also encouraged the Sama that means listening to music and turning or doing the sacred dance. Sama represents a mystical journey of spiritual ascent through mind and love to the Perfect One, in the Mevlevi tradition. According to Rumi, the seeker symbolically turns towards the truth, grows through love, abandons the ego, finds the truth, and arrives at the Perfection, in this journey. He said that the seeker eventually returns from this spiritual journey with greater maturity, to love and to be of service to the whole of creation, and also without discrimination with regard to beliefs, races, classes, and nations.
Just like most of the other classical Sufi authors, Jalaludin Rumi also planted his teachings within a framework that as effectively screens its inner meaning as displays it. This wonderful technique easily fulfils the functions of preventing those who are incapable of using the material on a higher level from experimenting effectively with it. The technique also allows those who want poetry to select poetry and gives entertainment to the people who want stories, apart from stimulating the intellect in those who prize such experiences. Rumi also had the Sufi habit of excelling in literary and poetic ability beyond all his contemporaries. Rumi discussed about the formation of a man and said that originally, a person is like clay. From being mineral, he became vegetable, from vegetable, he became animal and from animal, he became a man. Rumi said that during these periods, the man did not know where he was going; however, he was being taken on a long journey nonetheless. According to Jalaludin Rumi, the way of philosophical attainment has already been marked out and if anyone departs from it, he will perish. He also said that if anybody tries to interfere with the signs on the road, he will be an evil-doer.
One of the greatest strengths of Jalaludin Rumi was that he was able to verbalize the highly personal and often confusing world of personal/spiritual growth and mysticism in a very straight forward and direct fashion. He never offended anyone, rather he included everyone. Rumi believed the world to be the highest state of a human being. He said that a complete human cannot be bound by any cultural limitations. Talking about the other world, Jalaludin Rumi said that the hidden world also has its clouds and rain, but of a different kind. He said that the sky and sunshine of the other world are of a different kind and this is made apparent only to the refined ones. He meant those who are not deceived by the seeming completeness of the ordinary world, as the refined ones. Jalaludin Rumi said that the exalted Truth imposes heat and cold, grief and pain, terror and weakness of wealth and body, upon the people. According to Rumi, whenever the Secrets of Perception are taught to anyone, His lips remain sewn against speaking of the Consciousness. Rumi has also described the differences between intelligence and truth and said that intelligence is actually the shadow of objective Truth. He asked the people to go higher and behold the Human Spirit.
According to Jalaludin Rumi, the Man of God is rapturous, amazed and he has neither food nor sleep. He is a king beneath a humble cloak and is also a treasure in a ruin. The Man of God is neither of wind and earth, nor of fire and water. The Man of God is wise through Truth and is not a scholar from a book. Jalaludin Rumi said that the Man of God is beyond faith and disbelief alike and he rode away from Non-being. He said that the life or soul is like a clear mirror and the body is dust on it. Beauty in the people is not perceived, for they are under the dust. Rumi's concept about work is that the work is not what people think it is. He said that work is not just something which, when it is operating, people can see from outside. Jalaludin Rumi further said that the people of Love are hidden within the populace, just like a good man surrounded by the bad. The epitaph of Jalaludin Rumi is itself a great lesson, as it says that when people are dead, they should not seek their tomb in the earth, but hey should find it in the hearts of men. The great soul Jalaludin Rumi lived till 17 December 1273.