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Persian philosopher
Name: Mawlānā Rūmī
Birth: 1207
Death: 1273
School/tradition: Mevlevi Sufi
Main interests
Sufism, lyric poetry, music
Notable ideas
Middle Eastern music, Sufi poetry, Sufi philosophy, and Sufi dance
Attar, Shams-e Tabrizi Muhammad Iqbal

Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī[1] (Template:Lang-fa, Turkish: Mevlânâ Celâleddin Mehmed Rumi) , also known as Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Template:Lang-fa), but known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, (12071273 CE) was a 13th century Persian (Tajik) poet, jurist, and theologian.

Rumi was born in Balkh (then a city of Greater Khorasan one of the eastern territories of ancient Persia, now part of Afghanistan) and died in Konya (in present-day Turkey). His birthplace and native tongue indicate a Persian heritage. He also wrote his poetry in Persian and his works are widely read in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Turkey. He lived most of his life and produced his works under the Seljuk Empire.[2]

Rumi's importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders. He has had a significant influence on both Persian and Turkish literature throughout the centuries. His poems have been translated into many of the world's languages and have appeared in various formats.

After Rumi's death, his followers founded the Mevlevi Order, better known as the "Whirling Dervishes", who believe in performing their worship in the form of dance and music ceremony called the sema.



Rumi`s tomb in Konya
Image:Rumi museum.jpg
Rumi museum in Konya
Rumi and the whirling dervishes

Rumi's life is described in Shams ud-Din Ahmad Aflāki's "Manākib ul-Ārifīn" (written between 1318 and 1353). He is described as a descendant of the caliph Abu Bakr, and of the Khwārizm-Shāh Sultān Alā ud-Dīn bin Takash (1199–1220), whose only daughter, Mālika-e Jahān, had allegedly been married to Rumi's grandfather.[3]

When the Mongols invaded Central Asia sometime between 1215 and 1220, his father (Bahauddin Walad, a theologian, jurist and a mystic of uncertain lineage) set out westwards with his whole family and a group of disciples. On the road to Anatolia, Rumi encountered one of the most famous mystic Persian poets, Attar, in the city of Nishapur, located in what is now the Iranian province of Khorāsān. Attar immediately recognized Rumi's spiritual eminence. He saw the father walking ahead of the son and said, "Here comes a sea followed by an ocean." He gave the boy his Asrarnama, a book about the entanglement of the soul in the material world. This meeting had a deep impact on the eighteen-year-old Rumi's thoughts, which later on became the inspiration for Rumi's works.

From Nishapur, Walad and his entourage set out for Baghdad, meeting many of the scholars and Sufis of the city[4]. From there they went to the Hejaz and performed the pilgrimage at Mecca. It was after this journey that most likely as a result of the invitation of Allāh ud-Dīn Key-Qobād, ruler of Anatolia, Bahauddin came to Asia Minor and finally settled in Konya in Anatolia within the westernmost territories of Seljuk Empire.

Bahauddin became the head of a madrassa (religious school) and when he died Rumi succeeded him at the age of twenty-five. One of Bahauddin's students, Syed Burhanuddin Mahaqqiq, continued to train Rumi in the religious and mystical doctrines of Rumi's father. For nine years, Rumi practiced Sufism as a disciple of Burhanuddin until the latter died in 1240-1. During this period Rumi also travelled to Damascus and is said to have spent four years there.

It was his meeting with the dervish Shams Tabrizi in the late fall of 1244 that changed his life completely. Shams had traveled throughout the Middle East searching and praying for someone who could "endure my company". A voice came, "What will you give in return?" "My head!" "The one you seek is Jelaluddin of Konya." On the night of December 5, 1248, as Rumi and Shams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again. It is believed that he was murdered with the connivance of Rumi's son, Allaedin; if so, Shams indeed gave his head for the privilege of mystical friendship.

Rumi's love and his bereavement for the death of Shams found their expression in an outpouring of music, dance and lyric poems, Divani Shamsi Tabrizi. He himself went out searching for Shams and journeyed again to Damascus. There, he realized:

The tavern is a recurring theme in Rumi's poetry
Why should I seek? I am the same as
He. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself! [5]

For more than ten years after meeting Shams, Mevlana had been spontaneously composing ghazals, and these had been collected in the Divan-i Kabir. Rumi found another companion in Saladin Zarkub, the goldsmith. After Saladin's death, Rumi's scribe and favorite student Husam Chelebi assumed the role. One day, the two of them were wandering through the Meram vineyards outside of Konya when Husam described an idea he had to Rumi: "If you were to write a book like the Ilahiname of Sanai or the Mantik'ut-Tayr'i of Attar it would become the companion of many troubadours. They would fill their hearts from your work and compose music to accompany it."

Rumi smiled and took out a piece of paper on which were written the opening eighteen lines of his Mathnawi, beginning with:

Listen to the reed and the tale it tells,
How it sings of separation... [6]

Husam implored Rumi to write more. Rumi spent the next twelve years of his life in Anatolia dictating the six volumes of this masterwork, the Mathnawi to Husam. In December 1273, Rumi fell ill; he predicted his own death and composed the well-known ghazal, which begins with the verse:

How doest thou know what sort of king I have within me as companion?
Do not cast thy glance upon my golden face, for I have iron legs. [7]

He died on December 17, 1273 in Konya; Rumi was laid to rest beside his father, and a splendid shrine, the Yeşil Türbe "Green Tomb", was erected over his tomb. His epitaph reads:

"When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men." [8]

Teachings of Rumi

The general theme of his thoughts, like that of the other mystic and Sufi poets of the Persian literature, is essentially about the concept of Tawheed (unity) and union with his beloved (the primal root) from which/whom he has been cut and fallen aloof, and his longing and desire for reunity.

The "Mathnawi" weaves fables, scenes from everyday life, Qur’anic revelations and exegesis, and metaphysics, into a vast and intricate tapestry. Rumi is considered an example of "insani kamil" — the perfected or completed human being. In the East, it is said of him, that he was, "not a prophet — but surely, he has brought a scripture". Rumi believed passionately in the use of music, poetry and dancing as a path for reaching God. For Rumi, music helped devotees to focus their whole being on the divine, and to do this so intensely that the soul was both destroyed and resurrected. It was from these ideas that the practice of Whirling Dervishes developed into a ritual form. He founded the order of the Mevlevi, the "whirling" dervishes, and created the "Sema", their "turning", sacred dance. In the Mevlevi tradition, Sema represents a mystical journey of spiritual ascent through mind and love to "Perfect." In this journey the seeker symbolically turns towards the truth, grows through love, abandons the ego, finds the truth, and arrives at the "Perfect"; then returns from this spiritual journey with greater maturity, so as to love and to be of service to the whole of creation without discrimination against beliefs, races, classes and nations.

According to Shahram Shiva, one reason for Rumi's popularity is that "Rumi is able to verbalize the highly personal and often confusing world of personal/spiritual growth and mysticism in a very forward and direct fashion. He does not offend anyone, and he includes everyone. The world of Rumi is neither exclusively the world of a Sufi, nor the world of a Hindu, nor a Jew, nor a Christian; it is the highest state of a human being — a fully evolved human. A complete human is not bound by cultural limitations; he touches every one of us. Today Rumi's poems can be heard in churches, synagogues, Zen monasteries, as well as in the downtown New York art/performance/music scene." According to Professor Majid M. Naini [1], one of the foremost international Rumi scholars who travels the world trying to spread Rumi's universal message of love, Rumi's life and transformation provide true testimony and proof that people of all religions and backgrounds can live together in peace and harmony throughout the world. At Rumi’s grand funeral procession Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sufis cried and mourned in a manner that one would have thought that Rumi belonged to each one of them. Rumi’s visions, words, and life teach us how to reach inner peace and happiness so we can finally stop the continual stream of hostility and hatred and achieve true global peace and harmony.

In other beautiful verses in Mathnavi, Rumi describes in detail the universal message of love. For example, he states:

Love’s nationality is separate from all other religions,
The lover’s religion and nationality is the Beloved (God).
The lover’s cause is separate from all other causes
Love is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries.[9]

Major works

Rumi in pensive mood

Rumi's poetry is often divided into various categories: the quatrains (rubaiyat) and odes (ghazals) of the Divan, the six books of the Mathnawi, the discourses, the letters, and the almost unknown Six Sermons. Rumi's major work is Masnavi-ye Manavi (Spiritual Couplets), a six-volume poem regarded by many Sufis as second in importance only to the Qur'an.Template:Fact In fact, the Masnawi is often called the "Qur'an-e Parsi" (The Persian Qur'an).Template:Fact It is considered by many to be one of the greatest works of mystical poetry.Template:Fact Rumi's other major work is the Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz-i (The Works of Shams of Tabriz - named in honor of Rumi's great friend and inspiration, the darvish Shams), comprising some 40,000 verses. Several reasons have been offered for Rumi's decision to name his masterpiece after Shams. Some argue that since Rumi would not have been a poet without Shams, it is apt that the collection be named after him.Template:Fact Others have suggested that at the end, Rumi became Shams, hence the collection is truly of Shams speaking through Rumi.[10] Both works are among the most significant in all of Persian literature.Template:Fact Shams is believed to have been murdered by disciples of Rumi who were jealous of his relationship with Shams (also spelled Shems).Template:Fact

Fihi Ma Fih (In It What's in It) is composed of Rumi's speeches on different subjects. Rumi himself did not prepare or write these discourses. They were recorded by his son Sultan Valad or some other disciple of Rumi and put together as a book. The title may mean, "What's in the Mathnawi is in this too."Template:Fact Some of the discourses are addressed to Muin al-Din Parvane. Some portions of it are commentary on Masnavi.

Majalis-i Sab'a (seven sessions) contains seven sermons (as the name implies) given in seven different assemblies. As Aflaki relates, after Sham-i Tabrizi, Rumi gave sermons at the request of notables, especially Salah al-Din Zarqubi.Template:Fact


The Mevlevi Sufi order was founded in 1273 by Rumi's followers after his death.[11] His first successor in the rectorship of the order was Husam Chelebi himself, after whose death in 1284 Rumi's younger and only surviving son, Sultan Walad, favorably known as author of the mystical Mathnawi Rabābnāma, or the Book of the Guitar (died 1312), was installed as grand master of the order.[12] The leadership of the order has been kept in Jalaluddin's family in Iconium uninterruptedly for the last six hundred years. [13] The Mevlevi, or "The Whirling Dervishes", believe in performing their dhikr in the form of sema. During the time of Rumi (as attested in the "Manakib ul Arifin" of Eflaki Dede), his followers gathered for musical and "turning" practices. Mevlana himself was a notable musician, who played the rebab although his favorite instrument was the ney.[14] The music accompanying the traditional ritual consists of settings of poems from the "Mathnawi" and "Diwan-i-Kebir" or of his son Sultan Veled's poems.[14] The Mevlevi were a well-established Sufi Order in the Ottoman Empire, and many of the members of the order served in various official positions of the Caliphate. The centre for the Mevlevi order was in Konya. There is also a Mevlevi monastery or dergah in Istanbul, near the Galata Tower, where the sema ceremony is performed and accessible to the public. The Mevlevi order issues an invitation to people of all backgrounds:

"Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire,
Come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,
Come, and come yet again.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.[15]

During Ottoman times, the Mevlevi order produced a number of famous poets and musicians such as Sheikh Ghalib, Ismail Rusuhi Dede of Ankara, Esrar Dede, Halet Efendi, and Gavsi Dede (all buried at the Galata Mevlevi-Hane in Istanbul[16]) and the poet Sari Abdullah [17]. Music, especially the ney, play an important part in the Mevlevi order and thus much of the traditional 'oriental' music that Westerners associate with Turkey originates with the Mevlevi order. Indeed, if one buys a CD of Turkish Sufi music, chances are it will be Mevlevi religious music.

The Mevlevi order was outlawed in Turkey at the dawn of the secular revolution by Kemal Atatürk in 1923.[18] In the 1950s, the Turkish government began allowing the Whirling Dervishes to perform annually in Konya on the Urs of Mevlana, December 17, the anniversary of Rumi's death.[19] In 1974, they were allowed to come to the West.[19] The Mevlana annual festival is held every year in Konya in December. It lasts two weeks and its culminating point is the 17th December called Sheb-i Arus meaning 'Nuptial Night', the night of the union of Mevlana with God.

Rumi's importance transcends national and ethnic borders.[20] Speakers of the Persian language in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan see him as one of their most significant classical poets and an influence on many poets through history.[21] He has also had a great influence on Turkish literature throughout the centuries.[22] His poetry forms the basis of much classical Iranian and Afghan music.[23] Contemporary classical interpretations of his poetry are made by Muhammad Reza Shajarian (Iran), Shahram Nazeri (Iran), Davood Azad (Iran) and Ustad Mohammad Hashem Cheshti (Afghanistan). To many modern Westerners, his teachings are one of the best introductions to the philosophy and practice of Sufism. Pakistan's National Poet, Muhammad Iqbal (November 9, 1877-April 21, 1938) was also inspired by Rumi's works and considered him to be his spiritual leader and addressed him as Pir Rumi in his poems (the honorific Pir literally means old man, but in the sufi/mystic context it means founder, master, or guide). [24]

Rumi's work has been translated into many of the world's languages including Russian, German, French, Italian and Spanish, and is appearing in a growing number of formats including concerts, workshops, readings, dance performances and other artistic creations. The English translations of Rumi's poetry by Coleman Barks have sold more than a half million copies worldwide.[25] Recordings of Rumi poems have made it to Billboard's Top 20 list. A collection of Deepak Chopra's translations of Rumi's love poems has been sung by Hollywood personalities such as Madonna, Goldie Hawn and Demi Moore; also Shahram Shiva's CD, Rumi: Lovedrunk has been very popular on the Internet's music communities such as The 13th-century poet of the Seljuk Empire is one of the most widely read poets in the United States [26]

References and footnotes

  1. Transliteration of the Arabic alphabet into English varies. One common transliteration is Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi. The usual brief reference to him is simply Rumi.
  2. Bank, Coleman, Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing, p.xxv HarperCollins (2005), ISBN 0-06-075050-2
  4. Ahmed, Nazeer, Islam in Global History: From the Death of Prophet Muhammed to the First World War, p.58, Xlibris Corporation (200), ISBN 0-7388-5962-1
  5. The Essential Rumi. Translations by Coleman Barks. pp xx
  6. The Life and Spiritual Milieu of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi
  7. Jalal al-Din Rumi Persian Sufi Sage and Poet
  8. Mevlana Jalal al-din Rumi
  9. The Mysteries of the Universe and Rumi's Discoveries on the Majestic Path of Love
  14. 14.0 14.1
  15. Mevlevi order
  17. (pp. 86-87)
  19. 19.0 19.1
  26. Curiel,J onathan, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer, Islamic verses: The influence of Muslim literature in the United States has grown stronger since the Sept. 11 attacks (February 6, 2005), Available online (Retrieved Aug 2006)


English translations

  • The Mysteries of the Universe and Rumi's Discoveries on the Majestic Path of Love, by Majid M. Naini, Universal Vision & Research, 2002 ISBN 0-9714600-0-0 [2]
  • Rumi, The Masnavi: Book One, trans. J. Mojaddedi, Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, 2004 ISBN 0-19-280438-3
  • The Mesnevi of Mevlānā Jelālu'd-dīn er-Rūmī. Book first, together with some account of the life and acts of the Author, of his ancestors, and of his descendants, illustrated by a selection of characteristic anecdotes, as collected by their historian, Mevlānā Shemsu'd-dīn Ahmed el-Eflākī el-'Arifī, translated and the poetry versified by James W. Redhouse, London: 1881. Contains the translation of the first book only.
  • Masnaví-i Ma'naví, the Spiritual Couplets of Mauláná Jalálu'd-din Muhammad Rúmí, translated and abridged by E. H. Whinfield, London: 1887; 1989. Abridged version from the complete poem. On-line editions at and on wikisource.
  • The Masnavī by Jalālu'd-din Rūmī. Book II, translated for the first time from the Persian into prose, with a Commentary, by C.E. Wilson, London: 1910.
  • The Mathnawí of Jalálu'ddín Rúmí, edited from the oldest manuscripts available, with critical notes, translation and commentary by Reynold A. Nicholson, in 8 volumes, London: Messrs Luzac & Co., 1925–1940. Contains the text in Persian. First complete English translation of the Mathnawí.
  • Rending The Veil: Literal and Poetic Translations of Rumi, translated by Shahram Shiva Hohm Press, 1995 ISBN 0-934252-46-7. Recipient of Benjamin Franklin Award.
  • Hush, Don't Say Anything to God: Passionate Poems of Rumi, translated by Shahram Shiva Jain Publishing, 1999 ISBN 0-87573-084-1.
  • The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1996 ISBN 0-06-250959-4; Edison (NJ) and New York: Castle Books, 1997 ISBN 0-7858-0871-X. Selections.
  • The Illuminated Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks, Michael Green contributor, New York: Broadway Books, 1997 ISBN 0-7679-0002-2.


On Rumi's life and work

  • Majid M. Naini,The Mysteries of the Universe and Rumi's Discoveries on the Majestic Path of Love, Universal Vision & Research, 2002, ISBN 0-9714600-0-0 [3]
  • Franklin Lewis, Rumi Past and Present, East and West, Oneworld Publications, 2000. ISBN 1-85168-214-7
  • Leslie Wines, Rumi: A Spiritual Biography, New York: Crossroads, 2001 ISBN 0-8245-2352-0.
  • Rumi's Thoughts, edited by Seyed G Safavi, London: London Academy of Iranian Studies, 2003.
  • ŞEfik Can, Fundamentals of Rumi's Thought: A Mevlevi Sufi Perspective, Somerset (NJ): The Light Inc., 2004 ISBN 1-932099-79-4.

On Persian literature

  • E.G. Browne, Literary History of Persia, four volumes, 1998 ISBN 0-7007-0406-X. 2,256 pages, and twenty-five years in the writing.
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature, Reidel Publishing Company; ASIN B-000-6BXVT-K

See also

Turkish Seljuk Empire
On Persian culture
Spiritual Islam
Rumi experts
English translators of Rumi poetry
Rumi poetry (English)

External links


On-line texts by Rumi

On Rumi


Template:Persondataar:جلال الدین الرومی bs:Mevlana Dželaludin Rumi bg:Руми da:Jalal ad-Din Rumi de:Dschalal ad-Din ar-Rumi el:Τζελαλεντίν Ρουμί eo:Ĝalal-ed-din Mohammad Rumi fa:جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی fr:Jalal Ud Din Rumi it:Gialal al-Din Rumi he:ג'לאל א-דין רומי nl:Jalal ad-Din Rumi pl:Rumi ro:Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi ru:Руми, Джалаледдин sv:Djalalu'd-Din Rumi tr:Mevlana ur:مولانا جلال‌الدین محمد بلخی رومی

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