Rumi was born on 30 September 1207 in greater Balkh in the village of Wakhsh. He died on 17 December 1273 in Konya in present day Turkey (then Seljuqids of Rum). He was laid to rest beside his father, and over his remains a splendid shrine was erected. The 13th century Mevlana Mausoleum, with its mosque, dance hall, dervish living quarters, school and tombs of some leaders of the Mevlevi Order, continues to this day to draw pilgrims from all parts of the Muslim and non-Muslim world. Jalal al-Din who is also known as Rumi, was a philosopher and mystic of Islam. His doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love. To him and to his disciples all religions are more or less truth. Looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian alike, his peaceful and tolerant teaching has appealed to people of all sects and creeds. A hagiographical account of him is described in Shams ud-Din Ahmad Aflāki’s Manāqib ul-Ārifīn (written between 1318 and 1353). Rumi’s father was Bahā ud-Dīn Walad, a theologian, jurist and a mystic from Wakhsh, who was also known by the followers of Rumi as Sultan al-Ulama or “Sultan of the Scholars”. The popular hagiographer assertions that have claimed the family’s descent from the Caliph Abu Bakr does not hold on closer examination and is rejected by modern scholars. The claim of maternal descent from the Khwarazmshah for Rumi or his father is also seen as a non-historical hagiographical tradition designed to connect the family with royalty, but this claim is rejected for chronological and historical reasons. The most complete genealogy offered for the family stretches back to six or seven generations to famous Hanafi Jurists. We do not learn the name of Baha al-Din’s mother in the sources, but only that he referred to her as “Mama” (Mami) (colloquial Persian for Mother), she was a simple woman and that she lives in 13th century. The mother of Rumi was Mu’mina Khātūn. The profession of the family for several generations was that of Islamic preachers of the liberal Hanafi rite and this family tradition was continued by Rumi (see his Fihi Ma Fih and Seven Sermons) and Sultan Walad.
When the Mongols invaded Central Asia sometime between 1215 and 1220, Baha ud-Din Walad, with his whole family and a group of disciples, set out westwards. On the road to Anatolia, Rumi encountered one of the most famous mystic Persian poets, ‘Attar, in the Iranian city of Nishapur, located in the 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 Asrārnāma, a book about the entanglement of the soul in the material world. This meeting had a deep impact on the eighteen-year-old Rumi and later on became the inspiration for his works.
From Nishapur, Walad and his entourage set out for Baghdad, meeting many of the scholars and Sufis of the city. From there they went toBaghdad, and Hejaz and performed the pilgrimage at Mecca. The migrating caravan then passed through Damascus, Malatya, Erzincan,Sivas, Kayseri and Nigde. They finally settled in Karaman for seven years; Rumi’s mother and brother both died there. In 1225, Rumi married Gowhar Khatun in Karaman. They had two sons: Sultan Walad and Ala-eddin Chalabi. When his wife died, Rumi married again and had a son, Amir Alim Chalabi, and a daughter, Malakeh Khatun.
On 1 May 1228, most likely as a result of the insistent invitation of ‘Alā’ ud-Dīn Key-Qobād, ruler of Anatolia, Baha’ ud-Din came and finally settled in Konya in Anatolia within the westernmost territories of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm.
Baha’ ud-Din became the head of a madrassa (religious school) and when he died, Rumi, aged twenty-five, inherited his position. One of Baha’ ud-Din’s students, Sayyed Burhan ud-Din Muhaqqiq Termazi, continued to train Rumi in the religious and mystical doctrines of Rumi’s father. For nine years, Rumi practiced Sufism as a disciple of Burhan ud-Din until the latter died in 1240 or 1241. Rumi’s public life then began: he became a teacher who preached in the mosques of Konya and taught his adherents in the madrassa.
During this period, Rumi also traveled to Damascus and is said to have spent four years there.
It was his meeting with the dervish Shams-e Tabrizi on 15 November 1244 that completely changed Rumi’s life. Shams had traveled throughout the Middle East searching and praying for someone who could “endure my company”. A voice said to him, “What will you give in return?” Shams replied, “My head!” The voice then said, “The one you seek is Jalal ud-Din of Konya.” On the night of 5 December 1248, as Rumi and Shams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again. It is rumored that Shams was murdered with the connivance of Rumi’s son, ‘Ala’ ud-Din; if so, Shams indeed gave his head for the privilege of mystical friendship.
Rumi’s love for, and his bereavement at the death of, Shams found their expression in an outpouring of music, dance, and lyric poems, Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi. He himself went out searching for Shams and journeyed again to Damascus. There, he realized:
Why should I seek? I am the same as
He. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself!
Mawlana had been spontaneously composing ghazals (Persian poems), and these had been collected in the Divan-i Kabir or Diwan Shams Tabrizi. Rumi found another companion in Salaḥ ud-Din-e Zarkub, a goldsmith. After Salah ud-Din’s death, Rumi’s scribe and favorite student, Hussam-e Chalabi, assumed the role of Rumi’s companion. One day, the two of them were wandering through the Meram vineyards outside Konya when Hussam described to Rumi an idea he had had: “If you were to write a book like the Ilāhīnāma of Sanai or the Mantiq ut-Tayr 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 Masnavi, beginning with:
Listen to the reed and the tale it tells,
How it sings of separation…
Hussam implored Rumi to write more. Rumi spent the next twelve years of his life in Anatolia dictating the six volumes of this masterwork, the Masnavi, to Hussam.
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.
Rumi died on 17 December 1273 in Konya; his body was interred beside that of his father, and a splendid shrine, the Yeşil Türbe (Green Tomb, قبه الخضراء; today the Mevlana Museum), was erected over his place of burial. His epitaph reads:
When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men
The general theme of Rumi’s thought, like that of other mystic and Sufi poets of Persian literature, is essentially that of the concept of tawhīd – union with his beloved (the primal root) from which/whom he has been cut off and become aloof – and his longing and desire to restore it.
The Masnavi weaves fables, scenes from everyday life, Qur’anic revelations and exegesis, and metaphysics into a vast and intricate tapestry. Rumi is considered[by whom?] an example of Insan-e Kamil — Perfect Man, the perfected or completed human being. In the East, it is said[weasel words] 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 dance 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. His teachings became the base for the order of the Mawlawi which his son Sultan Walad organized. Rumi encouraged samāʿ, listening to music and turning or doing the sacred dance. In the Mevlevi tradition, samāʿ represents a mystical journey of spiritual ascent through mind and love to the Perfect One. In this journey, the seeker symbolically turns towards the truth, grows through love, abandons the ego, finds the truth, and arrives at the Perfect. The seeker then returns from this spiritual journey, with greater maturity, to love and to be of service to the whole of creation without discrimination with regard to beliefs, races, classes, and nations.
In other verses in the Masnavi, Rumi describes in detail the universal message of love:
Lover’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
despite the aforementioned ecumenical attitude, and contrary to his contemporary portrayal in the West as a proponent of non-denominational spirituality, a select number of Rumi poems suggest the importance of outward religious observance, the primacy of the Qur’an and the superiority of Islam.
Flee to God’s Qur’an, take refuge in it
there with the spirits of the prophets merge.
The Book conveys the prophets’ circumstances
those fish of the pure sea of Majesty.
Rumi’s approach to Islam is further clarified in this quatrain:
Man banda-ye qur’ānam, agar jān dāram
man khāk-e rah-e muhammad-e mukhtāram
gar naql konad joz īn kas az goftāram
bēzāram azō waz-īn sokhan bēzāram.
I am the servant of the Qur’an as long as I have life.
I am the dust on the path of Muhammad, the Chosen One.
If anyone quotes anything except this from my sayings,
I am quit of him and outraged by these words.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr states:
One of the greatest living authorities on Rûmî in Persia today, Hâdî Hâ’irî, has shown in an unpublished work that some 6,000 verses of the Dîwân and the Mathnawî are practically direct translations of Qur’ânic verses into Persian poetry.
Rumi states in his Dīwān:
The Sufi is hanging on to Muhammad, like Abu Bakr
Rumi’s poetry forms the basis of much classical Iranian and Afghan music (Eastern-Persian, Tajik-Hazara music).Contemporary classical interpretations of his poetry are made by Muhammad Reza Shajarian, Shahram Nazeri, Davood Azad (the three from Iran) and Ustad Mohammad Hashem Cheshti (Afghanistan). Today, Rumi’s legacy is expanding in the West as well through the work of translators and performers such as Shahram Shiva, who has been presenting bilingual Persian/English Rumi events in the US since 1993. 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, was also inspired by Rumi’s works and considered him to be his spiritual leader, addressing 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).
“Rumi deals with the human condition and that is always relevant,” says Shahram Shiva. “Rumi is able to verbalize the highly personal and often confusing world of personal growth and development in a very clear 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 a state of an evolved human. A human who is not bound by cultural limitations; a one who 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 , “Rumi’s life and transformation provide true testimony and proof that people of all religions and backgrounds can live together in peace and harmony. 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.”
Rumi’s work has been translated into many of the world’s languages, including Russian, German, Urdu, Turkish, Arabic, Bengali, French, Italian, and Spanish, and is being presented in a growing number of formats, including concerts, workshops, readings, dance performances, and other artistic creations .
The English interpretations of Rumi’s poetry by Coleman Barks have sold more than half a million copies worldwide, and Rumi is one of the most widely read poets in the United States.
Recordings of Rumi poems have made it to Billboard’s Top 20 list. A selection of Deepak Chopra’s editing of the translations by Fereydoun Kia of Rumi’s love poems has been performed by Hollywood personalities such as Madonna, Goldie Hawn, Philip Glass and Demi Moore.Shahram Shiva’s CD, Rumi: Lovedrunk, has been very popular in the Internet’s music communities, such as MySpace and Facebook.
There is a famous landmark in Northern India, known as Rumi Gate, situated in Lucknow (the capital of Uttar Pradesh) named after Rumi.
Rumi and his mausoleum were depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 5000 lira banknotes of 1981-1994.
The Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies in University of Exeter in collaboration with The Rumi Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus, have started to publish the first volume of the Mawlana Rumi Review in 2010. According to the principal editor of the journal, Leonard Lewisohn: “Although a number of major Islamic poets easily rival the likes of Dante, Shakespeare and Milton in importance and output, they still enjoy only a marginal literary fame in the West because the works of Arabic and Persian thinkers, writers and poets are considered as negligible, frivolous, tawdry sideshows beside the grand narrative of the ‘Western Canon’. It is the aim of the Mawlana Rumi Review to redress this carelessly inattentive approach to world literature, which is something far more serious than a minor faux pas committed by the Western literary imagination