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Persian philosopher
Rumi Vignette by User Chyah.jpg
Name: Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
Birth: 1207 C.E.
Death: 1273 C.E.
School/tradition: Sufism
Main interests
Sufi poetry, Hanafi jurisprudence
Notable ideas
Sufi whirling, Muraqaba

Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1207 - 1273 C.E.) (مولانا جلال الدین محمد رومی), known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, was a mystical thirteenth century Persian Sufi poet, jurist, and theologian. His first name Jalalu'ddin has the meaning Majesty of Religion.

Rumi wrote over 65,000 verses of intoxicated poetry on the Sufi path of love and spiritual understanding. His ecstatic and wondrous spiritual writings left a lasting impression on Sufism, the mystical practice of Islam. His songs expressed the pain of being separated from the Beloved (Allah/God) and the joy of union with Him.

Rumi's importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders. His poems have been translated into many of the world's languages and have appeared in various formats. The Persian world, from Turkey to India, looks upon Rumi as one of the greatest spiritual poets in history. He has had a significant influence on both Persian and Turkish literature throughout the centuries. Over the last century, Rumi’s poetry has spread from the Islamic world and into the Western world. The lyrical beauty of his outpourings of love for the Divine have also helped to make him one of the most popular and best-selling poets in America.

In addition to his legacy as a poet, Rumi founded the Mevlevi Order, better known as the "Whirling Dervishes," who believe in performing their worship in the form of dance.


Rumi was born in 1207 in Balkh, then a city of Greater Khorasan, Persia, in what is present-day Afghanistan, and he lived most of his life under the Seljuk Empire.[1] He was a descendant of a family full of Islamic theologians and mystics. His father, Baha’al’din Valad, was well-respected in his community as a religious teacher. When the Mongols invaded Central Asia sometime between 1215 and 1220, the family was uprooted from their comfortable life and their home. His father set out westwards with his whole family and several disciples. On the road to Anatolia, Rumi encountered the mystic Persian poet, 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 an inspiration for Rumi's works.

From Nishapur, Baha'al'din and his entourage set out for Baghdad, meeting many of the scholars and Sufis of the city[2]. 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.

His family settled in the Muslim city of Konia, in what is now Turkey. Baha'al'din became the head of a madrassa (religious school) and when he died Rumi succeeded him at the age of 25. One of Baha'al'din'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 1240-1241. During this period Rumi also travelled to Damascus and is said to have spent four years there.

Rumi achieved much fame in Konia, where he married, had children, and gained a following for his teaching and scholarship. At the time, he had no desire to be a poet, saying, “By Allah, I care nothing for poetry, and there is nothing worse in my eyes than that.”[3] However, Rumi’s views would change after meeting his spiritual teacher, Shams al-Din of Tabriz. It was his encounter with the dervish Shams in the late fall of 1244 that changed his life completely. In one version, Shams interrupted Rumi in the middle of a lecture and threw Rumi’s books into a pool of water. In a similar story, Shams waved his hand over Rumi’s books, engulfing them in flames.[3] In a third version, Rumi was riding into town on a mule with his students when a strange figure in a cloak, Shams, approached him and asked him a simple question, which he was not able to answer correctly.[3] Each of these versions demonstrates what Shams taught Rumi, which was that book-learning was limited. Only the pursuit of divine love would lead to true enlightenment, Shams explained.[3]

It is said that Rumi spent six months with Shams learning the mysteries of the absolute and underwent a transformation palpable to those close to him and his son wrote, “After meeting Shams, my father danced all day and sang all night. He had been a scholar—he became a poet. He had been an ascetic—he became drunk with love.” [3] Thus, at the age of 37, Rumi changed from the sober intellectual into the ecstatic Sufi follower from whom poetry flowed.

Writings and Poetry

Rumi's love and his bereavement for the death of Shams found their expression in an outpouring of music, dance and lyric poems. Rumi's works express mystical odes and lore and longing for the experience of the divine. His most seminal texts are the Diwan-I Shams-I Tabriz, the Rubaiyat and the the Masnawi (also called Masnavi-ye Manavi). The Masnavi-ye Manavi (Spiritual Couplets) is a six-volume poem regarded by many Sufis as second in importance only to the Qur'an. In fact, the Masnawi is often called the Qur'an-e Parsi (The Persian Qur'an). It is considered by many to be one of the greatest works of mystical poetry.

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), 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. Others have suggested that at the end, Rumi became Shams, hence the collection is truly of Shams speaking through Rumi. Both works are among the most significant in all of Persian literature. Shams is believed to have been murdered by disciples of Rumi who were jealous of his relationship with Shams. His poetry is often further divided into various categories: the quatrains (rubaiyat) and odes (ghazals) of the Divan, the discourses, the letters, and the almost unknown Six Sermons.

A secondary source of Rumi's writings is the Fihi Ma Fih, composed of Rumi's speeches on different subjects. Rumi himself did not prepare or write these discourses. They were recorded either by his son Sultan Valad or some other disciple, and put together as a book. The title has been translated as, "What's in the Mathnawi is in this too." Some of the discourses are addressed to Muin al-Din Parvane.. Some portions of it are commentary on Masnavi.

Another writing is the Majalis-i Sab'a (seven sessions), which contains seven sermons 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.

Religious Teachings

Did you know?
The Sufi poet Rumi referred to Allah (God) as his Beloved
A page of a copy circa 1503 of the "Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz-i"

Like other Sufi poets, the underlying theme of Rumi's writings is his longing for union with God, his Beloved. Rumi expressed deep yearning and ecstatic love that he felt in the presence of Allah (God). He acknowledged in his poetry that language in general, was a limited way to express union with the Beloved, but he believed that language could trace the shadow of divine love:

Someone asked, “What is loverhood?”
I replied, “Don’t ask me about these meanings –
“When you become like me, you’ll know;
When it calls you, you’ll tell its tale.
What is it to be a lover? To have perfect thirst.
So let me explain the water of life. [4]

Love, as Rumi explains it, was the motive for God’s creation of the cosmos. God’s love sustains the universe, and as He continues to love, he creates an ever-growing and changing universe. Rumi writes that God’s all-pervasive divine love is expressed in sexual union to further expand the cosmos:

God’s wisdom through His destiny and decree
Made us lovers one of another.
That foredainment paired all the world’s parts
And set each in love with its mate…
The female inclines towards the male
So that each may perfect the other’s work.
God placed inclination in man and woman
So the world may subsist through their union.[4]

Rumi considers all love to be, in reality, the divine love for Allah. Although people love one another and beautiful objects of the world, these are only reflections of the Beloved and as such, are a distraction from the truth.

When people leave this world and see the Eternal King without these veils, they will know that all these were veils and coverings and that the object of their desire was in reality that One Thing.[4]

When people realize the only truth is God and reunite with the Beloved, Rumi writes that their joy is like that of lovers reuniting after having felt the torturous pangs of being apart from one another

First you empty the lovers at the hand of separation,
Then you fill them with gold to the tops of their heads.[4]

In this way, his writings often express the dialect of love, which exists in the opposites of separation and union, hope and fear, and pain and joy.[4] [5]

Rumi employs certain elements of the Sufi poetic tradition in his work, such as the use of metaphors to symbolize aspects of the divine. One such metaphor involves wine and drunkenness to symbolize how mystics can become drunk on God’s love as humans can become drunk on wine [6] Other symbols in Rumi’s work include the nightingale to represent the soul, a rose to show the perfect beauty of God, the winter to show a soul separated form God, and the sun to represent the spiritual guide or teacher. [3]

Whirling Dervishes

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. 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. A beautiful verse from the Mathnavi 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. [7]

When Shams mysteriously disappeared 18 months after he had entered Rumi’s life, the poet was distraught over his loss. It is said that Rumi invented a circling dance to symbolize his anguished search for his teacher. [3] The poet’s followers also began to perform the dance, and thus, the Mevlevi brotherhood order that Rumi founded became renowned as whirling dervishes. [5]

Along with anticipation and anguish, the dance of the whirling dervish symbolizes the exhilaration that comes from the search for divine love. Through his whirling and dancing to the sounds of a longing reed and an insistent drum, Rumi attempted to transcend his body and rational consciousness.

Rumi sought the union with the Beloved through the cessation of his own being, saying the ultimate of humility and self-abasement was to realize “I am naught, God is all; there is no being but God” [6] For Rumi, one means of self-annihilation was through dance. He wrote that to dance was to tear one’s heart to pieces and to give up one’s soul: “Dance where you can break yourself to pieces and totally abandon your world passions” [8]

As the intensity of his dancing mounted, Rumi would burst forth with lyrics about the divine and the cosmos, lyrics that his disciples would immediately write down:

“The heavens are like a dancing dervish-cloak,
But the Sufi is hidden. Oh Moslems, who ever has seen a cloak dance without a body in it?
The cloak dances because of the body, the body because of the spirit, and love for the Beloved has tied the spirit’s neck to the end of a string.” [5]

Thus, Rumi expressed how his whirling was part of the universal cosmic dance that was begun and sustained by the divine music of love. Much of his intoxicated and spontaneous poetry was borne through the ecstasy of his dance.

When Rumi used the word “Sun” to represent the spiritual guide in his poetry, he was specifically referring to his own teacher, Shams, whose name literally means “sun” [9] Shams was not only Rumi’s master and mentor, he was a source of inspiration to the poet; in many of Rumi’s poems, the word “Shams” became a poetic equivalent for the mystical supreme itself [9]

Legacy and Significance

Rumi died on December 17, 1273 in Konia. He was laid to rest beside his father where his followers erected a shrine over his remains. The thirteenth-century Mevlana mausoleum, which also has a mosque, dance hall, dervish living quarters and school, continues to draw pilgrims from across the world.

Rumi’s writings and poetry remain exceedingly popular in both the Islamic world and the Western world. One explanation for Rumi’s popularity may be that his poetry embraces all cultures, nationalities and mythologies. People can read the poetry of Rumi without feeling as though he is imposing any orthodox belief upon them. Of course, Rumi considers himself first and foremost to be a Muslim in search for the divine, writing, “I am the slave of the Koran, While I still have life,” [5] Yet although he dedicates himself to Islam and the Sufi tradition, Rumi integrates themes and myths from multiple religious traditions into a universal expression of Divine Love. His writings resounded with tolerance, goodness, charity, and awareness through love.

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.[10]

Rumi's importance transcends national and ethnic borders. 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. He has also had a great influence on Turkish literature throughout the centuries.[11] His poetry forms the basis of much classical Iranian and Afghan music.[12] Rumi's work has been translated into many of the world's languages, and is appearing in a growing number of formats including concerts, workshops, readings, dance performances and other artistic creations. To many modern Westerners, his teachings are one of the best introductions to the philosophy and practice of Sufism. The English translations of Rumi's poetry by Coleman Barks have sold more than a half million copies worldwide, making the thirteenth-century poet of the Seljuk Empire one of the most widely read poets in the United States. [13]

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.[14]

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.


  1. Coleman Bank, Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing (HarperCollins, 2005, ISBN 0060750502), xxv.
  2. Nazeer Ahmed, Islam in Global History: From the Death of Prophet Muhammed to the First World War (Xlibris Corporation, 2001, ISBN 978-0738859620), 58.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 C. Tell, "A poet and a mystic: Jalaluddin Rumi." Social Education 66, (2002): 204–210.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 W. C. Chittick, Sufism—A Short Introduction, (One World, Oxford, 2000).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 A. El-Zein, "Spiritual consumption in the United States: the Rumi phenomenon." Spiritual Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 11 (2000), 71–86.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Abdin Chande, "Symbolism and allegory in the Qur'an: Muhammad Asad's modernist translation" Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 15(1) (2004).
  7. Majid M. Naini, The Mysteries of the Universe and Rumi's Discoveries on the Majestic Path of Love (Universal Vision & Research, 2002, ISBN 0971460000).
  8. Metin And, "The Mevlana Ceremony" The Drama Review: TDR The Annual Performance Issue: 21 (3) (September 1977), 83-94.
  9. 9.0 9.1 A. Omaima, "Abrogation of the mind in the Poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi" Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 14 (1994): 37-63.
  10. 800th Anniversary of Mawlana was celebrated by Unesco Ebruli Tourism. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  11. Burak Sensal, Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi All About Turkey. Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  12. Niels Mayer, "Whirling Dervish" Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  13. Jonathan Curiel, "Islamic verses: The influence of Muslim literature in the United States has grown stronger since the Sept. 11 attacks" San Francisco Chronicle (February 6, 2005). Retrieved December 12, 2023.
  14. Shahram Shiva, Rumi Network. Retrieved December 12, 2023.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Ahmed, Nazir. Islam in Global History: Volume One: From the Death of Prophet Muhammed to the First World War. Xlibris6, 2001. ISBN 978-0738859620
  • Bank, Coleman. Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing. HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0060750502
  • Browne, E. G. Literary History of Persia. (in four volumes) 1998. ISBN 070070406X
  • Can, Şefik. Fundamentals of Rumi's Thought: A Mevlevi Sufi Perspective. Somerset, UK: The Light Inc., 2004. ISBN 1932099794
  • Chittick, W. C. Sufism—A Short Introduction, Oxford, UK: One World, 2000. ASIN B008AUJZTO
  • Lewis, Franklin. Rumi Past and Present, East and West. Oneworld Publications, 2000. ISBN 1851682147
  • Naini, Majid M. The Mysteries of the Universe and Rumi's Discoveries on the Majestic Path of Love. Universal Vision & Research, 2002. ISBN 0971460000
  • Rumi. Jawid Mojaddedi (trans.). The Masnavi: Book One. Oxford World's Classics Series, Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0192804383
  • Rumi. E.H. Whinfield (trans.). The Masnavi I Ma'navi of Rumi: Complete 6 Books. Independently published, 2021. ISBN 979-8709722125
  • Rumi. Rending The Veil: Literal and Poetic Translations of Rumi. translated by Shahram Shiva Hohm Press, 1995. ISBN 0934252467
  • Rumi. Hush, Don't Say Anything to God: Passionate Poems of Rumi. translated by Shahram Shiva Jain Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0875730841
  • Rumi The Essential Rumi. translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1996. ISBN 0062509594
  • Rumi The Illuminated Rumi. translated by Coleman Barks, Michael Green contributor, New York: Broadway Books, 1997. ISBN 0767900022
  • Wines, Leslie. Rumi: A Spiritual Biography. New York: Crossroads, 2001. ISBN 0824523520

External links

All links retrieved December 10, 2023.


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