(Windsor, ON, Canada)
RUMI, or by his full name Jalal-Uddin Muhammed Rumi, is the most widely known of the Persian mystics in the West and, evidently, he is also the most read. His admirers transcend faiths and cultures. His influence in the evolution of SUFISM is deep and unmistakable and he ranks among those giants of the Spiritual Order. Rumi wrote mostly in Persian and till to-day enjoys immense popularity and influence in Turkey, Iran as well as in Tajikistan, Greece and other South Asians countries.
Indeed, his influence has always transcended national borders and ethnic divisions and, in many of these societies, his name is a household word. So much so, it is not surprising to hear common folks from the region quoting Rumi in the original Persian. Indeed, he is revered as a Master, a Mevlana — title by which he is generally known in the Middle Eastern countries. He is, indirectly, the ‘founder’ of Sufi mazhab — the Order of the Whirling Dervish — which enjoys high popularity in Turkey. In fact, in Konya, where he is buried, his tomb is a revered shrine where his followers and admirers gather in pilgrimage every year on December 17 — the day of his Urs — the anniversary of his death — and all Konya goes into a colourful festive spiritual mood. The city teems with spiritual fervour and activities on the part of his countless admirers and followers of the Mevlana highlighted by the impressive and stirring dance of the « Whirling Dervishes » who all go in a trance as they whirl round and round, round and round to the rhythmic beat of the drum and soothing music of the flute and the string instruments intoning to the sacred verses of the Holy Qur’an till the participants go into a trance and see themselves become one with the world about them. Is not what Sufism is all about? Unity with the Beloved, with God is what Rumi eloquent message is all about!
Like Farid-uddin Attar of Nishapur and Hakim Abul Majid Sana’i of Ghaznavi and other Persian Sufi greats, he was a highly beloved spiritual leader, affectionately known by his countless followers as Mavlana or Mevlana — which means « Learned Leader ».
Rumi was born on September 30, 1207, in Balkh, now in Afghanistan, to a Sunni-Muslim family. His father was a very learned man and Rumi grew up to be much more than a poet although it is as a sufi and mystic that his reputation has survived the centuries and his admirers and followers have ever continued to grow over the years. Rumi was also a great jurist, an Islamic scholar and theologian. His childhood was tumultuous. He lived at a time when Ghengis Khan and his Mongol hordes were ransacking the Islamic world. They sacked Baghdad and left in its wake nothing but destruction and desolation. They literally destroyed the flourishing Islamic Empire that was at the zenith of its golden age, destroying institutions and libraries, burning books leaving nothing but desolation and misery in its trail. So much so Rumi’s parents were constantly on the move, looking for a peaceful heaven to settle down and raise their children. Thus, before he was thirteen, Rumi had been to Baghdad, Mecca, Isfahan and finally to Konya, in Turkey, where he would spend the rest of his life. Konya, Anatolia, which is now modern-day Turkey but which was then a part of the Roman (Rum) Empire — hence the name « RUMI » –which means « Roman. »
In the background the Shrine of Mevlana Rumi where he is buried, and his shrine is a site of pilgrimage for many of his The Dance of the « Whirling Dervishes » or Mevlana Order so called after Rumi himself countless admirers.
Rumi’s work has great universal appeal and his admirers and followers transcends the barriers of race or religion and they include Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is said his funeral was attended by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. He was a giant of figure and was ever held high in esteem, reverence and respect.
For, Rumi’s message is one of love — divine love –, peace and unity with God. Rumi wrote about longing, about pains, about sorrow and about finding inner peace and tranquility — which all form the eloquent themes of his works. He wrote Ghazals, Rubay’yat (Quatrains) and long poems in rhyming couplets. His Shams-e-Tabrizi that he wrote following the disappearance of his friend and mentor Shams Tabrizi and later his masterpiece — the Masnavi — in six volumes — all reckoned as unequalled masterpieces in their own right. The Masnavi is described by critics as « the Persian Qur’an » — in the sense that it is a work of great beauty in terms of style, content wrapped in enthusing rhyme and rhythm. Rumi was a musician and he loved to sing and dance to his compositions – a feature that would lead to the founding of the Mevlana Sufi Order or the Order of the Whirling Dervishes — after his death, by his eldest son.
Rumi is, undoubtedly, the greatest of the Sufi poets in Islamic history. He is a giant in his own right, revered and respected and adulated by his admirers wherever Persian is spoken. Eight centuries after his death, his memory lives on and his works are as admired and read as they have always been. His works continue to be translated in the major languages of the world and he remains among the most read poets in the world. In the U.S., his translated works are among the most read poet to-day. Jalal-uddin Rumi is, there is no gainsaying the fact that he is giant of world literature.