I am pasting this article on Rumi which was featured last thursday. While in College my younger chahato bhai finds time to write freelance stuff regulary for the New Age features/op-ed section. I thought this might give a brief intro on the persian poet.
Rumi the great mystic and his world
Rumi’s poems have a universal appeal. And still today, Rumi is popular in both the West and the Orient, though his use of symbols and metaphors are a bit hard for the general people to understand, writes Iftekharul Bashar
Jalaluddin Rumi is considered a wonder in the horizon of literature. His mystic poems remind us of his extraordinary skill in blending the philosophy of Sufism with poetry. At every age of history when people find themselves helpless in the midst of hatred and despair, Rumi’s poems appear as a guiding star showing the way of love and compassion. During his lifetime he wrote 3500 poems and 2000 sonnets and the epic ‘Mathnawi’.
A careful reader of Rumi will realise that these literary works are indeed not bound by just a certain period of time in history, and are not limited to a certain country or group of people. Rather the works of Rumi are very distinct in comparison to other poets. Perhaps due to this distinctness, Rumi’s works have achieved the status of what we call classic literature.
Emotion plays an important role in Rumi’s creativity, for Rumi himself had an intense sense of emotion. It seems that Rumi never wanted to hide this aspect of his personality; rather he applied it in quite an admirable manner to ornament his poems.
Rumi introduces us to the wonderful world of mysticism; opens our eyes to see, feel and love the unseen, and build a bridge between God and man. It may not be an exaggeration to say that the essence of Rumi’s poems is love between souls. Rumi writes: “A lifetime without Love is of no account Love is the Water of Life Drink it down with heart and soul! “
The name Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (in his poetry he used the pen-name “khamush” - meaning “silent”) stands for love and ecstatic flight into the infinite. Rumi’s philosophy of life and the greatness of his literary works were widely spread around the world (ranging from Tangiers to Cairo, from Lahore and Sarajevo to remote Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran and even the villages of India) by his son Sultan Walad and other successors and followers. Even centuries after his death and ups and downs and tragedies in the history of Islam, Rumi’s odes are being sung with great respect by the pilgrims in many religious congregations. Orientalists accept Rumi as the best of mystic poets, and his masterpiece ‘Mathn! awi’ enjoys much admiration of the people of East for its holiness, charm, depth, and mystery.
Rumi is one of the great spiritual masters and poetical geniuses of mankind and was the founder of the Mawlawi Sufi order, a leading mystical brotherhood of Islam. Before the Second World War about 1,00,000 followers of the ‘Mawlawi’ Sufi order lived in the Balkans, Africa and Asia. No poet in the history — even Shakespeare and Dante — has ever been able to establish such a glorious and universal influence on human civilisation. And none of the poets has earned such emotional and profound devotion.
Rumi was born in the city of Balkh of Khorasan (now Afghanistan) on 30 September 1207 to a family of learned theologians. Escaping the Mongol invasion and destruction, Rumi and his family travelled extensively in the Muslim lands, performed pilgrimage to Mecca and finally settled in Konya, Anatolia, then part of Seljuk Empire. Rumi studied in Aleppo and Damascus, learning theology and the arts and sciences. His command of Persian, Arabic and Greek was amazing and he wrote poems in those languages. When his father Bahaduddin Walad passed away, Rumi succeeded him in 1231 as professor in religious sciences. Rumi became an accomplished scholar in religious and positive sciences at the age of only 24.
He was introduced into the mystical path by a wandering dervish, Shamsuddin of Tabriz, also known as Shams. This enigmatic dervish played a very important role in Rumi’s life and influenced his literary works. Rumi met this 60-year-old mysterious and magnificent dervish wearing “black and thick woolen dress” in December 1244. Rumi’s life was transformed through his encounter with Shams, who had entered Konya that year after spending some time in Baghdad. Shams was a mysterious and powerful Sufi, who fled social connections. Even his death remains a mystery and he has several tombs, which remain as sites of pilgrimage, to this day. To Rumi, he was more than just a teacher or a guide or philosopher. Shams gave a new life to Rumi; he reshaped his soul and gave him the divine enlightenment, which Rumi treasured until his last moment. Rumi considered Shams as a gateway to divine love, the love of God. His love and his bereavement over the death of Shams found their expression in a surge of music, dance and lyric poems, ‘Divani Shamsi Tabriz’. Rumi’s great love and devotion for Shams is expressed in his own words in the poems of ‘Divani Shamsi Tabriz’ that is a collection of poems dedicated to him.
Maulana Rumi is placed among the highest echelons of Sufi mystics along with Sanai, Nizami, Al-Gazali, Farid-ad-din Attar and Hafiz.
Rumi is the author of a six-volume didactic epic, the ‘Mathnawi’. This masterpiece consisting of 25,000 couplets is regarded as his most outstanding work.
If there is any general idea underlying Rumi’s poetry, it is the absolute love for God. His influence on thought, literature and all forms of aesthetic expression in the world of Islam cannot be overrated.
Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi died on December 17, 1273. Men of five faiths followed his bier. That night was named Sebul Arus (Night of Union). Ever since, the Mawlawi dervishes have earmarked that date as a festival.
Rumi’s poems have a universal appeal. And still today, Rumi is popular in both the West and the Orient, though his use of symbols and metaphors are a bit hard for the general people to understand. Professor Reynold Nicholson has rightly said that a person needs to go through many tales, conversations and dialogues, religious addresses, verses of the Koran, and theories of philosophy to get the real flavour of Rumi’s poems.
With his poems Rumi bridged the ‘seen’ and the ‘unseen’. And attuned the music of utopia with cries of reality.
[Edited on 26-1-2004 by oracle]