Picture: Shams Tabrizi and Rumi with the Dervishes
Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, born in 1207 was a Persian poet, an Islamic dervish and a Sufi mystic. He is regarded as one of the greatest spiritual masters and poetical intellects.
His poems of love and ecstasy are beloved by millions of readers in America—he is often described as “the best-selling poet in America.” His poems have been translated to several languages around the world and are a favorite reading at weddings.
He has been compared to Shakespeare for his creativity and Saint Francis of Assisi for his spiritual wisdom. Rumi underwent a remarkable midlife transformation when he met the itinerant mystic Shams of Tabriz, who encouraged him to reorient from a path of knowledge and life as a respected Muslim teacher, preacher, and jurist, to a path of love and of the heart by including music, poetry, and the whirling dance as part of his spiritual practice. When Shams of Tabriz disappeared, Rumi coped with the pain of separation by composing joyous poems of reunion, both human and divine. The great legacy of Rumi over the centuries has been as an interfaith icon, as he articulated the notion of “religion of love,” and wrote that “Since we worship the one God, then all religions must be same.”
Rumi was a refugee and migrant for most of his life. His family escaped their home in present-day Afghanistan, which was destroyed by the invading Genghis Khan and the Mongols. He acquired poetic and spiritual wisdom during a time of great turmoil in Central Asia.
Remarkably at his funeral in Turkey in 1273, the procession included singers and dancers, traditional chantings from the Quran as well as Christian priests chanting the Gospel and Jewish rabbis reciting Psalms.