Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī Additional Biography


(World Poets and Poetry)

Jall al-Dn Rm, also known as Mauln (our master), was born on or near September 30, 1207, in the city of Balkh (in modern northern Afghanistan). When he was five years old and shortly before the onset of the Mongol invasion, his father, who was a religious scholar of renown, left his native land in the company of his family and, traveling westward, finally settled in Konya, a city of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). After his father’s death, Rm succeeded him as a religious leader and scholar and soon gathered a large following.

The arrival in Konya of the wandering dervish Shams al-Dn of Tabrz was an event of radical consequence in Rm’s life. The details of the meeting between the two are rather sketchy and at times contradictory. The account that seems to be more reliable than others belongs to the chronicler Dowlatshhi and can be summarized as follows. One day, the peripatetic Shams—who, in search of a kindred soul, had arrived in Konya and had taken lodgings in the Caravansarai of Sugar Merchants—saw a man riding on a mule while his disciples followed him on foot. The man was Rm, who after the death of his father had become Konya’s most distinguished religious scholar, enjoying a large following. Walking up to him, Shams said, “Tell me, what is the purpose of all the discipline and study of books and recitation of knowledge?” “To know the religious laws and precepts, of course,” the scholar answered. “That is too superficial,” the Sage of Tabrz countered. Taken...

(The entire section is 611 words.)


(Survey of World Philosophers)

Article abstract: Rūmi’s poetry and prose teachings guided Sufis on Islamic teachings by revealing the way to God in the context of the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. He showed the way of loving God as a personal transfiguration of radical and profound proportions for individuals who reach spiritual perfection.

Early Life

Jalā al-Dīn Rūmī’s father, Baha’ Walad, was a Sufi preacher, author, and lawyer in Balkh, present-day Afghanistan, where Rūmī was born in 1207. He influenced many, including Rūmī himself, in placing spiritual values ahead of legal and practical ones of other Muslims, and he irritated learned men with his criticisms of Greek philosophy. Rūmī’s father fled his home city when it was threatened by invading Mongols in 1219. He took the family first on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and then he moved them to Konya, located in modern Turkey, where he soon acquired prominence and influence. Rūmī began his studies in Konya, mastered the Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and Greek languages, and then went to study at Damascus, proceeding from basic knowledge to theology and philosophy. He married Gevher Hatun in Karaman and his son, Sultan Veled, was born in 1226 in Konya. In 1231, when Rūmī was twenty-four, his father died, and Rūmī assumed his father’s place as a preacher and legal scholar.

Life’s Work

Rūmī’s explicit education in Sufi beliefs was guided by one of his father’s disciples, Burhan al-Dīn Tirmidhi, from 1232 to Tirmidhi’s death in 1240. After his death, Rūmī continued to preach and discourse on spiritual law. Then there appeared in 1244 the most important person in Rūmī’s adult life, the mysterious Shams al-Dīn of Tabrīz. This man’s friendship turned Rūmī from a life of prudent teacher of law into an enthusiastic mystic devoted to ecstatic worship of God, expressed in strong Persian poetry of sensuous and intoxicated love. Shams was Rūmī’s closest friend and companion for about two years, and then Shams disappeared forever from Rūmī’s life and from history. The pain of this loss was a significant cause for Rūmī to compose poetry for the rest of his life. Thus did the poems of The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi arise from human love and its loss, but their significance was heightened by Rūmī’s use of that love as a form to worship God. After Shams’s disappearance, Rūmī ceased to perform as a public preacher; instead, he gave the rest of his life to the training of Sufi worshipers.

The Sufi Path of Love is a collection of more than three thousand of Rūmī’s ghazals, or love poems. Other than those that are in The Mathnavī of Jalālu’ddīn Rūmī, the poems of The Sufi Path of Love are all of Rūmī’s poetry produced over a span of nearly thirty years. Most of them are dedicated to Shams, but a few other persons are mentioned in some. They are inspired by Shams, but transcend him for celebrations and praises of God. Love for a person is but a step along the path toward love of God, which is consciousness of universal unity.

The Mathnavī of Jalālu’ddīn Rūmī is a set of six books of poems in couplet style; there are some twenty-five thousand verses in all. It was written at the request of one of Rūmī’s disciples beginning in 1259 so that his didactic teachings might be passed down to posterity in poems that could be memorized. The last book was left unfinished at Rūmī’s death. Rūmī composed orally, and his disciples transcribed his verses for recitation. The follower of Rūmī is instructed to exhibit good works in contrast to the enemies of God, who display only sensual desires. A good work involves praising God, as in the recitation of these poems, made by one who cannot turn good things into bad ones, like God, but merely hold up a mirror to show forth the bad and ugly forms of the world. Although The Mathnavī of Jalālu’ddīn Rūmī shows more didactic intent than The Sufi Path of Love, it is nevertheless only as systematic as the religious framework from which it draws its inspiration and texts for moral edification. The work ought to be read as a companion text to The Sufi Path of Love.

The verses of The Mathnavī of Jalālu’ddīn Rūmī also differ from those of The Sufi Path of Love in that they are largely anecdotal and narrative in contrast to the more lyrical and figurative poetry inspired by Shams. The anecdotes were Rūmī’s versions of folklore and commentaries on passages of the Qur’an. There is a moral to each anecdote and it is intended to develop Islamic beliefs with special emphasis on spiritual or mystical insights stressed by Sufis. Unlike the poems of The Sufi Path of Love, however, those of The Mathnavī of Jalālu’ddīn Rūmī provide more commentary on mystical experience and less on its apprehension or embodiment. After Rūmī’s death, scholars and mystics began to compose commentaries on his poetry, including The Mathnavī of Jalālu’ddīn Rūmī, which is itself a commentary on the distinctions between laws and love. In this work, Rūmī says that the law can, like a lamp, show the way to the path of love, but once a person is on the path itself, he or she will be taken directly to the goal of truth at the end. Rūmī’s way in The Mathnavī of Jalālu’ddīn Rūmī is the path; the goal is grasped in the truth of The Sufi Path of...

(The entire section is 2264 words.)


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Rûmî was an extraordinarily prolific Persian poet, best known for his Mathnavî, which is arguably the most important single work in Persian literature. Although the Mathnavî is massive in scope (26,000 verses), it focuses on al-Rûmî’s primary concerns: the longing of the soul for its beloved and the loss of self in a love for God so absolute that only God exists. He emphasized the cycle of the origination of all things from God and their return through extinguishing the self. The highest possible achievement of the soul is longing for God, beyond which there is annihilation of individuality. Rûmî frequently reworked traditional stories or used metaphors of intoxication and/or human love, and, disdaining discursive thought and logical argument, he saw himself as being in the spiritual tradition of al-hallâj, Sanâ’î, and ʿAttâr.


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Rûmî’s family left Balkh when he was quite young, fleeing the invading forces of Genghis Khan. In 1228, he moved to Konya, where his father, the noted theologian Bahâ’ al-Dîn Walad, taught. Rûmî took over those teaching duties after his father’s death. In 1244, he met the famed Sufi Shams al-Dîn Tabrîzî in Konya (they may have met previously in Syria), and the two became inseparable partners in the rapture of absolute, mystical love of God. This relationship seems to have been the cause of Rûmî’s turn to mystical poetry. Rûmî’s relationship with Shams dominated his life, eclipsing responsibilities to family and students, who exiled Shams to Syria. Rûmî’s eldest son, Sultan Walad, recalled Shams because the separation was heartbreaking for Rûmî. Their previous behavior resumed, leading another of Rûmî’s sons to conspire successfully with his students to murder Shams. Soon thereafter, Rûmî entered into a similar relationship with Salâh al-Dîn Zarkûb.