Other literary forms

(World Poets and Poetry)

Among the prose works of Jall al-Dn Rm (REW-mee), a collection of transcribed talks titled Fh m fhi (early 1200’s; Discourses of Rumi, 1961) deserves special mention. While in its spiritual messages and reflections this book is no less dense and subtle than The Mathnav of Jallu’ddn Rm, its free and informal prose style—in its original Persian as well as in the English translation by A. J. Arberry—provides a suitable introduction to the poet’s teachings. A book of correspondences (Maktubt, 1335; Letters, 1983) and a collection of seven sermons, Majles-e Sab’a (1315-1319; Seven Sessions, 1983), are also attributed to Rm.


(World Poets and Poetry)

Speaking of Jall al-Dn Rm and The Mathnav of Jallu’ddn Rm, the well-known fourteenth century Persian Sufi poet Jami said, “He is not a prophet and yet he has given us a Holy Book.” The British Orientalist R. A. Nicholson, after having devoted much of his life to the study and translation of Rm’s works, wrote,Today the words I applied to the author of the Mathnawi thirty-five years ago, “the greatest mystical poet of any age,” seems to me no more than just. Where else shall we find such panorama of universal existence unrolling itself through Time and Eternity?

The American author and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm praised Rm as “a man of profound insight into the nature of man.”

These are but a few examples of countless tributes bestowed on the venerated Persian poet, who is also well known for having laid the foundations of what came to be known as the Order of Whirling Dervishes. All the same, Rm himself made no claims to any poetic accomplishments. Of writing poetry, he once said, “I do it for the sake of these people who come to see me and hope that I’d gladden their hearts a little bit. So I recite a poem or two for them. Otherwise what do I care for poetry?” (from Discourses of Rumi). This was no false modesty but the expression of the genuine feeling of a man who wanted, first and foremost, to unburden his listeners and readers of the sorrow that comes with ignorance and to awaken them to what Søren Kierkegaard called “possibility of life.” In the long run, Rm’s greatest achievement has been just that—at least in the case of those readers who have found him, in the words of the celebrated Urdu and Persian poet Muḥammad Iqbl, an opener of the doors: “What do I need of logicians’ long polemics or professors’ tedious lectures/ When a couple of lines from Rm or Jami open the closed doors?”

A Rm revival, even if on a small scale, in the United States inspired poets such as Robert Bly, Jack Marshall, and W. S. Merwin to produce modern renditions of some of the Persian poet’s works.


(World Poets and Poetry)

Baldock, John. The Essence of Rm. London: Arcturus, 2006. A compact biography of the poet that examines his life and his poetry and how they are interrelated.

Lewis, Franklin. Rm, Past and Present, East and West: The Life, Teachings, and Poetry of Jall al-Dn Rm. Rev. ed. Oxford, England: Oneworld, 2008. A comprehensive study of Rm’s life and times, using primary sources by and about Rm to draw pictures of his legacy and to discuss his continuing significance. Looks also at The Sufi Path of Love, Rm’s children, Rm and the Muslim and Western worlds, mythology, and media representation. Maps, bibliography, index.

Mannani, Manijeh. Divine Deviants: The Dialectics of Devotion in the Poetry of Donne and Rm. New York: Peter Lang, 2007. Compares and contrasts the poetry of Rm and John Donne, both of whom were religious poets, examining topics such as religious duty and mystical transcendence.

Moyne, John A. Rm and the Sufi Tradition. 1998. Reprint. Costa Mesa, Calif.: Mazda, 2009. The well-known translator of Rm offers this brief monograph analyzing the mystical roots and expression of Rm in the context of Sufism. Glossary, bibliographical references.

Schimmel, Annemarie. As Through a Veil: Mystical Poetry in Islam. 1982. Reprint. Oxford, England: Oneworld, 2001. In five densely annotated essays (originally lectures), the author demonstrates the centrality of Rm to all subsequent Sufistic literary expression. The chapter on Rm reviews his life, suggests a chronology of his lyrics, and describes images and symbols for love in his verse.

_______. Rm’s World: The Life and Work of the Great Sufi Poet. 1992. Reprint. Boston: Shambala, 2001. A biography by the leading Rm scholar. Examines the relationship between his poetry and Sufi beliefs.

Tourage, Mahdi. Rm and the Hermeneutics of Eroticism. Boston: Brill, 2007. Explores the bawdy tales and eroticism included in Rm’s poetry, which was used to convey mystical knowledge.

Zweig, Connie. A Moth to the Flame: The Life of the Sufi Poet Rm. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Written in an accessible style, this biography is meant to entertain while informing.