Essay on Rumi

Jalal al-Din Rumi is known to western readers mostly like a very talented poet who wrote mystical and love poems. Sometimes his poems are quick, joyful and whimsical and sometimes they are abstract and full of grief and loneliness. But the collections of poems don’t fully cover the life and creative work of this outstanding personality. In reality he is not less than a saint prophet and mystic for many people who follow the teaching of Sufism and find the truth of life in his poems. Rumi’s poems, stories, anecdotes are a unique phenomenon in the Persian literature due to their depth and richness of the themes they cover. Rumi knew Koran perfectly and main Sufi writers such as Sana’i, ‘Attar and Ibn ‘Arabi and cites these works very often. All his works fully reflect his religious beliefs and the transformation of his religious values and stay the source of inspirations for many centuries for both Sufi and Islam followers. Persian poems were usually not only declaimed but song also. That is one of the reasons all the works of Rumi are so poetic and even not a specialist can hear the music hidden in them and special rhythm and melody. One of Rumi’s favorite musical instruments was ney (flute) and his verses accompanied by this musical instrument sound like a magic put in music. And thought Rumi himself has mentioned for several times that content of his works matters much more than the form the admires of his works find his verses to be very skillfully written. There is a problem of translation the poems as they lose a lot of beauty when translated from Persian.

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Rumi was a son of an Islamic preacher born in the foothills of the Pamir Mountains (present Afghanistan) in 1207. He followed the path of his father and became a brilliant theologian, an outstanding scholar and a pillar of Islam and lead quite life in Anatolia (modern Turkey). These all lasted till the time he met his dervish teacher – Shams of Tabriz. This meeting has changed his entire life and gave him a new realization of the faith, God, Love and Sacrifice. He himself called the result of this meeting a complete spiritual transformation and even rebirth. Shams opened the teaching of Sufism to Rumi and became his spiritual father and patron. Shams and Rumi spent several years together, while Rumi was uncovering the path of Sufi which could be achieved only trough «disciplining and training one’s soul, watching over one’s heart and concentrating the mind on God» (“Past and Present, East and West” by Franklin Lewis, p. 34). Sufism is a mystic school of Islam which proclaims the Unity with God which can be achieved through asceticism and self-perfection. Sufism states that developing the inner knowledge, love and intuition one can reflect these spiritual qualities in the world and make it better. The teaching of Sufism is a teaching of mutual Love and God. God and Love are synonyms for Sufi. To see the beauty around, to feel love to everything and everybody that surrounds you means to feel God for Sufi. Theses are the truth proclaimed by Rumi.

Don’t worry so much about livelihood.
Your livelihood will turn out as it should.
Be constantly occupied instead
with listening to God.

(Rumi, Mathnawi II:450-454)

One can not detest anything in the world as every blade of grass, every sound of the bird singing and even a killer who keeps the knife in his hand are the incarnations of God and deserve for your love not less than the dearest people who surround you. Developing love and trust to the Universe and obedience in their hearts people can become a source of love and wisdom and give out these qualities to others helping their mental transformation. But Sufi way isn’t that simple to follow. This is the way of self-disavowal and sacrifices. It needs a great courage to overcome our ego-imprisonment and self-importance. Rumi states in his poems that the destruction of ego helps us to realize our true essence and join higher Self – the source of life and eternal loving energy of the Universe.

I wonder
from these thousand of “me’s”,
which one am I?

(Rumi, “Hidden Musi”p.104)

In his poems Rumi teaches people to experience new sense of self, transform their relationships and enhance their creative capacities. Reaching the higher Self and getting out of the endless labyrinth of “me’s” born by the changeable ego is the higher ultimate goal of Sufism and it became the goal Rumi’s life and main theme of his works. Rumi also believed that only through sacrifice the upper divine truth could be achieved. The soul should patiently stand the painful process of inner transformation as this process includes the “death” of ego and old personality and the death is always painful. Rumi says about the soul which burn in fire like metal should be burnt according to the alchemical teachings to become gold. «What is Tawhid? To burn one’s self before the One»(Rumi, Mathnawi II: 415) states Rumi in his work and this sacrifice is nothing in comparison with the treasures of the higher truth the souls gets after the transformation. There is no treasure that exists on the Earth which can be compared to the treasure of joining God (Allah) and obtaining the God-like nature. But to join the divine Unity, man has to die unto himself.

Rumi was very disappointed after the death of Shams and he could never forget years spent with Shams. The years of teaching resulted the appearance of the most extensive work by Rumi called “Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrizi” dedicated to his teacher and moral mentor. It’s a book of light grief and hope, despair and seeking for the way out. Rumi has even signed Sham’s name in the end of the work instead of his own to show his respect and give the honors to the man he owned so much. “Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrizi” consists of ghazals (lyrical poems) which are fulfilled with the special rhythm and music and create the sense of ecstasy in everybody who reads them. Second work produced by Jalal al-Din Rumi is called the “Mathnawi” and contains the main aspects of the moral and religious teaching of the Master. The “Mathawi” is more didactical work that the “Diwan” and contains instructions and directions for those, who would like to follow the way of search and Love, the way Rumi has passed himself. Nearly twenty-six thousand verses of poetry which consist six volumes of the “Mathawi” were written during three years but it took much more time for Rumi to sort them out and put the work in order. The followers of his teaching and the admires of his works appreciated the poems so much that even new musical forms were invented in order to sing the poems of “Mathawi”. This work describes the author’s journey in his search of the truth of life and all those who read it voluntary or involuntary join the author in his search. The book includes sacred history, tales, the writings of the Sufi teachers, Koran interpretations and a lot of other sources of wisdom which give us the insight into the inner world of the author and Sufi teaching. It’s hard to find any other work which would contain so many sources and would combine them so organically into the whole unite which can be a guide to the seekers of the Sufi wisdom and a very interesting reading for those who have only historical and literary interests in this book. The theme of love which is one of the main themes of Sufism becomes the core theme of all Rumi’s works. This secret feeling penetrates every word written by Master and all his poems become the anthems which glorify Love and Beauty.

One’s love is the fire
that bums away doubt;
The light of day sweeps
away all mental notion.

(Rumi, Mathnawi II, p.502)

God and love are the higher ultimate goals which can be achieved by the person. But God for Sufi isn’t an unachievable supreme power which can never be reached. Sufi stated that the heart awaken can see God in every thing that surrounds us. Every living creature and every thing existing is not only a creation of God but also a part of Him. The longing and searching for the union with the divine, with the only creator is the main theme which accompanies all the works of Rumi and all his life. His poems became the source of inspiration for many his contemporaries and many generations afterwards. Musicians, painters, poets and writers get inspiration from his genius works written in the universal language – language of Love.

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