Jalaluddin Rumi is thought of as ‘one of the great spiritual masters and poetical geniuses of mankind’. He was the founder of the Mawlawi Sufi order, a leading mystical brotherhood of Islam. Born in Wakhsh (Tajikistan) under the administration of Balkh in 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.
When his father, Bahaduddin Valad, passed away; a wandering dervish, Shamsuddin of Tabriz, introduced him into the mystical path. His love and his bereavement for the death of Shams found their expression in a surge of music, dance and lyric poems, `Divani Shamsi Tabrizi’. Rumi succeeded his father in 1231 as professor in religious sciences. At 24, Rumi was an already accomplished scholar in religious and positive sciences.
Rumi is the author of six volume didactic epic work, the `Mathnawi’, and discourses,`Fihi ma Fihi’, written to introduce his disciples into metaphysics. The ‘general theme’ underlying Rumi’s poetry is the absolute love of God- the one. His influence on thought, literature and all forms of aesthetic expression in the world of Islam cannot be overrated. Rumi died on December 17, 1273. Men of five faiths followed his bier.
The following poem, and extracts below, are personal favourites of mine.
These Spiritual Window Shoppers
These spiritual window-shoppers,
who idly ask, ‘How much is that?’
Oh, I’m just looking.
They handle a hundred items and put them down,
shadows with no capital.
What is spent is love and two eyes wet with weeping.
But these walk into a shop,
and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment,
in that shop.
Where did you go? “Nowhere.”
What did you have to eat? “Nothing much.”
Even if you don’t know what you want,
buy _something,_ to be part of the exchanging flow.
Start a huge, foolish project,
It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.
Other Extracts from poetry by Rumi:
I died from minerality and became vegetable;
And From vegetativeness I died and became animal.
I died from animality and became man.
Then why fear disappearance through death?
Next time I shall die
Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;
After that, soaring higher than angels –
What you cannot imagine,
I shall be that.
Soul receives from soul that knowledge,
therefore not by book nor from tongue.
If knowledge of mysteries come after emptiness of mind,
that is illumination of heart.
If thou wilt be observant and vigilant,
thou wilt see at every moment the response to thy action.
Be observant if thou wouldst have a pure heart,
for something is born to thee in consequence of every action.
The Mawlawi rites samâ symbolise the divine love and mystical ecstasy; they aim at union with the Divine. The music and the dance are designed to induce a meditative state on the love of God. Mawlawi music contains some of the most core elements of Eastern classical music and it serves mainly as accompaniment for poems of Rumi and other Sufi poets.
The music of the samâ (ceremony) is generally conducted by the chief drummer. Percussion accompaniment is supplied by the kudums (small kettledrums) and cymbals; melody is provided by the Ney (reed flute), the string instruments and the voice.
The Dance “The dervishes turn timelessly and effortlessly. They whirl, turning round on their own axis and moving also in orbit. The right hand is turned up towards heaven to receive God’s overflowing mercy which passes through the heart and is transmitted to earth with the down turned left hand. While one foot remains firmly on the ground, the other crosses it and propels the dancer round. The rising and falling of the right foot is kept constant by the inner rhythmic repetition of the name of “Allah-Al-lah, Al-lah…“ The ceremony can be seen as a great crescendo in three stages: knowing God, seeing God and uniting with God.”
The words and even syllables of the poetry are connected to the musical sentences.