Maulana Rumi: Universality and humility that touched the world

Culture Contributor
Reading Corner
Maulana Rumi
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The message of eminent Persian mystic poet Maulana Rumi who died 700 years before has truly stood the test of time.

“When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.”

Poet Maulana Rumi believed that all human beings belong to the same origin. He thought human salvation is possible only through loving God and His creations i.e. human beings. According to him physical aspects of human life race, color, language and culture cause differences but if we go deeper into the soul we can find harmony in humanity which holds mankind.

This is the universality of thought and feeling which gives a global stature to the Muslim Sufi poet Rumi to whom UNESCO dedicated 2007 as the “Year of Rumi,”. Surprisingly, Rumi born in Balkh (present-day Afghanistan and the then part of Persian Empire) in 1207, has been the bestselling poet in the United States in the 1990s, surpassing European great writers like Shakespeare, homer, and American Robert Frost, etc.

Rumi settled in the Roman Anatolia region Konya (Present-day Turkey) after his father who was also a Muslim scholar had migrated there from Balkh. He inherited the position of a theologian and a teacher at the age of 25 after his father’s death.

Life-changing meeting of Maulana Rumi with Shams

Rumi met Shams-e-Tabrizi a wandering dervish who came from the city of Tabriz (present-day Iran Azerbaijan) to Konya in 1244. According to Rumi, his life transformed from a bookish scholar to an explorer of love and truth after meeting Shams.

Maulana Rumi first met Shams while teaching students, near a pool. Shams came and pointed to the books and said “What are these for “? Rumi replied, “This is something you can’t understand,”?

Shams is said to have thrown the books into the water. And then Rumi recovered them from the water. Surprisingly, the books were not wet. Rumi was astonished and asked that what had happened. Shams replied that was something he would not understand. Shams symbolically showed Rumi the path of love instead of books.

It is said that Shams stayed for three years with Maulana Rumi. Then, Shams suddenly disappeared which saddened him because he lost his spiritual companion.

Rumi fell into deep pain and outpoured more than 60,000 verses of poetry which are collected in two grand books named, Masnavi (Massnavi, Mathnawi) and Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi.

He mourned his loss and wrote poems and at last, he realized,

Why should I seek? I am the same as he.

His essence speaks through me.

I have been looking for myself.

Maulana Rumi’s emphasis on humility, peace and non-violence

Rumi’s way is the love of God. A desire for connecting with God and humility are essential parts of his way of love:

Knock, And He’ll open the door

Vanish, And He’ll make you shine like the sun

Fall, And He’ll raise you to the heavens

Become nothing, And He’ll turn you into everything

According to Maulana Rumi, negative thoughts lead to hatred and violence, hinder the human potential to realize. Therefore, he considered it to be the darkness of the human heart which needs to be removed to be able to understand the meaning of life.

Rumi’s thoughts connect human relations based on love, promotes religious harmony, a sense of dignity of all humans to be from the same origin, and the concept of human equality.

Rumi’s popularity and beyond

The rise in popularity of Rumi in the western world and the U.S can be traced to the highly admired translation of his poetry by Coleman Barks, titled “The Soul of Rumi”.

The need to popularize the poetry of Rumi among the Americans might have been felt at this juncture of history. Many of the American foundations also worked for the promotion of mysticism in other parts of the world. Although, the universality of Maulana Rumi’s message was relevant throughout the twentieth century too, which saw so many horrible wars.

Today, many Muslim societies face challenges in terms of polarization and violence which are the result of diverse religious interpretations. In this state of affairs, there is a serious need to highlight the literature that promotes peace and harmony in society. Therefore, Rumi’s powerful poetry can be relevant to respond to the challenges of violence and divisions among people.

Rumi died on 17th December 1273, buried in the 13th century Mevlâna Mausoleum, in Konya Turkey which remains the most popular pilgrimage site visited by believers of every major religion.



(Written by Ijaz Ali, a freelance journalist. He holds a Master Degree in European Studies from Germany and can be reached at [email protected] )

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