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Prof. Dr. Erkan Türkmen


Rumi’s full name is “Mevlana Jelal al-Din al-Rumi al- Balkhi”. He is known as “Mevlana (our master)” in Turkey and as “Rumi (the Anatolian)” in the western world. He was also called Khudawandigar (Our lord) and Mevlevi-yi Manawi in some eastern countries. Rumi can be regarded as a mystic poet, Sufi, theosophist or a thinker but if one could ask him, “Who you really are?” He would say, “I am nothing more than a humble lover of God”. A true lover of God has no definite nationality, language or race for he loves God’s creation without discrimination.


Rumi wrote his great work “Masnevi” in six volumes which gives the message of universal love, unity, tolerance and global peace leading man kind to the highest stage of perfection. For more than eight centuries his Masnevi has impact on many mystic poets. Among the most famous ones are Goethe, M.Iqbal and Tagore. In addition to these, there are many Turkish, Indian and Iranian poets who followed his path. Lately, his fame has reached the U.S.A and Europe.


He was born at Balkh (once a popular city of Khorasan) in the year 1207. His first teacher was his father Bahaeddin (Sultan ul-Ulama), who was a well respected religious scholar and sincere lover of God. Three years before the furious army of the Mongols invaded Khorasan, Rumi’s father left his mother land and headed towards Central Anatolia with his family and followers. First he went to Mecca and from there to Damascus, and then to Karaman (100 km. south of Konya). There the emigrant family stayed for some years and, finally, they moved to Konya, the capital city of the Great Seljuk Empire. There the ruling Sultan Qayqubad gave them a warm welcome.


Rumi studied Arabic, Persian, theology, jurisprudence, philosophy and History of Islam. At Balkh and Damascus he had good chance to meet Islamic scholars with whom he studied and discussed commentaries on the Koran. At Konya he was finally promoted to the job of teaching Fikkh and Kelam at Medrises. It was in the year 1244 that he met his spiritual master Shams of Tabrezi at Konya, who brought upheaval in his life. He gave up teaching and began to live a simple life like a dervish following his master. In addition, he began to perform Sema in the company of singers and music in the streets or in gardens. The singers sang love poems for God. Rumi also recited poems which were later collected under the title “Divan or Divan-i Shams Tabrezi”. His most famous work is the Masnevi which brought him everlasting fame. It covers not only teachings of Islamic mysticism but also it traces back the Greek, Roman and Hindu elements that suit the sayings of Prophet Muhammad and the Koran. In order to make the mystic elements easy to comprehend, he coloured it with anecdotes. Below we give only two examples of his anecdotes, chosen form his Masnevi, that may throw light upon his understanding of universal love and religious tolerance:


a) Moses and a shepherd: One day when Moses going towards the Mount Sinai, he happened to meet with a shepherd who was talking to God in this manner, “O God, where are you? Show me so that I may become your servant. I may clean your clothes, comb your hair, kill your lice; and sew your clothes and fetch milk for you. I may rub your feet and kiss your hands and when it is time for sleep, I may sweep a place for your bed”. When Moses heard this speech he became angry and said, “O foolish shepherd, you are not a believer (Muslim) you are an infidel by talking to God like that. God is pure spirit and has no such needs as you think”. On hearing these words the shepherd said, “Moses! You have tied my tongue and burnt my body because of repentance”. The shepherd tore his clothes away and disappeared into the jungle. Just then revelation came to Moses from God, “Why have you separated my servant from me? I have sent to draw people to union with me and not to drive them away. I never look at people’s outer shape and appearances; instead I look at their inner feelings and hearts. Though their words may seem to be simple and meaningless, but these are their humble hearts that count because a word is accidental while the heart is the real substance (M II / 1720-1770). When Moses saw the shepherd he apologised and said to him, “Congratulation! I have good news for you. Don’t care much for formalities, pray to God the way you wish”.


b) The story of grapes and four friends: A certain man gave a dirham to four men who had worked for him. One o them who was Persian said, “I will buy Angur for this money”. The second one, an Arab, said, “No, I don’t want angur but I want Unab my favourite fruit”. The third man was a Turk, who said, “This is my money, I don’t want Angur or Unab; I want Üzüm. The fourth one who was a Greek said, “You all stop talking. All I need is Strafil”. Thus fighting continued among them. Actually, they were all ignorant. If there had been an esoteric master he would calm them down and would say, “Give me the money I will buy you all what you desire. For all these four words mean “Grape”. God may have different names, but He is what He is.


The aim of this booklet is to provide a bouquet of roses from Rumi’s rose garden of Masnevi to those who cannot read all the volumes. The original Persian text of each verse has been given along with the semi versified translation that may give the similar taste which the native speaker of Persian enjoys.

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