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Life of Rumi

Reason is powerless in the expression of Love. Love alone is capable of revealing the truth of Love and being a Lover. The way of our prophets is the way of Truth. If you want to live, die in Love; die in Love if you want to remain alive.


I silently moaned so that for a hundred centuries to come,
The world will echo in the sound of my hayh‚1
It will turn on the axis of my hayh‚t

(Divan, 562:7)

The name Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi stands for Love and ecstatic flight into the infinite. Rumi is one of the great spiritual masters and poetical geniuses of mankind and was the founder of the Mawlawi Sufi order, a leading mystical brotherhood of Islam.

Rumi was 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 traveled 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, Rumi succeeded his father in 1231 as professor in religious sciences. Rumi 24 years old, was an already accomplished scholar in religious and positive sciences.

He was introduced into the mystical path by a wandering dervish, Shamsuddin of Tabriz. 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 is the author of six volume didactic epic work, the `Mathnawi', called as the 'Koran in Persian' by Jami, and discourses, `Fihi ma Fihi', written to introduce his disciples into metaphysics.

If there is any general idea underlying Rumi's poetry, it is the absolute love of God. His influence on thought, literature and all forms of aesthetic expression in the world of Islam cannot be overrated.

Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi died on December 17, 1273. Men of five faiths followed his bier. That night was named Sebul Arus (Night of Union). Ever since, the Mawlawi dervishes have kept that date as a festival.

The day I've died, my pall is moving on -
But do not think my heart is still on earth!
Don't weep and pity me: "Oh woe, how awful!"
You fall in devil's snare - woe, that is awful!
Don't cry "Woe, parted!" at my burial -
For me this is the time of joyful meeting!
Don't say "Farewell!" when I'm put in the grave -
A curtain is it for eternal bliss.
You saw "descending" - now look at the rising!
Is setting dangerous for sun and moon?
To you it looks like setting, but it's rising;
The coffin seems a jail, yet it means freedom.
Which seed fell in the earth that did not grow there?
Why do you doubt the fate of human seed?
What bucket came not filled from out the cistern?
Why should the Yusaf "Soul" then fear this well?
Close here your mouth and open it on that side.
So that your hymns may sound in Where- no-place!

Schimmel, Annemarie. Look! This Is Love: Poems of Rumi.
Boston, Mass.: Shambhala Publications, 1991.


Wirling Dervishes

As waves upon my head the circling curl,

So in the sacred dance weave ye and whirl.

Dance then, O heart, a whirling circle be.

Burn in this flame - is not the candle He?


The Mawlawi rites sam 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 sam (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 words and even syllables of the poetry are connected to the musical sentences. "Dervish music cannot be written in notes. Notes do not include the soul of the dervish."

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.

what is sam‚? A message from the fairy, hidden in your heart;
with their letter comes serenity to the estranged heart.
The tree of wisdom comes to bloom with this breeze;
The inner pores of existence open to this tune.
When the spiritual cock crows, the dawn arrives;
When Mars beats his drum victory is ours.
The essence of the soul was fighting the barrel of the body;
When it hears the sound of the daf it matures and calms down.
A wondrous sweetness is sensed in the body;
It is the sugar that the flute and the flute-player bring to the listener.

(Divan, 1734:1-5)
Translated by Fatemeh Keshavarz,
'Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalal al-Din Rumi',
University of South Carolina Press, 1998.


The Ceremony

Whoever has heard of me, let him prepare to come and see me; whoever desires me, let him search for me. He will find me - then let him choose none other than I.

                                      Shamsuddin of Tabrizi

The steps of the way to union with the Divine are performed according to strict rules. Within a circle the sheikh stands at the "post". It is the highest spiritual position, marked by a red rug indicating the direction of Mecca. Red is the colour of union and of the manifested world. The musicians' platform faces. There are 24 colour of union and of the manifested world. The musicians' platform faces the sheikh; the whirling dervishes take their places to his left.

The N'aat, a poem of praise to the Prophet, opens the ceremony. It is followed by a recitation from the Qur'an. The kudums (drums) then break the silence to introduce the flute solo that conveys the yearning for the union with God. The next step is the Sultan Veled Walk when the dervishes, following the sheikh, circle the hall three times, stopping to bow to each other at the "post".

The first selam (salutation) introduces the dance: the dervish obtains his permission to whirl by kissing the hand of the sheikh. The master of the dance directs him to his position: As the musicians play and the chorus chants, the sheikh stands at the "post" and the dervishes unfold and turn repeating their inaudible "Allah, Allah, Allah. . ." This part of the ceremony lasts approximately ten minutes and is repeated four times. At the fourth selam the sheikh joins the whirling. He represents the centre (the sun); the dervishes represent the orbiting planets turning around him and around themselves in the solar system of Rumi.

The Ceremony is concluded by the recitation of the Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Qur'an, followed by a prayer to Mowlana and Shamsuddin of Tabriz. All dervishes then join in chanting the "Hu" which is the all-embracing Name of God, the One.


What is to be done, O Moslems? for I do not recognize myself.
I am neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Gabr, nor Moslem.
I am not of the East, nor of the West, nor of the land, nor of the sea;
I am not of Nature's mint, nor of the circling' heaven.
I am not of earth, nor of water, nor of air, nor of fire;
I am not of the empyrean, nor of the dust, nor of existence, nor of entity.
I am not of India, nor of China, nor of Bulgaria, nor of Saqsin
I am not of the kingdom of 'Iraqian, nor of the country of Khorasan
I am not of the this world, nor of the next, nor of Paradise, nor of Hell
I am not of Adam, nor of Eve, nor of Eden and Rizwan.
My place is the Placeless, my trace is the Traceless ;
'Tis neither body nor soul, for I belong to the soul of the Beloved.
I have put duality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one;
One I seek, One I know J One I see, One I call.
He is the first, He is the last, He is the outward, He is the inward;
I know none other except 'Ya Hu' and 'Ya man Hu.'
I am intoxicated with Love's cup, the two worlds have passed out of my ken ;
I have no business save carouse and revelry.
If once in my life I spent a moment without thee,
From that time and from that hour I repent of my life.
If once in this world I win a moment with thee,
I will trample on both worlds, I will dance in triumph for ever.
O Shamsi Tabriz, I am so drunken in this world,
That except of drunkenness and revelry I have no tale to tell.

From Divan-i Shams
Mathnawi and Divan on a CD


Further reading:

Excerpt from Rumi, A Spiritual Biogrpahy (Lives & Legacies) by Leslie Wines, Barbara Ellis (editor)
The Life and Work of Jalaluddin Rumi, Afzal Iqbal,  (August 1999) Oxford University PressI Am Wind Your Are Fire: The Life and Work of Rumi Annemarie Schimmel,  (December 1992) Shambhala Publications
Rumi - Past and Present, East and West  by Franklin D. Lewis Published 2000 Oneworld Publications
The Heritage of Sufism Volume 1: Classical Persian Sufism from Its Origins to Rumi (700-1300) Leonard Lewisohm (Editor), Javad Nurbakhsh, 24 June, 1999, Oneworld Publications



Last updated: March 16, 2003