Jalal al-din al-Rumi 1207–1273

Islamic Sufi mystic who is considered the greatest religious poet in the Persian language. Rumi was born in Afghanistan but spent much of his life in modern-day Turkey, his family having left Afghanistan because of the approach of the invading Mongol armies. After working briefly as a teacher in madrasas, Islamic colleges, he met several spiritual teachers who exposed him to mystic currents in Islam. Most im- portant among these was Shamz al-Din Tabrizi, a mystic who belonged to the Dervish order. Rumi developed a close relationship with Shamz, whose disappearance in mysterious circumstances inspired the former teacher to turn to poetry. Rumi’s primary work is the Mathnawi, or Poem in Rhyming Couplets. It contains some twenty-six thousand couplets exploring the many manifestations of and experiences of divine love, which was the focus of Sufi mysticism. The Mathnawi is considered by some to be the Qur’an of the Persian language since it is considered to contain the essence of the Holy Book’s teachings. Beyond his writings, which included prose treatises as well as poetry, Rumi was the founder of the Mawliwaya Sufi order, known in the west as the Whirling Dervishes. Rumi’s influence on Sufism was so widespread that his work was thought to have helped revive Islam in Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia after the chaos of the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, and his tomb in Konya, Turkey, remains a pilgrimage site. Rumi’s work has also become increasingly familiar in the west among those seeking commonalities among the major world religions, an effort the poet himself would have appreciated. SEE ALSO: al-Ghazali; Islam; Sufism

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