The Life, Works and Teachings of Jalal al-Din Rumi

The Life, Works and Teachings of Jalal al-Din Rumi

William C. Chittick

Jalal al-Din Rumi was born in Balkh in present-day Afghanistan in the year A.H. 604/A.D. 1207. 1 His father, Baha’ Walad, was a well-known preacher, jurisprudent, and Sufi who traced his spiritual lineage to Ahmad Ghazzali, brother of the more famous Muhammad Ghazzali and master of such well-known Sufis as `Ayn al-Qudat Hamadani. As both a jurisprudent and a Sufi, Baha’ Walad was an authority in the exoteric sciences related to the Shari`ah or Divine Law and the esoteric sciences related to the Tariqah or Spiritual Path. In the former capacity he guided ordinary Moslems in their religious duties and in the latter he led a select group of disciples on the way of self-purification and spiritual perfection.

Baha’ Walad is the author of the Ma`arif (”Divine Sciences”), a relatively lengthy compendium of spiritual teaching with which Rumi was thoroughly familiar, the influence of its style and content upon his works being readily apparent. In the Ma`arif Baha’ Walad demonstrates his firm faith in the Islamic revelation and undertakes an outspoken defense of its spiritual and esoteric teachings as opposed to the blind legalism of so many of his contemporaries. In many instances he wields the sword of intellectual and spiritual discernment against the policies and opinions of such men as Muhammad Khwarazmshah, the ruler of the time, who sometimes attended his sermons; and Fakhr al-Din Razi, the famous theologian and author of several classics of Islamic thought, who also lived in Balkh. Around the year 616/1219 the Mongols were moving ever closer to Balkh. Baha’ Walad left the city with his family and many followers to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, knowing that he would probably never return. It is said that on the way he stopped in Nishapur, where `Attar was an old man, the acknowledged master of expressing Sufi teachings in verse. `Attar presented him with a copy of his Asrarnamah (“The Book of Mysteries”), telling him, “Your son will soon be kindling fire in all the world’s lovers of God.”

After making the pilgrimage, Baha’ Walad set out for Asia Minor, where he was received warmly in Konya (in present day Turkey) by the Seljuk king `Ala’ al-Din Kayqubad and his erudite vizier, Mu`in al-Din Parwanah, who was later to become one of Rumi’s most influential devotees. Baha’ Walad soon occupied a high position among the city’s scholars and was given the title Sultan al-`ulama’, “Sultan of the men of knowledge.”

In the tradition of his forebears, Rumi began studying the exoteric sciences at an early age. These included Arabic grammar, prosody, the Koran, jurisprudence (the science of the Shari`ah), principles of jurisprudence, Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet), Koranic commentary, history, dogmatics, theology, logic, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy. By the time his father died in 628/1231, Rumi was an acknowledged master in these fields. His name is to be found in the old sources among the lists of the doctors of the Law belonging to the Hanafi school. Given his erudition, it is not surprising that at the young age of twenty-four he was asked to assume his father’s duties as a preacher and jurisprudent.

When Rumi took over his father’s position, he must already have been well versed in the spiritual techniques and esoteric sciences of Sufism. Since he had been raised by an outstanding Sufi master, lie could hardly have avoided acquaintance with Sufism, even had he been so inclined. However this may be, most sources state that his formal training in Sufism began when Burhan al-Din Tirmidhi, a high-ranking disciple of Rumi’s own father, came to Konya in 629/1232. Until Tirmidhi’s death in 638/1240, Rumi practiced the discipline of the spiritual path under his guidance.

After Tirmidhi’s death, Rumi occupied himself mainly with preaching to and guiding the people of Konya. He gained widespread fame as one of the most respected doctors of the Law, while he continued his own spiritual practices as a Sufi adept. As S. H. Nasr has pointed out, by this time Rumi was already an accomplished Sufi master. 2 In other words, he had traversed the stations of the Sufi path and realized the direct and immediate vision of God he discusses so constantly in his verse. But in spite of his spiritual attainments, Rumi’s outward life remained the same as it had always been. He preserved the customary activities and trappings of a staid and honored doctor of the Law. Sometimes he would discuss the spiritual mysteries in his sermons, but he never gave any outward indication that he was any different than other jurisprudents and lawyers for having knowledge of them. Then in the year 642/1244 the enigmatic figure Shams al-Din of Tabriz came to Konya, and Rumi was transformed.

I was the country’s sober ascetic, I used to teach from the pulpit but destiny made me one of Thy hand-clapping

lovers. (D 22784) 3My hand always used to hold a Koran, but now it holds Love’s flagon.

My mouth was filled with glorification, but now it recites only poetry and songs. (D 24875-76)

Passion for that Beloved took me away from erudition and reciting the Koran until I became as insane and obsessed as I am.

I had followed the way of the prayer carpet and the mosque with all sincerity and effort. I wore the marks of asceticism to increase my good works.

Love came into the mosque and said, “Oh great teacher! Rend the shackles of existence! Why are you tied to prayer carpets?

Let not your heart tremble before the blows of My sword! Do you want to travel from knowledge to vision? Then lay down your head!

If you are a profligate and a scoundrel, do justice to troublemaking! If you are beautiful and fair, why do you remain behind the veil?” (D26404-08)

Shams-i Tabrizi’s influence upon Rumi was decisive, for outwardly he was transformed from a sober jurisprudent to an intoxicated celebrant of the mysteries of Divine Love. One could say that without Shams, there would have been no Rumi. Nevertheless, one must not overestimate the role that Shams played, since Rumi was already an accomplished adept when Shams arrived on the scene. It is true that Shams may have guided him to the realization of certain stations of perfection to which he had not already gained access. But on the whole one must incline toward Nasr’s interpretation:

It seems that Shams al-Din was a divinely sent spiritual influence which in a sense “exteriorized” Rumi’s inner contemplative states in the form of poetry and set the ocean of his being into a motion which resulted in vast waves that transformed the history of Persian literature.4

After a period of one or two years during which Shams was Rumi’s constant companion, Shams left Konya suddenly, to Rumi’s great dismay. Rumi was able to persuade him to return, but shortly thereafter, around the year 645/1247 he again vanished, never to be seen again. According to some reports, he was murdered by jealous devotees. However this may be, he remained alive in Rumi’s heart and became the subject of numerous ghazals or “love poems” in the Diwan which bears his name. Particularly poignant are the poems which sing of separation from Shams. But in these verses as in all of Rumi’s poetry, it quickly becomes clear that the outward form is but a veil over the inward meaning. Separation from Shams al-Din, the “Sun of Religion,” was but the appearance; separation from the Divine Beloved, “the Sun of the Sun,” was the reality.

Unlike most Sufi poets or Persian poets in general Rumi practically never ends a ghazal with his own name, but either mentions no one or refers to Shams or certain other figures. 5 In most of these verses, Shams represents the image of the Divine Beloved, the Divine Sun, as reflected in the perfect saint. But Rumi often seems to have substituted Shams’s name for his own as an act of humility and an acknowledgment of Shams’s decisive role in his own transformation. In such lines, although he is singing of Shams’s perfection, in fact he is uttering the mysteries of his own union with God and the exalted spiritual station this implies.

Indeed, Shams-i Tabrizi is but a pretextit is I who display the beauty of God’s Gentleness, I! (D 16533)

In this connection, the following anecdote from one of the oldest and most authoritative of Rumi’s biographies is worth quoting:

One day we were in the garden of Husam al-Din Chalabi with Mawlana (“our master”: Rumi). He had put both his blessed feet in a brook and was speaking about the divine sciences. In the midst of his words he began praising the attributes of the king of the fakirs, Mawlana Shams al-Din Tabrizi. Badr al-Din Walad the teacher, one of the greatest and most perfect of the disciples, sighed and said, “What a shame! What a loss!”

Mawlana said to him, “Why is it a loss? What shame is it? What is this loss all about? What caused it? What business has loss among us?”

Badr al-Din became embarassed and looked at the ground. He said, “I was lamenting the fact that I never met Shams al-Din Tabrizi and never benefitted from his luminous presence. All my sorrow and regret arose from that.”

Mawlana remained silent for a long moment. Then he said, “Even though you have not attained to the presence of Mawlana Shams al- Dinmay God magnify his mentionby the holy spirit of my father, you have attained to someone from each of whose hairs dangle a hundred thousand Shams-i Tabrizis, each bewildered at the comprehension of the mystery of his mystery.” 6

After the disappearance of Shams, Rumi did not continue with his preaching for the general public, but turned all his attention to the training of Sufi initiates. From this time to the end of his life in 672/1273 he continued his profuse outpouring of inspired poetry.

The Works

Rumi’s major works are the Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrizi of some 40,000 verses and the Mathnawi of about 25,000 verses. In addition, three collections of his talks and letters have been preserved.

The Diwan (“Collected Poems”) comprises some 3,230 ghazals totalling 35,000 verses; 44 tarji`at, a type of poem composed of two or more ghazals, a total of 1,700 verses; and 2,000 ruba`iyyat or “quatrains.” The Diwan contains all of Rumi’s poetry other than the Mathnawi. It spans a period of almost thirty years, from sometime after the arrival of Shams in Konya to Rumi’s death. This is an important point, for it is often forgotten that a certain portion of the Diwan was composed concurrently with the Mathnawi, during the last twelve or fourteen years of Rumi’s life.

Although a third of the poems in the Diwan are dedicated explicitly to Shams, most of them make no mention of any person, often ending with such phrases as “Be silent!”; and a few praise such figures as Salah al-Din Zarkub and Husam al-Din Chalabi.7 Like Rumi himself, the former was originally a disciple of Burhan al-Din Tirmidhi, but later joined the circle of Rumi’s devotees. Chalabi was Rumi’s disciple and became the immediate cause of the composition of the Mathnawi. In the Diwan both of these figures play a role similar to that of Shams: They are mirrors in which Rumi contemplates the Divine Beloved.

The Mathnawi (“Couplets”) comprises six books of poetry in a didactic style, ranging in length from 3,810 to 4,915 verses. Whereas the Diwan contains Rumi’s individual ghazals and other miscellaneous poems arranged according to the rhyme scheme, the Mathnawi represents a single work which was composed in its present order.

The biographers state that Rumi began the Mathnawi at the request of his favorite disciple, Husam al-Din Chalabi, who had noticed that many of Rumi’s devotees spent a good deal of time reading the didactic poetry of Sana’i and `Attar, the two great masters of this genre before Rumi. Such works present Sufi teachings in a form readily accessible and easily memorized. They are much more suited to the warmth and fellowship of Sufi circles than the classical textbooks on the same subjects, which are often written in dry and stilted language. Such poetry could be read and enjoyed by anyone with a command of the language and a certain amount of spiritual “taste” or intuition (dhawq), while the textbooks could only be studied by those with formal training in the religious sciences.

One day Chalabi suggested to Rumi that he write a work in the didactic style of Sana’i and `Attar to complement his other poetry. Rumi immediately took a slip of paper out from his turban, upon which were written the first eighteen lines of the Mathnawi. From then on Rumi and Chalabi met regularly. Rumi would compose the poetry and Chalabi would write it down and then read it back to him. Their work began sometime around 658/1260 or 659/1261 and continued with certain delays until Rumi’s death. Since the sixth book of the work breaks off in the middle of a story, it seems that Rumi died without completing it.

Like other long didactic Sufi poems before it, the Mathnawi is a rambling collection of anecdotes and tales derived from a great variety of sources, from the Koran to the folk humor of the day. Each story is told to illustrate some point, and its moral is discussed in great detail. The subject matter of the anecdotes and more particularly the digressions runs the whole gamut of Islamic wisdom, with particular emphasis upon the inward or Sufi interpretation.

Most of the individual poems of the Diwan may be said to represent particular spiritual states or experiences, such as union with God or separation after union, described in appropriate images and symbols. Although the Diwan contains many short didactic passages, on the whole it appears as a collection of individual and separate crystallizations and concretizations of spiritual states undergone on the path to God. The overall “feeling” of the Diwan is one of spiritual intoxication and ecstatic love.

In contrast to the Diwan, the Mathnawi is relatively sober. It represents a reasoned and measured attempt to explain the various dimensions of spiritual life and practice to disciples intent upon following the Way. More generally, it is aimed at anyone who has time to sit down and ponder the meaning of life and existence.

In a sense one could say that the Diwan comprises so many flashes and gleams from the inward dimensions of Rumi’s spiritual life. Each poem is a symbolical image of a mystical state he has experienced on the path to God or after having attained to the Goal. But the Mathnawi is a commentary upon these mystical states and stations. It places them within the overall context of Islamic and Sufi teachings and practice. And it corrects the mistaken impression that one might receive by studying different poems in the Diwan in isolation and separating them from the wider context of Sufism and Islam.

Very similar in style and content to the Mathnawi is the prose work Fihi ma fihi (“In it is what is in it”), also written during the last few years of Rumi’s life. This work in fact represents transcriptions of talks given by Rumi to various disciples. Like the Mathnawi, it is very much a didactic work, explaining in detail and through a great variety of comparisons and analogies different dimensions of Sufi teachings.

A second prose work is Majalis-i sab`ah (“Seven Sessions”). This relatively short work comprises a number of sermons obviously delivered not to an audience comprised only of Sufis but to a larger public. The style and the fact that Rumi does not quote any of his own poetry place it in the early period of his life, before the meeting with Shams. One of the greatest authorities on Rumi holds that Rumi delivered these sermons before the death of his father when he was in his early twenties. 8 If this is so, its contents illustrate the fact that he was thoroughly imbued with Sufi teachings from his youth. This supports the view that the role of Shams-i Tabrizi was mainly that of exteriorizing his inward knowledge and spiritual states in the form of poetry.

Finally there are Rumi’s Makatib or “Letters,” 145 documents of an average length of one or two pages. Most of these are addressed to various princes and noblemen of Kenya and in fact are letters of recommendation or requests for various favors written on behalf of disciples or friends. A small number are addressed to family members and disciples. For the most part these letters do not deal with Rumi’s spiritual teachings except in passing; the majority of passages that do throw light on his teachings have been translated here. In contrast to many collections of letters by Sufi masters, the Makatib contain only one letter specifically addressed to someone who has asked for spiritual counsel (no. 68, partly translated in section II, B, 1).


The Teachings

Rumi’s voluminous works present a kaleidoscopic image of God, man, the world, and the interrelationship of these three realities. But in spite of the often bewildering complexity of the picture Rumi paints, all his expositions and explanations are so infused with a common perfume and so harmonious that one can readily agree with those who say that they are all reducible to a single sentence or phrase. Although his teachings can probably never be totally encompassed by any systematic exposition, certainly all of them express a single reality, the overriding reality of Rumi’s existence and of Islam itself: “There is no god but God.”

How many words the world contains! But all have one meaning. When you smash the jugs, the water is one. (D 32108)

Rumi never set out to write an organized textbook on Sufism or to give an exhaustive explanation of some or all of its teachings. Some of his contemporaries even objected to his unsystematic and anecdotal style, asking why there was no mention of “metaphysical discussions and sublime mysteries” (M III 4234). Many great Sufis of his day wrote erudite and systematic treatises on Sufi lore. But unlike them, Rumi did not “describe and define each station and stage by which the mystic ascends to God” (M III 4236). Rumi answers his detractors in a way that expresses clearly his own role as he perceived it:

When the Koran was revealed, the unbelievers criticized it in the same way.
They said, “It is only legends and contemptible tales. There is no profound investigation or lofty inquiry.
Little children understand it. It is nothing but a few commands about what is approved and disapproved.” (M III 4237-39)

In other words, “You may criticize my words if you like, but you should know that they are like God’s own words: They are a message of salvation for mankind.”

In many passages Rumi states clearly that his aim is not primarily to explain but to guide. His purpose in composing poetry and in speaking to his listeners is not to give them a scientific or scholarly exposition of this or that point of the Islamic teachings. Nor is it to explain to them what Sufism, the inward dimension of Islam, is all about. He only wants to make them realize that as human beings, they are bound by their very nature to turn toward God and to devote themselves totally to Him. 9

In fact, we can say about Rumi what we can say about numerous other figures in the history of Islamic thought: he takes the principle of the “profession of God’s Unity” (tawhid) as given and explains all that this principle implies for us as human beings in terms of our ideas, our activities, and our existence. But this simple statement cannot begin to tell us why Rumi has attracted so much attention from his own lifetime down to the present day. That must be sought not so much in what he is saying but in how he says it. As soon as one separates Rumi’s message from his own mode of expressing it, it becomes somehow dry and uninspiring. This is a major drawback of books about Rumi by dissecting his poetry and thought, they lose sight of his heart and soul. To appreciate Rumi in all his dimensions, one must read Rumi himself, not the scholarly commentators.

But the Western reader faces a number of obstacles to reading and understanding Rumi’s works. Leaving aside the well-known drawbacks of translations in general, there remain the constant references to Islamic teachings with which the reader may not be familiar. Rumi’s universe is shaped by the Koran, the Prophet, and the Moslem saints, just as Dante’s is shaped by Christ, the Bible, and the church. But fortunately, Rumi’s message is so universal and he is so liberal in his use of imagery drawn from sources common to all human experience that this obstacle is not a fundamental one. It can be overcome by a careful selection of texts. As a result his essential teachings can be presented with a great richness of symbolism and imagery yet unencumbered by long explanations of obscure points, however useful such explanations may be in their proper place.

A second obstacle is more difficult to overcome than the first: A thorough understanding of almost any passage in Rumi’s works presupposes an acquaintance with the whole body of his teachings. Rumi makes no attempt to begin simply and then gradually to lead the reader by stages into the profundities of Sufi teachings. His Diwan precludes such a procedure by its very nature. But even the Mathnawi, which from the beginning was a didactic work and which preserves its original form, makes no attempt to arrange material in terms of degrees of difficulty or complexity. From the first line Rumi alludes to a whole range of Sufi theory and practice.

In addition, Rumi’s teachings are interrelated in innumerable ways. Practically every line of his poetry could act as the starting point for an exposition of the whole body of his teachings. When Rumi’s poetry is taught in traditional circles in the Islamic world, it is not uncommon for a master to spend months on a short anecdote from the Mathnawi or a single ghazal from the Diwan. By the end of a few years’ study, the student may find that he has read only a small percentage of Rumi’s verses. But having studied these verses thoroughly, he will be familiar with the whole range of Rumi’s spiritual teachings and be able to read the rest of his poetry with sufficient understanding to do without a master. Not, of course, that he will necessarily have become a master of Rumi’s verse himself. As every student of Rumi knows, his verses are an inexhaustible ocean, and ultimately the student’s understanding will depend upon his own capacity.

If you pour the ocean into a jug, how much will it hold? One day’s store. (M I 20)

The window determines how much light enters the house, even if the moon’s radiance fills the east and the west. (D 9911)

In short, a thorough understanding of any one of Rumi’s teachings entails some degree of understanding of them all. The reader can only benefit from Rumi’s poetry to the extent that he is already familiar with the teachings it contains or, one should add, to the extent his spirit recalls and “recollects” them. So a major purpose of the present book is to outline and explain briefly, to the extent possible in Rumi’s own words, the central themes of his works.


Three Dimensions of Sufism

Sufi teachings can be divided into three broad categories. The first two categories may be referred to as “wisdom” and “method,” or in terms more commonly used in the context of Islam, “knowledge” (`ilm) and “works” (`amal), i.e., “theory” and “practice.” According to the Prophet, “Knowledge without works is like a tree without fruit.” Here of course “knowledge” is the same thing the Prophet has referred to in many other sayings, such as, “The search for knowledge is incumbent upon every Moslem”; “Seek knowledge, even unto China”; “Knowledge is a light which God causes to descend into the heart of whomsoever He will.” It is the knowledge of God Himself and of man’s ultimate end. For Moslems, it is the knowledge revealed by the Koran. In such a perspective “works” means the application of this knowledge to one’s everyday life. For Moslems it is the practice of Islam.

Within the context of this Islamic conception of knowledge and works, the Sufis emphasize a third element that is not set down so explicitly in the Koran and the Hadith: spiritual realization, or the ascending stages of human perfection resulting in proximity to God. Again the Sufis cite a saying of the Prophet: “The Law is my words, the Way is my works, and the Truth is my inward states.” Here the Sufis understand “Law” or Shari`ah in its widest sense, as embracing “knowledge” and all the theoretical teachings of Islam. The “Way” or Tariqah is then the method of putting the Law into practice. And the Reality or Haqiqah is the inward states and stations attained by the traveler in his journey to God and in God.

The Law is like a lamp: It shows the way. Without a lamp, you will not be able to go forward. When you enter the path, your going is the Way. And when you reach the goal, that is the Truth.

The Law may be compared to learning the theory of medicine. The Way involves avoiding certain foods and consuming certain remedies on the basis of this theory. Then the Truth is to find everlasting health and to have no more need for theory and practice.

When man dies to the life of this world, the Law and the Way will be cut off from him, and only the Truth will remain. . . . The Law is knowledge, the Way is works and the Truth is attainment to God. (M V introd.)

These then are the three dimensions of Sufi teaching: the Law, the Way, and the Truth; or knowledge, works, and attainment to God; or theory, practice, and spiritual realization.

Knowledge of God, man, and the world derives ultimately from God Himself, primarily by means of revelation, the context of Islamthe Koran and the Hadith of the Prophet; and secondarily by means of inspiration or “unveiling,” i.e., the spiritual vision of the saints, or the realized Sufis. Knowledge provides the illumination whereby man can see everything in its proper place.

Thus “knowledge,” or the theoretical dimension of religion, which becomes codified in the form of the Divine Law, situates man in the total universe, defining his nature and responsibilities as a human being. Knowledge and theory find their complementary dimension in practice, or the Way, which is determined by the “works” or Sunnah of the Prophet, the norm for all God-directed human activity. To follow the Sufi path is to obey the commands and prohibitions of God according to the model provided by His Prophet: “You have a good example in God’s Messenger, for whosoever hopes for God and the last day, and remembers God often” (Koran XXXIII 21). “Say (oh Muhammad)! `If you love God, follow me, and God will love you and forgive you your sins'” (III 31). More specifically the Sufi Way is to follow the model provided by the Prophet’s representatives on earth, the saints, who are the shaykhs or the spiritual masters.

Once having entered the Way, the disciple begins to undergo a process of inward transformation. If he is among those destined to reach spiritual perfection, he will climb the ascending rungs of a ladder stretching to heaven and beyond; the alchemy of the Way will transmute the base copper of his substance into pure and noble gold. The Truth or “attainment to God” is not a simple, one-step process. It can be said that this third dimension of Sufi teaching deals with all the inner experiences undergone by the traveler on his journey. It concerns all the “virtues” (akhlaq) the Sufi must acquire, in keeping with the Prophet’s saying, “Assume the virtues of God!” If acquiring virtues means “attaining to God,” this is because they do not belong to man. The discipline of the Way coupled with God’s grace and guidance results in a process of purification whereby the veil of human nature is gradually removed from the mirror of the primordial human substance, made in the image of God, or, in the Prophet’s words, “upon the Form of the All- Merciful.” Any perfection achieved by man is God’s perfection reflected within him.

In the classical textbooks, this third dimension of Sufi teachings is discussed mainly under the heading of the “stations” (maqamat) and the “spiritual states” (ahwal). From a certain point of view we can call this dimension “Sufi psychology”as long as we understand the term “psyche” in the widest possible sense, as equivalent to “spirit” in Rumi’s terminology. Sufi psychology could then be defined as “the science of the transformations undergone by the spirit in its journey to God.” One must remember, however, that this science bears no resemblance to “psychology” as known in the West today. For in Rumi’s terminology, modern psychology is based totally upon the ego’s study of itself. But the “ego” (nafs) is the lowest dimension of man’s inward existence, his animal and satanic nature. Only God or the spirit can know the spirit, which is man’s higher or angelic nature, Ultimately the ego cannot even know itself without a totally distorted viewpoint, for it gains all of its positive reality from the spirit that lies above and beyond it. Only the spirit that encompasses and embraces the ego can know the ego. And only the saints have attained to the station whereby their consciousness of reality is centered within their spirits or in God.

In Sufi psychology, the “stations” are said to be the spiritual and moral perfections, or the “virtues,” achieved by the traveler on the path to God. For example, once having actualized wakefulness, the traveler moves on to repentence and then to self-examination; or once having achieved humility, he ascends to chivalry and then to expansion. A work such as Ansari’s Manazil al-sa’irin, from which these examples are taken, classifies the ascending stations in ten sections according to one hundred different headings. 10 Other Sufis have employed totally different schemes and classified the stations in a greater or lesser number of headings. But the general idea of all the classifications is the same: an ascending ladder of spiritual perfections that man must climb.

As for the “states,” they are usually said to consist of spiritual graces bestowed directly by God and outside of man’s power of acquisition. Unlike the stations, the states are not seen as moving in an ascending hierarchy, but rather as coming and going as God wills.

However this may be, Rumi does not discuss the “stations and states” explicitly or as such. But he does discuss the inward spiritual experiences the traveler undergoes in great detail, as well as the attitudes and mental states man must try to achieve. As indicated earlier, numerous poems in the Diwan may be viewed as poetical expressions of specific spiritual states and experiences.

In short, Rumi provides a detailed elucidation of Sufi psychology, but not in terms of the systematic schemes found in the classical textbooks. Hence the student of his works must himself provide a framework within which these teachings can be discussed.


1. A broad and thorough survey of Rumi’s life, works, and significance is provided by Annemarie Schimmel, The
Triumphal Sun (London: East-West Publications, 1978). The existence of this excellent book, which is particularly
strong in its treatment of the poetical and literary dimensions of Rumis work, relieves me of the need to provide certain background material that might otherwise be necessary.

2. S.H. Nasr, Jalal al-Din Rumi: Supreme Persian Poet and Sage (Tehran: Shura-ye ye ‘Ali-ye Farhang o Honor, 1974),
p. 23.

3. For list of abbreviations, see p. ix. For complete bibliographical details, see the Index of Sources.

4. Nasr, Jalal al-Din Rumi, p. 23.

5. Rumi employs his own name (”Jalal al-Din”) in only one ghazal (D 1196); for a translation of the poem, see the end
of section III, I, 1.

6. Aflaki, Manaqib al-‘arifin, ed. by T. Yazici, 2 vols. (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi, 1959-1961), pp. 102-

7. One thousand ghazals end with Shams’s name or mention him, fifty-six are dedicated to Salah al-Din, fourteen to
Husam al-Din, and four to other figures. Two thousand, one hundred fifty mention no name. Over five hundred of
these end with the phrase “Be silent” or something to that effect, employing the word khamush, a fact which has led
certain scholars to surest that Rumi employed “khamush” as a pen name. However, the context and grammatical
structure in many of these cases show that this cannot be true. Moreover, Rumi ends hundreds of other ghazals with similar phrases, such as “Enough.” A more logical explanation of the reason he employs the word “khamush” so often is that he appreciated the virtues of silence and liked to praise it as a convenient device to bring a ghazal to a close.

8. B. Furuzanfar, Risalah dar tahqiq-e ahwal wa zindigani-ye Mawlana Jalal al-Din, 2nd. ed. (Tehran: Taban,
1333/1954), p. 216.

9. This point will become abundantly clear in the course of the selections. See especially section III, E, 2.

10. This work was edited and translated into French by S. de Laugier de Beaurecueil (Cairo: l’Institut française
d’archéologie orientale, 1962).

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