Your introductory guide to Rumi
An Islamic scholar, theologian and poet, Rumi lived in the 13th century. He produced many famous works in both prose and poem form which have a lot to say about the world, human interactions, spirituality and mysticism. Although his teachings are closely associated with the Sufi tradition of Islam, his thoughts are not restricted to that version of Islamic mysticism alone. Across the Middle East and South Asia, Rumi is considered to be one of the most influential writers of all time, certainly in the last millennium. His works are still published, and he has a significant readership in North America, among other locations. Indeed, he has been described as the most popular poet in the United States before, something that it is hard to argue against.
Where was Rumi born?
Born on 30th September 1207, Rumi was born in a province called Balkh which is located in what is modern-day Afghanistan. The exact place of his birth is contested, however. Some say he was originally from the town of Balkh itself, which was the provincial capital while others argue that he was born in a small village close to the Vakhsh River. Although many villages could lay claim to being the birthplace of the great writer and teacher, Wakhsh - which is actually in modern-day Tajikistan – seems to be most likely.
Why is Rumi so popular?
Rumi wrote in Persian, and his words are often considered to be peerless among writers working in that language. This alone would account for a great deal of his popularity. However, the great poet also worked in other tongues from time to time, which helped to spread his reputation during his lifetime and beyond. For example, he wrote in Arabic, which meant his ideas reached a much wider readership. In addition, Rumi was known to have written in Turkish and Greek, helping him to become more widely known in the Mediterranean world.
What did Rumi say about love?
Overall, Rumi's various poetic spoke of a sort of love which could infuse the whole world. He interpreted love as something that was necessarily bound up with the oneness of God, known as the concept of tawhid in Islam. According to the poet's teachings, gaining a deeper understanding of tawhid was possible through love. He wrote of love as a flame which burned away everything other than the 'Everlasting Beloved'.
What was the legacy of Rumi?
Quite apart from being a huge influence on Sufi Islam, Rumi is celebrated in other Islamic traditions, too, as well as the wider non-muslim world. His poetry is widely appreciated these days in the musical traditions of Iran and Afghanistan. His teachings are still used to help explain Islamic mysticism to people who want to gain a deeper appreciation of it.