Poetry and Fiction - Mystical Lover
by Katie Dubey
Thyself a true transcription art
Of the archetype Divine,
Or else a glass, wherein the King's
Own loveliness doth shine
By day I Praised You
And never knew it.
By night I stayed with You
And never knew it.
I always thought that I was me… but no
I was You
And never knew it.
Maulana - literally 'our master' - Jelal-ud-Din Mohammad Ibn Mohammad Husain al-Rumi, is considered by both east and west, as one of the greatest mystical poets the world has ever seen.
Born in Afghanistan in the province of Balkh in 1207 A.D, he was of royal descent. His mother belonged to a princely house whose roots could be traced to the immediate family of the prophet Mohammed and his father, Baha-ud-Din Velad was a descendant of the Caliph Abu Bekr. He himself, according to legend, was born a self-realized soul.
His father adhered strongly to orthodox Islamic values, even when they conflicted with those at the royal court. Perhaps on account of this, or of the advancing Mongol hordes, in 1219, Baha-ud-Din was obliged to flee Balkh, which was until then capital of the Khawarzam Shahi dynasty and renowned for its cultural and intellectual enrichment. Jelal, just five years of age at the time, spent his early childhood as a fugitive, moving along with the family from city to city.
Jelal-ud-din was a strange child, who, even at this tender age, saw visions and went into ecstasies, but often, also became restless and uneasy. His father would soothe him, saying that these were angelic presences who came to greet him from the invisible world. Word of these visitations spread and people looked upon the boy as khudavendgar - God absorbed.
One evening, when only six years old, he was strolling with friends on the terrace of his home, reciting verses from the Koran. Bored with this pursuit the children suggested that they should have some fun and jump onto the neighbour's terrace. Jelal smiled at this and said, "My friends, to jump from terrace to terrace is an act well adapted to cats and dogs and the like to perform; but is it not degrading to man whose station is so superior? Come, if you feel so disposed, let us spring up to the firmament and visit the regions of God's realm." So saying, he vanished from sight. He reappeared as mysteriously with an altered countenance, flaming eyes and pale cheeks and narrated how a company of celestial forms had appeared, clad in green and guided him away on a tour of the firmament. They moved him through the zodiac, but the cries of his friends reached him and that brought him back. His friends fell at his feet and henceforth were his staunch supporters.
While traveling extensively through the East, at Nishapur in Iran, the family met the Sufi saint Attar, an aged and revered figure. Attar divined Jelal's spirituality and presented him with a copy of his Asrar-namah - the book of mysteries, and told Baha-ud-Din that "soon his son would set on fire the consumed ones of the world."
The family then moved to Larenda and here Jelal, now 21, was married and fathered two sons. Later, a widower, he remarried and had two more children. Subsequently, visiting Samarcand and Constantinople, the family finally settled in Konia, a province of Rome, and Jelal became Rumi, or, 'of Rome'. In Konia his father, an eminent scholar himself, founded a college and undertook Rumi's education. Two years later he died and Rumi stepped into his shoes, preaching and teaching.
His association with various groups - Turks, Greeks, Persians, Arabs and Indians - gave him insight into the source of man's weaknesses and strengths. He also realized that knowledge alone does not change a man, nor does instruction develop him. He changes in relation to his attitudes and understanding. Though peoples' beliefs vary, they are basically similar. Fully conscious of unity, he was concerned about the conflicts between Muslims, Jews, Christians and other sects.
Soon after his father's death, Burhan-ud-Din Muhaqiq of Tirmidh, his father's old friend, arrived in Konia and found Rumi established in his father's place as a teacher and preacher. He initiated the young enthusiast into the inner mysteries of Sufi discipline and doctrine. Two years later Rumi went to Aleppo for further study and then to Damascus where he remained for almost four years, before returning to Konia to serve his ailing teacher during his last days.
The most significant person in Rumi's life was Shams-ud-Din of Tabriz. Shams was a wandering dervish, a highly evolved soul, who traveled throughout the Middle East. Known as 'parinda' or bird, Shams implored the Divine for one "who will endure my company". When a voice asked, "What will you give in return?", he answered, "My head." The reply came, "The one you seek is Jelal-ud-Din of Konia."
Shams-ud-Din proceeded to Konia to meet Jelal and the two became inseparable. "Suddenly the sun of love and truth cast its rays on the pure soul and so fired and inflamed him that his eyes were dazzled by its light," writes Rumi's biographer of Shams-ud-Din.
While Jelal and Shams spent their days absorbed with each other, knowing no human need, Rumi's disciples grew jealous. Sensing trouble, Shams disappeared. Rumi was greatly perturbed. Then word came that Shams was in Damascus and Rumi sent his son Sultan Velad to fetch him. Re-united, they fell at each other's feet and 'no one knew who was the lover, and who the beloved'. Shams stayed with Rumi and married a girl of the family. The long mystical conversations commenced and jealousies returned.
On the night of December 5, 1248, as the mystics sat in conversation, Shams was called to the back door on the pretext of an emergency, but through which he never returned. It was a ploy of the jealous disciples to be rid of him. In the ensuing scuffle Rumi's son Alla-ud-Din was also killed. Disbelieving in Shams' death, Rumi journeyed to Damascus in search of him. Wandering around disconsolate he suddenly realized, "Why should I seek? I am the same as he. His essence speaks through me. I have been looking for myself!"
Union was complete. There was full fana, annihilation of the self in the friend. Rumi discarded his scholar's turban and wide-sleeved gown for a blue robe and a smoke-colored turban that he wore to the end of his days and commenced to write mystical poetry. In his house was a pillar, and when in rapture, he would take hold of the pillar and twirl himself around it pouring forth verses spontaneously while his disciples wrote. The outpouring resulted in the Divan-i-Shams-i Tabriz, written as Shams, containing 50,000 couplets.
Later, Rumi's affection was engaged by another companion, Saladin Zarkub, a goldsmith, and Rumi composed more tender and quieter verses for him. When Saladin died in 1261, Husam Celebi took his place. Husam was responsible for urging Rumi to write the Mathnavi. Rumi immediately poured forth a portion, saying God had forewarned him of the wishes of his brethren.
Intent on gaining the cosmic Self through the path of rebirth in totality, he stopped preaching, and created the sam'a, the whirling dance while singing to the music of the reed flute, sacred to their order. While participating in these rapturous dances Rumi spontaneously composed the Mathnavi.
The Mathnavi-i-Masnavi, 43 years in the writing, is a mystical epic, way beyond all religion. Rumi himself has termed it the root of the root of the Root of all religion. The singing of the Mathnavi comprises a composition of patterns, illustrating the Sufi's progressive path. It explains why the intellect and conceptualization fail to give an answer to the meaning of life and suggests the removal of the conventional self in order to gain a fuller personality.
Jelal has said that great love is silent. It is in silence that we shall come to understand the supreme mystery of love that has no comparison. The first of the six books of the Masnavi contains this gem.
From the reed-flute hear what tale it tells;
What plaint it makes of absence' ills:
From jungle-bed since me they tore,
Men's, women's eyes have wept right sore.
My breast I tear and rend in twain,
To give, through sighs, vent to my pain.
Who's from his home snatched far away,
Longs to return some future day.
I sob and sigh in each retreat,
Be't joy or grief for which men meet.
They fancy they can read my heart;
Grief's secrets I to none impart.
My throes and moans form but one chain,
Men's eyes and ears catch not their train.
Though soul and body be as one,
Sight of his soul hath no man won.
Living in rigid times, Rumi first addressed his hearers on religion, maintaining that the ordinary emotional form in which religion is understood is incorrect. The Veil of Light, brought on by self-righteousness, is far more dangerous than the Veil of Darkness worn by the mind in vice. Understanding comes through love, not through training. Real religion is other than what people think it is.
Cross and Christians, from end to end
I surveyed; He was not on the cross.
I went to the idol-temple, to the ancient pagoda;
No trace was visible there.
I went to the mountains of Herat and Kandahar;
I looked, He was not in that hill and dale.
With set purpose I fared to the summit of Mount Qaf
In that place was only Anqa's habitation.
I bent the reins of search to the Ka'ba;
He was not in that resort of Old and Young.
I questioned Ibn Sina of His state;
I fared towards the scene of two
He was not in that exalted court
I gazed into my heart;
There I saw Him; He was nowhere else.
For him the first teachers of religions were right. Their successors, apart from a few, organized matters in such a way as to exclude all enlightenment. Rumi had no patience with dogma.
When in this heart the lightning spark of love arises,
Be sure this Love is reciprocated in
When the Love of God arises in thy heart,
Without doubt God also feels love for thee.
In a collection of sayings and teachings, called Fifi Ma Fifi, Rumi takes us down the ultimate path. Mankind, he says, passes through three stages. In the first one he worships anything: man, woman, money, earth, elements or stones. When he progresses further he worships God. When he has progressed still further, he says I am God, for he himself does not exist, only God does.
Rumi was a mystic of extraordinary devotion and self-dedication. A lover of God, seeking by every means a union with the Divine, and then a teacher, striving by his words and example to lead others towards the same goal. He was peaceful and tolerant towards men of all creeds and urged his disciples to behave likewise. Although his company was sought by kings and princes, he preferred to pass his time with the needy and poor.
On December 17, 1273, after a long bout of illness, the mystical Master passed away. Upon his death, he was laid on a bier and washed by the hands of a beloved disciple, while others poured water for the ablution and yet others gathered it up. Not one drop was allowed to fall on the earth. Every drop was drunk as the holiest of holy water. As the washer folded Jelal's arms over his breast, unable to contain himself, he fell on the lifeless breast weeping. Suddenly he felt his ear pulled by the dead saint's hand. On this he fainted away and in his swoon he heard a voice say "Ho there! Verily the saints of the Lord have nothing to fear, neither shall they sorrow. Believers die not; they merely depart from one habitation to another abode:
If life be gone, fresh life to you God
A life eternal to renew
This life of death.
The font of Immortality
In Love is found;
Then come and in this boundless sea
Of Love be drowned.
Men of five faiths followed the funeral, in spite of protests by the Muslims. That night has been named Sebul Arus - The night of Union, and the Mevlevi order of dervishes celebrate it as a festival to this day. Twenty six generations of the Maulana's family has kept his faith alive. His tomb in Konia, now in Turkey, is a pilgrimage point for seekers from all over the world.
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