Rumi, popularly known as Mevlânâ (My Master) in Turkey, is a Persian poet of the 12th century who is currently the bestselling poet in America, and revered across the world.
Orignally born in Afghanistan, Rumi and his family moved west to flee the Mongols invading Central Asia.
“According to hagiographical account which is not agreed upon by all Rumi scholars, Rumi encountered one of the most famous mystic Persian poets, Attar, in the Iranian city of Nishapur, located in the province of Khorāsān. Attar immediately recognized Rumi’s spiritual eminence. He saw the father walking ahead of the son and said, “Here comes a sea followed by an ocean.” (Wikipedia).
Eventually Rumi ended up in Konya, in what is now Turkey.
For years he served as an Islamic jurist, until he met the dervish Shams. This friendship changed his life completely. Shams encouraged him to pursue his poetry. This friendship transformed Rumi from a scholar into a mystic; from a jurist into a lover. After three years of friendship, Shams walked out into the night and never returned. People speculated that he was killed by Rumi’s son, who was jealous of the influence Shams had over his father; or that Shams had simply left, as he had once before, in order to teach Rumi a lesson about the transitory nature of earthly things, including friendship.
His poems celebrate God as the Beloved, using the earthy symbolism of being drunk in wine or in the ecstasy of physical love to convey his intensity of feeling:
will drink wine night and day.
They will drink until they can
tear away the veils of intellect and
melt away the layers of shame and modesty.
When in Love,body, mind, heart and soul don’t even exist.
fall in Love,
and you will not be separated again.”
(translation by Shahram Shiva)
He was also non-discriminatory, inviting all to worship the Beloved:
“Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, sufi or Zen. Not any religion
or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up
from the fround, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,
am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam or Eve or
any origin story. My place is placeless,
a trace of the traceless. Neither body or soul.
I belong to the beloved,
have seen the two worlds as one and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.
(translation by Coleman Barks)
Most Persian poems are traditionally signed by the poet. Rumi rarely signed his name, but instead wrote either “Shams,” in honor of his friend, or “silence.”
Rumi was also instrumental in developing the practice of whirling dervishes. The dance and music is used as a form of meditation to focus on uniting with God. The form of the dance, in which the performer turns circle after circle, was said to be in deference to God’s monotheistic nature: God was everywhere the dancer turned. The whirling dervishes wear tombstone-shaped hats which are supposed to represent that they are dead to this world and live another; in the photos below you can see the hat on a living Sufi and represented on the graves of former Sufis.
Information, unless otherwise noted, from the wikipedia entry on Rumi.