Come, come whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving,
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times.
Come, come yet again, come.
Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, also known as the "Pole of Love," was perhaps the greatest Sufi poet and mystic of any age. He was born in Balkh, in what was then known as the province of Khorassan (now Afghanistan), on September 30, 1207 and died in Konya, in southern Turkey, on December 17, 1273. His six volumes of the Mathnawi are a work on Divine Love and the evolution of soul's journey to God.
Eva de Vitray-Meyerovitch, the great Islamic scholar and translator, once said, "In Rumi, the full rose of the human divine opened. He gave a sign to us all forever of what is possible in a life surrendered wholly to the light."
St. Francis of Assisi was already preaching when Rumi was a child. It was a time when it was vitally necessary for there to be a true taste of the freedom that is found in the recognition of the Universal Truth that lies within the Essence of the great religions of the world. Rumi was a human being whose degree of gnosis both embraced all forms of religion and, at the same time, rose above them. "I am neither Christian no Jew nor Gabr nor Muslim; my place is the placeless, my trace is the traceless. I know only Ya-H? and Ya-Man-H?...."
Rumi's real name was Jelaluddin. "Rumi" is dervied from "Rum," the region of Anatolia, in Turkey, where he eventually settled. His father, Bahaduddin Valad, was a famous theologian, Sufi master, and visionary. Rumi was born into a time of chaotic violence and turmoil, not unlike ours, and at the age of twelve, he was forced to flee Balkh with his father.
For ten years, his family wandered all over Asia Minor and Arabia until they finally found a home in Konya. They are said to have made the pilgrimage to Mecca and to have stopped on the way at Nishapur, in central Iran, where the young Rumi met the great Persian mystic Attar, author of The Conference of the Birds, who said of him, "This boy will open a gate in the heart of love and throw a flame into the heart of all mystic lovers." Later in his travels, they also went to Damascus, where he met Ibn Arabi, the greatest Sufi philosopher and metaphysician of his age. The legend goes that when Ibn Arabi saw Rumi walking behind his father, he exclaimed, "Glory be to God, an ocean is walking behind a lake."
By the time he met the wandering dervish, Shams-eTabriz, Rumi was a respected teacher, a master of Sufi studies, and the head of a university in Konya. Through the power of grace, Shams transformed Rumi's life and awakened the truth within him. The story goes that when they first met, Shams threw all of Rumi's books into a well. He then told him that if he still needed them, he would bring them back dry. It was an opportunity for the vast knowledge Rumi had learned from books, and his high regard for this, to be replaced with divine knowledge and the direct experience of God.
Shams disappeared eighteen months after he had entered Rumi's life. An insatiable longing for the Friend then consumed Rumi and it was this longing that drew him towards union with the Beloved. Finally he realized: "Why should I seek? I am the same as he. His essence speaks through me. I have been looking for myself."
Rumi died in Konya on December 17, 1273, just as the sun was setting. The sky turned a bright red. A friend to men of all colors and creeds, Christians, Jews and Muslims grieved together as they filed past his coffin. Rumi manifested the Breath of Compassion and Love in his life. Through the passion in his words, we can hear the echo of truth in our own hearts, guiding us on.
"We are the flute, but the music is Thine." (Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi)
1 The Rumi Collection, Helminksi, pg. xii.
2 The Essential Rumi, Barks, "On Rumi"
For more information on Rumi's life and work and many more links we refer to the article in wikipedia. More links to Rumi can be found on the website of Coleman Barks, one of the best known interpreters of Rumi into English http://www.colemanbarks.com/links.php.