Can one be religious without depending on religions? Yes. Can one be Muslim and believe in the Gospel and the Torah? Yes, of course. Can one grow up in a remote part of the Persian Empire, but feel Roman, Greek and inhabitant of the World? Absolutely yes, and Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī was all this, a true visionary and prophet, teacher of theology and great scholar.
Life and Works
Rumi (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī 30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273), was a Persian theologian of the XIII century, Islamic scholar, philosopher and Sufi mystic originally from the Great Khorasan in Iran. Rumi’s influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions: Iranians, Tajiks, Turks, Greeks, Pashtuns, other Muslims in Central Asia and Muslims on the Indian subcontinent, as well as Jewish and Christian scholars have been admiring his philosophy and writings, becoming considered and described as the “most popular poet” in the United States.1
Rumi’s works are mostly written in Persian, but occasionally he also used Turkish, Arabic and Greek. His Masnavi (Mathnawi), composed in Konya, is considered one of the greatest poems of the Persian language. His works are now widely read in the original language throughout Greater Iran and the Persian-speaking world, with translations of his works still having great success throughout the world, especially in Turkey, Azerbaijan, the United States and South Asia.
Oh man! Travel from yourself into yourself.
The inner journey was something that really mattered the most to Rumi, because he believed that every living being possesses within him all the necessary answers, the happiness and well-being he needs to be satisfied and healthy during his life.
All night, a man called “GOD”,
until his lips were bleeding.
Then his Adversary said, “Hey! Mr Gullible!
…How comes you’ve been calling all night
and never once heard GOD say, “Here, I Am”?
You call out so earnestly and, in reply, what?
I’ll tell you what. Nothing!”
The man suddenly felt empty and abandoned.
Depressed, he threw himself on the ground
and fell into a deep sleep.
In a dream, he met an Angel, who asked,
“Why are you regretting calling out to GOD?”
The man said, “I called and called
But GOD never replied, “Here I Am.”
The Angel explained, “GOD has said,
“Your calling My Name is My reply.
Your longing for Me is My message to you.
All your attempts to reach Me, are in reality My attempts to reach you.
Your fear and love are a noose to catch Me.
In the silence surrounding every call of “GOD”
Waits a thousand replies of “Here I Am.”
Rumi was certainly an enlightened man, a Muslim who believed in the Qur’an and the preaching of the Prophet Mohammed, but who in many ways detached himself from Islam as a human doctrine and institution, associating with his thinking to Jewish, Christian and even Buddhist concepts in themes such as Afterlife, metaphysics and love your neighbor.
Beyond the boundaries of what is right and wrong there is an empty space. We will meet there.
Rumi preached not only the absolute monotheism of all Abrahamic Religions, but he also associated it to a pure and simple monism, believing in the plurality of all living beings to a single substance and with a single beginning and end.
Stop behaving so small, [because] you are the Universe [moving] in an ecstatic motion.
Today through the sciences we have proven that everything is made of energy, but Rumi already knew that, by clearly describing the universe as an integral part of every being, it is not something out of the human capacity, because if we can really look inside ourselves, everything we rally wanted is already in our possession. We are all interconnected and related:
In reality, your soul and mine are the same, we appear and disappear within each other.
Rumi’s thought was obviously that of a very wise man, he had understood that man’s ultimate goal is the (true and selfless) unification of all nations and all people, without any distinction. This, of course, without affirming that every religion is a false doctrine, but that instead all these different paths may differ in content, but sooner or later they converge in one direction and destination. Just as Rumi cannot be considered simply a “Muslim”, no true mystic can be defined as belonging to a specific religion. Abraham was not a Jew because he did not belong to any codified doctrine (he simply sought the truth by traveling from earth to earth, “Jew” comes from Ivri = “to crossover”), just as Jesus was not a Christian, Mohammed was not a Muslim (but only a true monotheist believer and submitted to GOD “musilm” = “slm” = submissive/peaceful), Krishna was not a Hindu and Guru Nanak was not a Sikh. Religions are made by human beings, while the LORD created only humans, giving them directions to reach knowledge.
Like other mystical poets and Sufis of Persian literature, Rumi speaks mainly of love as the only force capable of changing the world. His teachings also express the principles summarized in the Qur’anic verse that Shams-e Tabrizi quoted as the essence of the prophetic guide: “Know that there is no other GOD but Him, and ask forgiveness for your sin” ( Qur’an 47:19). In the interpretation attributed to Shams, the first part of the verse requires humanity to seek the knowledge of tawhid (i.e. the uniqueness of GOD), while the second part instructs them to deny their own personal existence understood as not seeking their own good, but the common good, and to eliminate vices and matariality from the Soul. In the terms Rumi uses, tawhid is lived fully through love, and the connection is made explicit in his verse describing love as “that flame which, when it burns, burns everything except the Eternal Beloved. Rumi’s desire and will to achieve this ideal is evident in the poem of his book Masnavi:
از جمادی مُردم و نامی شدم
I died to the mineral state and became a plant,
Rumi was one of the most influential Iranians writing in Persian (Farsi), and many Iranians continue to visit Konya in Turkey every year to pray at his grave. Of course you have to learn Persian to understand the great literature of Rumi, but also translated you can see the great Light emanating from his texts.
We are all a great people and a great family, instead we continue to fight especially among neighbors and family members, not understanding that we are doing the real evil to ourselves first. Happiness and understanding are absolutely linked to each other and can really be reached by everyone indiscriminately. To provide further food for thought, these three fundamental teachings from the timeless book by Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, which are very close and make us understand the thought of the great Master Rumi, can help us:
- Everyone must find his own personal way to wisdom. “Wisdom cannot be imparted. The wisdom that a wise man tries to impart always sounds like madness to someone else… Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. It can be found, lived, worked miracles through it, but it cannot be communicated and taught. Siddhartha refuses to absolutely embrace the teachings of one teacher or one doctrine, in the conviction that there is no one and only one way to the truth.
- No doctrine is forever. “I have had thoughts and principles. Many times I have felt the knowledge in me, for an hour or a day as life feels in my heart. […] But this is a thought that I have found: wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom that a learned man tries to communicate to others, always has a sound of madness. […] Science can be communicated, but wisdom cannot. You can find it, you can live it, you can work miracles with it, but you can’t explain and teach it. Siddhartha prefers to experience his own way by refusing to receive an alleged truth in a passive way from those who claim to know it, because every doctrine is changeable in time and according to circumstances.
- Wisdom is achieved through experience, not only through teachings. “We are not walking in a circle, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps”. Of fundamental importance is to have experiences on one’s own body, rather than just learning wisdom through study and the teachings given by others.
note 1 Ciabattari, Jane (21 October 2014). “Why is Rumi the best-selling poet in the US?”. BBC News. Retrieved 2016-08-22.
note 2 William C. Chittick (2017). “RUMI, JALĀL-AL-DIN vii. Philosophy”. Encyclopaedia Iranica.