Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi

Maulana Rumi was born in Balkh, Mazar-i Sharif (present-day Afghanistan) on 604 A.H (September 30, 1207C.E.) Rumi’s full name was Jalal al-Din Mohammad Ibn Mohammad Ibn Mohammad Ibn Husain al-Rumi - meaning Rumi means from Rome - because his father Baha-uddin Balad later moved to Anatolia, once the base of the eastern Roman Empire, in the wake of the Mongol invasion in 1219. (The Mongols destroyed Balkh in 1220 and went on to sack Baghdad in 1258, ending the Abbasid khilafah.) Baha-uddin claimed direct descent from Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddique (R.A.), the first Khalifah of Islam. Under his patronage, Rumi received his early education. When his age was about 18 years, the family (after pilgrimage to Makkah and stays in Arzanjan, a small town in Armenia, and Syria) finally settled at Konya, (The family's relocation to Konya was made through the request of the Seljuq king, who had made the city his capital) where his father arranged for Jalaluddin, to marry Gauhar Khatun, daughter of one Lala of Samarqand, most probably a member of the travelling party. Of this union was born a son named Sultan Walid.

At the age of 25, Rumi was sent to Aleppo for advanced education and later to Damascus. Rumi continued with his education till he was 40 years old, although on his father's death Rumi succeeded him as a professor in the famous Madrasah at Konya at the age of about 24 years. Although he received his mystical training first at the hands of Syed Burhan al-Din and later he was trained by Shams al-Din Tabrizi (but he was greatly impressed by Shams Tabrizi, whose shrine is close to the Maulana's in Konya).

His major contribution lies in Islamic philosophy and Tasawwuf. This was embodied largely in poetry, especially through his famous Mathnawi (Masnavi). This book, the largest mystical exposition in verse, discusses and offers solutions to many complicated problems in metaphysics, religion, ethics, mysticism, etc. Fundamentally, the Mathnawi (Masnavi) highlights the various hidden aspects of Sufism and their relationship with the worldly life. For this, Rumi draws on a variety of subjects and derives numerous examples from everyday life. His main subject is the relationship between man and God on the one hand, and between man and man, on the other. He apparently believed in Pantheism and portrayed the various stages of man's evolution in his journey towards the Ultimate.

Apart from the Mathnawi (Masnavi), he also wrote his Diwan (collection of poems) and Fihi-Ma-Fih (a collection of mystical sayings). How- ever, it is the Mathnawi itself that has largely transmitted Rumi's message. Soon after its completion, other scholars started writing detailed commentaries on it, in order to interpret its rich propositions on Tasawwuf, Metaphysics and Ethics. Several commentaries in different languages have been written since then.

His impact on philosophy, literature, mysticism and culture, has been so deep throughout Central Asia and most Islamic countries that almost all religious scholars, mystics, philosophers, sociologists and others have referred to his verses during all these centuries since his death. Most difficult problems in these areas seem to get simplified in the light of his references. His message seems to have inspired most of the intellectuals in Central Asia and adjoining areas since his time, and scholars like Iqbal have further developed Rumi's concepts. The Mathnawi (Masnavi) became known as the interpretation of the Qur'an in the Pahlavi language. He is one of the few intellectuals and mystics whose views have so profoundly affected the world-view in its higher perspective in large parts of the Islamic World.

The Maulana travelled far and wide, including to Aleppo and Damascus, to study but Konya remained his permanent abode, and it was there that he died in 672 A.H. (December 17, 1273) His mausoleum is built in the garden presented to his father by the Seljuq king Kai-Qubad I (reigned 1219-1236) whose invitation brought Baha uddin to the city in the first place. Next to the mausoleum, there is a mosque built by the Ottoman prince Selim who was an ardent admirer of the Maulana.

His son Sultan Walid composed his father's poetic biography, probably compiled his scattered discourses, and established a school to spread his father's teachings. The fundamental teaching of the Maulana was the unification of the mind and the heart. His perception of mysticism differs from others in that he was a moralist and a reformer. He advocated these principles throughout his life. He writes: "Without demolishing religious schools (madrassahs) and minarets and without abandoning the beliefs and ideas of the medieval age, restriction in thoughts and pains in conscience will not end. Without understanding that unbelief is a kind of religion, and that conservative religious belief a kind of disbelief, and without showing tolerance to opposite ideas, one cannot succeed. Those who look for the truth will accomplish the mission."

According to the Maulana, man is the finest creation of Allah, echoing the Qur'anic ayah that "Allah has created insan in the best of moulds" (95:04); he even considers man a part of Him in the mystical sense. All men must, therefore, be respected. A person who reaches the truth and spiritual perfection directs his attention to universalism rather than individualism. He need not abandon worldly matters but must not consider them an end in themselves. He insisted that priority to human love is a must to achieve this goal.

In Turkey - Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, known as one of the greatest mystic poets of Islam. In Turkey, he is known simply as 'Mevlana,' and his followers go by the title of 'Mevlevi.' But his poems and mystical teachings are known throughout the Muslim world. Followers of the Maulana can be found in all parts of Turkey as well as the neighbouring countries. They converge on the mausoleum in large numbers in May and December of each year to perform their famous whirling. The whirl is completed in four circles. The first symbolises the vision of Allah; the second the greatness of Allah; the third the level of knowledge one must attain after entering the domain of the Sufis, and finally, the last circle symbolises the coming together in the presence of Allah.

Visitors to the shrine enter through the main gate. No one, however, is permitted to touch the grave, a chain fence acting as a barrier. Next to the shrine, in two adjacent halls, is a museum where a number of items belonging to the great mystic are on display. The halls once served as training centres for the whirling dervishes but after the rise of Kemalism in Turkey all such institutions were shut down. The mausoleum, too, was closed to the public in 1924 but reopened in 1927. "The surrounding halls and annexe were turned into a museum," according to a historian at the shrine.

The museum exhibits a large number of items associated with the Maulana's life. They include silver keys, copies of the noble Qur'an, the divan of Haifa, and lamps and robes used by the Maulana. There also a number of prayer-sheets. A large book containing the Mesnevi of the Maulana, hand-written by Hasan Shirazi, is displayed in the hall. A number of the Maulana's works are also on display in the museum. These include the Mesnevi, Divan-e Kabir, Ruba'iet, Mecalis-e Seba, Mektubat and Fih-i-ma-Fih. There are also a number of portraits and wax statues of the Maulana shown in his now-famous dress performing the whirling dance within the shrine complex.

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