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Grant J.

Brill
Prof. Thomas C. Goltz
POLS-400 – Middle East Government
2 November 2008

Mawlānā Jalāl Al-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Al-Rūmī)

In 1207 Al-Rūmī, was born in northern Afghanistan in the village of Balkh.


Growing up his father became more involved with Sufism and inevitably turned Al-Rūmī
to the order. In 1221 with the Mongol invasion of Afghanistan Al-Rūmī and his family
fled to and took up permanent residence in Konya, Anatolia1 or “Rum” as it was known
where he adopted the name Al-Rūmī, “the Roman.” During this time due to mass
migration, the dispersion of Persian migrant was such that Konya was a capital of Perso-
Islamic culture within the Seljuk Empire.2
In 1242 after extensive studying Al-Rūmī attained the position of shaykh in the
Sufi order. After becoming a shaykh, Al-Rūmī began attracting and meeting with a
multitude of spiritual advisors in Konya, the most notable of these though was a man
named Shams al-Dīn al-Tabrīzī who he met with in 1244.3 Shortly after meeting one-
another Al-Rūmī became convinced that it was divine will that he was too meet al-
Tabrīzī. Al-Rūmī soon became the pupil to al-Tabrīzī, devoting nearly his entire time to
him. Unfortunately though, Al-Rūmī also had disciples who quickly became jealous and
angry over the amount of attention Al-Rūmī was giving al-Tabrīzī and revolted, forcing
al-Tabrīzī to flee to Damascus. Although Al-Rūmī’s eldest son, Walad, was the Sultan and
found al-Tabrīzī bringing him back to Konya only to have another uprising, forcing al-
Tabrīzī to flee again to Damascus again. Again Sultan Walad, brought al-Tabrīzī back to
his father only to have another fatal uprising in which a number of disciples including
one of Al-Rūmī’s sons murdered al-Tabrīzī in secrecy. Keeping the murder a secret,
Sultan Walad lied to his father saying that al-Tabrīzī had gone missing.4
The disappearance of al-Tabrīzī, who he thought was sent from God, sparked a
great deal of spiritual emotion in Al-Rūmī’s life which was then conveyed through
writing poetry on his remembrance and faith in God. Al-Rūmī produced nearly 25,000
couplets of poetry, known as the Mathnawī, which are considered to be some of the finest
Persian poetry written. Rivaled in his day only by Yunus Emre who was Anatolia’s first
memorable Turkish-language poet. At the base of Al-Rūmī’s beliefs and poetry was that
God was both hidden and revealed in everything at the same time, and that poetry is a
“primary vehicle” for the expression of God.5

1
"Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi Biography - Poems." http://www.poemofquotes.com/mawlawirumi/
(accessed NOV 02, 2008).
2
Findley,Carter V. The Turks In World History . New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pg 72
3
"Biography: Jalai ed-Din Rumi ." http://www.answers.com/topic/rumi-jalal-al-din (accessed NOV 02,
2008).

4
Denny,Frederick M.. An Introduction to Islam. 3ed. Charlyce J. Owen. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice
Hall, 2005. pg 247
5
Ibid. 249
With Al-Rūmī’s death in 1273, came the emergence of the Mawlawīya (The
Mevlevi Order in native Turkey) in honor of Mawlānā (“our master”) Al-Rūmī, founded
by his son Sultan Walad and one of his leading disciples Hasam Chalabi. The order now
commonly known as the “whirling dervishes” transformed music and dance into the
“highest ritual art.” The ritual is a form of dhikr, “remembrance” of God, and takes place
with a number of dancers wearing elaborate flowing robes dancing around their shaykh
while spinning at the same time. Symbolism in this particular for of dance includes the
shaykh standing as if the sun or the center of the universe with the dancers revolving
around as if they were planets in galactic revolutions. 6
During the Ottoman Empire Al-Rūmī’s poetry retained its importance in Persian
literature allowing the Mawlawīya (Mevlevi) to flourish.7 However, shortly after World
War I, the Sufi dervishes were restricted in Turkey, fearing that such religious
emotionalism associated with the dervishes is not conducive to a secular
society/government, though small groups of Mawlawīs from Konya in recent years have
been able to tour Europe and America performing their ritual dervishes as a spectacle. On
06 September 2007 in recognition of the 800 anniversary of Al-Rūmī’s birthday, mass
Whirling Dervishes were organized in Turkey and Iran,8 showing that there has been a
break from the legal restrictions of practicing whirling dervishes. Today, Al-Rūmī is
remembered as one of the greatest Persian and Sufi mystic poets and an inspirational role
model within the Sufi order with his shrine remaining a prominent place of pilgrimage
throughout all of the Sufi orders.

Work Cited

6
Ibid. 248
7
Findley,Carter V. The Turks In World History . New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pg 75
8
Kazempour , "800th Anniversary of the Birth of Mawlana Jalal-ud-Din Balkhi-Rumi ." SEP 03,
2007.http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-
URL_ID=34694&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html (accessed NOV 02, 2008).
Findley,Carter V. The Turks In World History . New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Denny,Frederick M.. An Introduction to Islam. 3 ed. Charlyce J. Owen. New Jersey:
Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.
Kazempour , "800th Anniversary of the Birth of Mawlana Jalal-ud-Din Balkhi-Rumi ."
SEP 03, 2007.http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-
URL_ID=34694&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html (accessed
NOV 02, 2008).
"Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi Biography - Poems."
http://www.poemofquotes.com/mawlawirumi/ (accessed NOV 02, 2008).
"Biography: Jalai ed-Din Rumi ." http://www.answers.com/topic/rumi-jalal-al-din
(accessed NOV 02, 2008).