Thursday, December 21, 2017


SWhen I was first exposed to Molânâ Jalâleddin Mohammad-e Rumi’s poetry I had been puzzled about the phenomenon of how an ordinary clergy, a jurist at best, Rumi, meets with a wanderer, a revolutionary of his time, Shams-e Tabrizi, for 30 or 45 days in seclusion and thereafter becomes the most prolific renowned poet in Persian literature. .

Until 1244, Rumi led a typically normal life for a religious scholar of that era. It was in the late Fall of that year that he met the man who was to change his life forever.

 In 1244, a man in black suit from head to toe came to the famous inn of Sugar Merchants of Konya. His name was Shams Tabrizi. He was claiming to be a travelling merchant. As it was said in Haji Bektash Veli's book, "Makalat", he was looking for something. Which he was going to find in Konya.

Eventually, he found Rumi riding a horse.One day Rumi was reading next to a large stack of books. Shams Tabriz, passing by, asked him, "What are you doing?" Rumi scoffingly replied, "Something you cannot understand." On hearing this, Shams threw the stack of books into a nearby pool of water. Rumi hastily rescued the books and to his surprise, they were all dry. Rumi then asked Shams, "What is this?" To which Shams replied, "Mowlana, this is what you cannot understand."

In another version of the meeting, Rumi was riding his donkey through the marketplace, when a man stepped in front of him and shouted, “Who is greater – Muhammad or Bestami?”Without hesitation, Rumi answered, "of course, the prophet Mohammed."Shams had to see what Rumi was made of, so he took his questioning one step further. "Betsami, the distinguished teacher, said 'I am great because God is within me,' whereas Mohammed said, 'God is great in His infinite mercy.' How would you explain this?"

When Rumi regained his composure he answered Shams saying, "Betsami limited his understanding to one aspect of God's greatness. He was secure in what he knew and sought no further. Mohammed, on the other hand, was a seeker who recognized the vast infiniteness of the Creator. His perception of God was not limited to one idea or ideal. The more he knew God the more he recognized he did not know, and so he kept seeking. Mohammed said of God, 'We do not know you as we should.'"

In the exchange that followed Rumi became so overwhelmed by the presence before him that he fainted and fell from his donkey.As the relationship matured between Shams and Rumi, they became inseparable, spending months together beyond human needs, relating together in mystical conversation – called “sobhet”.

This meeting, according to various sources, consisted of 30 or 45 days in seclusion. Also, although we know that there were not substantial changes in Shams’ thoughts after this meeting, there were revolutionary—almost unbelievable changes in Rumi that have been referred to as the, “Rebirth of Rumi.

Suddenly, in the sky at dawn, a moon appeared,
Descended from the sky
Turned its burning gaze on me,
Like a hawk during the hunt seizing a bird,
Grabbed me and flew with me high into heaven.
When I looked at myself, I could not see myself
For in this moon, my body, by grace, had become soul.
And when I traveled in this soul, I saw nothing but moon,
Until the mystery of eternal theophany lay open to me.
All the nine heavenly spheres were drowned in this moon.
The skiff of my being drowned, dissolved, entirely, in that Sea.
Then, that Sea broke up into waves, Intelligence danced back,
And launched its song,
And the Sea covered over with foam,
And from each bubble of foam, something sprang, clothed in form,
Something sprang from each light-bubble, clothed in a body.
Then each bubble of body-foam received a sign from the Sea,
Melted immediately and followed the flow of its waves.
Without the saving, redeeming help of my Lord,
Shams-ul-Haqq of Tabriz,
No one can contemplate the moon, no one can become the Sea.

During this period Rumi’s disciples were all but forgotten by their teacher. They became deeply displeased and extremely jealous. Shams sensed trouble from this quarter, and felt that he needed to disappear from time to time – for his own safety and Rumi’s too. It is reported that during one of these disappearances, Rumi’s poetry writing and mystic whirling began.

It is your turn now,
you waited, you were patient.
The time has come,
for us to polish you.
We will transform your inner pearl
into a house of fire.
You're a gold mine.
Did you know that,
hidden in the dirt of the earth?
It is your turn now,
to be placed in fire.
Let us cremate your impurities.

Then the attempt to unravel the apparent dialogue between those two men that convinced Rumi to abandon his previous approach to religion and spirituality and instead follow Shams became closer to acceptable reality than just mere assumption. It is during this intense and grueling sohbat, private conversation, that Rumi develops an eshgh-o mohebat, love and affection, for Shams that it is unprecedented in the history of mankind, and that does not fit any modern psychological definition.

After things would cool down, Shams would reappear and the episodes of being lost in each other’s company would resume. Rumi attributed more and more of his own poetry to Shams as a sign of love for his departed friend and master. In Rumi's poetry Shams becomes a symbol of God's love for mankind; Shams was a sun ("Shams" means "Sun" in Arabic) shining the Light of God on Rumi

Love came,
and became like blood in my body.
It rushed through my veins and
encircled my heart.
Everywhere I looked,
I saw one thing.
Love's name written
on my limbs,
on my left palm,
on my forehead,
on the back of my neck,
on my right big toe…
Oh, my friend,
all that you see of me
is just a shell,
and the rest belongs to love.

On one of these reappearances, Shams and Rumi fell at each other’s feet upon seeing each other.
This was a telling moment in their relationship – remembering that the first time they met; Rumi fell in a faint at Shams feet. 
This time they bowed down to each other. What had begun as a master/disciple relationship had dissolved into pure loving friendship.

The legend goes on to say that Rumi and Shams became so inseparable that jealousy grew among Rumi's already considerable followers. Ultimately they acted, murdering Shams and leaving Rumi alone again, the one true and irreplaceable soul companion of his life gone.One winter night Shams, who was living with Rumi and his household, answered a knock at the back door. Shams disappeared, never to be seen again.

This disappearance caused in Rumi what may be called a spiritual implosion, an event in which, in the absence of the beloved, the lover falls “into himself” and disappears into his own emptiness. 

Shattered by the event, Rumi is said to have undergone a period of profound mourning. Then, at a point of near-total hopelessness and emotional desolation, he experienced another mystical intuition. Though physically dead, Shams was in fact not gone from his life at all but more present than ever on an inner, spiritual plane.

Love came, 
and became like blood in my body. 

It rushed through my veins and 

encircled my heart.
Everywhere I looked, 
I saw one thing.
Love's name written
on my limbs, 
on my left palm, 
on my forehead, 
on the back of my neck, 
on my right big toe…
Oh, my friend,
all that you see of me
is just a shell,
and the rest belongs to love

"Shams" means sun in Arabic, and in the words of Rumi scholar Annemarie Schimmel: "He who had searched for Shams, the 'Sun of Truth,' in vain, discovered that he was united with him in himself."

It was in the wake of this experience that Rumi's formidable output of poetry began: a catalog that in its surviving form runs to a dozen thick volumes. Rumi's masterpiece, the Mathnawi, is a fantastical, oceanic mishmash of folktales, philosophical speculation and lyric ebullience in which the worldly and the otherworldly, the secular and the sacred, blend constantly.

For Rumi, the universe is like a tavern where people, drunk with desire and longing, collect and carouse until they finally remember their true calling: return to God whose all-encompassing love is the core of every earthly love from the most trifling to the deepest and most passionate.

 "Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?" Rumi had asked.

 "I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there."
This world is no match for your Love.
Being away from you
is death aiming to take my soul away.
My heart, so precious,
I won't trade for a hundred thousand souls.
Your one smile takes it for free.

It is from this oceanic emptiness that the drop that was Rumi became the ocean – and his poetry a reflection within it.An excerpt from one of his poems perfectly expresses this state:

“Why should I seek? I am the same as he.
His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself.”

The union became complete. Rumi fell into the ocean that was Shams. Out of that experience came a huge wave of poetry that Rumi called, The Works of Shams of Tabriz.
Rumi and Shams had merged!!!

Love is best when mixed with anguish.
In our town,
we won't call you a Lover
if you escape the pain.
Look for Love in this way,
welcome it to your soul,
Lover you, cave you,
Shams protect me.
Noah you, soul you,
conqueror and the conquered you
the awakened heart you.
Why hold me at that gate of your secret?
Light you, celebration you,
the victorious land you
the bird of Mount Sinai you.
You carry me on your tired beak.
Drop you, ocean you,
compassion and rage you, 

sugar you, poison you.
Please don't continue to hurt me.
The orb of the Sun you,
the house of Venus you,
the sliver of hope you.
Open up the way for me
Day you, night you,
fasting and the crumbs of a beggar you,
water and a pitcher you.
Quench my thirst, Beloved.
Bait you, trap you,
wine you, cup you,

Besides the two collections of Rumi’s poetry, the “Maghâlât-e Shams,” there are only four other sources of information available about the lives and works of Rumi and Shams. These four books are by Bahâeddin Valad (1226-1312), the oldest son of Rumi, and three historians—Freydoun-Ebn Sepahsâlâr, who lived in the same period Rumi and Shams were alive, and Shamsoddin Ahmad Aflâki, who wrote his accounts forty years (1318) after Rumi’s death, and Abdul Rahmận Jậmi (1438-1519

To read Rumi's poems on Shams can go to works are based on theses sources.

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