Sufi Islam is Islam of love and peace as the basic doctrine of Sufis is sulh-i-kul i.e. total peace and peace with all and Sufi God is not one to be feared but to beloved. God is seen by Sufis as ma'shuq i.e. beloved. A Sufi is absorbed in the love of God. Rabi'ah Basri once reported to have said that "I am so absorbed in love of God that I have no time to hate Satan. And where there is no hatred there is no conflict".
Unfortunately political Islam makes news and Sufi Islam finds no place in media at all and media projects only political and 'jihadi Islam'. The media is full of news about Iraq and Usama bin Laden as they are American obsessions. Who cares for peace movements or Sufi Islam which attracts millions of Muslims throughout the world. Muhiyuddin Ibn Arabi and Maulana Rum or popularly known as Rumi both gave love central place in their thinking and way of living and both together influenced innumerable people Muslims as well as non-Muslims. And yet their philosophies are known only to students of Sufism and lovers of Arabic and Persian literature.
Rumi is known for his mathnawi which is in Persian runs into several volumes and is considered by many as Qur'an dar zabani Pehlavai i.e. Qur'an in Persian language. It has profoundly influenced innumerable people throughout ages. The Mathnavi, one can say with all the emphasis at once command, is among the world classics and represents human wisdom for all the time. Its every verse, its every couplet, is worth being written in gold. Both Diwan-i-Shams Tabriz and Mathnaw-i-Maulana Rum would continue to inspire coming generations of humanity.
Afzal Iqbal, a Pakistani Scholar, in his book The Life and Work of Jalaluddin Rumi writes in "A Portrait" "simple, sincere and selfless, Rumi was respected because he respected others. He was considerate even towards his enemies. He was no bigot. Petty differences of creed did not upset him. He always stood for tolerance and toleration. It was well-nigh impossible to provoke him. He always managed to keep his balance about him. Nothing could irritate him to anger."
Afzal narrates in this portrait of Rumi an incident which is worth narrating here. One day as Rumi was in deep mood of contemplation a drunkard walked in, shouting and stumbling. As he advanced towards Rumi, he fell on him. The drunkard's intrusion was serious enough, but to have fallen physically on him in contemplative moment was a crime serious enough for which no punishment was serious enough. Rumi's disciples rose as a man and were about to rush at the intruder when the Master waved his hand and rebuked them gently. "I had thought", said he, "that the "intruder" was drunk, but now I see that it is not he but my own disciples who are drunk".
Jalaluddin Rumi was born in Balkh in 604 after Hijrah. He was born in a family of great scholars. His father was a great jurist of eminence and Jalaluddin was also trained to be an 'alim. He was 'alim of no less eminence than his father. His father had shifted to Konya known as Inconium in the Byzantium days. It was situated on the main trade route starting from Syria, Iraq and Iran and converging on Costle, the Centre of Eastern Emire, Konya enjoyed a variety of advantages over towns which were less fortunately situated. Besides economic affluence, its situation resulted in a rich fusion of cultures, for the caravans brought not only goods that gave material prosperity but also the leaven of new ideas in which Konya itself was later to excel the rich neighbouring civilizations of Syria, Iraq and Iran. Rumi came to Konya when he was 22 and spent rest of his life here.
The thirteenth century was crisis-ridden century for the world of Islam but it was also very fertile in terms of great personalities, ulama, thinkers, Sufis, historians, Qur'anic commentators, poets and philosophers. Maulana Rum also lived during this century. Rumi's childhood was full of turmoil. He left Balkh at the age of five. As a child he witnessed great and gruesome massacre perpetrated by Khwarizm King of the poor and innocent people of Samarqand. One can imagine the anguish and agony which Rumi must have felt in being forced by circumstances to tear himself away from the town which had been the home of his family for many generations.
After Rumi arrived in Konya at the age 22 his father expired within two years. Thus Rumi succeeded his father in 1231 A.D. He was appointed in place of is father by Sultan Alauddin at the age of 24. It was a great opportunity and a great challenge. Soon Rumi acquired great eminence as an 'alim. Thus the formative years of Rumi's life were full of challenge. It is interesting to note that Rumi was brought up in a family which had a tradition of hostility to philosophy and stuck to religious dogmas. The atmosphere in his own house was that of scholarship and spiritualism. His father was mystic of no mean order and he was to suffer many a personal discomfort for the sake of principles which he boldly espoused and sincerely followed.
At thirty four Rumi was an accomplished alim having finished his course in Halab in Syria and now he was an acknowledged leader of men and his life now was a life of an orthodox professor addressing vast audiences on religion, philosophy, jurisprudence and morals. He lived simply, studied deeply and lectured eloquently. His circle of disciples was becoming unwieldy. His son, his biographer, records in Persian verses:
(The number of his disciples grew to more than ten thousands, although in the first instance they were far from sincere (and devoted). He addressed them from the pulpit selflessly with feeling and eloquence, and his sermon was like the sermon of the Prophet himself)
At this stage the most powerful influence on Rumi was that of his father. This is clear to anyone who studies his life in this phase. Rumi was also greatly attached to the Arab poet al-Mutanabbi. His own father and Mutanabbi were most pervasive influences on Rumi at this stage. So great was Mutanabbi's influence on Rumi that he had to be dissuaded from reading him by Shams-i-Tabriz who transformed his life and thinking.
It is interesting to note that Ghazali and Rumi share in common hostility to philosophy. One will find striking parallels between Ghazali's Ihya al-'Ulum and many parts of Mathnawi though their approaches are different. At several places in Mathnawi we see him arguing with the Mu'tazila, the philosophers and the atheists with arguments that might have been employed by Ghazali or Bahauddin, his father. These were often discussed in the assemblies of the learned and Rumi's lectures were replete with such discussions.
It is encounter with Shams-i-Tabriz that transformed Rumi forever. We do not want to go into details of this encounter though quite interesting it is. Shams-i-Tabriz is said to be of Isma'ili origin and was a great mystic from Tabriz. He came to Konya in 1244 and met Rumi when he was riding his mule and is disciples were following him on foot. Shams-i- Tabriz asked Rumi some questions of mystic nature which astounded Rumi and both were closeted together for forty days in holy communion and Rumi was completely transformed man.
There are other accounts as well in which Shams-i-Tabriz walks in when Rumi, the renowned 'alim of his time is lecturing before his students and heap of books are lying. Shams asks 'what is this?' referring to the heap of books. Annoyed by such insolent interruption of a stranger Rumi says 'you don't know' and continues with his lecture. Soon the books catch fire and Rumi asks the stranger 'what is this?' and Shams repeats Rumi's words 'you don't know and walks away. Surprised Rumi comes out and looks for him but the stranger has disappeared leaving Rumi desolate and transformed.
Whatever the truth of these stories the encounter with Shams-i-Tabriz did take place and left Rumi completely a changed man. The books catching fire or being thrown into water are symbolic of the fact that these books do not contain the answer for the truth one is searching for. Truth lies buried in ones inner self and one has to search for it deep into oneself. Rumi who was so sure of truth so far and had reputation as a great savant suddenly realised through encounter with Shams-i-Tabriz that he knew nothing.
This is borne out by what his son wrote in his versified biography. He writes and I translate from Persian verses: "He who excelled in all branches of knowledge deserved to be leader of the sheikhs. He counted great muftis among his disciples, every one of whom was better than Bayazid. Two hundred Dhunnuns did not compare favourably with a single disciple of his. But with all its dignity and glory, and with all this prestige and perfection, he was always in quest of an Abdal (a leader). His Khidr (leader) was Shams-i-Tabriz; if you were associated with him, you would attach no significance to another person and would rend apart the veils of darkness (of sin). His (Shams-i-Tabriz) glory was veiled even from those who were themselves veiled in the Glory of God...
Thus one can understand the state of Rumi's mind after meeting Shams-i-Tabriz. He felt all that he had learned through books about God, about fiqh (jurisprudence) was futile. He could learn secrets of life, inner being, deeper truth only through Shams-i-Tabriz and that is why he gave up his position of great eminence and began to search for him (Shams Tabriz) who had disappeared after igniting the fire of love in him. His disciples were angry at Shams-i-Tabriz that they lost their great master because of him. Rumi was now no more interested in lecturing and teaching. He snapped all his ties with all that he knew ? all his books were worth throwing into fire or in water. He could find some satisfaction only if he could meet his Master who lit fire of love in him.
It was in this state of ecstasy that he wrote Diwan-e-Shams Tabriz and the great Mathnawi in several volumes. Though it is known as Diwan-i-Shams Tabriz it is composed by Maulana Rum and attributed to his Master. This Diwan contains love poetry ghazals and one finds ecstasy of love in it. In this Diwan Maulana Rum Appears to be really a poet of humanity and love ? insaniyyat and 'ishq.
In some of his verses he says about love (ishq): 'it is not air in the flute which gives out sound of wiling but fire of love and one who does not have this fire (of love) in his heart is dead. And it is fire of love that has entered in the flute and it is effervescence of love in wine. It is fire of love which is source of life and energy'.
In another verse Rumi says every heart that is deprived of warmth of love (sauz) is no heart. The heart which has no feeling of love is nothing more than a handful of dust. O Allah give me chest which is burning with fire and a heart in that chest which is full of fire of love.
Rumi desires a heart in which the Sustainers of the universe (Rabb al-'Alamin) has blown His Spirit and has saved it (the heart) from vain desires and created the spirited of insaniyyah and given the life of insaniyyah, the heart which is lighted with the light (tajalli) of the Lord of heaven and earth.
Maulana Rum talks of a man who carries a burning lamp in his hand in a broad day light and searches for something in every shop and in every corner of a bazaar. Someone asks him why are you carrying this burning lamp in broad daylight in your hand and what are you searching for? The man carrying the lamp in day light replies I am looking for a person (aadmi) who has true divine spirit in him and who is true human being. I am searching for him everywhere and I am so wonderstruck in search of true human being.
Thus it will be seen that for Maulana Rum whole emphasis is on love and true humanity and he looks for such human being whose heart is burning with love and is infused with divine spirit, who has imbibed true humanity (insaniyyah). Before Rumi met Shams-i-Tabriz he was an 'alim like any other 'alim. These 'ulama think they know all that is worth knowing and their only quest is for nearness to worldly rulers and for that they compete with each other. And even if it is not so their aim is to indulge in fiqhi (juristic) problems and find answers with dry reason rather than human heart full of love.
But Shams-i-Tabriz changed all that as far as Maulana Rum was concerned and it was then in this sense that all the books of jurisprudence appeared to be worth consigning to fire. Rumi was not against reason per se but for using reason for selfish end. Thus in one of the verses of the Mathnawi Rumi says and it has been quoted by the noted Urdu poet Iqbal in one of his poems that use knowledge (or reason) for body (i.e. for selfish ends) and it bites like snake (maar) and use knowledge for spiritual purposes and it becomes friend (yaar).
Thus Maulana Rum is immersed in love of humanity and his whole search is for true human beings who do not run after worldly desires which are cause of all strifes, conflicts and bloodshed in the world and killings of innocent people. It robs this world of peace and real quest for truth. In our own world today knowledge is biting humanity like serpent rather than being human friendly. How mighty powers use their science and technology for destroying other countries and killing innocent human beings by thousands by forging all sorts of excuses.
Rumi's real project is to revive the fire of love in all human beings. There is great distance today between human reason and heart; while human reason often is engaged in calculating benefits and losses, human heart throbs with love and compassion. There is great need to bridge this gap. Rumi, as pointed out earlier, had seen so much turmoil, conflict and bloodshed around him since his childhood, he wanted world full of love, compassion and peace. This could not be achieved by intellect alone. One need to have a heart burning with fire of love.
Rumi's goal was to create what Sufis have described as insane-i-kamil (perfect human being). To reach this perfection has been the goal of all the Sufis. And it is only divine love, pure love and a heart full of sauz (warmth) which can aspire to achieve this perfection. It was Shams-i-Tabriz who induced this sauz in Rumi. And since Shams disappeared soon after inducing this sauz in Rumi, Rumi became restless and began searching for Shams-i-Tabriz almost in a state of madness.
Rumi forgot his social status, his knowledge, his disciples, everything in search for Shams-i-Tabriz. His disciples held Shams-i-Tabriz guilty of their Master's plight and were very angry with him. They could not appreciate what fire he had lit in his heart. It was this restlessness and ceaseless search for love that made him create Mathnawi. Afzal Iqbal describes this period of his life as "the most violent and the most creative period of his life'. If he had met Shams-i-Tabriz, Rumi would never have written Mathnawi. There can hardly be any doubt about it. It was burning passionate love which made him create this masterpiece of human literature.
Rumi, in this Mathnawi, advises us to "Seek the knowledge which unravels mysteries before your life comes to a close and to give up that non-existence which looks like existence and seek that existence which looks like non-existence." What a profound observation. We all run after that existence (hast) which is in fact non-existence (nist). It is profound spiritual life with warm glow of love (sauz-i-ishq) that is real existence but we while chasing our vain desires consider it as non-existence but it is real existence. Thus real journey of life is from such non-existence (neest) to real existence (hast). It is from finite to infinite, as some others have put it.
Rumi also wants us to go beyond kufr and Islam He says there is world beyond kufr and Islam. For an arif (mystic) there is world beyond both and he lays down his head where there is neither Islam nor kufr. This the height Rumi reaches in his journey beyond and we keep on fighting for petty things.
Rumi in another verse says wherever I perform sajdah (prostrate my head) He is to whom I bow; everywhere in six directions and outside them He is whom I worship. The garden, the rose, the nightingale, music and the beauteous maiden are a mere excuse and He alone is the real object. Thus these are manifestations of Him, the ultimate Beauty. If by loving these objects we love Him we will not be trapped by illusion and will not fight. Real peace can be bestowed only by loving Him. It is burning love for Him which gives us real life, real existence which we keep on denying to ourselves in chasing what is non-existence.
Rumi always loved someone in search of His love. It is true companionship of a sincere friend who can lead us to His love. Thus Rumi totally surrendered himself to Shams-i-Tabriz in one phase of his life and to Hisamuddin Chalapi in the final phase of his life. Rumi was so kind to him (Chalapi) that he would send everything he received to him. Once Ameer Taj-ud-din Mu'tabar sent a present of seventy thousand dirhams to Rumi; he at once sent whole amount to Chalapi.
Sultan Walad (Rumi's son) drew his father's attention to the utter lack of provisions in the house and complained about Rumi's complete disregard of domestic needs, Rumi retorted, 'If a million saints were to starve within my sight and if I had a loaf of bread, by God, I shall send that loaf to Chalapi." The fourth, fifth and sixth volumes of the Mathnawi start with a mention of Chalapi and some say that the Mathnawi was written at the instance of Hisamuddin.
It is interesting to note that Rumi as a faqih (jurist) and 'alim had rejected music and poetry as unhealthy influences on life but once he experienced inner transformation he became the most rapturous devotee of music and a great poet that Persia has ever produced. It is this inner transformation, which he subsequently aimed at in his poetry and it is this spiritual ecstasy, which gives life richness, which one can never achieve otherwise. According to Rumi one cannot achieve this richness through ones intellect. Intellect's achievements are of very different order.
Thus it will be seen that Shams-i-Tabriz ushered in great revolution of heart in Rumi, endowed him with warmth of love (sauz-i-ishq) he had never experienced before. Before he spoke language of intellect; he was quite certain of right and wrong. His lectures collected in a volume called Fihi ma Fihi were quite abstruse full of philosophical problems, more thought than feeling. These thoughts did not touch his soul or move his heart. But Shams-i-Tabriz enabled him to throw away cold logic and experience rapturous ecstasy. It gave him a new life. He was reborn.
It is his Mathnawi, which gave him eternal life. It was through this creation that he could distribute pearls of his wisdom to the world. All his intellectual arguments could not have achieved what Mathnawi could achieve and which entire humanity would continue to enjoy as long as world lives beyond confines of all religions. Mathnawi Ma'nawi as it is really known, would remain a testament of love for entire humanity. He would be ever known as poet of love and peace. He made us aware of real existence rich in spiritual life. His Mathnawii would remain the proud heritage of entire humanity.