Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī Part II

[Image Description: A painting of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, an older Persian man with a long white beard.]

[Image Description: A painting of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, an older Persian man with a long white beard.]

“When mankind gathers on that final day

And faces pale from fear of reckoning,

I'll hold your love in the palm of my hand,

And I will say, 'By this I'm saved or damned.'”

– Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

The loss of his love, no matter the cause, changed Rūmī. It was at this time that he finally began to pursue poetry and dance as Tabrizi had encouraged. Much of the work he did here was dedicated to Tabrizi's memory. It was during Rūmī's search for Tabrizi in Damascus that he wrote the following:

“Why should I seek? I am the same as

He. His essence speaks through me.

I have been looking for myself!”

Believing that the two had become one, Rūmī began to cope with the loss. He wrote of a transcendent love overwhelming any barriers. He valued love and compassion above all else, writing about the connection between love and spirituality saying:

“When mankind gathers on that final day

And faces pale from fear of reckoning,

I'll hold your love in the palm of my hand,

And I will say, 'By this I'm saved or damned.'”

Many of his poems seem to be inspired by their relationship or written about Tabrizi himself, including the Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, which is now regarded as a masterpiece. It contains 44,282 lines, 3,229 ghazals, 44 tarji-bands, and 1,983 quatrains. While written primarily in Persian, some are in Arabic, Greek, and Turkish, reflecting his travelled past. The book was named in memory of Tabrizi.

He also became deeply involved in dance, seeing within it a beauty reminiscent of poetry and a path to God. He wrote and danced and created and travelled for the rest of his life. He met more men with whom he found inspiration and understanding of God.

As a widely respected Muslim scholar, he made a point to embrace and respect other religions, writing:

“On the seeker’s path, wise men and fools are one.

In His love, brothers and strangers are one.

Go on! Drink the wine of the Beloved!

In that faith, Muslims and pagans are one.”

His teachings are still highly regarded by those of many faiths. Professor Majid M. Naini wrote:

"Rumi's life and transformation provide true testimony and proof that people of all religions and backgrounds can live together in peace and harmony. Rumi’s visions, words, and life teach us how to reach inner peace and happiness so we can finally stop the continual stream of hostility and hatred and achieve true global peace and harmony.”

Though he died in 1273, his work remains incredibly relevant and respected, translated into many languages including English, Russian, German, Urdu, Turkish, Arabic, Bengali, and Spanish. His work has been interpreted in songs, plays, concerts, and dances all around the world.

There is still heavy debate about who is entitled to his legacy, and it will likely continue to be debated for a long while. Because borders did not exist in the same way in the 13th century as they do now, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iran all believe Rūmī to be an iconic poet representative of their country. What can be said with certainty is that, despite some upcoming Hollywood portrayals supposedly starring Leonardo Dicaprio, he was not white.

In terms of sexuality, as was said of borders, modern labels did not exist in the 13th century. We can no more definitively call him bisexual than we can claim any single country as his. With that in mind, the reality of finding a home in Syria, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iran deserves exploration and respect, just as the realities of loving both men and women throughout his life.

While he had no connection to or chance to self-identify with the labels and borders that exist today, it would still be more than fair for a queer person to connect with him based on his queerness, just as it is fair for any Turk, Syrian, Iranian, or Afghan to identify with him based on where he made his home and his impact on their cultures.

His work, just like his love, was transcendent and can be understood in a multitude of interesting and valuable ways. Being respected by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike, one does not need to identify or even fully understand every aspect of him to learn from his work.

So where better to end than with his words:

“We are drunk on the essence without even tasting the wine,

Filled with light in the morning, and joyful into the night.

They say our path leads nowhere—that's alright:

There's joy enough right here to fill all time.”

[Disclaimer: some of the sources may contain triggering material]

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Bezhan, F. (2016). Cultural Tug-Of-War Erupts Over Persian Poet Rumi. Retrieved from https://www.rferl.org/a/afghanistan-rumi-poet-turkey-iran-unesco/27791137.html

Cherry, K. (2018). Rumi: Poet and Sufi mystic inspired by same-sex love. Retrieved from https://qspirit.net/rumi-same-sex-love/

Ciabattari, J. (2014). Why is Rumi the Best-Selling Poet in the US? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140414-americas-best-selling-poet

Houshmand, Z. (2002). Rumi's Rubaiyat. Retrieved from https://iranian.com/Arts/rumi.html

Moezzi, M. (2011). The true spiritual leader of Iran is Rumi. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/jun/10/rumi-spiritual-guide-iran

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“Rumi Integral Part of Iran’s Rich History, Culture, Literature.” (2018). Retrieved from https://ifpnews.com/exclusive/rumi-integral-part-of-irans-rich-history-culture-literature/