1902 Encyclopedia > Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Persian poet

RUMI. Mohammed b. Mohammed b. Husain albalkhi, better known as Maulana Jalal-uddin Rumi, the greatest Sufic poet of Persia, was born on the 30th of September 1207 (604 A.H. 6th of Rabi I.) at Balkh, in Khorasan, where his family had resided from time immemorial, rich in property and public renown. He claimed descent from the caliph Abukekr, and from the Khwarism shah Sultan Ala-uddin b. Tukush (1199-1220), whose only daughter, Malika-I-Jahan, had been married to Jalal-uddin’s grandfather. He son, Mohammed, commonly called Baha-uddin Walad, was a famous doctor of Balkh, who, to escape the jealousy with which the sultan viewed his influence, emigrated to Asia Minor in 1212. Young Jalal-uddin was only five years old at that time, but the signs of his future greatness in spiritual matters began already to manifest themselves in precocious knowledge and in ecstasies and visions. After residing for some time at Malatiyah and afterwards at Erzinjan in Armenia, Baha-uddin was called to larindah in Asia Minor, as principal of the local college, and there young Jalal-uddin, who had meanwhile grown under the careful tuition of his father in wisdom and holiness, attained his maturity, and married in 1226 Jauhar Khatun, the daughter of Lala Sharaf-uddin of Samarkand. Finally, Baha-uddin was invited to Iconium by Ala-uddin Kaikubad (1219-1236), the sultan of Asia Minor, or, as it is commonly called in the East, Rum,-whence Jalal-uddin’s surname (takhallus) Rumi.

After Baha-uddin’s death in 1231, Jalal-uddin went to Aleppo and Damascus for a short time to study, but, as the mere positive sciences in which he had been particularly trained failed to satisfy him, on his return to Iconium, where he became by and by professor of four separate colleges, he took for nine years as his spiritual guide Sayyid Burhan-uddin Husaini of Tirmidh, one of his father’s disciples, and later on the wandering Sufi Shams-uddin of Tabriz, who arrived in Iconium on the 29th of November 1244, and soon acquired the most powerful influence over Jalal-uddin, who even adopted his name as takhallus in his ghazals or mystic odes. Shams-uddin’s rather aggressive character, however, roused the indignation of the people of Iconium against him, and during a riot in which Jalal-uddin’s eldest son, ‘Ala-uddin, was killed, he was arrested and probably executed; at least he was no more seen. This fate of his teacher and friend, together with the untimely death of his son, threw Jalal-uddin into deep melancholy, and in remembrance of these victims of popular wrath he founded the order of the Maulawi or (in Turkish pronunciation) Mewlewi dervishes, famous for their piety as well as for their peculiar garb of mourning, their music and their mystic dance (sama), which is the outward representation of the circling movement of the spheres, and the inward symbol of the circling movement of the soul caused by the vibrations of a Sufi’s fervent love to God. The establishment of this order, which still possesses numerous cloisters throughout the Turkish empire, and the leadership of which has been kept in Jalal –uddin’s family in Iconium uninterruptedly for the last six hundred years, gave a new stimulus both to the zeal and energy and the poetical inspiration of the great shaikh. Most of his matchless odes, in which he soars on the wings of a genuine enthusiasm, high over earth and heaven up to the throne of Almighty God, were composed in honor of the Maulawi dervishes, and even his opus magnum, the mathnawi or, as it is usually called, The Spiritual Mathnawi (mathnawi-ma’nawi), a production of the highest poetical and religious intuition in six books or daftars, with 30,000 to 40,000 double-rhymed verses, can be traced to the same source. The idea of this immense collection of ethical and moral precepts, interwoven with numerous anecdotes and comments on verses of the Koran and sayings of the Prophet, which the Eastern world reveres as the greatest devotional work, the study of which secures eternal bliss, was first suggested to the poet by his favorite discipline Hasan, better known as Husan-uddin, who became in 1258 Jalal-uddin’s chief assistant. He had frequently observed that the members of the Maulawi fraternity read with great delight the mystic mathnawis of Sana’i and Farid-uddin ‘Attar, and induced his master to compose a similar poem on a larger scale. Jalal-uddin readily fell in with this suggestion and dictated to him, with a short interruption, the whole work during the remaining years of his life. Soon after the completion of this masterpiece Jalal-uddin died on the 17th of December 1273 (672 A.H. 5TH OF Jumada II.), worshipped as a saint by high and low. His first successor in the rectorship of the Maulawi fraternity was Husam-uddin himself, after whose death in 1284 Jalal-uddin’s younger and only surviving son, Shaikh Bahaudd-in Ahmed, commonly called Sultan Walad, and favorably known as author of the mystical mathnawi, Rababnama, or the Book of the Guitar (died 1312), was duly installed as grand-master of the order.

Jalal-uddin’s life is fully described in Shams-uddin Ahmed Aflaki’s Manakib-ul arifin (written between 718 and 754 A.H.), the most important portions of which have been translated by J.W.. Redhouse in the preface to his English metrical version of The Mesnevi, Book the First (London, 1818; Trubner’s Oriental series). Complete editions have been printed in Bombay, Lucknow, Tabriz, Constantinople, and in Bulak (with a Turkish translation, 1268 A.H.), at the end of which a seventh daftar is added, the genuineness of which is refuted by a remark of Jalal-uddin himself in one of the Bodleian copies of the poem, Ouseley, 294 (f. 328a sq.) The revised edition by "Abd-ullatif (made between 1024 and 1032 A.H.) is still unpublished, but the same author’s commentary on the mathnawi, Lata’if0ulma’nawi, and his glossary, Lata’if-allughat, have been lithographed in Cawnpore (1876) and Lucknow (1877) respectively, the latter under the title Farhang-I-mathnawi. For the other numerous commentaries and for further biographical and literary particulars of Jalal-uddin see Rieu’s Cat. Of the Persian MSS. of the Brit. Mus. Vol. ii. p. 584 sq; A. Sprenger’s Oudh Cat., p. 489., p. 489; Sir Gore Ouseley, Notices of Persian Poets, p. 112 sq.; and H. Ethe, in Morgenlandische Studien, Leipsic, 1870, p. 95 sq. Select poems from Jalal-uddin’s diwan (often styled Diwan-I-Shams-i- Tabriz) have been translated in German verse by V. von Rosenzweig, Vienna, 1838. ( H.E.)

The above article was written by: C. Hermann Ethé, Ph.D., M.A., Professor of German and Oriental Languages, University College, Aberystwyth, from 1875; catalogued Arabic MSS. in the Bodleian Library, Persian MSS. in India Office Library; Examiner for Oxford University.

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