Rumi, Jalal ad-Din

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Rumi, Jalal ad-Din

Jalal ad-Din Rumi (jäläl´ ĕd-dēn´ rōō´mē), 1207–73, great Islamic Persian sage and poet mystic, b. in Balkh. His father, a scholar, was invited by the Seljuk sultan of Rum to settle in Iconium (now Konya), Turkey. His apprenticeship as a Sufi mystic was guided by the mysterious Shams ad-Din Tabrizi (d. 1247), who was considered one of the spiritual masters of Rumi's age. His major work is the Mathnawi, a vast 6 vol. work of spiritual teaching and Sufi lore in the form of stories and lyric poetry of extraordinary quality. The Mathnawi is one of the enduring treasures of the Persian-speaking world, known and memorized by most. It is popularly called "the Qur'an in Persian." The singing of the Mathnawi has become an art form in itself. Rumi also founded the Mawlawiyya (Mevlevi) Sufi order, who use dancing and music as part of their spiritual method, and who are known in the West as Whirling Dervishes. Rumi's influence spread to Persian-speakers in Afghanistan and central Asia, and beyond, to Turkey and India. His tomb in Konya is a place of pilgrimage, and the Mawlawiyya order is still centered in Konya.

See selections of his mystical poems, tr. by A. J. Arberry (1968) and by James G. Cowan (1992); critical works by R. A. Nicholson (1950), A. R. Arasteh (1965), and A. Schimmel (1978).

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