The great mystic and poet Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi was born in Belh (Balkh), in present day Afghanistan but in Greater Khorasan region back in Persian times, on 30th of September 1207 AD. His father Bahaeddin Veled, who was known as Sultan-ul Ulema (the king of the learned men), was a renowned scholar who, however, raised the ire of the established academia of his times by criticising the tenets of Greek philosophy. This and the start of the Mongol invasions made him decide to leave Belh. This was when Mevlana was only five years old. The family, which reached Anatolia after stopping in Yemen and Damascus, lived in Larende (Karaman) for seven years; and then, upon the invitation of the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I, Bahaeddin Veled settled in Konya in Central Anatolia in 1220. Mevlana married Gevher Hatun in Karaman and their son, Sultan Veled, was born in 1226 in the same town. Bahaeddin Veled, Mevlana's father, was a cultured scholar and mystic.
His knowledge, his discourses and his environment played a significant role in shaping and educating Mevlana, who advanced so rapidly that when his father died in 1230, he had already become a scholar and a teacher at the tender age of 23. Thus it would not bean exaggeration to say that Mevlana had learned the fundamentals of philosophy and mysticism from his father.
If a day won't come
when the monuments to institutionalized religion lie in ruin
.....then my beloved,
then we are really in trouble!
When Bahaeddin Veled died in 1230, a friend and a student of his, Burhaneddin Muhakkik Tirmizi, came to Konya and functioned as Mevlana's teacher for 9 years, before he relocated in Kayseri and died there in 1242. Mevlana also was educated in the two major university centers of the time, Aleppo and Damascus; he was a well rounded scholar who had accumulated much theological and scientific knowledge. He had such command of Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Greek that he could write poetry in all four languages. He also had good relations with Haci Bektas Veli of the Bektashi Order and his dervishes.
Mevlana, who first met Semseddin Tebrizi in 1244, so fell under his spell that the emergence of Mevlana as mystic poet is traced to the effect Semseddin Tebrizi had on him. Much, most of it speculative, has been said about the personality and identity of Semseddin Tebrizi, this wielder of such a powerful effect on the spirit of Mevlana, himself the strangest of personalities. Everything seems to point to Semseddin Tebrizi's being a sufi master of such extraordinary knowledge and power that he could touch and light the torch in Mevlana's heart, in a sense transforming him. It was also Sems, who taught Mevlana the ritual dance-like practice callled Sem'a and the latter concieved it almost as a form of prayer or meditation. Sems, who must have reached rarefied spiritual heights, was a fearless man who would make no concessions to the prejudices, of the masses or the learned, either in behavior or in speech. So he made a great number of enemies and was not at all popular in Konya. Therefore he left Konya and went to Damascus in 1245; but returned to Konya when Mevlana implored him to, such was the older man's attachment to Sems. Two years later, in 1247, Sems dissappeared in a mysterious manner and was never heard of again.
Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi's masterpiece, his six volume Mesnevi consisting of about 25,700 verses or 50,000 lines, is regarded as the most outstanding work of Persian - Islamic mysticism. It is not clear when Mevlana started writing the Mesnevi, though it is known that he started on the second volume of his magnum opus in 1264. These epic poems have been translated into more than 25 languages and is currently being translated into others. This masterpiece of Islam's mystic literature was written in the form of poetry which included philosophical, mystical, and spiritual messages and could in a sense be considered allegories which carry deep spiritual and religious meanings.
His second masterpiece, Divan-i Sems, though smaller in size is no less important from a literary and mystical standpoint. Divan-i Sems or (Divan-i Kebir as it is sometimes called) is a collection of verses (gazels) in which Mevlana reached heights of poetry, music and mysticism. It is regarded as the mature expression of his consciousness of universal unity (Vahdet-i Vucud).
Apart from these two masterpieces, Mevlana produced works, called Fihi Ma-Fih, Mecalis-i Seba and Mektubat (or Letters) which have all been translated into Turkish, and also, in part or in full, into other languages.
Following a short bout with an illness, Mevlana died in Konya on 17th of December 1273. Then Husameddin Çelebi, a student and a disciple of his, stepped into his place on the insistence of Mevlana's son Sultan Veled, upon the former's death in 1284, Sultan Veled in turn became the master and made important contributions to the emergence of the sect which is called Mesnevi after Mevlana's name.
Crowns titles and riches love covets not
and when love's gaze falls upon a yearning heart
the doors to His heart will open wide.
Mevlana was not only a great poet and philosopher but first and foremost he was a mystic, a spiritually touched man. His mind and heart had reached for heights and depths of the spiritual world. In his vision there were two universes which coincided in Man. The inner world was like an endless infinite ocean, which could only be felt and seen with the eyes of the heart, while the outer world was but like the passing foam which appears on the surface of the waves emenating from that ocean.
of the secret wine
all drank but just a sip-so as to become
so as to exist.
drank barrels and barrels of that wine
so as to become
Mevlana also integrated a dualist approach in his mind: In approaching issues pertaining to daily life he is a rationalist, but in approaching spiritual and mystical matters he recognizes only the mastery of the heart and emotions. According to him, the only way to approach absolute being is through love; and God's love is everywhere, permeating everything. If one were to love another being in the name of God, one would find a pathway leading to the absolute. According to him everything in the universe, every being, even matter itself - all are but manifestations of God and exist in God and are united in the Absolute Being. Thus Mevlana views all existence as a united whole. In a sense, one could call his vision that of Unity Consciousness. This vision impelled Mevlana to transcend all differences and prejudices, and formed the basis of his immense tolerance and of his real and deep humanism. With these characteristics, Mevlana and his thought transcended the boundaries of his time and thus he and his writings are still relevant and fresh in this day and age, some 750 years after. The universality of his thought finds its reflection in, for example, the famous verses where he says:
Come whoever you are.
Doesn't matter if you are an unbeliever.
Doesn't matter if you have fallen a thousand times.
Come whoever you are. For this is not the door of hopelessness.
Just as you are!
With the tens of thousands of verses he wrote, and with the depths of spirituality he phantomed which helped him grasp qualities of timelessness and humanistic universality, Mevlana and the sect which was founded after him, have not only influenced the Anatolian - Turkish civilizations but indeed have had far-reaching influences on the intellectual and artistic life of many individuals and nations.
UNESCO Mevlana Year
The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) marked 2007 as the "Mevlana Year" to celebrate 800th anniversary of the birth of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Belhi-Rumi. This decision was made because Rumi advocated tolerance, reason and access to knowledge through Love. His mystical relationship with Islam produced masterpieces that have marked Islamic culture and religious beliefs beyond the borders of Turkey. His work and thought remain universally relevant today in our world.