A Brief Biography of Rumi
Jalaluddin Rumi was born on September 30, 1207, in Balkh Province, on the eastern edge of the Persian Empire in what is today Afghanistan. A decade or so into his life, his father, an esteemed religious scholar, took the young Rumi and his family west to escape the advancing Mongol armies of Genghis Khan. The family eventually settled in Konya, Turkey, where Rumi lived and spent most of his adult years working as a scholar, writer, and teacher.
In 1244, Rumi met Shams of Tabriz, a Persian Sufi saint who had taken a vow of poverty. Their meeting and four-year companionship is considered the central event that transformed Rumi’s life. Tabriz disappeared under mysterious circumstances, prompting Rumi to mourn and turn inward for a time before returning to his work, but with even greater erudition.
In the years to follow he became a prolific poet and wrote three works considered to be some of the greatest collections of verse ever produced: Fihi Ma Fihi (In it What is In It), Diwan-i-Shams-i-Tabriz (The Diwan of Shams of Tabriz), and foremost among them, Mathnawi-i-Manawi (Spiritual Couplets).
Rumi also founded The Order of the Whirling Dervishes, an organisation devoted partly to musical dance movements, which Idries Shah, author of The Sufis, claims was 'for the sluggish among the people of the (Eastern) Roman Empire, to stir up their spirits preparatory to giving them certain kinds of instruction'.*
Rumi fell ill and died on December 17, 1273, in Konya, Turkey.
During his life, Rumi referred to death as 'our wedding with eternity' – when the human soul is reunited with the love, truth, and essence of the Creator from which it came forth. Those who revere Rumi have ever since celebrated the anniversary of his passing as the jubilee of his 'Wedding Night'.
* See the introduction to E.H. Whinfield’s Teachings of Rumi: The Masnavi. London: Octagon Press, 1979.