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Jalal ad-Din Rumi
, c. 1250 CE
Jalal is famed rather as the chief exponent and teacher of Sufism than as a poet. He became the
founder of the sect of "whirling dervishes," or Maulavi [or Mehlavi]. He was born in
Afghanistan, the far Eastern Persian land, in 1207, and died in the Turkish domains of Asia
Minor, or Rumi, in 1273. His father was a noted Sufi teacher who was driven by persecution to
flee from his Afghanistan home, taking his young son with him. Jalal, when only twenty-four,
succeeded to his learned father's headship of the great center of learning in Asia Minor, and with
youthful enthusiasm spread his impassioned Sufi doctrines far and wide. We are told that in his
house there was a central pillar, and that when Jalal was "drowned in the ocean of love," he
would take hold of that pillar and set himself turning round it, and improvising his frenzied
poetry. When the more conservative Muslims remonstrated with Jalal because his Maulavis
danced and sang, even at funerals, Jalal responded "When the human spirit, after years of
imprisonment in the cave and dungeon of the body, is at length set free, and wings its flight to the
source whence it came, is this not an occasion for rejoicings, thanks, and dancing?" Jalal's
religious exposition of Sufism is mainly contained in his "Masnavi", an enormous poetic work in
six books, comprising almost 30,000 couplets. The following are selections from that work.
The Music of Love
Hail to thee, then, O Love, sweet madness!
Thou who healest all our infirmities!
Who art the Physician of our pride and self-conceit!
Who art our Plato and our Galen!
Love exalts our earthly bodies to heaven,
And makes the very hills to dance with joy!
O lover, 'twas Love that gave life to Mount Sinai,
When "it quaked, and Moses fell down in a swoon."
Did my Beloved only touch me with His lips,
I too, like a flute, would burst out into melody.
When the rose has faded and the garden is withered,
The song of the nightingale is no longer to be heard.
The Beloved is all in all, the lover only veils Him;
The Beloved is all that lives, the lover a dead thing.
When the lover feels no longer love's quickening,
He becomes like a bird who has lost its wings. Alas!