‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’ – Rumi
Jalal Ad-Din Muhammad Rumi was a 13th century persian theologian, poet, mystic, scholar and philosopher. One of the most read poets he was born in 1207 in what is now Afghanistan, but his family traveled and settled to live in Konya, Turkey to escape the mongol invasion and destruction. Rumi is one of the most spiritual masters and poetical genius’s known to man and was the founder of the mawlawi sufi order, a leading mystical brotherhood of Islam.
In his late thirties Rumi met a wandering holy man by the name of Shamz Tabriz, in Rumi’s own words, after meeting Shams he was transformed from a bookish, sober scholar to an impassioned seeker of the truth and love. They spent around 2 years together where they would lock themselves away and create music and poetry and discuss ideas of love and philosophy. Their strong spiritual bond was too much for some people to handle and Shamz was brutally murdered. The death of Shamz sent Rumi into a spiraling cast of depression.Having seen the Divine in Shams, almost Godly, Rumi was saddened with grief out of that pain out poured nearly 70,000 verses of poetry.
Their relationship inspired many, their love was that greater than anything that me or you could imagine. They wrote from the depths of their heart explaining a love almost godly. They spent many years in each other company often locking themselves away in the library. He began to incorporate dance and music into his religious practice.His poetry was a form of expressing his love and joy towards Shams and the Creator. After the death of Shams, Rumi’s poetry was filled with grief and separation from Shams. In his grief, Rumi created the Turning Dance (called ’Whirling’) that is still a part of the Sufi Tradition today. The turning represents the search for Truth, the Beloved, the Divine, or God. Until this day they are quoted in gatherings of intellectuals and the common folk to describe the divine relationship between a person and their creator.
‘It’s easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human being with all their imperfections and defects. Remember, one can only know what one is capable of loving. There is no wisdom without love. Unless we learn to love God’s creation, we can neither truly love nor truly know God’ -Shams of Tabriz
One person who has been significantly Inspired by Rumi and his philosophy is Elif Shafak, a controversial turkish born writer. Her work challenges many of societies taboos such a rape, single mothers and even homosexuality. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Bradford Literature Festival. She was there to discuss her work and particularly her book, ‘The 40 Rules of Love’. This book explores the relationship between Rumi and Shams in a modern setting. It looks at the story of Ella a housewife fed up with her day to day life and unhappy with her uneventful marriage. She comes into contact with Aziz Zahara and this launches her journey into the mystical philosophy of Rumi and Shams. The book itself explores the relationship between the problems we experience in our daily lives and how the teachings of Rumi and Shams can be applied to make us happier in our selves and open ourselves to the idea of god.
Elif herself is a very collected and poise person.Her soft spoken voice talked about her life and the things that inspired her to write. She mentions her upbringing and being part of a female dominated family which was a key influencer in current values. A self proclaimed feminist she is a strong believer in sisterhood and female empowerment. Elif has grown up at the hands of her single mother and grandmother. Born to a young love struck woman, her mother had to drop out of University to marry her father , but the relationship didn’t last. She fled back back to Turkey to take care of her daughter, after a while Elif’s mother went back to university to complete her degree and became a diplomat. This supportive female environment where her grandmother encouraged her mother to study and raised Elif, in essence, has moulded her values today. Throughout the talk she spoke about the way her writing has challenged social conventions in Turkey and she has even been put on trial for making political suggestions which some found uncomfortable. I feel Elif is an inspiration not only to women but everyone everywhere. Her writing is progressive and enjoyable , I would highly recommend her to everyone.