Rumi Biography

(Persian Poet)

Birthday: September 30, 1207 (Libra)

Born In: Balkh, Afghanistan

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rumi, known to the Western world simply as Rumi, was a thirteenth century Sufi mystic and a great Persian poet, whose works have transcended all barriers. Born in today’s Afghanistan, he spent most of his adult years in present-day Turkey, at that time known as Rumi and hence the nisba Rumi. Educated at his father's madrassa, he acquired a thorough knowledge in Islamic scriptures before being appointed a Molvi at the age of 25, quickly acquiring a large following in cosmopolitan Konya. But, he gave all these up when he met his mentor Shams-i (or Shams-e) Tabrīzī and after his sudden disappearance began to pour out his grief through poems, writing mystical verses, which had a universal appeal. These poems, written in Persian, not only made him one of the most celebrated poets of his era, but also of this modern age. He had also written numerous letters, out of which 147 have been saved, providing an insights into his life and personality.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 66


Spouse/Ex-: Gowhar Khatun

father: Bahā ud-Dīn Walad

mother: Mu'mina Khātūn

children: Ala-eddin Chalabi, Amir Alim Chalabi, Malakeh Khatun, Sultan Walad

Born Country: Afghanistan

Quotes By Rumi Poets

Died on: December 17, 1273

place of death: Konya, Turkey

Childhood & Early Years

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rumi was born as Muhammad bin Muhammad bin al-Husayn al-Khatibi al-Balkhi al-Bakri on 30 September 1207 in Balkh. Currently, located in Afghanistan, it was then a major city of the Khwarezmian Empire.  According to some other sources, Wakhsh, located in present-day Tajikistan, was his actual place of birth.

His father, Baha ad-Din Walad aka Baha Walad aka Bahauddin, is believed to be ninth descendant of the first caliph Abu Bakr, while his mother, Mumina-Khatun, was believed to be the daughter of Rukn ad-Din, emir of Balkh. However, both the genealogies have been disputed by modern historians.

Born into a family of Islamic preachers of the relatively liberal Hanafi Maturidi School, Bahauddin became an authoritative theologian-lawyer, teacher and author, expert in fiqh. Mumina-Khatun was possibly his third wife.

Possibly born younger of his parents’ two children, Rumi had an elder brother named Aladdin Muhammad. From his father’s other wives, he had a half-sister named Fatima and a half-brother named Hussein, all elder to him.

In 1212, Bahauddin left Balkh with his family, either due to a dispute with the ruler or because of the Mongols invasion, moving first to Nishapur, a town in Khorasan region of Iran. There, he is believed to have left Fatima and Hussein with his mother and proceeded towards Baghdad with the rest of his family.

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In Rûme

From Baghdad, Bahauddinn traveled with his wife and two sons to Hejaz before performing Hajj at Mecca. Thereafter, they traveled through Damascus, Malatya, Erzincan, Sivas, Kayseri and Nigde, finally settling down in Karaman, a town in the present-day Turkey, at that time known as Rûmi.  There they lived for seven years.

In 1228, they moved to Konya, the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûmi, possibly at the invitation of its ruler.  There Bahāʾ al-Dīn Walad became the head of a madrassa, serving in this capacity until his death in 1231. Among his students was also his son Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rumi.

After the death of his father, Rumi took up the position of the Molvi at the same madrassa. Concurrently, he continued his training under Sayyed Burhan ud-Din Muhaqqiq Termazi, one of his father’s students, who arrived in Konya, possibly a year later, from Iran.

Under Burhan ud-Din, Rumi delved deeper into in the Shariah as well as the Tariqa and was also introduced to mystical theories developed in Iran.  Thus for the next nine years, Rumi practiced Sufism under Burhan ud-Din, who contributed considerably to his spiritual development.

Meeting with Shams-i Tabrīzī

Around 1240 or 1241, Burhan ud-Din either left Konya or passed away. It was only after that Rumi began his public life, serving as an Islamic Jurist, issuing fatwas and giving sermons in the mosques, concurrently continuing to teach at the madrassa.

Quickly, Rumi became well-known as an Islamic jurist and scholar, involving himself in the lives of his community members, solving disputes and facilitating loans. Among his followers were Muslim literalists and theologians, Sufis, Christians, and Jews, as well as the local Sunni Seljuk rulers.

Rumi’s life underwent a drastic change on 15 November 1244, the day he met, on the street of Konya, a wandering Sufi mystic named Shams al-Din Mohammad aka Shams-i Tabrīzī,.  According to some sources they had met earlier in Syria.

There are several versions of their first encounter; but they vary only in details. In all these versions, we find Rumi reading some books and when asked what he was reading, he replies, "Something you cannot understand."  Then a miracle happened, which jolted Rumi out of his pride.

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While according to some version, Shams-i Tabrīzī threw the books into the water; but they remained dry, while according to another they caught fire. Flabbergasted, Rumi asked what had happened, to which the mystique replied, "Something you do not understand."

Yet in another version, the mystique stopped Rumi on the road and asked him “Who was the greater mystic, Bayazid or Muhammad?”  While Rumi answered correctly, he also saw smoke rising towards heaven and fell unconscious. Shams-i Tabrīzī also realized that this was the person he had been searching for. 

So great was the impact of their first encounter, that Rumi later wrote, "What I thought of before as God, I met today in a human being." Intoxicated with the new-found nectar of love, he soon started neglecting his students and family.

While Shams-i Tabrīzī did not belong to any particular fraternity, he had an outstanding personality and very soon the two developed a close friendship, with Shams-I acting as Rumi’s mentor. He urged Rumi to question his scriptural education, emphasizing more on devotion as a means to find oneness with God.

Very soon, Rumi started blending the intuitive love for God with the legal codes of Sunni Islam and the mystical thought he learned from Shams-i. However, his family and disciples did not like it.

One day in 1248, while the two men were talking, Shams-I went out in response to a call, never to return. It is now believed that he was murdered and quickly buried by his jealous disciples with the knowledge of his son.

Shams-I’s disappearance deeply disturbed Rumi, but it also helped him evolve spiritually. Distraught, he initially went in search of his friend, traveling up to Damascus in vein. Eventually, he was forced to accept his loss and returned to Konya.

He soon realized that the love he was running after was actually within himself and in some sense, Shams-I was within him.  He soon began outpouring his love through lyrics, writing more than 40,000 verses. They include odes, eulogies, quatrains, and other styles of Eastern-Islamic poetry.

Major Works

Among Rumi’s best known works, most significant is Masnavi-ye-Ma'navi. Said to be one of the most influential works of Sufism, it consists of six books that together amount to 25,000 verses. Also known as the greatest mystical poem in world literature, the work teaches how to reach God through love.

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Divan-i Shams-i Tabrizi is another of his important works, consisting of numerous verses and ghazals. Written after the disappearance of Shams-i Tabrizi, the works contains many verses praising his friend-cum-mentor, lamenting his disappearance, concurrently exploring deep philosophical themes, especially love and longing.

Rumi is also credited with several works in prose, the most significant of them being Fihi Ma Fihi. Compiled towards the end of his life, it is a small collection of his talks, describing the concept of Sufism in simple terms and is now considered an introduction to the Masnavi-ye-Ma'navi.

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1225, while the family lived in Karaman, Rumi married Gowhar Khatun. They had two sons: Sultan Walad and Ala-eddin Chalabi.

After the death of Gowhar Khatun, he married a widow named Kira Khatun, having a son named Amir Alim Chalabi and a daughter named Malakeh Khatun with her. According to legend, he also had a stepdaughter named Kimia from Kira’s earlier marriage.

Sometime in early December 1273, Rumi fell ill. Predicting his own death, he composed the famous ghazal, "How doest thou know what sort of king I have within me as companion?" He eventually passed away on 17 December 1273 in Konya. He was then sixty-six years old.

His death was mourned by every section of the society and his mortal remains were buried beside his father in a rose garden, offered for that purpose by the Seljuk Sultan, Ala' al-Din Kayqubad. Seljuq queen Gurju Khatun sponsored the construction of a magnificent tomb for Rumi.

Known as the Yeşil Türbe, the tomb has the epitaph, "When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men", inscribed on it. Later a magnificent mausoleum, consisting of a mosque, dance hall, schools and living quarters for dervishes, was built around it.

Currently known as Mevlâna Museum, the place remains a destination of pilgrimage even today. The Mewlewī Sufi order, founded by his followers soon after his death, carries his legacy to this day.

See the events in life of Rumi in Chronological Order

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