Rumi, more formally called Mawlana Jala ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, is one of the most influential Persian poets of the 13th century. His work is celebrated not only by the Sufism it inspires but also by most in the Muslim world. His poetry also transcends his Persian roots and is recognized as both spiritual and beautiful writing by many people of many different religions throughout the rest of the world.
Rumi is frequently associated with Sufism and with the Mevlevi Order, known to most of the world as Whirling Dervishes. He espoused that God should be celebrated through poetry, song and dancing. The Sufis often believe that Rumi’s writing is only succeeded in importance by the Qur’an. From a literary standpoint, the poetry of Rumi is considered as the most influential Persian poetry and his influence can be shown in the many great Persian poets who followed him.
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The poetry of Rumi has been compared to the book of Psalms and to the Song of Solomon. He writes as the lover of God, attempting to reconcile how distance has come between himself and God. His poems can be read merely as love poems, but they must also be considered as symbolic of the relationship of man to the divine.
The major work of Rumi is the Masnavi-ye Manavi. It is also sometimes called the Qur’an-e Parsi. The first title translates to Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning, and the second means The Persian Qur’an. Under either title, it is considered by both religious leaders and scholars to be one of the finest works of mystical poetry ever produced.
Masnavi-ye Manavi contains six books of poetry all touching on the search for God by humans. It contains literally hundreds of stories in verse form that illustrate the difficulties of the human state when disconnected from God, and the joy that comes when man is united with God’s purpose.
Rumi is also credited with the Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz-i, a work dedicated to his beloved friend Shams who was a dervish. People have compared the relationship of Rumi to Shams as that similar to Plato to Socrates. This work is often taken as the spiritual work of Shams, much as Platonic work is often the reworking of Socrates’ philosophy.
In addition to these two major works, Rumi wrote several more collections of poetry and sermons. He is also credited as the author of a volume of collected speeches. However, it has been fairly well established that Rumi did not write these speeches, though he delivered them.
Rumi in modern day has been translated into numerous languages. He continues to influence even modern thought, and his poems have been sung and recorded by popular artists like Madonna. Modern translations of Rumi continue to be purchased, making Rumi one of the most popular poets of today, even surpassing the work of many modern poets.