Who is Rumi?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

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.

For Sufis, Rumi's writing are often considered second only to the Qur'an.
For Sufis, Rumi's writing are often considered second only to the Qur'an.

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.

Rumi is frequently associated with Sufism, an Islamic sect whose adherents strive toward a deep and abiding personal connection with God.
Rumi is frequently associated with Sufism, an Islamic sect whose adherents strive toward a deep and abiding personal connection with God.

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.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Can anyone recommend a good Rumi poetry book? There are many different translations out there. Some of them have translated Rumi's Farsi poetry into Old English. I'm looking for something in contemporary English. Any suggestions?


I've visited the home of Rumi, who is known as Jalaluddin Rumi in the East, in Konya located in Turkey. I had read English translations of his poetry before my visit, since they have become quite a hit in America and completely fell in love with it. Despite being translated from Persian, his writing is so beautiful and meaningful in other languages.

My visit to Konya was really exciting because I learned so many new things about Sufism. It seems that watching the whirling dervishes and listening to Sufi music was just what I needed to really understand Rumi's poetry.

I have to mention here the meaning of the whirling dervishes' movements, because that was the highlight of my trip. As the dervishes whirl around in a white long dress like attire and red, tall, fez like hats, they move their hands in different ways. Their right hand is help upwards and points to the sky and their left hand looks down onto the ground. What this means is that as Sufis, their duty is to take goodness, knowledge and blessings from the divine (symbolized by the right hand) and spread this goodness and kindness to others (symbolized by their left hand). The whirling of dervishes also symbolizes that they are looking within to find the divine.

Isn't this so beautiful?

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