Who was Rumi and why was he notable? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Answer by Brad Gooch, Poet, Novelist, and Biographer, and author of Rumi”s Secret, on Quora.
Rumi is one of the greatest and most popular poets writing of love and mystical spirituality in the world. The ecstatic love poems of this Persian poet and Sufi mystic born more than eight centuries ago are beloved by millions of readers in America–he is often described as “the best-selling poet in America,” and his poems have been favorite readings at weddings for decades–as well as around the world. He has been compared to Shakespeare for his outpouring of creativity and Saint Francis of Assisi for his spiritual wisdom.
Rumi underwent a remarkable midlife transformation when he met the itinerant mystic Shams of Tabriz, who encouraged him to reorient from a path of knowledge and a life as a respected Muslim teacher, preacher, and jurist, to a path of love and of the heart, and to include music, poetry, and a whirling dance as part of his spiritual practice. When Shams disappeared, Rumi coped with the pain of separation by composing joyous poems of reunion, both human and divine.
A great legacy of Rumi’s over the centuries has been as an interfaith icon, as he articulated a notion of a “religion of love,” and wrote that “Since we worship the one God/ Then all religions must be one.” Remarkably at his funeral in Konya, Turkey, in 1273, the procession included not only singers and dancers, besides the traditional chanting from the Quran, but in the procession as well were Christian priests chanting the Gospel and Jewish rabbis reciting Psalms.
Relevant, too, was his status most of his life as a refugee and a migrant, as his family escaped the destruction of his homeland of Central Asia by Genghis Khan the the Mongols, the terrorists of his time. He worked his way to poetic and spiritual wisdom during a time of political turmoil comparable to our own.
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