His century was also a century of war and famine, where the Mongol hordes had wrecked havoc in Asia. Not much different from our own, where the majority of human race lives below the poverty line and is constantly at war. Mevlana Rumi had come from present day Afghanistan to Konya escaping the Mongol invasion. His family settled in present day Turkey. Mevlana Rumi soon became a very famous jurisprudent and preacher in Konya after his father's death. At this point in his life he was already an accomplished Sufi master but restricted his spiritual teachings to a small selection of disciples but never exposed this publicly.
Mevlana Rumi around the age of 37 came in contact with a very spiritual figure known as Shams Tabriz meaning The Sun of Tabriz (Tabriz a place in Asia). People say he was a wandering dervish in search of a companion who could share his gnosis and be a mirror to him, but in truth no one but Mavlana Rumi knew his secret. After meeting with Shams, Mevlana took a retreat from his daily life. He stopped teaching at the institute where he was in the modern sense the Chair of the college. He would spend days and night with Shams mediating upon the Eternal Truth not meeting his family and spiritual disciples for many days at length. After Mevlana Rumi's meeting with Shams, Mevlana said this about him "Today I have seen the God I have worshipped all my life in human form" and at another place he said that Shams was no ordinary vagabond he looked, he was an educated and well off Chemist who had left his profession in search of the divine truth.
Eventually, Shams disappeared. It is said that Mavlana Rumi's jealous disciples murdered him. No one really knows what happened to Shams but his effect on Mevlana Rumi had been that of a catalyst, Rumi was transformed. This separation appeared to be a separation of two humans but in reality it was the separation of men and God. Just like man has never been happy since he left his place of origin, he finds satisfaction only in the remembrance of God, likewise Mevlana Rumi longed for reunion with God. Professor William C. Chittick writes this of their separation "Separation from Shams was but the appearance; separation from the Divine Beloved was the reality."
Mevlana went into a state of ecstasy after this separation and would not meet anyone for many days', singing and dancing day and night, remembering the Divine Beloved. Poetry poured from his lips, which eventually was collected into collections such as the Mathnavi, Divan-e-Shams-i Tabrizi and Rubaiyaat. In Mevlana Rumi's own words "I was the country's sober ascetic, I used to teach from the pulpit - but destiny made me one of Thy hand clapping Lovers:" from the Divan.
Professor Nasr interprets the meeting and separation of Mevlana Rumi as " It seems that Shams was a divinely sent spiritual influence which in a sense "exteriorized" Rumi's inner contemplative states in the form of poetry and set the ocean of his being into a motion which resulted in vast waves that transformed the history of Persian literature."
Mevlana Rumi not only transformed the history of Persian literature but also fulfilled the prophecy of the great Sufi poet Fariduddin Attar (author of Conference of the Birds) who said to Mevlana Rumi's father "soon this son of thine will set the spiritual aspirants of this world afire.
Even after his disappearance Shams remained alive in Mevlana's heart. Mevlana Rumi probably never believed in Shams death and therefore went two times to Damascus in search of him. It is said that once a person came to Mevlana and told him that he had seen Shams. Mevlana gave away his cloak to him upon which his son said that this man is lying only to make you happy. At which Mevlana said, "I have given away my robe for a lie, I would give my life for the truth."
Finally Mevlana came to the conclusion that Shams was within himself and
said," Though in body I am far from him, without body and spirit we two are one light ...
Since I am he and he is I, why do I seek? We are one, now I will sing of myself"
After Shams disappearance Mevlana Rumi left teaching at the university and only taught his spiritual disciples the path of Love/ Sufism. He continued his inspired poetry till his last breath. Mevlana Rumi's name has now become very famous in the West. His poetry is widely read and in 1997 the Christian Science Monitor named his collection of poetry by Coleman Bark the best selling in the USA. Both people in the East and the West can associate with his message of Love, because it is a universal feeling for which mankind is thirsty.
"I am neither of the East nor of the West; no boundaries exist in my breast" - Rumi
"When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the night sky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,
When someone quotes the old poetic image
About clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
Slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.
Say Like this. If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
Don't try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.
Like this. Like this."
"I asked for a kiss you gave me six. Whose pupil were you to become such a master? Full of kindness, generosity... You are not of this world."
"The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you,
how blind that I was
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere
They're in each other all along."
"Like the spear pierces the shield in a moment, I passed through nights and days. This is why all beliefs and religions are for me One and hundred thousand of years just a moment..."
"Come, come again, whoever you are, come!
Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come!
Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times,
Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are."
"A nation of Love has a different religion, For them God alone is their nation and religion"
"By love, dead are made to live
By love, the sovereign is made a slave...
For Lovers the faith and religion is God"
And Mevlana's final message would be
"Get united... I came here not to divide but to unify."
Inayat Khan an Indian Sufi master says " The original words (in Persian) of Rumi are so deep, so perfect, so touching, that when one man repeats them hundreds and thousands of people are moved to tears. They cannot help penetrating the heart. This shows how much Rumi himself was moved to have been able to pour out such living words".
Some of the themes in Mevlana Rumi's Mathnavi are tolerance, love of the Divine and the remembrance of the Divine. The Mathnavi is a collection of stories of personalities such as Moses, Jesus and Muhammad and many Sufi's. The East and West need to build bridges of understanding rather than talk about the "clash of civilizations". We need to reach out to other civilizations and cultures. Mevlana Rumi's life, works and teachings are a great source of inspiration for this purpose. On what basis can the dialog of civilizations take place? From Mavlana Rumi's point of view people of faith from various religions and cultures can work for this understanding. As he said, "While beliefs vary from place to place, faith is essentially the same."
God says to Moses in the Mathnavi of Rumi
"Ways of worship are not to be ranked as better or worse than on another
Its all Praise its all right
Its not me who is glorified in acts of worship
It's the worshippers! ...
I want burning, burning..."
And Rumi also says,
"There are many languages in the world,
in meaning all are the same.
If you break the cups, water will be unified and will flow together"
Truly the need of this age is to break the cups, remove the misunderstandings and flow together in harmony. It is said that Mevlana Rumi after the death of his wife married a woman of Christian origin. The remarkable thing about this marriage was that it took place at the time of the Crusades when the Christians saw Muslims as number one enemies and vice versa. Not only did Mevlana Rumi talk about love for humanity he himself proved many times in his life that he was a great lover of humanity.
"To love human beings is to love God" - Rumi.
On the 16th of December Mevlana Rumi passed away to his beloved. Men of five faiths followed his funeral bier. People that day mourning his loss said, "he was the David, the Moses and Jesus of our age". This day came to be known as the Night of Union and is celebrated by his followers and a ceremony is held in his honor.
"When you see my funeral, don't say, "Parting and separation!"
for me, that is the time for union and meeting (God)."