Rumi and Shams


You know the quotes. You see them everywhere. I ran into a treasure trove of them the other day while perusing Pinterest. After pinning about 10 of them, I starting wondering about this Rumi bloke…who the heck is he? Why is he so gosh darn on the mark all the time?

After a bit a research, I discovered that, yes, a hefty portion of his insight can be attributed to deep mediation, theological thought, etc. However, what really intrigued me was how the relationship of one friend could set this 13th century poet assail into a realm of thinking and writing that seems nothing short of timeless.


name: Mowlānā Jalāloddin Balkhi
known in Persia as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī
or Jalal ad—Din Muhammad Rumi
and known in the West as simply Rumi

A regularly quoted poet whose history appears woefully absent from public knowledge. He was also a jurist, a theologian, and practiced Sufism (a mystical branch of Islam).

birth: September 30, 1207 in Balkh Province, Afghanistan
death: December 17, 1273, in Konya, Turkey


Rumi’s family emigrated to Konya, Turkey, around 1215-1220, fleeing from the threat of a Mongol invasion.His father was a theologian and jurist, and the writing that have survived the centuries reveal a man with a “startling sensual freedom in stating his union with God.”So let’s just say that Rumi came from decent philosophical and theological stock. A good start.

"Jalal al-Din Rumi Founder of the Order of the Whirling Cerviches, Showing His Love for His Young Disciple Hussam al-Din Chelebi" c. 1594, Extract from "Tardjomev-i-Thevakib" by the Mawlewiyya Dervich Aflaki Baghdad

“Jalal al-Din Rumi Founder of the Order of the Whirling Cerviches, Showing His Love for His Young Disciple Hussam al-Din Chelebi” c. 1594

When his father died in 1244, Rumi became the sheikh leader in the dervish community in Konya.1Rumi seemed to have led a fairly normal life for a while. He spent his days as a religious scholar should: teaching, meditating, helping the poor, etc. (I should mention that scholars know these details because Rumi was a prolific writer in those days and his son saved his letters and poems.)

However, Rumi breached a turning point in the late fall of 1244, for he met a wandering dervish named Shams of Tabiz.

“Shams was sometimes lost in mystical awareness for three or four days. He took work as a mason to balance his visionary bewilderment with hard physical labor. When he was paid, he contrived to slip his wages into another worker’s jacket before he left. He never stayed anywhere long. Whenever students began to gather around him, as they inevitably did, he excused himself for a drink of water, wrapped his black cloak around himself, and was gone.”4

Shams traveled the Middle East searching for a soul friend, a person who could “endure [his] company,” a man to be his intellectual equal. After many years of travel and many whispered prayers, a voice came to him, asking, “What will you give in return [for such company]?”
“My head.”
“The one you seek is Jelaluddin of Konya.”1

Now, accounts of the first meeting between these two men varies. For example:

[Rumi] met a stranger who put a question to him… The question Shams spoke made the learned professor faint to the ground. We cannot be entirely certain of the question, but according to the most reliable account Shams asked who was greater, Muhammad or Bestami, for Bestami had said, “How great is my glory,” whereas Muhammad had acknowledged in his prayer to God, “We do not know You as we should.”
Rumi heard the depth out of which the question came and fell to the ground. He was finally able to answer that Muhammed was greater, because Bestami had taken one gulp of the divine and stopped there, whereas for Muhammed the way was always unfolding.1

In another account of the meeting, Rumi was teaching by a fountain and reading from his father’s Ma’arid:

Shams cut through the crowd and pushed that book and others off the ledge into the water.
“Who are you, and what are you doing?” Rumi asked.
“You must now live what you’ve been reading about.”
Rumi turned to the volumes on the bottom. “We can retrieve them,” said Shams. “They’ll be as dry as they were.”
Shams lifted one of them out to show him. Dry.
“Leave them,” said Rumi.2

Rumi meeting Shams-i Tabrizi for the First Time [Persian Manuscript]

Rumi meeting Shams-i Tabrizi for the First Time [Persian Manuscript]

Whatever their initial meeting, Rumi and Shams became close. They had a mystical (spiritual) Friendship and would spend retreats together deep in conversation. This kinship and the neglect of his teachings, however, inspired a bit of resentment in Rumi’s community. [If you’ve done any research on Rumi, you will run across people claiming that they had a homosexual relationship. However, I really didn’t find any allusion to this in scholarly texts.]

Shams sensed the unrest among the people of Konya and disappeared. Scholar Annemarie Schimmel believes that this disappearance evoked a grief that inspired Rumi’s transformation into a mystical artist.1


In time, word reached Rumi that Shams was in Damascus, so Rumi send his son to retrieve his friend. “When Rumi and Shams met for the second time, they fell at each other’s feet, so that ‘no one knew who was the lover and who the beloved.”‘1

Shams had returned, and jealousy blossomed once again in the community. Shams lived in Rumi’s home and even married a girl who had been raised in the household.1

But one fateful night of December 5, 1248, Shams disappeared.1 It is said that “as Rumi and Dhams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again.”1 Sham was most likely murdered that night, but Rumi continued to search for his friend.

Shams of Tabriz as portrayed in a 1500 painting in a page of a copy of Rumi's poem dedicated to Shams.

Shams of Tabriz as portrayed in a 1500 painting in a page of a copy of Rumi’s poem dedicated to Shams.

One day while continuing his search for Shams in Damascus, Rumi realized:
“Why should I seek? I am the same as
he. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself!”1

It was then that Rumi experienced a full fana.

FANA‘ (“to pass away,” or “to cease to exist”), the complete denial of self and the realization of God that is one of the steps taken by the Muslim Ṣūfī (mystic) toward the achievement of union with God…When the Ṣūfī succeeds in purifying himself entirely of the earthly world and loses himself in the love of God, it is said that he has “annihilated” his individual will and “passed away” from his own existence… [He] then, through the grace of God, is revived, and the secrets of the divine attributes are revealed to him. Only after regaining full consciousness does he attain the more sublime state of baqāʾ (subsistence) and finally become ready for the direct vision of God.3


Rumi’s poetry is considered to be relatively spontaneous: he would speak and scribes would write (and sometimes Rumi would make revisions).2

The poems in his Divan-i Shams-i Tabrizi (“The Works of Shams of Tabriz”) are considered to be the inner conversation of Rumi and Sham’s friendship. The poems are ghazals (most often translated as “odes”), and this form allowed Rumi a great deal of compositional freedom.2

“The form makes irrational, intuitive leaps from image to image and thought to thought. This agility makes it an appropriate vehicle for Rumi’s passionate longing…The poems feel fresh and new, like something we have not absorbed yet, or understood, here seven hundred years later.”2

Another famous work is called Masnavi, which is a single continuous poem, spread over six books and sixty-four thousand lines.2

“It has not parallel in world literature. It surges like an ocean…around many subjects. It is self-interrupting, visionary, sometimes humorous commentary on the health of the soul and on Qur’anic passages; it is full of folk tales, jokes, and remarks to people physically present as the poems are being composed.”2


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Ode 2865, translated by Coleman Barks

Be with those who help your being.
Don’t sit with indifferent people, whose breath
comes cold out of their mouths.
Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.

A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don’t try to fly,
and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it’s too late for all you could become.

Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Ode 314, translated by Coleman Barks

Those who don’t feel this Love
pulling them like a river,
those who don’t drink dawn
like a cup of spring water
or take in sunset like supper,
those who don’t want to change,

let them sleep.

This Love is beyond the study of theology,
that old trickery and hypocrisy.
I you want to improve your mind that way,

sleep on.

I’ve given up on my brain.
I’ve torn the cloth to shreds
and thrown it away.

If you’re not completely naked,
wrap your beautiful robe of words
around you,

and sleep.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Translated by Coleman Barks

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Mathnawi, V. 346-353, translated by Coleman Barks

I have been tricked by flying too close
to what I thought I loved.

Now the candleflame is out, the wine spilled,
and the lovers have withdrawn
somewhere beyond my squinting.

The amount I thought I’d won, I’ve lost.
My prayers becomes bitter and all about blindness.

How wonderful it was to be for a while
with those who surrender.

Others only turn their faces on way,
then another, like pigeon in flight.

I have known pigeons who fly in a nowhere,
and birds that eat grainlessness,

and tailor who sew beautiful clothes
by tearing them to pieces.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

[“On Language”], translated by Fatemeh Keshavarz

To speak the same language is to share the same blood, to be related
To live with strangers is the life of captivity

Many are Hindus and Turks who share the same language
Many are Turks who may be alien to one another

The language of companionship is a unique one
To reach someone through the heart is other than reaching them
through words.

Besides words, allusions and arguments
The heart knows a hundred thousand ways to speak

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

[“On the World”], translated by Fatemeh Keshavarz

The world is a mountain
Whatever you say, good or bad, it will echo it back to you
Don’t say I sang nicely and mountain echoed an ugly voice…
That is not possible

The human intellect is a place where hesitation and uncertainty take root
There is no way to overcome this hesitation…except by falling in love

To reach the sea and be happy with a jug water is a waste
The sea that has pearls…
And a hundred thousand other precious things.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


“Rumi is reunited with Shams in the poetry, and in his inmost core. Perhaps a conventional religious community cannot contain the wild originality of a Sham Tabriz until it becomes embodied in someone like Rumi, who can be a bridge between wild gnostic experience and more traditional belief.”4

RumiThroughout my (albeit limited) research on Rumi over the past couple days, I believe the quote above best embodies how he became such an timeless artist. Shams was a holy man, to be sure; one who had the ability to see clarity in in the murky depths of life and truth. Yet, one needs more than originality and force be create work that can hold fast the hearts and minds of people throughout the centuries.

More…but of what, I wonder? Strength of will? Empathy? Creativity? Patience? Or, perhaps, vocabulary? Perhaps we shall never know.

1. Rumi, Jelaluddin. 2004. The Essential Rumi: New Expanded Edition. [S.l.]: HarperCollins Publishers. pg. xv-xxi
2. Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, and Coleman Barks. 2001. The soul of Rumi: a new collection of ecstatic poems. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. pg. 3-8
3. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “fana”, accessed October 22, 2013,
4. Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, and Coleman Barks. 2010. Rumi: the big red book : the great masterpiece celebrating mystical love and friendship. New York: HarperOne.


5 responses to “Rumi and Shams

  1. Pingback: Rumi and Shams | Marshall·

  2. DIVAN SHAMS, Rumi’ s masterpiece was decoded by Mr Hich during 30 years of scientific, Cultural and artistic presence of his hard life, always was at service of his society and through these years he was capable of composing lots of rare books of which we will mention a few:

    A) Interpretation of Masnavi -Manavi (by Rumi) in 9 volumes titled as :

    Spiritual society

    Beyond Journey

    Voice of silence

    Living in fourth dimension

    The Lord of love

    Dream therapy

    Salvation in here

    The God’s sight

    Recreate! your future

    B) Interpreting, heading & decoding the entire DIVAN SHAMS (by Rumi) in 50 volumes that we will mention some of them:

    A ray of king’s love

    Look at that royal king

    Oh pure & purifier lord!

    Seeking world lord out

    The unseen lord

    Our majesty ,The king of goodness

    Towards the king

    The charitable lord

    He is my majesty

    The king of love

    The uplifting king

    How is that king beyond veil

    The love former king

    The Great appear from high majesty God

    Oh mere traceless You are the endless sea

    Moon in solitude

    You are the king of union

    Oh the mercy sun of mystery

    Divine genius

    A cup of pure light

    Sight without thou

    Chelipa of Saba

    Dance of Breeze

    Gift of Breeze

    Breeze in my mind

    I can’t move without breeze

    The amorous of breeze

    The rise of breeze

    C) Mr Hich also engaged in artistic activities we will mention some of them:

    1) Writing the scenarios of King of hearts or divine king

    2) Manavi’s story Chosen from Masnavi’s tales ( by Rumi )

    3) House of balance (Family feature animation)

    4) Covers(inspired from concepts of Divan Shams)

    D) Mr Hich illustrated a new horizon and directs some works in Sun of Art by designing heart cards which resulted in coming up lots of priceless artistic works in that field, and his co-workers are already busy completing this job.

    E) Taking action to open workshops to
    find out Art bases from persian literary texts is one of Mr Hich’s other unique activities in order to spread about pure hidden culture in ancestors works. After 5 years of opening these workshops in Sun of Art House it was inspiring to create lots of artistic works, such as: Script_writing, Play writing, Graphic Movie making ,Animating, Story-witting ,Toreutics, Imaginary arts ,Calligraphy, Music, Formed designing, Poetry and etc
    But his most unique activity is Decoding of “DIVAN SHAMS” after 725 years.
    It is for the first time in the world that such investigation is going to be published (in 50 volumes) and set him among the rare (Shams researchers) all around the world, 5000 codes from DIVAN SHAMS.
    This action can make divine genius known to all human-beings… It has to be mentioned we can’t introduce Master Hich through this.
    Hamid Goodarzi started to illustrate it by his works and exposure them in different exhibitions with the names Real Identity, True life, Virtual life and …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s