MAWLANA'S PERSONALITY

 

A.           His Perception and Practice of Sufism

1.            His Physical Appearance
Rumi's face was pale and his body, slender. However, his face and body radiated such luminosity, his eyes were so sharp and attractive, that no one dared look directly at him.
He wore his turban in the manner of religious scholars of the day, letting its end protrude slightly. He wore a frock {khirqah) with loose, wide sleeves, typical of scholars' dress. From the disappearance of Shams until the end of his life, he always wore a gray turban instead of the conventional white, and wore a faraji (an open-breasted, long-sleeved garment) made of Yemeni and Indian fabric.

2.            His Sufism
Rumi's understanding and practice of Sufism is based neither on an epistemological system, nor on an imaginary idealism. Instead, his Sufism reached its culmination in Gnostic knowledge, self- realization, love and ecstasy.
Rumi accepted the realities of life as they are, and never turned his back on them. His asceticism did not lead him to withdraw from life; on the contrary, he found meaning in the heart of life itself. His definition of the world expresses his understanding of Sufism:
"What is the world? It is being unheedful of God. It consists neither of trade and commerce, nor wealth, nor woman.
"The Prophet said of the goods you earned for spending upon religion, 'Whatfinegoods!'
"Water inside a ship is the cause of its destruction. Water beneath the ship keeps it afloat.
"Because the Prophet Solomon eradicated the love of the world from his heart, he could truly be called "poor".
"A closed-mouth jug floats atop the surface of vast ocean, because within it is only air.
"In like manner, as long as man fills himself with the breath of poverty he never sinks into the sea of the world, but floats instead atop its surface.
"Even if the whole world belongs to him, it is worth nothing in his sight."

3.            The Goal of Rumi's Sufism
In Rumi's Sufism, the goal is servitude and self- annihilation. Hence, true kingship is to attain to the station of real existence.
He (God) is the Possessor of the Kingdom: whosoever lays his head before Him, to him He gives a hundred kingdoms without the terrestrial world;
But the (inward) savour of a single prostration before God will be more sweet to thee than two hundred empires:
Then thou wilt cry (in humble entreaty), "I desire not kingdoms: commit unto me the kingdom of that prostration."
«That which you have called a throne is (really) a splintbandage: You deemed (it) the seat of honour, but (in truth) you have remained at the door.
Give up to God the dominion held on loan, that He may bestow on thee the dominion to which all consent."
"There is no way (of entry) for any one, till he becomes annihilated, into the audience-chamber of (Divine) Mercy."
"Whosoever is uttering 'I" and 'we' at the door
(of the Divine Court), he is turned back from the door and is continuing in not (nonentity)."
"Whosoever annihilates his self, all selves become his; because he has become not the friend of his self, but with all."
"The steed of non-being (self-naughtedness) became a godly Buraq (mount) it brings you to (real) existence, if you are non-existent (self- naughted)."

4.            Love in His Sufism
In Rumi's Sufism, love is the wellspring of creation and the meaning of life. Love is one of the attributes of God who is without peer, and self- subsistent. Love for other than Him is only a passing fancy. Divine love is the fount of creation, the sovereign cure for all diseases; it is the remedy for arrogance and conceit, and the soothing unguent for all pain.
"Love is that flame which, when it blazes up, consumes everything else but the Beloved."
"Love is (one) of the attributes of God who wants nothing; love for aught besides Him is unreal."
"The remedy of our pride and vainglory, our Plato and our Galen!
Through Love the earthly body soared to the skies: the mountain began to dance and became nimble.
Love inspired Mount Sinai, O lover, (so that) Sinai (was made) drunken and Moses fell in a swoon.
When Love hath no care for him, he is left as a bird withoutwings. Alasforhim then!"

5.            The Foundations of Rumi's Sufism
The fundamental objective of Rumi's Sufism is to identify the master of the heart under whose tutelage you may attain mastery of the heart:
"Whoever wishes to sit with God, let him sit in the presence of the saints.
If you are broken off (divided) from the presence of the saints, you are in perdition, because you are a part without the whole.
Whomsoever the Devil cuts off from the noble (saints), he finds him without anyone (to help him), and he devours his head."
"When you become far from the presence of the saints, you have in reality become farfrom God."
"Consort with the followers of reality, that you may both win the gift and be generous (in giving yourself up to God).
Beyond dispute, in this body the spirit devoid of reality is even as a wooden sword in the sheath:
Whilst it remains in the sheath, it is (apparently) valuable, (but) when it has come forth it is an implement (only fit) for burning.
Do not take a wooden sword into the battle! First see (whether your sword is a real one), in order that your plight may not be wretched.
If it is made of wood, go, seek another; and if it is adamant, march forward joyously.
The sword (of reality) is in the armoury of the saints: to see (and associate with) them is for you (as
precious as) the Elixir.
All the wise have said this same thing: the wise man is a Divine) mercy to created beings.
The laughing pomegranate makes the garden laughing (gay and blooming): companionship with (holy) men makes you one of the (holy) men.
Though you be rock or marble, you will become a jewel when you reach the man of heart (the saint).
Plant the love of the holy ones within your spirit; do not give your heart (to aught) save to the love of them whose hearts are glad.
Go not to the neighborhood of despair: there are hopes. Go not in the direction of darkness: there are suns.
The heart leads you into the neighbourhood of the men of heart (the saints); the body leads you into the prison of water and earth.
Oh, give your heart food frorp (conversation with) one who is in accord with it; go, seek (spiritual) advancement from one who is advanced."

B.            His Attachment to the Teachings of Islam, and His Devotion to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)
Let us try to explain how Rumi understands Islam. Well aware of the verse, "Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you," Rumi made the moral teachings of the Qur'an his own, shunned what God has declared unlawful, renounced the pleasures of his carnal soul, and put aside all that would hinder him from attaining perfection. In brief, he was a truly pious man who eschewed all things that would keep him from God.

1.            Rumi's Fidelity to Islam
When he met Shams, Rumi entered into a world of ecstasy that society could not comprehend nor tolerate. For all that, he never neglected the principles of Islam even when he was absorbed in spiritual intoxication and rapture.

2.            Consciousness of Worship in Rumi
Rumi said in his Mathnawi: "Our Lord has said, "And prostrate thyself and come nigh (to Me)!" "Prostration of our bodies is become the nighness of the spirit (not God)." For Rumi, the love of God was not simply an abstract idea; he passionately carried out his religious duties.
Aflaqi narrates: "As soon as Rumi heard the call to prayer (adhan), he would rise to his feet in fullest solemnity, pressing his hands upon his knees, saying: 'O spirit of ours by whom we are enlightened! Let your name remain forever.' This he would repeat three times, then say:
This (ritual) prayer and fasting and pilgrimage and self-struggle are the attestation of the (inward) belief. The giving of alms and presents and the abandonment of envy are the attestation of one's secret thoughts. Gifts and presents and offerings bear witness (saying implicitly), 'I am pleased with thee.'
Rumi would be absorbed in prayer in utmost humility and devotion, saying: "If the love of God were only an (abstract) idea, the outward forms of your prayer and fasting would not persist but go to ruin."

3.            His Veneration of the Qur'an and His Devotion to the Prophet Muhammad
In his following quatrain, Rumi declares his fidelity to the Qur'an and to the Prophet:
I am the servant of the Qur'an, as long as I live I am the earth beneath the Prophet Muhammad's feet. If anyone transmits from my words other than this, I am displeased by the transmitter as well as his words.

4.            His Character
When we closely examine Rumi's works and life, we can conclude that he extracted his knowledge from knowledge of Muhammad, and his gnosis from that of Muhammad. He found his true identity in the personality of Muhammad; he annihilated his entire existence in that of Muhammad, taking for himself the spiritual character of Muhammad. From the burning torch of Muhammad's illumination he kindled the fire of his own knowledge. This he articulates in his own poetic language:
"We are the shadow of Cod and have come out of the light of the Chosen (i.e., Muhammad).
We are a most precious pearl dropped into the nacre.
Wherefrom do all see us with the eye of form?
We are the Grandeur's light appeared in water and clay. "

5.            The Core of His Perception of Man
The spiritual mission of Rumi as an eminent Sufi master was to make himself an instrument of guidance, leading people toward the true path and toward eternal felicity in accordance with the purpose of creation. In full awareness of the spiritual mission he had undertaken, and of the divine purpose, he said: "We are like the two legs of a compass: One leg stands firmly on the Law (the Qur'an and the Sunna), and the other moves freely, embracing seventy-two nations."

6.            The Mystery of His Boundless Tolerance
At the heart of his vast tolerance lie the mystery of divine unity, the radiant message of the Qur'an, and the heart-soothing morality of the Prophet Muhammad. This tolerance embodied the essence of divine unity, and sprang forth from the fountainhead of Muhammad's luminous legacy, which Rumi articulated with humorous subtlety in his works.
One day, Rumi was performing the Serna when a Christian drunkard burst in. Showing signs of inebriation, the man bumped into Rumi. Seeing this, Rumi's disciples sprang to his defense and in so doing, injured the man. Rumi scolded them, saying:
"It is he who drank the wine, but it is you who act like drunkards."
They replied: "But, he is a Tarsa (i.e., Christian)."
Rumi responded with a play on words, referring to the literal meaning of Tarsa, (i.e., cowardly and fearful): "If he is a Tarsa (cowardly and fearful), why are you not?" They immediately begged his pardon for their error.

C.            Rumi as Educator

1.            His View of Man
Rumi looked upon man, including sinners or unbelievers, with a clairvoyant and compassionate who calls upon Him, whether sinner or idolator, a central theme of the Mathnawi.
Rumi personally embodied the Prophet Muhammad's spiritual wisdom, which for him represented a treasure of mercy. As a friend of God, he fully grasped the reality behind the divine message: "Despair not of the Mercy of God. "His address was to all humanity:
"Go not to the neighbourhood of despair: there are hopes. Go not in the direction of darkness: there are suns."
Quite naturally Rumi, as a fully accomplished spiritual master, full of divine mercy, hope and compassion, would not look down upon anyone. He admonished his followers:
"Do not regard any infidel with contempt, for there may be hope of his dying a Muslim. What knowledge have you of the close of his life that you should once (and for all) avert your face from him."

2.            Rumi and the Common Folk
Man, whoever he might be, from the highest or lowest rank, stands at the center of Rumi's worldview. He was indeed compassionate toward all, and treated the poor with kindness and generosity.
One day Rumi had planned to visit a hot spring. However, Amir 'Alim Chalabi acted swiftly and arrived at the bath before him. He dismissed the people from the bath to ensure that Rumi and his companions would not be bothered. Then he ordered the pool filled with red and white apples. When Rumi entered the bathhouse, he saw the people dressing hurriedly and noticed that the pool was full of apples. He admonished Amir 'Alim Chalabi: "O Amir 'Alim Chalabi! Are the lives of the people you have driven out worth less than those apples with which you have filled the pool? Each of them is thirty times more valuable. Not only apples but the whole world and all existence are made for people, are they not? If you love me, please tell them all to return to the bath. Let not all, poor, rich, healthy and weak alike be kept away so that I can enter the water as their uninvited guest and rest awhile, thanks to them.”

3.            His Compassion towards Others
Though many of the people around Rumi included sultans, viziers, dignitaries, the wealthy and the notables, and they sought his company, he preferred to spend his time with the less fortunate. Most of his disciples were drawn from among the downtrodden, who were seen by others as beneath their rank.
Rumi's response to those who looked down upon his disciples is clear-cut: "If my disciples were good people, I would become their disciple. I have accepted them for discipleship because they were bad, in the hope that they would change their character and become good, and that they would join the righteous who do good deeds. Those who have attained God's mercy are saved. But those who incurred God's wrath are the ill who are in need of treatment. This is why we have come into the world, to transform the accursed into the recipients of mercy."

4.            Rumi's View of Family

a.            A Tender-hearted, Kind Father
Rumi was a tender-hearted, sensitive and kind father; as the head of the household he was exemplary in winning hearts, in offering commendation, and in showing.appreciation. We can observe his sensitive spirit, kindliness, and gentleness in his letter to his daughter-in-law Fatima and his son Sultan Walad. Addressing her, he wrote: "You are the light of our heart and our eye, as well as light of the world’s heart and eye." "My soul has fused and united with your soul. Whatever hurts you hurts me, too... Your grief is ours ten times over. Your concerns and your worry are ours... If my respected son Sultan Walad were ever to hurt you, I would truly remove my love and my heart from him."

b.            Rumi: A Caring Friend
A letter he wrote to his son mirrors his appreciative character:
"These few lines have been composed for you so that you respect the daughter of our Sultan, Shaykh Salahaddin... If you wish to honor and please your father, yourself, all our ancestors and all our progeny, you should hold her in high esteem, in such high esteem that you may reach the depths of her heart by coming before her every day as if it was the first day that you met, and every night as if it was the first night that you met."

c.            Fatherhood as Spiritual Guidance
Let us read from the memoirs of Sultan Walad to appreciate Rumi's qualities as a father and spiritual guide, in his behavior and in giving wise counsel:
"One day, a great sadness and gloom came upon me. Seeing me thus, my father said: 'Are you upset because someone has hurt you?' I replied: 'I do not know what the matter is with me?' My father got up and went home. After a while, he came back with a wolf's fur coat over his head and face and began to growl at me, as if I were a child. I burst into laughter and laughed harder than I can tell. I fell to the ground and kissed his feet.
"My father said: 'Baha' al-Din! If a lover becomes intimate with you, jokes and laughs with you, and then, all of a sudden comes to you with a changed face, saying "bow wow!," will you ever be frightened of her? No, I replied.
"He said: The lover who amuses you, pleases you, who brings you joy and delight is the same lover who upsets and distresses you. It is always He; it is always from Him and Him along that you receive blessing and illumination. So why are you downcast, why are you so weak in face of distress?"
"When you feel grief within you, seek to remedy it immediately, for all branches grow from the same root. When comfort and serenity germinates within you, water them. Offer the fruit of your heart to your friends and companions."

D.           A Moral and Social Being

1.            The Key to Human Relationships
Rumi never responded with bitterness to the insults and offensive behavior of his rivals, replying to them with kindness instead. Mulla Jami relates:
"They said to Siraj al-Din of Konya, who was a rival of Rumi, that Rumi had said: 'I am with seventy-two nations.' In hostility, and in an attempt to undermine his position and reputation, Siraj al- Din dispatched to Rumi a scholar from among his closest friends. The scholar was told to ask Rumi in public whether he had indeed said such a thing. Were Rumi to admit it, the scholar would then attack Rumi with rude words and cause him embarrassment.
The scholar came into Rumi's presence and asked: "Did you say that you had been with seventy- two nations?" When Rumi replied "Yes, I did," the scholar spared no words to deprecate him. Rumi said, with a smile on his face: "Despite all you have said, I am with you, too."

2.            His Treatment of Servants
Rumi was kind with maid- and menservants as well. He had by then assimilated the finest traits of the Prophet Muhammad, his heart's example. He kept uppermost in his mind the words of the Prophet, "Clothe them of what you wear and feed them of what you eat."
One day Rumi's daughter Malika Khatun treated her maid harshly, rebuking her. When Rumi saw his daughter behaving in this way, he said: "Why are you hurting her? If she were mistress and you were maid, what would you do? Should I issue a religious opinion that no one can hold slaves but God? In truth, they are all our brothers and sisters."

3.            Dealing with Error
Compassion and mercy were the hallmarks of Rumi's character. He won over those who had fallen into error, and transformed them into assets to society and humanity by his kindness and understanding.
One day, as he was praying in his room, a man came in, saying: "I am poor and have nothing to eat." When he realized that Rumi was deep in prayer and unaware of his presence, he pulled the prayer carpet from beneath him and vanished with it. No sooner had Sheikh Majd al-Din heard of the incident, than he began searching for the man. It was not long before he caught him selling the carpet in the Konya market place. Beating the poor thief on the way, he brought him into Rumi's presence. Rumi told the Sheikh: "He committed this act in need; it is nothing to be ashamed of. We should forgive him and buy the carpet from him instead."

4.            Tenderness toward Children
Rumi was extremely compassionate and tender with children. As he was walking through the neighborhood one day, a group of children were playing there. The moment they saw Rumi, they came running toward him to show their respect. One of them, who was slow to join them, shouted, "I am coming, too." Rumi waited until the boy had finished what he was doing.

5.             Rumi, Symbol of Love and Peace
Rumi devoted his life to uniting and reconciling people, a true embodiment of love and peace.
One day, two notables, overcome by enmity, were insulting each other. One of them said, "If you are telling a lie, may God strike you dead!" and the other replied, "If you are telling a lie, may God strike you dead!" Stepping between the two of them, Rumi said: "No, no! May God strike neither you nor him dead. Let Him strike me dead, since we are most deserving of death." Thus, the two men made peace.

6.            Work and Man
Rumi encouraged his friends to work, with these words:
"If what man earns is loss, it is the product of his idleness; if what he earns is profit, it is the product of his labor."
"Earning is like sowing grain; what you have not sown is not yours."
"If you sow wheat, will it produce barley?"'
Rumi was critical of indolence disguised as piety:
"If you put your trust in God, trust Him too in your work: first earn, then rely upon Him."
"All of a sudden, one happens upon a treasure, and says, 'I want the same thing; why should I labor or trade in the market place?"
"Finding such treasure is a matter of fortune, but it is rare indeed. As long as there is strength in your body, you should work. Working and earning are no obstacle to finding treasure. But do not neglect your work; if treasure is your lot, let it find you."

7.            On Lawful Earning and Nourishment: Rumi's Advice to his Friends
In all circumstances, Rumi advised his friends to earn their livelihood through legitimate means.
"The morsel that increases luminosity and perfection, is that morsel acquired by lawful earnings.
"Knowledge and wisdom spring from this lawful morsel; love and a tender heart are also its product."

8.            His Order to His Friends: Do Not Beg!
Rumi forbade his friends to beg, saying: "We have closed the door of beggary to our friends. Let them earn their livelihood as traders or scribes, or by any other decent craft or labor. In so doing, we have fulfilled the commandment of the Prophet, 'Avoid begging as long as you have strength.' Whoever of our disciples fails to follow this way is as worthless as tinsel."

9.            Rumi's Universal Value: Love of Mankind, Tolerance...
What makes Rumi so precious to the world is his love of mankind and his boundless tolerance. These are the natural manifestations of his limitless love of God, for he had become the perfect embodiment of the Prophet's moral excellence. The divine love he bore within him, and the inspiration he received from Muhammad, transformed him into a model of humility and denial of self-regard. This is why there is not a trace of vanity to be seen in Rumi's affairs. Purified of hatred and conceit, he was instead adorned with humility and self-annihilation.
Rumi rose to grandeur through humility and to humility through grandeur, to non-existence in existence and to existence in non-existence, to perfection in nothingness and nothingness in perfection.
Another of the founding principles of Rumi's limitless love of mankind and his tolerance is Islam's insistence that the human being is the most noble of all creatures. In full consciousness of this lofty principle, Rumi embraced all people and all creatures, tolerating them for the sake of the Creator, his Beloved.
Rumi's embrace of humanity, his tolerant behavior toward all, his prayers and his self- humiliation, his response to all who fell down at his feet, his kindness even toward unbelievers: all stemmed from a life embedded in and enraptured by Divine love, from his utter immersion in the luminosity of Divine beauty.

a.            An Anecdote from his Humble Life
One day an Armenian butcher encountered Rumi, and bowed down before him seven times. Rumi followed suit. Rumi was giving expression to his deepest experience:
"Man's substance is clay. If he is not like earthly clay, he is not the son of Adam."

b.            Humility and Self-Annihilation
The following incident is striking: there was an erudite monk in istanbul, who had heard of Rumi's knowledge, gentleness, and humility, and had become one of his admirers. He travelled to Konya to see Rumi; when he arrived, he was received by the Christian clergymen of the town. He asked them to arrange for him to visit Rumi. On their way there, they encountered him. The monk immediately threw himself at Rumi's feet. When he raised his head, he saw that Rumi's head was touching the ground. The monk repeatedly fell down at Rumi's feet; whenever he raised his head, he saw Rumi's head touching the ground. Finally, unable to restrain himself, he cried out: "O Sultan of Religion! What humility, what self-depreciation you have shown to a poor and arrogant person like me!"
Rumi replied: "It is our sultan Muhammad Mustafa who said: 'How happy are those who give generously of all that God has bestowed upon them, who behave chastely with the dignity God has granted them, who show humility in the nobility God has given them, and who render justice with the authority that God has entrusted them!' How then can I not bow down in humility before the servants of God, how could I not show my smallness? If I do not do this, what service can I offer, and to whom?" Has not the Prophet, the Sun of the path, said: 'Happy is he who eradicates his arrogance and humbles himself.' To be His servant is better than being a sovereign, for'/ am better' are the words of Satan. Compare the servitude of Adam with the pride of Satan and see the difference; choose the servitude of Adam."
Upon hearing Rumi's words and observing his behavior, the monk and his friends embraced Islam. When Rumi returned, at peace, to his academy, he joyfully told his son Sultan Walad:
"Baha’ al-Din, Baha' al-Din! Today a poor monk set out to challenge us in humility; but praise be to God, and thanks to the guidance He has bestowed upon us, and the aid of our Master Muhammad, the depth of our humility exceeded his."
Though it is a historical fact that the swords of the crusaders are stained with Muslim blood, the humility of a great Muslim wise man toward non- Muslims compels our respect. However, we see that through him, the reality of Islam always prevails. A man whose hand he held, into whose face he gazed, and before whom he touched his forehead to the ground was able to find through him the true path to God, to eternal happiness.

c.            Rumi and His Son
Rumi's advice to his unique son Sultan Walad, which has kept all its freshness and pertinence down to this day, reveals to us the essence of his personality:
"Baha' al-Din! If you want to reside in Paradise forever, be friends with all and hold malice toward none in your heart! Do not ask for too much, nor attempt to be greater than anyone. Be soft, like an unguent or a wax, not sharp like a needle. If you wish that no harm come to you from anyone, say, teach and think no evil; for if you speak well of somebody, you will always be joyful. This joy is that of Paradise itself. If you speak ill of someone, you will always be sad. This grief is that of Hell itself. When you speak of your friends, your inner garden, rich with roses and sweet basil, will bloom. When you speak of your enemies, your inner garden swarms with thorns and snakes; you will become downcast and exhausted. Thus did all the prophets and the saints behave, making manifest their inner character. People, overwhelmed by the power of their example, gladly and willingly joined their community and became their disciples."

d.            Still More Words of Wisdom
"Baha’ al-Din! If you wish to love your enemy, and you wish your enemy to love you, say fine and good things about him for forty days. Such an enemy will become your friend, for there is a path from the heart to the tongue, as there is a path from the tongue to the heart. It is possible to obtain the love of God by invoking His magnanimous names. God says: 'O servants! To purify your hearts, do not fail to remember Me. 'The purer you make your heart, the brighter God will illuminate it, just as the hotter the baker's oven, the more bread he will bake. If it is cold, no bread can be baked.”

e.            A Last Word
Let us end our discourse by citing the Turkish couplets of Sultan Walad, who with his knowledge, gnosis, poetry, good works, great merits and intense efforts, made an immense contribution to the development and dissemination of the Mawlawi Order, whom Rumi has praised: "In both appearance and character, you resemble me most.”

From Sultan Walad's Rabab-Nama
1.            No one has come into the world like Rumi; no one has attained such fullness of God as he.
2.            He is the Sun, the saints are his stars; he scatters great bounty over all.
S.            Every one is a recipient of God's gifts; but the recompense of His distinguished servants is of a different kind.
4.            The bounty that God bestowed upon Rumi, He gave neither to rich nor poor.
5.            Look upon him with my eyes and ask of me his secrets.
6.            I can speak the words that no one has spoken. I can give the delights that no one has eaten.
7.            I can give the robe of honor that no one has worn. No one can calculate the spiritual recompense I can give.