Jal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273) was a
poet and mystic living in what is now Turkey. He founded the ancient Sufi
order of the Whirling Dervishes (those who sought union with the Divine
through the simple act of continuous turning on their feet). Much of Rumi’s
poetry tells of his infatuation with Shams al-Din, a wandering holy man who
lived with Rumi for about three years.
Rumi was thirty-seven when he met
Shams in 1244, Shams perhaps sixty. Up until then, Rumi had been a fairly
traditional mystic, one of a long line of scholars and theologians.
Shams literally took Rumi’s
books and threw them into a well.
The two of them went into
week-long periods of sohbet, mystical conversation and merging. Certain people
became jealous of this consuming absorption of the two men. They drove Shams
off for a time, to Damascus. But he returned, and finally, apparently, they
murdered him. The legend varies.
What is clear is that the deep
passionate friendship with Shams could not be tolerated. The religious
community of the time perceived danger in the continuous ecstasy of Lover and
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