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Rumi: In Love and Unity


By Grace Spanbock

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi was a 13 th century Persian theologian, poet, mystic, scholar and philosopher. Rumi’s father, an Islamic theologian and preacher, with Rumi’s mother and he, evaded the Mongolian invasion of present day Afghanistan and settled in Konya (Turkey) after extensive travels through the Middle East. A spiritual and academic student of Sayyed Burhan ud-Din Muhaqqiq Termazi and well-traveled thinker, Rumi’s spirituality and philosophy burgeoned creating an immense body of poetic works, often describing and analyzing emotion and spirituality in words most are unable to define.

Most noted for his ghazals, lyrical poems with fixed lines and rhymes, written after the death of a dear friend, Shamsuddin of Tabriz, his poetry also includes dozens of shorter poems whose messages, while short and sweet, are profound. Rumi’s work is often characterized by beautiful imagery and symbolism that allude to the deeper human nature and mysticism. Many of these poems promote love and the positivity of unity; this unity is often explained interpersonally, divinely or naturally. Through a philosophical lens it can be argued that the philosophies and emotions described in Rumi’s work reveal intrinsic and spiritual human realities. And while written 800 years ago, his philosophies on love and unity are as relevant and accurate today as they were during their writing, and should be equally as revered and lauded for their possible ability to heal personal and larger scale issues created by disunion.

Rumi applies a universally acknowledged relationship with nature to define divinity. He explains his philosophies by using human being’s innate affinity with nature’s purity and honesty to ascribe worldly qualities to the metaphysical and emotional. In Kulliyat-e Shams 21, Rumi metaphorizes positive effects of lovers unifying on nature:

The springtime of Lovers has come, that this dust bowl may become a garden; the proclamation of heaven has come, that the bird of the soul may rise in flight (Rumi, 21)
The synthesis of the lovers induces positive reactions in nature. This cause-and- effect flow through the quatrain, between the people and their environment, promotes unity for the sake of nature. By showing what good can be done when people who love come together, Rumi not only describes positive physical reactions but also the spiritual. Rumi illustrates the activism of love in terms of the motive state of nature, showing the reader the work and lack of passivity it takes to create love. The emergence of the Lovers embodies the rebirth of spring and how the natural world regrows after a time of darkness and cold in winter. From a philosophical perspective, the Lovers’ spring is a personal fresh start after a negative time. The presence of Lovers also symbolizes the love that pulls one through a dark time or sparks a positive regrowth. Rumi’s reference to heaven and a soul rising implies a spiritual awakening that occurs after a period of darkness, as well. In Rumi’s personal life, this positive turn may relate to his acceptance of the death of his dear friend Shams, for whom this ghazal was writtenhe. Rumi explains spiritual awakening and the positivity of growth and unity intimately, through “his ability to evoke ecstasy from the plain facts of nature and everyday life”(Wines). The most iconic aspect of Rumi’s work is the immediate reaction to the intimacy of the works and the personal thought it evokes. The natural imagery and metaphors make his ideas not only understandable but also beneficial because of human’s intrinsically positive relationship with growth and the natural world. This phenomenon has characterized religion and spirituality since their creation. Psychologically, this bond between humans and nature is an evolutionary characteristic that reminds of us of our dependence on the living environment.

Rumi uses nature as an example of the human condition not only because it is relatable but also because it is equally as raw and real as people’s lives. He compares lovers to nature in “Each Note” when he writes,” Advice doesn't help lovers! / They're not the kind of mountain stream / you can build a dam across” (The Essential, 102). This analogy describes the unstoppable nature of love. And while the blindness of love can lead one off a cliff and into a waterfall, Rumi cautions lovers of this and teaches the reader of the realities of love. It is debatable whether Rumi is a romantic because of the contradictory, accuracy of his philosophies, but the extent to which he thought and wrote about it proves he is definitely an aficionado of it. The irrationality of love is also described in these lines which can be traced to Rumi’s affect on Sufi mysticism and tradition. Rumi was introduced to music, poetry, and dancing by Shams, and after his death introduced the active, meditative practice of the “whirling dervishes”(Wines). The now eight-century tradition is exercised to grow closer with God joyfully, through sacred chanting and twirling. This practice is an example of Rumi’s actual affect on Sufi spirituality and custom. Young Rumi spent nearly ten years traveling Central Asia, eventually settling in a religiously mixed area of Turkey, a cultural amalgam due to geographic location (Wines). This worldly perspective, gives Rumi an ability to understand and define broad philosophies about human nature. It also explains the, often contradictory, realities he is able to write about because his wide range of experience with different kinds of people taught him that while some generalizations can be accurate, different people can have different feelings and opinions on various topics. Rumi is often able to denote these many realities by connecting readers through the metaphors, symbols, and connotations of nature.

In another ghazal from Kulliyat-e Shams Rumi writes,” apparently two, but one in soul, you and I. / We feel the flowing water of life here, / you and I, with the garden's beauty”(Rumi, 211). Once again Rumi relates positive emotions and relationships with nature and spirituality. The conjoined souls becoming the flowing water that feeds the garden, of which the two are therefore able to enjoy the beauty of, symbolizes the beneficial cycle created by the love between the couple. Rumi philosophically points out the positive effects of love through the medium of nature. The loving unity between the two, in physicality and soul, is mirrored by the unity with nature; this connotes the advantageousness of love and unity. Rumi parallels the ever-changing forces of nature with love’s many forms and the human tolerance of both of these phenomena. The Lovers referenced in the Kulliyat-e Shams poems are often considered to imply a homosexual relationship between Rumi and Shams. The relationship between the two and the raw language used to describe it can correspond with the “Sufi call to open one's heart to another human, in order to open one's heart to God” (Wines). And while it is possible for there to have been a gay affair, Rumi’s intentional message of the beauty, naturalness and spirituality of love stands true. Rumi philosophically describes the positivity of love, by examining and symbolizing the natural world.

Rumi’s work is universally relatable for multiple reasons including human’s innate relationship with nature. Another accessible characteristic of his poetry comes from the intimacy a reader feels while reading his poetry. Rumi is able to make the work feel both personal and amalgamative to the reader. In “Music Master” he starts, ”You that love lovers, / this is your home. Welcome!” (The Essential, 105). Rumi directly addresses the reader because it intrigues the reader, as well as makes the reader feel relatable. It grabs the readers’ attention then immediately after gives them a feeling of belonging when they are then grouped with other “lovers”. This feeling of unity Rumi implants in his readers with his welcoming couplet, promotes his pro-love and unity philosophical beliefs. The reader also feels accepted because of the subconsciously, both general and personally resonant terms “love” and “lovers”. He makes the reader, regardless of love-background, feel included by him, thereafter encouraging the reader to make personal connections to the rest of the poem. Rumi’s intimate, intriguing work can be attributed to the same psychological tactics used in media and public reaction to scandal. People are innately drawn to intimacy because of its secretive, romantic, sexual, or personally emotional nature; the intimacy of Rumi’s poetry parallels these selling points. The idea of reading and understanding other people’s stories or ideas on something as personal as love makes readers more comfortable in their own beliefs or learn something new about it, without risk. Rumi utilizes this philosophy when he describes lovers and creates romantic imagery to enlighten readers on the realities of love. “When lovers moan, / they’re telling our story. / Like this,” Rumi writes (The Essential). He includes the reader on the intimacy of sex to teach a greater message of love and relationships. Rumi is also often revered for his, ”…rare ability to empathize with humans, animals, and plants;”(Wines). This skill is integral to his ability to philosophize because philosophy is the study of human existence in the natural, artificial, and existential world. His ability to empathize with all walks of life makes his work relatable because of the many perspectives he includes when writing or thinking and therefore verity. The accuracy of Rumi’s philosophy is attributed to his understanding of the world and human nature. The accessibility makes Rumi’s work such remarkable poetry, because through philosophies of love and unity, he can lead his readers to self- reflect and try and understand their own spirituality and affinities.

Love is the most relatable yet unexplainable phenomena in human nature. Rumi, as a poet, theologian, and thinker has written hundreds of poems on the topic. Love, as examined by Rumi, is illogical and it is only a person’s intellect that allows them to act on or neglect their feelings of love (Hakim). In “Music Master” Rumi wrote:

When I am with you, we stay up all night. When you're not here, I can't go to sleep. Praise God for these two insomnias! And the difference between them. (The Essential, 106)
Rumi explained love as music not logic, and this definition portrayed in the quatrain above (Hakim). While a lack of sleep would commonly be negatively written, Rumi sees his insomnia as a positive. He is thankful to God for love in his life, which is a relatively optimistic way of portraying insomnia. The irrationality of love that Rumi describes is a philosophy of his that is relatable to his readers, which allows them to self-identify and reflect upon their own relationships with love. The third line of this quatrain also exposes Rumi’s spiritual affiliation with love. Rumi believed that the essence of religion lay in a “cosmic feeling” commonly called “love”, and that love was a principle of unity in humanity (Hakim). These understandings of love and spirituality both require heavy reliance on faith and little reliance on logic. Rumi philosophically analyzes unity, love and spirituality in his immense body of poetic work.

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi achieved a fantastical feat by taking on the realities of love and the positivity of unity. These phenomena, while indescribable by most, are beautifully examined and described by Rumi’s poetry. He implants the seeds of his philosophies with natural and intimate language that ignite and encourage the reader to self-reflect on personal spirituality and understanding of human nature.

Works Cited

Hakim, 'Abdul. "Love." The Metaphysics of Rumi: A Critical and Historical Sketch (1933). Rpt. in Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism. Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic and Daniel G. Marowski. Vol. 20. Detroit: Gale, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Web.
Rūmī, Jalāl Al-Dīn, and Coleman Barks. The Essential Rumi. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1995. Print.
Rūmī, Jalāl Al-Dīn, and Shahram Shiva. Rumi, Thief of Sleep: Quatrains from the Persian. Prescott, AZ: Hohm, 2000. Print.
Wines, Leslie. "The Poet of Love and Tumult." Rumi: A Spiritual Biography. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2000. 13-22. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. David M. Galens. Vol. 45. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web.

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