Rumi is now one of the most widely read poets in America. I began translating Rumi in 1988, and performing his poetry in 1992. In all of these years I never thought that he would become so popular in the West in such a short time. Rumi is one the world’s brightest creative talents. He’s on par with Beethoven, Shakespeare and Mozart.
Rumi was born on the Eastern shores of the Persian Empire on September 30, 1207, in the city of Balkh in what is now Afghanistan and finally settled in the town of Konya, in what is now Turkey. Today three countries claim him as their national poet: Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan. However none of these countries as they are today actually existed back then. Iran was called the Persian Empire, a monarchy, and it was quite larger than it is today. It included all of today’s Iran and Afghanistan also parts of Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and Iraq. Turkey had not yet formed then and Afghanistan was part of the Khorasan Province in the old Persian Empire.
Rumi’s life story is full of intrigue and high drama mixed with intense creative outbursts. Rumi was a charming, wealthy nobleman, a genius theologian and a brilliant but sober scholar, who in his late thirties met a wandering and wild holy man by the name of Shams. In Rumi’s own words, after meeting Shams he was transformed from a bookish, sober scholar to an impassioned seeker of the truth and love.
Rumi and Shams stayed together for a short time, about 2 years in total, but the impact of their meeting left an everlasting impression on Rumi and his work. After Shams was murdered by Rumi’s youngest son, due to events that are explained further down in this page, Rumi fell into a deep state of grief and gradually out of that pain outpoured nearly 70,000 verses of poetry. These thousands of poems, which include about 2000 in quatrains, are collected in two epic books named, Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi and Massnavi (Mathnawi).
Please read our “Rumi & Shams, the Untold Story” below for a more in-depth biography of Rumi and an overview of his unconventional friendship with Shams.
It seems that the universe brought these two opposing characters (a wealthy nobleman and a poor, wondering, wild holy man) together to remind us that it is impossible to know where your next inspiration may come from or who might aid furthering your growth. For Rumi the life of mystics is a “gathering of lovers, where there is no high or low, smart or ignorant, no proper schooling required.”