Around the middle of the 13th century, Jalal-od-Dîn [« Splendour of Religion »] Rûmî fell in love with a wandering Sufi, Shams-od-Dîn [« Sun of Religion »]. One was from Balkh in Khorassan, the other from Tabriz, on the borders of Iran and Afghanistan.
Their first meeting took place at the bazaar. Shams-od-Din asked Jalal-od-Din point-blank: « Who is the greatest, Muhammad or Beyazid? »
Rûmî was surprised by the question. Was not Muhammad the Envoy of God, the seal of the Prophets? And Beyazid, a simple mystic, a saint among so many others?
In reply, Shams-od-Din asked how the Prophet Muhammad could have said to God: « I did not know You as I should have known You, » while Beyazid had said: « Glory be to me! How high is my dignity! »
Rûmî faints, on the spot.
An explanation is necessary, perhaps.
The Prophet Muhammad confessed that he did not « know » the Divinity as he should have, – while Beyazid assumed his mystical union with God. His « Glory be to me! » was not a proud, blasphemous, sacrilegious cry. It was the revelation that Beyazid’s ego had disintegrated, that he had melted like snow in the sun of love.
Shams-od-Din was meant to mean being a theophany, the tangible manifestation of the divine essence, the image of its mystery… He was the Beloved, and the Lover, and Love. « I am the secret of secrets, the light of lights; the saints themselves cannot understand my mystery. »
The love of the two Sufis lasted a little over a year. Suddenly Shams-od-Din disappeared. Rûmî did not find him despite his desperate searches all over the country. This loss was the dominant impulse for the rest of his life.
Rûmî founded the movement of the whirling dervishes. He wrote the Book of the Inside and the Menesvi.
One can taste in his ghazals the juice and the marrow of his loving and mystical thought.
“I am in love. Love for you, no shame on me.
Ever since the lion of sorrows you cause made me his prey,
Other than the prey of this lion, I am not.
At the bottom of this sea, what a shining pearl you are,
So that in the manner of the waves I know no rest.
On the lips of this ocean of you I abide, fixed in abode.
Drunk with your lips, though there be no embrace for me.
I base my substance upon the wine that you bring,
For of your wine no evil languor comes to me.
Your wine comes down for me from heaven.
I am not indebted to the pressed juice of the vine.
Your wine brings the mountain from its rest.
Do not shame me if I have lost all dignity. “
Why is the word « shame » used twice, at the beginning and at the end of the ghazal, but with two different meanings?
The Lover is drunk. His love is wide, burning like the sun of the universe. He feels almighty and alone. But shame overwhelms him. He’s overcome by doubt. The Beloved has disappeared, without warning, without explanation, without return. Why has he disappeared?
The bite embraces him. Suffering ravages him. His heart lacks faith. Irremediable weakness. The heart has become detached from the soul. Forever?
“Like the rose, I laugh with my whole body and not just my mouth,
For I am, me without me, with the king of the world, alone.
O torchbearer, from the heart to the dawn abductor,
Lead the soul to the heart, don’t take the heart alone!
Out of anger and envy, the soul does not make the heart a stranger,
That one, don’t leave her here, this one don’t invite him alone!
Send a royal message, make a general summons!
How long, Sultan, this one with you and that one alone?
Like last night if you don’t come tonight, if you close your lips,
A hundred cries will be made. Soul! We will not lament alone.”
Many voices are raised. Several subjects speak: the torchbearer, the heart, the soul, – and the king of the world. The torchbearer is at the service of the king of the world, – the Divinity. The heart is a rose and laughs. The soul is Rûmî.
The torchbearer has set the heart on fire, and led him to the king of the world. The soul alone groans. She suspects the torchbearer to have succumbed to anger and envy, and to have stolen the heart from the soul, to separate them, to isolate them.
Rûmî yells: « Do not make the soul a stranger to the heart! Don’t leave her here, while you invite the heart to go up alone to the king. »
He also prays to the Sultan of Heaven. « May the heart and soul not be left alone! »
For the soul, the fires are out. The wine has covered the flame.
“With this wine I extinguish myself,
And in this absence, I don’t know where I am.”
The soul has withdrawn.
“Love has separated me from my soul.
The soul, in love, has cut herself off.”