Rumi was born in what is today Afghanistan, but he grew up in what is today Turkey, in the city of Konya. The area had been part of the Roman Empire, and the young teacher became known to many as “the Roman”, or Rumi. In 1244, he met Shams-e-Tabrizi, a traveling Muslim mystic, or dervish, with whom he became an immediate and inseparable companion.
Four years after they met, Shams disappeared. Some say he was murdered. No one really knows. Distraught, Rumi searched for his friend for years. He became a dervish himself and set up a school of mystical Islamic study in a tradition known as Sufism. At the coaxing of students, he produced volumes of mystical poetry and other writings — tens of thousands of pages — about separation, loss, mystical union, genies, magic, the common traits of all religions, the universality of human existence and God. He is credited with being the first dervish to actually whirl.
After he died in 1273, Rumi’s followers founded a Sufi sect, still active today, which focused on twirling and dancing as part of religious practice. His poetry became famous throughout the Middle East. But Rumi and his writing, much of it in rhyming couplets and other strict forms and all of it written in Farsi, the language of modern Iran, remained unknown to most of the world (until a recent renaissance of Rumi scholarship)...
At night, I open the window and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language-door and open the love-window.
The moon won't use the door, only the window.
You think you are alive
because you breathe air?
Shame on you,
that you are alive in such a limited way.
Don't be without Love,
so you won't feel dead.
Die in Love
and stay alive forever.
When you dance the whole universe dances.
All the realms spin around you in endless celebration.
Your soul loses its grip.
Your body sheds its fatigue.
Hearing my hands clap and my drum beat,
You begin to whirl.