Rumi, Jalal al-Din al-
(d. 1273 )
Born in Balkh (in modern Afghanistan) but lived in Qonya, Anatolia (Turkey). Initially followed existing Sufi paths, but became a visionary ecstatic in 1244 after being inspired on a new path of aesthetic and emotional mysticism, which developed into the Mawlawi (Mevlevi) order after his death. Created an aristocratic organizational structure, with hereditary succession and wealthy corporate status. Taught that the Master of the Way was to serve as a medium between God and humanity. Played an important role in Turkish culture and the reconciliation of some Christians to Islam. Sought identification of the human self with divine Being. Famous for humanism, devotion to music, and dhikr exercises incorporating dance where dervishes imitate the order of the universe by spinning in circles around the shaykh like planets revolving around the sun; this gave rise to the European expression “whirling dervishes.” Wrote more than seventy thousand verses of Persian poetry in ordinary language, expressing the experience of God's presence in creation and inspiring joy in the listener; common themes are the trials of separation from the Beloved and the joys of union with Him. Most famous poem is Mathnawi, a compilation of spiritual outbursts, anecdotal ruminations, and parables expressed in poetic form. Followers believe it to reveal the inner meaning of the Quran.