by Prof.Dr. Mulyadhi Kartanegara
Although Rumi has been viewed by scholars as “the most eminent poet whom Persia has produced,” or as “the greatest mystical Poet of Islam,” and whom, according to Prof. Annemarie Schimmel, “no other Islamic poet and mystic is known so well known in the West as he is,” still, in Indonesia, Rumi has not been so well known. Only very recently when some Indonesian scholars translated several Rumi’s original works, especially The Mathnavi and Fihi Ma Fihi, and some secondary works on Rumi by western scholars, such as William Chittick and Annemarie Schimmel, did Indonesians know Rumi better. As for Indonesian scholars, only few scholars who wrote specifically on Rumi and his teachings, and some of them translated Rumi’s works into Indonesian, mostly not directly from Persian.
As one who has once studied Rumi’s teachings, I came to realize that many of his mystical doctrines and practical wisdoms taken from real life are very important for Indonesian people to read and understand and very relevant to the current situation of Indonesia facing many ethnico-religious and political problems. It is for these reasons that I am pleased, here, to present in this seminar some relevant topics: (1) the rehabilitation of Sufi’s image, which has been so negatively conceptualized by some of Indonesians as bid’ah (heresy), escapism and a self-centered search for salvation; (2) The reformulation of the concept of taqdir, which has been so long viewed fatalistically as predestination. Here we expect Rumi to offer a progressive concept of taqdir more suitable to the challenges of the modern ages. (3) the transcendent Unity of religions, needed not only by Indonesians, facing many ethnical and religious problems, but also, I believed, by world society, searching for real solutions for current global crisis and problems, in view to building a globally peaceful and harmonious society. In order to know who Rumi was, however, I would like to present, before these very interesting topics, a glimpse of his life and works.
II. Biographical Sketch
Rumi’s original name was Jalal al-Din Muhammad, but he was later known as Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, or simply Rumi. He was born in Balkh on September 30, 1207 AD. He belonged to a royal family, since his grandfather Jalal al-Din al-Khatibi married ‘Ala’ al-Din Muhammad Khwarizimshah’s daughter, princess Malika-i Jehan, who gave birth to Muhammad Baha’’ al-Din Walad, Rumi’s father. Baha’’ al-Din Walad was of great learning and piety, an eloquent preacher and distinguished professor. He was a Sunni scholar, who held orthodox opinions and exhibited anti-rationalist tendencies.
In about 1219, Baha’’, together with his family and few friends, quietly quit his native city, Balkh, to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, knowing that he would probably never return. The first city he visited was Nishapur, where, according to a legend, he met Farid al-Din ‘Attar, a noted poet, who presented him with a copy of his Asrar-nameh (the Book of Mysteries). He told Baha’’ that his son, Rumi, would soon be kindling fire in all the world’s lovers of God. He was also met by the great Shaykh Shihab al-Din ‘Umar Suhrawardi, another eminent Sufi there.
From Nishapur he went to Baghdad, where he received the tragic news of the siege of Balkh, of its capture, and of its complete destruction by Jengis Khan. In 1220 Baha’; went from Baghdad to Mecca, performed the pilgrimage there, proceeded then to Damascus, and to Malatiya (Melitene). From Malatiya he went to Arzinjan (Armenia), and then to Zaranda, about forty miles south-east of Konya, where he and his family lived for four years. It was here, in city of Zaranda, that Rumi married a young lady by the name of Jawhar Khatun, a daughter of Lala Sharaf al-Din of Samarqand in 1225.
Now, the city where they lived at that time belonged to the Seljuk dynasty. The reigning ruler, ‘Ala’ al-Din Kayqubad, invited Baha’’ and his family to Konya, the capital city of Western Seljuk empire, immediately after having haerd of Baha’’ al-Din’s arrival at Zaranda. Baha’’ al-Din accepted the invitation, and moved with his family to Konya in 1228. Baha’’ was to be an eminent theologian and a great teacher and preacher, and later he became the spiritual guide for the Sultan. It was for this reasons that he was conferred an honorific title “Sultan al-‘Ulama’” (the King of Men of Knowledge). Baha’’ al-Din died here in 1230.
After the death of Baha’’, Rumi took over his father’s position as the advisor to the scholars of Konya and to his father’s disciples. Impressed by his profundity of his knowledge and vastness of his experience, Badr al-Din Gohartash, the Sultan’s teacher, built for Rumi a college called Madrasa-i Khudavandgar, where he taught and preached to the people.
Along with his former teacher, Burhan al-Din’s advice, Rumi continued his education at Aleppo, where he stayed at the Madrasa Halawiya and received further instructions from Kamal al-Din b. Al-‘Adim. From Aleppo Rumi moved to Damascus and lived at the Madrasa Maqdisiya. Here, he met such great figures as Muhy al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi, Sa’ad al-Din al-Hamawi, ‘Uthman al-Rumi, Awhad al-Din al-Kirmani, and Sadr al-Din al-Qunyawi.
In 1236 Rumi came back to Konya and continued to teach at Madrasa-i Khudavandgar, with about 400 students attended his lectures, which in turn won a special attention from kings, prices as well as waziers. For many years Rumi had enjoyed his fame and occupied a highly respected position as a leader and scholar of Islamic sciences in Konya up to the moment when the most decisive event ib his entire life took place: his encounter with a mysterious dervish, Shams al-Din of Tabriz, who came to the city as an old man of sixty in 1244.
So powerful was the enchantment of Sham’s personality that Rumi chose to give up his activities as a professional teacher and preacher, only in order to strengthen his bond with the dervish. For some time they were inseparable. This relationship, however, brought about the anger and envy of Rumi’s disciples, who were entirely cut off from their master’s guidance and conversation. As a result, they assailed “the intruder” with abuse and threats of violence. This unfriendly atmosphere was soon sensed by Shams, and so he left Rumi, after having lived in Konya for sixteen months, for Damascus.
This separation was so painful for Rumi and afflicted his feeling so deeply, so that he sent his son, Sultan Walad to beg Shams to come back to Konya. Rumi was so happy and these two men became so deeply absorbed in their profound conversations so that Rumi’s love for his master increased so dramatically. So what had happened before was to repeat and Rumi’s disciples became angry and jealous again and hated Shams so much. This dangerous situation caused Shams to take refuge one more time in Damascus. But this time he never came back. Rumi finally decided to go to Damascus himself to find his beloved master. He never made it, and finally came back to Konya without Shams.
Soon after he came back from Damascus, Rumi established his own order (tariqa), called Mawlawi, a name taken from the honorary address “Mawlana” (Our Master) which was given by his disciples to their beloved Master, Rumi. Nevertheless, not long after, Rumi’s health deteriorated and he soon became ill. On Sunday December 16, 1273 Mawlana Rumi finally passed away as the sun went down at Konya.
Rumi left for us some great and beautiful works behind. Among them are: (1) Maqalat-i Shams-i Tabriz (The Discourse od Shams of Tabriz), containing some mystical dialogues between Shams al-Din as the master and Rumi as the disciple. (2) Divan-i Shams-i Tabriz (The Mystical Odes of Shams of Tabriz), consisting of about 2,500 mystical odes; (3) his Magnus opus Mathnawi Ma’nawi (The Mathnawi of Jalal al-Din Rumi), a long poem of about 25.000 rhyming couplets, divided into six books; (4) Fihi ma fihi (Discourse of Rumi), the only prose works consists of Rumi’s sayings as taken down by his eldest son, Sultan walad, and finally (5) The Ruba’iyyat (The Quatrains of Rumi), comprising about 1, 600 autentic quatrains. It contains Rumi’s ideas on different themes in Sufism, suach as resignation, selflessness, love, faith, reason and union.
III. The Rehabilitation of Sufi’s Image
Sufism (tasawwuf), as the spiritual aspect of Islam, has long been suspected and misunderstood as fist of all, bid’ah (heresy), which undermines Islam from within and misleads the Umma from the true understanding of Islam. Of course, they have based their suspect on historical information, involving many mysterious utterances (shatahat) from the Sufis. In the past, we have known the most well-known case of al-Hallaj, who was executed for his very famous mystical utterance Ana al-Haqq (I am the creative Truth), meaning I am God. In Indonesia the similar case has also taken place in the case of Shaykh Siti Jenar (the fourteen century mysterious mystic), who was also executed by the council of Walis (Dewan Wali) for the very same reason: his utterance “It is He (God) who becomes one with my existence.” Most of Indonesian modernists, especially those who follow Wahabi movement, do not like Sufism and consider it as a misled doctrine (bid’a) and therefore should be avoided.
Second, tasawwuf has also been misunderstood as escapism, meaning having tendency to “escape from the realities of life by absorbing his mind in entertainment or fantasy.” Of course, this attribution has been related with Sufi’s doctrine of zuhd (asceticism), a doctrine that teaches us not to be so tightly attached to this worldly life (dunya), so that its allurement does not make us forget God, the Creator. While zuhd can be conceived also as a mental act, the critics of Sufism considered it to be the retreat from the physical world, that is from social life, and to live fully a hermit life. Until now, this kind of criticism is still persistent.
The third negative image of Sufism is that tasawwuf is identified with the poverty (faqr) and backwardness. Of course we know, in tasawwuf, the concept of poverty (faqr). But this does not necessarily means material poverty. Instead, this should be understood as the awareness that we, human beings, are poor and needy (faqir); and only God who is self-sufficient (al-Ghani). Still, the critics of Sufism take only its literal meaning and associated Sufism with poverty, backwardness and weakness.
Now, after some reflections of Rumi’s teachings, I fully aware that Rumi can very well rehabilitate, through his teachings and practical wisdoms, the distorted image of Sufism. First, to the accusation that tasawwuf is a bid’ah, Rumi says that tasawwuf is not bid’ah, but indeed the essence of Islamic religion. It is the spirituality of Islam. The Mawlana refers to his Mathnawi as “the roots of the roots of the roots of (Islamic) religion in respect of its unveiling the masteries of attainment to the truth.” As the roots or essence of religion, Sufism cannot naturally be viewed clearly by all people, and hence their misunderstandings thereof. One of the most commonly misunderstood is Abu Mansur al-Hallaj’s utterance, “Ana al-Haqq” (I am the creative Truth) or I am God. This utterance has been for so long misunderstood as Sufi’s arrogance, since he claims to be God or like God. Rumi, however, has his own interpretation of the utterance, and instead of being arrogant, this utterance, according to him, is the expression of humbleness from the Sufi side. In his Fihi ma Fihi, Rumi states:
This is what is signified by the words Ana al-Haqq, “I am God.” People imagine that this is a presumptuous claim, whereas it is really a presumptuous claim to say Ana al-‘Abd, “I am the slave of God.” And Ana al-Haqq, “I am God” is an expression of great humility.” The man who says Ana al-‘Abd, I am the slave of God” affirms two existence, his own and God’s,” but he who says Ana al-Haqq, “I am God” has made himself non-existent and has given himself up and says “I am God”, i.e. I am naught, He is All; There is no being but God’s.” This is the extreme of humility and self-abasement.
It is clear from this, that only God who has the real existence, not the others, nor even the slave of God.
As for another accusation that Sufism is equal to escapism, this can be easily countered bay the fact, that Rumi, a great Sufi of any age, has lived from the very early of his life in a royal palace at Konya. Far from being a hermit, Rumi lived a normal life, having wives and children. This fact by itself indicates that living a hermit life is not at all an absolute condition to be a Sufi. Rumi, who lived his whole life in a palace, still became a great and famous Sufi. Rumi by this example was actually a very effective critic of the so-called negative Sufism.
Not only did the practical wisdom of his life, but also his calls for “self-assertion” in a social life became a very powerful answer to the all negative impressions of Sufism. According to him, the ultimate bliss cannot be achieved only by one’s self. It should be a common enterprise by working hard in the real lives. Of course, we should admit that most of Sufis did not have a good fortune like Rumi, even some of them lived a very humble life. But also the facts that many Sufi lived a normal life and actively participated both in social-cultural, and even political life.
As for the accusation and negative image of Sufism as identical with weakness and poverty, Rumi can be a very effective answer to it. The fact that he lived in a royal palace, can become a counter-argument for that negative image of Sufism that Sufi is not identical with the feebleness, helplessness or poverty. Except for spiritual poverty – in its positive sense—Rumi did posses everything he needed, goods, family, knowledge, dignity etc. With all these he could show us that Sufi is not identical with poverty, feebleness or some other likeness. Instead, he show us the otherwise. The same negative image of Sufi as a weak man, can also be countered by the imagery Rumi has built for the Sufi. Rumi identifies the real Sufi—the man of God or the perfect man,–with the universal intellect (al-‘aql al-kulli) and the manager or administrator (mudabbir) of the world. To emphasize his spiritual strength, Rumi compares him with a hunting lion, on whom all other beasts depend. Rumi calls the perfect Sufi the qutb (the pole). Describing this Rumi says:
The Qutb is (like) the lion: and it is his business to hunt: (all) the rest (namely), these people (of the world), eat his leavings.
So far as you can, endeavor to satisfy the Qutb, so that you may gain strength and hunt the wild beast.
In other place Rumi also used another imagery for the real Sufi as a falcon, a very strong bird, “which she alone knows the return way to the King.” The imageries he used to describe the real Sufi show us clearly, that a Sufi should be a strong, durable and mighty man, not the opposites such as described by those who misunderstood it. The teachings of Rumi and his practical wisdoms can rehabilitate very well the ill-defined image of Sufism and restore it to its proper and lofty place.
IV. Rumi’s Concept of Taqdir and Fee Choice
Beside the image of Sufism that he rehabilitated, Rumi could also reform the concept of taqdir—together with tawakkul and free will—and updated it, so that it became more suitable to the challanges and demands of the ages. In Indonesia, and I believe, also in many other Muslim countries, taqdir has been commonly conceived as predestination or predeterminism, a view that “everything in this world—including human’s acts—has been predetermined by God. Therefore, our situation is just like that of a puppet, which is entirely depended on the puppet player’s will. In fact, we just undergo everything that has been programmed by God. Only because we do not know what is going to happen in the future that we should strive for our life, but in reality everything has been predetermined by Him. This is, of course, a fatalistic concept of taqdir and human acts, in which there is no place whatsoever for human freedom. People usually say, “we just make a plan, but it is God who really determines the result.”
If we carefully read Rumi’s works, however, we will soon find out that it is this very concept of taqdir that Rumi criticized very decisively, and as an alternative, he offered his own concept, a very progressive one, indeed. To reform the concept of taqdir which has bee so long misunderstood, Rumi felt constraint (1) to refine the concept of tawakkul, conceives as a total surrender to God’s will, (2) to prove logically the existence of human free will or free choice, and (3) to present his own concept of taqdir as “the law of life.” Let us begin with the first on tawakkul. His concept of tawakkul can be seen quite clearly from one of his poem:
The party of beasts said to the Lion: There is no work better than truth in God (tawakkul): What indeed is dearer to God than resignation?
Often do we flee from affliction (only) to (fall into) afflictions: recoil from the snake (only) to (meet) the dragon…
‘Yes,’ said the Lion: But the Lord of his servants set a ladder before our feet.’
Step by step we must climb towards the roof: to be necessirians here is (to indulge) foolish hopes.
You have feet: why do you make yourself out to be lame? You have hands: why do you conceal the fingers (whereby you grasp)?
When the master put a spade in the slave’s hand, his object was made known to him (the slave) without (a word falling from his) tongue…
From here, we could see clearly that according to Mawlana Rumi human beings cannot just be idle, without doing anything. Man should, instead, work hard and keep doing something with all the facilities God has given to him, such as hands, feet, senses, reason, mind and heart. Rumi says, “If you are putting trust in God, put trust (in Him) with your work: saw (the seed), then rely upon the Almighty.”
Second effort that Rumi tries to do, in order to reform Sufism, is to prove logically that human beings do have the freedom of Choice or free will. For Rumi, man is indeed free to make his own choice. If he is not free, how can he say, “tomorrow I will do this or I will do that? Why should he feel guilty after having committed an evil act? In addition, if everything was predetermined from beginning to end why does the entire Qur’an full of commands and prohibitions?
Rumi looks upon free will positively as the endeavor to thank God for His beneficence. Frre will is indeed the ‘trust” (amana) that God bestowed upon man, with respect of which man is continually put on trial. As the reflection of God’s attributes, man shares His free will to a certain extent. For, “if none but God has the power of choice, why do you become angry with one who committed an offense (against you)? For Rumi, the anger within us is but a clear demonstration of the existence of a power of choice in man. He argues that even animals can recognize the freedom of choice in man. “If camel-driver goes on striking a camel, Rumi says, “The camel will attack the striker. The camel’s anger is not (directed) against his stick: Therefore, the camel has got some notion od the power of choice (in man).”
After proving the existence of the power of choice in man, Rumi was to offer a very progressive concept of taqdir. For Rumi taqdir does not mean that the fate of individuals was predetermined, but rather that taqdir is the law of life, which will never change. According Khalifa ‘Abd al-Hakim,
“what is called taqdir, for Rumi, in only another name for the law of life, and obviously no law can be law unless it is free from possibility of change or repeal. It is true, that destiny is immutable, and the law of God cannot be changed. Moreover, the law of God is that if you steal, you and the society you belong shall be exposed to certain consequences: and if you speak the truth, certain beneficial effects will follow. God does not compel anyone to steal, tell lies or speak the truth. Actions proceed from free choice, but their consequences are predetermined.”
With this, Rumi thus able to resolve the problem of taqdir which had troubled the Muslim society, including the people of Indonesia, for very long. He criticize the misleading notion of taqdir held by the Necessitarians (Jabariyya) and substituted for it with a dynamic one.
V. The Transcendent Unity of Religion
The last of Rumi’s idea, which for me is very relevant to the people of Indonesian, facing many ethnic and religious problems, is his conception of the transcendent unity of religion. This idea is very relevant to, and also needed by, a country like Indonesia having so many different ethnicities, cultures, languages, and, above all, religions. Sometimes, this diversity brings about many benefits, but very often also creates many problems and conflicts, such as those happening in several places in Eastern parts of Indonesia, especially in Ambon and in Poso, South Sulawesi.
Like other Sufis, Rumi believes in the transcendent unity of religions and sees that controversies between adherents of religions have occurred because they looked only at the external form of religion and not at its meaning (essence). They were deeply bound with the formal and traditional outlook, which sees other religions in part, and consequently it does not allow a vision of the essential unity of all religions. In his famous story of the elephant in the dark house, Rumi tries to show how narrow-minded people try in vain to describe the essence of their religions.
It is clear, therefore, that as long as we are not able to see the meaning of religion comprehensively and only it narrowly, the disputation will be achieved, according to Rumi, only if we can see the transcendent unity of their ultimate goal. in his Fihi Ma Fihi, he elaborates further:
I was speaking one day amongst a group of people, and party of non-Muslim was present. In the middle of my address they began to weep and to register emotion and ecstasy.
Someone asked: “what do they understand and what do they know? Only one Muslim in a thousand understands this kind of talk. What did they understand, that they should weep?
The master answered: It is not necessary that they should understand the inner spirit of these words. The root of the matter is the words themselves, and they do understand. After all, every one acknowledge the Oneness of God, that He is the Creator and Provider, that He controls everything, that to Him all thing should return…
Though the ways are various, the goal is one. Do you not see that there are many roads to the Ka’ba? For some the road is from Rum, for some from Syria, for some from Persia, for some from China, for some by sea from India and Yemen. So if you consider the roads, the variety is great and divergence infinite; but when you consider the goal, they are all of one accord and one. The hearts of all are at one upon the Ka’ba. The hearts have one attachment, an ardor and a great love for the Ka’ba, and in that there is no room for contrariety. That attachment is neither infidelity nor faith; that is to say, that attachment is not compound with the various roads which we have mentioned. Once they arrived at the Ka’ba, it is realized that warfare was concerning the road only, and their goal was one.
In other place, Rumi tries to show how religion differ only on the surface. It is only the matter of naming things, not the essence behind the names. And disputation will end only when we gain a comprehensive picture of them.
Four people were given a piece of money.
The first was a Persian. He said: “’I will buy with this some angur.’
The second was an Arab. He said: ‘No, because I want ‘inab.’
The third was a Turk. He said: ‘I don’t want ‘inab, I want uzum
The fourth was a Greek. He said: ‘I want stafil.’
Because they did not know that lay behind the names of things, these four started to fight. The had information but not knowledge.
One man of wisdom present could have reconciled them all, saying: ‘I can fulfill the needs of all of you, with one and the same piece of money.
If you honestly give your trust, your one coin will become as four; and four at odd will become as one united.’
Such a man would know that each in his own language wanted the same thing, grapes.
It is there the understanding of the essence of one’s religion which is very important, not just its external form of it. And it is by understanding the essence of religions that the conflicts between them could be reduced or even solved.
 See William Chittick, The Sufi Doctrine of Rumi: An Introduction (Tehran: Aryamehr University Press, 1974), p. 10.
 Annemarie Schimmel at the Conference on Rumi held at the University of California, Los Angeles, April 1987.
 The whole Mathnawi has been trnaslated into Indonesia by Anand Krishna, and published by Gramedia, jakarta. While Fihi Ma Fihi was translated from an English version ( Arberry) by Ribut Wahyudi S. Pd with the title “Inilah Apa Yang Sesungguhnya” and published by Risalah Gusti, Surabaya, 2002.
 William Chittick book, The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi and Annemarie Schimmel’s I am Wind You Are Fire (The Life and Works of Rumi) were already translated into Indonesian.
 As Indonesian, I see that Rumi is better known and appreciated. Anand Krishna and his group, for example, has performed Mawlavi “whirling” dance regularly in his own center privately, sometimes the dance performed publicly. Even, our Sheykh Kebir Helminski, the spiritual guide of Mawlawi order has visited Indonesia several time and he will visit Indonesia again regularly. Therefore we can see that Rumi’s influence is getting bigger and deeper.
 In 1983 I wrote on Rumi as a BA paper, entitled Berlian dari Negeri Rum, and later published as a book, entitled Renungan Mistik Jalal ad-Din Rumi, by Pustaka Jaya, Jakarta, 1986. And in 1989, I rewrite this work for my master thesis at The University of Chicago entitled The Mystical Reflections of Rumi, now is being prepared by Teraju publisher for publication.
 See Afzal Iqbal, Life and Works of Muhammad Jalal-ud-Din Rumi (Lahore: Institute of Islamic Culture, 1974).
 William Chittick, The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi (Albany: State University of New York, 1983), p. 2.
 Ibid., p. 2
 ‘Ali Nadwi, Rijal al-Fikr wa’i-Da’wah fi’l-Islam (Damascus: Maktab Dar al-Fath, 1965), p. 256.
 See Aflaki, The Legends og the Sufis (Manaqib al-‘Arifin) Adyar, India, Wheaton, Illinois: The Theosophical Publishing House Ltd., 1977), p. 20.
 See Aflaki, The Legends of the Sufis, p. 86.
 See the Introduction to Rumi, Ruba’iyyat of Jalal al-Din Rumi, selected and translated by Arberry (London: Emery Walker, Ltd.,, 1949), pp. Xxv-vi.
 For the information on the process of al-Hallaj’s execution, see Carl W. Ernst, Words of Ectasy in Sufism (Albany: State University of New York, 1985, pp. 63-72.
 As for the execution of Sheykh Siti Jenar, see Abdul Munir Mulkan, Syekh Siti Jenar: Pergumulan Islam-Jawa (Yogyakarta: Bentang, 2000), h. 163-182.
 See Oxfor American Dictionary, ed. Eugene Ehrlich (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 217.
 Nicholson, Rumi Poet and Mystic (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1974), p. 184.
 Rumi, The Mathnawi of Jalal al-Din Rumi, vol. V, translated by Nicholson (London: Luzac & Co., Ltd., 1968), p. 141.
 This saying is very common, spoken especially when someone did not succeed in achieving his goal.
 Rumi, The Mathnawi, vol. I, p. 53.
 Rumi, The Mathnawi, vol. V, p. 182.
 Khalifa A. Hakim, Iqbal as the Thinker (Lahore: The Institute of Islamic Culture, 1959), p. 166.
 For the story of the Elephant in the dark room, see Rumi, The Mathnawi, vol. III, pp. 71-72.
 Rumi, The Discourse of Rumi (Fihi Ma Fihi), translated by A.J. Arberry ( (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1977), pp. 108-9
 Idries Shah, The Way of the Sufi (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, Inc., 1969), p. 103.