Jalaluddin Rumi was born in 1207 C.E. ( i.e. Common Era aligned with A.D.) in Balkh. This city was then in the Persian province of Khorasan but is now in Afghanistan. Balkh was then a prominent city and his family had a tradition of service there in legal and religious offices. Despite this background he moved, in his youth and with his family about 1218 C.E., away from Balkh in order to avoid the warlike Mongols who were then conquering extensively under the leadership of their Khans.
The family travelled to Baghdad, to Mecca on pilgrimage, and to Damascus and eventually settled at Karaman near Konya in what is now western Turkey. Following this move to Konya, then the capital of the western Seljuk Turks Jalaluddin’s father was busy as an Islamic theologian, teacher and preacher. Jalaluddin followed in this tradition and, upon his father’s demise succeeded to his post as a prominent religious teacher.
This part of the world was then known to its inhabitants as Rum, a name derived from the Byzantine Roman Empire that had formerly held it. Jalaluddin’s name in religion and literature – Rumi – is itself derived from Rum. Rumi was initiated into Sufism by Burhan al-Din, a former pupil of his father’s, under whose tutelage he progressed through the various teachings of the Sufi tradition. After his father’s death in 1231, Rumi studied in Aleppo and Damascus and, returning to Konya in 1240, became a Sufi teacher himself.
Rumi is today thought of being a Persian mystic and poet and is closely identified with Sufism and Sufi mysticism. This Sufism being a mysticism within Islam where devotees sought a mystical union with God. Rumi passed away on the evening of December 17, 1273.
Situated at an altitude of 1016 meters in the south central region of the vast Anatolian steppe, the city of Konya is famous far beyond the borders of Turkey. Konyas golden age was in the 12th and 13th centuries when it was the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. The Seljuk Turks had ruled a great state encompassing Iran, Iraq and Anatolia.
With the decline of the Seljuk state in the early 12th century, different parts of the empire became independent, including the Sultanate of Rum. Between 1150 and 1300, the Sultans of Rum beautified Konya, erecting many lovely buildings and mosques. It was during this period that Rumi came to live in Konya. It is believed that the shrine of Jalalad Din Rumi and other sufis lay behind these walls (in the picture above). Mevlana Rumi is generally known in the west simply by the epithet Rumi (which means Anatolian) or in the east as Maulana Rumi. In Turkey he is universally referred to as Mevlana (the Turkish spelling of Maulana – which means ‘Our Master’) referring to a repected learned person.
Mevlana Mausoleum was made a museum in 1927, four years after the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The tombs of Rumi’s son and other Sufi sheikhs are clustered about the shrine. The burials of Rumi, his father and several others are capped with huge turbans, these being symbolic of the spiritual authority of Sufi teachers.