Rumi and Shiism

(Notes from Sefik Can Efendi, 1998)


Some poems that are not Rumi’s have been added to collections of Rumi’s poems. These poems are poems by extremist, Shiite poems of the Ismailiyye creed who deify Ali. These poems have no relation to Rumi at all both in terms of form and substance. For example, there are many poems falsely attributed to Rumi in a collection of Rumi’s poems prepared by Hidayet Khan, an Iranian literary figure, and printed in Tehran in 1280/1863 under the title Divan-i Shamsu’l-Hakaik. There are also many poems that are not written by Rumi in a large size edition of the Kulliyat-i Shams-i Tebrizi printed in 1302/1884 in India.


These poems that are not Rumi’s, i.e. poems by Shiite poets, do bewilder the readers. Fortunately, the forgiven Firuzanfer, a professor at the Tehran University, has prepared a very reliable edition of Divan-i Kebir, in seven volumes, by working without taking the Shiite side, very impartially with the love of knowledge. In this edition he selected the poems that truly belonged to Rumi by reviewing all other editions of Divan-i Kebir, printed or handwritten, and showing the differences between editions. The fake Rumi poems where Ali is deified are excluded in this principal edition of the Divan-i Kebir.


Everybody wants to draw great personalities to their side no matter what their real views may be. Therefore, the Shiite who read these poems where Ali is described not as a human being but as a Deity consider Rumi one of them, just as some Bektashis who view Rumi as the deputy of Haji Bektash. (Golpinarli, Mevlana’dan Sonra Mevlevilik, p. 300) But Rumi cannot be confined to a group. Rumi is everyone’s.


Dawlatshah who very well understood this truth wrote for Rumi in his Tezkire-i Dawlatshah:

Followers of all creeds have praised Rumi and he is accepted by all groups. (Tezkire-i Dawlatshah-i Semerkandi, edited by Muhammed Abbas, p. 213)


It is for this reason that in Rumi everybody found their own approach, their own view and themselves and hence thought of Rumi as one of themselves. It is for this reason everybody saw him in a different light. Some thought that he was Melami, some Shiite, some Jaferi and some Bektashi. But in reality Rumi is a Sunni saint completely on the path of our Prophet.


In Islam, tolerance is the rule. In Quran it says that there is no forcing in religion. Therefore since Rumi is completely on the Muhammedan path, he never looked down on others and tolerance and lenience was his distinguishing characteristic. Since he treated followers of all creeds and religions with respect, Christians and Jews shed tears after his funeral along with Muslims. When he said I am of seventy two creeds, he meant to say that the essence of all creeds and religions is one according to the Divine Predestination.


If Rumi had in fact been Shiite, he would, like many Shiite scholars, never mention the names of Abu Bakr, Omar and Osman. However, Rumi loves these dear Companions of our Prophet along with Ali and remembers them in his works. I would like to point out how many times Rumi mentions these four dear Companions of our Prophet in the Mesnevi and the Divan-i Kebir to give my readers an idea:

Rumi speaks about Abu Bakr at 10 places in the Mesnevi and at 8 places in the Divan-i Kebir; Omar at 18 places in the Mesnevi and at 20 places in Divan-i Kebir; Osman at 4 places in the Mesnevi and at 8 places in the Divan-i Kebir; Ali at 41 places in the Mesnevi and at 23 places in the Divan-i Kebir.


Who doesn’t love Ali? Since one enter the city Divine Knowledge through the door of Ali, every believer who loves Allah and the Prophet loves also Ali. Ali is a close relative of our Prophet and has been subjected to injustice. He has been the victim of Muaviye who wanted to establish his own kingdom and damaged the Islamic Republic. Also the conscious tells us to love Ali. But we have to love Abu Bakr, Omar and Osman just like we love Ali. We must love Ali like we love our Prophet and his Companions. We shall not deify him because Ali himself has rejected this extreme kind of love. He had those executed who prostrated in front of him as a deity. (Izmirli Ismail Hakki, Muhassilu’l-Kelam ve’l-Hikme, p. 107, 1336, Istanbul) How nice did our friend and master Suud-I Mevlevi express love of Ali with this following quadruplet:

I am the servant of the Prophet’s family, supporter of Ali, 
I am Sunni, Hanefi, Mustafevi and Murtazawi, 
God forbid, I am neither hurufi nor an astray Shiite, 
Praise be to God, I am a strong Muslim.


One of the reasons that Rumi is mistakenly thought of as a Shiite is that some descendants of Rumi and Mevlevi Shaikhs that came after Sultan Veled behaved hereticly, drank alcohol, did not perform prayers, had Shiite and Batini beliefs, had long moustaches as the Bektashi Babas and committed unislamic acts that were renounced by the public. Those who saw such people thought that Rumi whom these people claimed to follow was Shiite. Indeed it is narrated that, like the Shiite, some Mevlevis gathered in a graveyard in Sutluce, Istanbul, on the tenth day of the month Muharrem, cooked ashoorah, whirled, shaved off their heads and wounded their heads and chests with razor for the love of Huseyin. (Abdulbaki Golpinarli, Mevlana’dan Sonra Mevlevilik, p. 226) No matter what others think we rely on the infinite tolerance of Rumi and know that we have no right to criticize anybody because of what they think, feel and do. We also know that in the Mevlevi order which was founded after Rumi died, a division soon occurred.


On the one hand, there was the path of pious Sultan Veled who was completely on his father’s footsteps, i.e. fully compliant with the Islamic Law. On the other hand, there was the path of those who followed Shams-i Tebrizi who was ardent, cheering, laughing, difficult to restrain and somewhat unconventional (rind). Some name the Veled branch “Mevlevi bigots” and the Shams branch “unconventional Mevlevis” (rind). This categorization is a purely personal opinion and inclination. It is also quite natural for everybody to differently interpret according to their own inclination the path of Islamic Law that Sultan Veled followed who was completely on his father’s footsteps who was both, a lover of God, unconventional, ardent, and at the same time was saying: I am the slave of Quran as long as I shall live, and he would spend nights with worship. Hence, Golpinarli wrote: We see that the Mevlevi spirit which froze solid with Sultan Veled regained its livelihood with Ulu Arif Celebi. Is this livelihood? Or is it a departure from Rumi’s path? I don’t know. I leave this for the consciounces of my readers to decide. But as far as I know there must be clear differences between Rumi’s lifestyle and the lifestyle of the followers of the Shams branch who indulge themselves in an unorthodox joy, abandon some of the limitations of the Islamic Law and live in a strange spiritual pleasure. Rumi who holds beads even in his imagined portrait has never reached for a glass of wine of this earth which is forbidden since his holy hand holds the glass of the heavens. Our great Rumi says the following in one of his odes:

Don’t knock on every door like a beggar. You are a supreme being. You are strong and your hand can reach the door of the heavens. So you should knock on that door. 
Once the glass of love of beyond has taken you from yourself then forget this world and do not think about it.
(Divan-i Kebir, vol. 5, no. 2933)


Does a hand that can reach for the heavens care for the glass of this earth? How nice does Rumi describe this thought in the following quadruplet:

We do not need any wine to be intoxicated. We do not want any musical instruments to make our assembly more cheerful and interesting. We are already enraptured and intoxicated before seeing the face of the beautiful beloved, hearing the musician play or drink the earthly wine from the saki.


Abdulbaki Golpinarli writes the following when describing the last Mevlevi lodges before all lodges were outlawed and closed:

In fact, the Bahariye Mevlevi lodge was well known with unorthodox and Shiite practices. Shaykh Nazif (d.1860) was a more fanatic Shiite than a Bektashi, and his son Huseyin Fahreddin Dede was in the same inclination. Shaykh Nazif and especially his son Huseyin Fahreddin Dede would drink alcohol almost every night. The Yenikapi Mevlevi logde which was previously known for unorthodox and Melami inclinations was known for piety in its last days. 
Once they asked a Mevlevi dervish why their hats were so long. He replied: “It is long enough for the bottle. When strangers come in we hide the bottle.” I heard this from Shaik Nazif.
(Abdulbaki Golpinarli, Mevlana’dan Sonra Mevlevilik, p. 211)