The Mesnavi and The Acts of the Adepts, by Jelal-'d-din Rumi and Shemsu-'d-Din Ahmed, tr. by James W. Redhouse, , at sacred-texts.com
Shemsu-’d-Dīn Tebrīzī, Muhammed son of ‘Alī, son of Melik-dād.
Shemsu-’d-Dīn of Tebrīz was surnamed the Sultan of Mendicants, the Mystery of God upon earth, the Perfect in word and deed. Some had styled him the Flier, because he travelled about so much; and others spoke of him as the Perfect One of Tebrīz.
He went about seeking for instruction, human and spiritual. He had visited many of the chief spiritual teachers of the world; but he had found none equal to himself. The teachers of all lands became, therefore, pupils and disciples to him.
He was always in quest of the beloved object of the soul (God). His corporeal frame he habited in coarsest felt, shrouding his eminent greatness from all eyes in what are really the jewelled robes of spirituality.
At Damascus it was, where he was then studying, that he first saw Jelālu-’d-Dīn by chance in a crowded marketplace; but Jelāl, who was at that time a student also, avoided him.
Ultimately, he was led to Qonya in Jelāl's traces, and first arrived there at dawn, on Saturday, the twenty-sixth of Jumāda-’l-ākhir, a.h. 642 (28th November, a.d. 1244), Jelāl being then professor at four colleges there. They met as is related in a former chapter (chap. iii. Nos. 8, 9).
At the end of three months’ seclusion together, passed in religious, scientific, and spiritual disquisitions and
investigations, Shemsu-’d-Dīn became satisfied that he had never met Jelāl's equal.
When Shemsu-’d-Dīn was quite worn out by a series of divine manifestations and the consequent ecstasies, he used to break away, hide himself, and work as a day-labourer at the water-wheels of the Damascus gardens, until his equanimity would be restored. Then he would return to his studies and meditations.
In his supplications to God, he was constantly inquiring whether there was not in either world, corporeal and spiritual, one other saint who could bear him company. In answer thereto, there came at length from the unseen world the answer, that the one holy man of the whole universe who could bear him company was the Lord Jelālu-’d-Dīn of Rome.
On receiving this answer, he set out at once from Damascus, and went in quest of his object to the land of Rome (Asia Minor).
Chelebī Emīr ‘Ārif related that his father, Sultan Veled, told him that one day, as a trial and test. Shemsu-’d-Dīn requested Jelāl to make him a present of a slave. Jelāl instantly went and fetched his own wife, Kirā Khātūn, who was as extremely beautiful as virtuous and saintlike, offering her to him.
To this act of renunciation Shemsu-’d-Dīn replied: "She is my most esteemed sister. What I want is a youth to wait on me." Jelāl thereupon produced his own son, Sultan Veled, who, he said, would be proud to carry the shoes of Shems, placing them before him for use when required for a walk abroad. Again Shems objected: "He is as my son. But, perhaps, you will supply me with some wine. I am accustomed to drink it, and am not comfortable without it."
Jelāl now took a pitcher, went himself to the Jews’ ward of the city, and returned with it full of wine, which he set before Shems.
"I now saw," continued Sultan Veled in his recital, "that Shemsu-’d-Dīn, uttering an intense cry, rent his garment, bowed down to Jelāl's feet, lost in wondering admiration at this implicit compliance with the behests of a teacher, and then said: 'By the truth of the First, who had no beginning, the Last, who will have no end, there never has been, from the commencement of creation, and there never, until the end of time, will be, in the universe of substance, a lord and master, heart-captivating and Muhammed-like, as thou art.'"
He now bowed down again, declared himself a disciple to Jelāl, and added: "I have tested and tried to the utmost the patient long-suffering of our Lord; and I have found his greatness of heart to be totally unlimited by any bounds."
Jelāl is reported to have said: "When Shemsu-’d-Dīn first came, and I felt a mighty spark of love for him lighted up in my heart, he took upon himself to command me in the most despotic and peremptory manner.
"'Study,' said he, 'the writings of thy father.' For a while I studied nothing else. 'Keep silent, and speak to no one.' I ceased from all intercourse with my fellows.
"My words were, however, the food of my disciples; my thoughts were the nectar of my pupils. They hungered and thirsted. Thence, ill feelings were engendered amongst them, and a blight fell upon my teacher.
"He came to me another day as I was, by his command, studying the writings of my father. Thrice he called out to me: 'Study them not.' From his sacred features the effulgence of spiritual wisdom streamed. I laid down the book, and never since have I opened it."
Jelāl is said to have related that Shemsu-’d-Dīn forbade him to study any more the writings of his father, Bahā Veled, and that he punctually obeyed the injunction.
But one night he dreamt that he was in company with a number of friends, who were all studying and discussing with him those very writings of Bahā Veled.
As he woke from his dream, Shems was entering the room with a severe look. Addressing Jelāl, he asked: "How hast thou dared to study that book again?" Jelāl protested that, since his prohibition, he had never once opened his father's works.
"Yes," retorted Shems, "there is a study by reading, and there is also a study by contemplating. Dreams are but the shadows of our waking thoughts. Hadst thou not occupied thy thoughts with those writings, thou wouldst not have dreamt about them."
"From that time forward," remarked Jelāl, "I never again busied myself with my father's writings, so long as Shemsu-’d-Dīn remained alive."
Jelāl is related to have informed his disciples that Shemsu-’d-Dīn was a scholar in every science known to man, and also a great alchemist; but that he had renounced them all, to devote himself to the study and contemplation of the mysteries of divine love.
Shemsu-’d-Dīn was one day sitting with his disciples, when the public executioner passed by. Shems remarked to those around him: "There goes one of God's saints."
The disciples knew the man, and told Shems that he was the common headsman. Shems replied: "True! In the exercise of his calling, he put to death a man of God, whose soul he thus released from the bondage of the body.
[paragraph continues] As a recompense for this kind act of his, the saint bequeathed to him his own saintship."
On the following day the executioner relinquished his office, vowed repentance, came to Shemsu-’d-Dīn, made his bow, and professed himself a disciple.
Sheykh Husāmu-’d-Dīn was originally a young man who showed great respect and humility towards Shemsu-’d-Dīn, to whom he rendered services of every kind.
One day Shems said to him: "Husām, this is not the way. Religion is a question of money. Give me some coin, and offer your services to the Lord; so, peradventure, thou mayest rise in our order."
Husām at once went forth to his own house, collected all his own valuables and money, with his wife's jewels, and all the provisions of the house, brought them to Shems, and laid them at his feet. He furthermore sold a vineyard and country-seat he possessed, bringing their price also to his teacher, and thanking him for having taught him a duty, as also for having deigned to accept so insignificant a trifle from his hand.
"Yes, Husām," said Shems, "it is to be hoped that, with God's grace, and the prayers of the saints, thou wilt henceforth attain to such a station, as to be the envy of the most perfect men of God, and be bowed down to by the Brethren of Sincerity. It is true that God's saints are not in want of anything, being independent of both worlds. But, at the outset, there is no other way to test the sincerity of one we love, and the affection of a friend, than to call upon him to sacrifice his worldly possessions. The next step is, to summon him to give up all that is not his God. No disciple who wishes to rise, has ever made progress by following his own devices. Advancement is earned by rendering service, and by spending in God's cause. Every pupil who sacrifices possessions at the call of his teacher, would also lay down his life, if needs
were. No lover of God can retain both mammon and religion."
Shems then restored to Husām the whole of his goods, keeping back only one piece of silver. Nine times as much more did he bestow upon Husām from first to last; and, as the results of all things are in God's hands, so did Husām at length become the ruler of God's saints, and Jelāl made him the keeper of God's treasury. He it was who wrote down the twenty-four thousand six hundred and sixty couplets contained in the six books of the Mesnevī.
Shemsu-’d-Dīn left Qonya, at the end of his first visit, on Thursday, the twenty-first day of the month of Shawwal, a.h. 643 (14th March, a.d. 1246), after a stay of about sixteen months.
He returned to Damascus; and his departure left Jelāl in a state of great uneasiness and excitement. (Compare a conflicting date given in No. 13, further on.)
Shemsu-’d-Dīn was one day at Bagdād, and entered one of the palaces there. A eunuch who saw him enter, without being himself visible, made a sign to a slave to go and drive away the mendicant.
The slave drew his sword, and raised it to strike; but his arm withered, and fell palsied.
The eunuch then motioned to another slave to execute the commission; and he, too, became similarly incapacitated.
Shems then went away of himself, and none dared to pursue him. Two days later, the eunuch died also.
Jelāl's father, Bahā Veled, had a disciple, who, for some reason, gave offence to Shemsu-’d-Dīn; the latter, in punishment, inflicted a deafness on both the disciple's ears.
After a time, Shems pardoned the offender, and restored
his hearing. But the man bore him a grudge in his heart, nevertheless. One day, Shems said to him: "Friend, I have pardoned thee; wherefore art thou still cast down? Be comforted." Notwithstanding this, his rancour remained.
One day, however, he met Shems in the midst of a market. Suddenly, he felt a new faith glow within him, and he shouted out: "There is no god save God; Shemsu-’d-Dīn is the apostle of God."
The market-people, on this, raised a great hubbub, and wished to kill him. One of them came forward to cut him down; but Shems uttered so terrific a shout, that the man at once fell down dead. The rest of the market-people bowed, and submitted.
Shems now took the disciple by the hand, and led him away, remarking to him: "My good friend; my name is Muhammed. Thou shouldest have shouted: 'Muhammed is the apostle of God.' The rabble will not take gold that is not coined."
One beautiful moonlight night, Jelāl and Shems were together on the terraced roof of the college, and all the inhabitants of Qonya were sleeping on their housetops.
Shems remarked: "See all these poor creatures! They are dead to every sense of their Creator on this beautiful night of God's decree. Wilt thou not, Jelāl, of thy infinite compassion, wake them up, and let them gain a share in the shower of blessings of this night?"
Thus appealed to, Jelāl faced toward Mekka, and offered up this prayer to God: "O Thou Lord of heaven, and of earth, for the love of Thy servant Shemsu-’d-Dīn, vouchsafe wakefulness to this people."
Immediately a black cloud gathered from the unseen world. Thunders and lightnings burst forth; and so heavy a rain fell, that all the sleepers, catching up what clothing they could find, quickly took refuge in their
houses below. Shems smiled at the saintly joke, and was greatly amused.
When daylight dawned, the disciples gathered round, numerous as the raindrops of that shower; and Shems related to them the story, with the following remarks:—
"Hitherto, all the prophets and saints have ever sought to hide from vulgar eyes the miraculous powers they have possessed, so that none should be aware of the fact. But now, our Lord and Master, Jelāl, has been so successful in secretly following up the path of mystic love, that his miraculous powers have hitherto escaped the searching eyes of even the chiefest of God's elect, even as it hath been said: 'Verily, God hath saints of whom no man knoweth.'"
Kimiyā Khātūn, the wife of Shemsu-’d-Dīn, was a very beautiful, and also a very virtuous, woman. One day, however, it so happened that, without his permission or knowledge, the grandmother of Sultan Veled, and her attendant ladies, took Kimiyā with them for an outing to the vineyards of the city.
As chance would have it, Shems came home while she was still away. He asked for her, and was informed where she had gone, and with whom. He was exceedingly annoyed at her absence.
Kimiyā had scarcely returned home, ere she began to feel unwell. Her limbs stiffened like dry firewood, and became motionless. She continued screaming and moaning for three days, and then gave up the ghost, in the month of Sha‘bān, a.h. 644 (December, a.d. 1246. But compare a conflicting date given in No. 9, further back.)
It is related that, a second time, Shems and Jelāl shut themselves up for a whole six months in Jelāl's room at the college, without partaking of meat or drink, and without
the entrance of a single individual to interrupt them, or either of them coming forth, Sultan Veled and one other disciple alone excepted.
Shemsu-’d-Dīn was extremely bitter in his preachings and lectures to the learned auditory who used to gather around him in Qonya. He likened them to oxen and asses. He reproached them with being further than ever astray from the path of living love, and taxed them with the presumption of supposing themselves the equals of Bāyezīd of Bestām.
He once went to Erzen-of-Rome (Erzrūm), the prince of which city had a son so extremely stupid, though very handsome, that he could be taught nothing, or next thereto.
Shems let no one know who or what he was; but opened a school for children. Inquiries were made by the prince, and Shems undertook to instruct the child, and enable him, in one month, to recite the whole Qur’ān by heart.
He kept his promise. The young prince acquired, further, during the same period, a beautiful handwriting, and sundry other accomplishments.
It began to be suspected, now, that he was a saint in disguise. He therefore quietly slipped away from that city.
There is a tradition that Jelāl one day called his son Sultan Veled, gave him a large sum of money, and bade him go, with a suite of the disciples, to Damascus, and request Shems to return to Qonya.
Jelāl told his son that he would find Shems in a certain inn, playing at backgammon with a young Firengī (European, Frank), also one of God's saints. Sultan Veled went, found Shems exactly so occupied, and brought him back to Qonya, the Firengī youth returning to his own country, there to preach Jelāl's doctrines, as his vicar.
Sultan Veled walked the whole way from Damascus to Qonya, at the stirrup-side of Shems, as a groom walks by the side of a prince's charger. The whole city went forth to receive them. Jelāl and Shems embraced each other. Jelāl became more than ever devoted to his friend; and his disciples resented his neglect of them, as they had done before. Not long afterwards, the dolorous event occurred that terminated the life of Shemsu-’d-Dīn.
The Vazīr of Qonya had built a college. On its completion, he gave a great entertainment, in the college, of religious music and dancing, all the learned men of the city being present.
The Qur’ān was first recited in its entirety; after which, the holy waltzing began. The Vazīr and Shemsu-’d-Dīn both joined in the dance. Several times they came into collision; or, the Vazīr's skirt swept against Shems's person, as he observed no caution in his gyrations.
Jelāl expressed great indignation at this want of courtesy and reverence for his guest and friend. He took Shems by the hand, to lead him away. The grandees present essayed to appease him, but their entreaties were of no avail. The police of the Sultan were therefore sent for; and when they arrived, they instantly seized Shems, led him forth a prisoner with every mark of indignity, and put him to death without further inquiry or formality.
Chelebī Emīr ‘Ārif related, as informed by his mother, Fātima Khātūn, that when Shemsu-’d-Dīn was thus made a martyr, his executioners threw his corpse down a well.
Sultan Veled saw Shems in a dream, and was informed by him where the body would be found. Sultan Veled went therefore at midnight with some friends, recovered the corpse, washed it, and privately buried it in the college grounds, by the side of the founder.
Forty days after the disappearance of Shemsu-’d-Dīn, Jelāl, wishing to appease his own sorrow, and quell the mutinous spirit that had broken out among the disciples, appointed Husāmu-’d-Dīn his local deputy, and set out to seek Shems at Damascus for the third time. All the learned men of Syria became his disciples, and he was absent about a year, more or less.
The Sultan and the nobles grew impatient at this long absence, and wrote him an urgent petition, begging him to return to Qonya. With this request he complied.
Naturally, he had failed to find Shemsu-’d-Dīn in the flesh at Damascus; but he had found within himself what was still greater. He went to the lodging of Shems, and wrote on the door, with red ink: "This is the station of the beloved one of Elias, on whom be peace!"
It is said that the body of Shemsu-’d-Dīn disappeared, and that he was buried by the side of Jelāl's father, Sultan Bahā Veled the Elder.