From Balkh To Konya
While following the route of Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi’s father and teacher Muhammad Bahâ ud-din Walad’s long journey with his family, which started from the city of Balkh in present-day Afghanistan and ended in Konya, we had the opportunity to get to know Rumi more closely.
Eight hundred years ago, there were two major trade routes.One was the “Spice Route,” which started off in India, and the other was the “Silk Road,” which began in China. At the point where these two routes met for the first time, there was the beautiful city of Balkh, which was covered in greenery. Due to commercial caravans, this city was multi-lingual, multi-cultural and extremely wealthy. Boasting a population of nearly two hundred thousand, it was among the largest cities after Baghdad and Damascus. Besides being financially rich, the city was also a center of science with its mosques, lodges, and nearly one hundred madrasahs. People educated in Balkh were sent to Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo as teachers.
*** Another name for Balkh is Ummu’l Bilâd, which means the mother of all cities.
The most well-known scholar of this period was Rumi’s father, Bahâ ud-Din Walad, who was teaching at Balkh’s largest madrasah. His mother was a princess from the Khwarazm Shah Palace and his father was a renowned religious scholar. Bahâ ud-Din’s family had descended from Abu Bakr, the Prophet Muhammad’s first caliph.
Something interesting happened one night: three hundred scholars in Balkh experienced the same dream. The Prophet Muhammad said to them, pointing at Bahâ ud-Din Walad, “From now on, call this person Sultân’ul Ulamâ.” From that day on, everyone called the famous scholar Sultân’ul Ulamâ, or “Sultan of the Scholars.’”
Some extremist groups who could not stand the presence of Sultân’ul Ulamâ went to Sultan Tekish, the emperor of the period, and provoked him by saying “this man has thousands of followers, which means that he is capable of seizing your throne.” This was how they had previously accomplished the killing of Majdu’d-Din of Baghdad, a friend of Sultân’ul Ulamâ’s who was, like Sultân’ul Ulamâ, educated by Najmaddin al-Kubra.
In the meantime, in the year of the famous dream, Sultân’ul Ulamâ had his second son. They named him Mawlana Jalal ad-Din (Rumi), meaning “candelabra of love that burns until eternity.”
With pressure from the Mongols and with the diverted trade routes, the wealth and peace in Balkh were replaced by poverty and chaos. Sultân’ul Ulamâ, who was left with no peace in the city anyway, decided to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca.
*** There cannot be two Sultans in the same place.
Sultân’ul Ulamâ began his preparations for the pilgrimage. It was obvious that this was to be a journey with no return, because he had his thousands of volumes of books loaded onto dozens of camels in hundreds of crates, which were his biggest asset besides his family, relatives, and students.
Rumi, who was only five years old at the time, experienced the sadness of separation for the first time in his life, having to leave many things and people behind, including his grandmother.
***Listen to the sound of the ney; it’s telling a story. In the story, it is complaining of separation.
The first stop for the group of almost seventy people that left Balkh in 1212 was Nishapur, in Khorasan. Here, Sultân’ul Ulamâ visited his close friend, the famous sufi Farid ud-din (Attar of Nishapur/1120-1229). Meeting the five year-old Mawlana Rumi for the first time and then waving off the group to Baghdad, Attar stated “a river is carrying an ocean in its flow,” likening the father to a river and the son to an ocean.
***There is no love like that of a mother, no lovable place like Baghdad.
Meeting the group in person at the entrance of Baghdad, the Caliph invited them to his palace. Saying “it is appropriate for a scholar to stay in a madrasah” Sultân’ul Ulamâ refused this invitation and they all settled in the Mustansiriya Madrasah. None of the presents or money sent were accepted; they were distributed to the people in need. Following a magnificent speech that left all present in tears, the group left Baghdad in spite of its splendor and hospitality, setting off for pilgrimage. They went to Mecca and paid pilgrimage, after which they visited the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad in Madinah al-Munawwara.
From Madinah, they went to Jerusalem to visit Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.
***Allah commands our home to be the land of the Greeks
The trip was not to end in Jerusalem. They went to Damascus and met with another great person, Muhiddin-i Arabî. They spent the winter there and with arrival of the spring, the Amir of Damascus asked them to stay; however, Sultân’ul Ulamâ declared “Allah commands our home to be the land of the Greeks(Anatolia),” and the groups first went to Aleppo via Hama and Hummus, and passed through Malatya from there. Sultân’ul Ulamâ taught in Malatya for four years.
After staying in Akşehir for two years with the invitation of the Amir of Erzincan, they arrived in Lârende (Karaman) in 1222, via Sivas, Kayseri, and Niğde. There, they had a new madrasah built. Rumi dived full heartedly into the subjects that he had been following throughout the trip. Here, in 1225, he got married to Gowhar Khatun, daughter of a close friend in the group. Then, the days of sorrow followed. First, his beloved mother passed away, then his elder brother and his mother-in-law. Again, he experienced the feeling of separation that he first felt when they left Balkh.
***I wish that love punctuated your heart; Mentioning grief, perhaps then I would have been understood.
Mawlana Rumi had two sons in Lârende. He gave his father’s graceful name to his elder son, Walad. He gave his late brother’s name to his younger son, who was born two years later: Alâeddin.
In the meantime, the Seljuks had their most prosperous years under Alâeddin Key-Qubad’s reign. Alâeddin Key-Qubad invited Sultân’ul Ulamâ to the capital. Sultân’ul Ulamâ, again invited to reside in the palace and offered many gifts, rejected all of them and settled in a madrasah.
Sultân’ul Ulamâ continued to reside in Konya, where he educated thousands of people. When he passed away, he was sent off with a magnificent funeral ceremony.
***O thou the mentor of religion, learn to love; Because after death, there is no good, no bad, no must.
After the death Sultân’ul Ulamâ, his followers gathered around “Mawlana Rumi”; or Jalal ad-Din, who they called the “Master.” Having engulfed himself in all the sciences of the period through intensive education, Rumi managed this task perfectly well.
Generally, the only mention of the one who enlightened Rumi spiritually and matured him was Shams of Tabriz. Obviously, this energetic curator had an important part in Rumi’s life, however there had always been a fellow or a confidant in each stage of his life with whom he shared his love and affection.
***Commemoration of Rumi, it would be loyal to commemorate not only Shams of Tabriz, but his other fellows, as well.
If we look into it in order, Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi’s first fellow was his father, Sultân’ul Ulamâ, followed by Sayyid Burhan ad-Din Tirmizî, brought in from Kayseri to bring up Rumi, Shams-i Tabrizî, the supreme curator, and Saladin Zarkub after Shams’ departure. Rumi concentrated his infinite and supreme affection on Saladin and continued spiritual nourishment through his conversations. Upon the death of Saladin in 1258, Rumi recited the following elegiac verses:
O thee lover whose separation of which made the earth and the skies cry,
My soul is covered in blood, my heart is bleeding for thee,
Both the mind and the soul cry for thee
There no one on the earth to replace thee,
Both this world and the hereafter cry for thee.
Rumi wrote his Diwân al-Kabir, which consisted of odes of ecstasy much like the above. In these poems, he used the pen name of Shams, because he was no longer two separate souls with him.
Hüsameddin Çelebi, whom Mevlana called “The Illumination of God,” was his next confidant after Selâhaddin. Husam al-din Chalabi asked Rumi to write something at a level that ordinary people could understand. Upon this request, Rumi removed his saintly turban and produced a small piece of paper, which he inscribed on in his own handwriting the following lines:
Listen to the sound of the ney, it is telling a story;
In the story, it is complaining of separation
Hence follows Masnavi Sherif. Saying, “If it were not for you, this work would never be done,” Rumi dedicates his Masnavi to Husam al-din and names his biggest work Husâminâme. Following Husam al-din Chalabi, Rumi’s eldest son, Sultan Walad, who was a real dutiful child, was both a confidant and a successor to his father.
One of the most important events in Prophet Muhammad’s life was the migration. Having migrated to Konya from Balkh, which was their Mecca, Rumi, together with his father, brought a wealth of knowledge and science to Anatolia. They were a pair of pigeons who began flapping their wings in Balkh; and they will continue flapping their wings and illuminating the world from Konya, where they landed.
“THE ROSE OF BALKH BLOSSOMING IN KONYA”
THE FİRST 18 VERSES FROM THE MATHNAWİ
Listen to this Ney, while it’s complaining,
The story of separation from God it’s explaining.
Ever since they plucked me from my original ground,
Men and women cry upon my painful sound.
I need a breast pierced with the yearning of separation,
So that I may tell the meaning of my painful lamentation.
If anyone from his origin may ever fall away,
He seeks a chance to find it in a better way.
In every sort of company I cry, lament and moan,
Both the happy and the unhappy are charmed by my tone.
According to their opinions they have become my friend,
Little do they bother to discern my esoteric trend.
My secret is not concealed from my moaning cries,
But this light is not given to many ears and eyes.
The soul and the body aren’t from each other concealed,
But to many an ear and eye this factor is not revealed.
This breath in the Ney is fire and isn’t a sheer blow,
He who hasn’t this fire let him die and let him go.
It is the fire of love that has made the Ney demented,
And is love-desire that renders the wine fermented.
The Ney is a friend to those who lose their companions,
Our breasts are also pierced like the Ney’s divisions.
Who has ever seen an antidote and poison like the Ney?
Who has ever seen a consoling friend like the Ney?
The Ney is telling stories of the perilous ways and coils,
The love stories of Majnun and his bloody toils.
The knower of these feelings is none but a senseless one,
Only an ear can be a customer of a speaking tongue.
Our sorrows have made our days from us go astray,
while the days have followed time to make us their prey.
If the days are passing, worry not, let them pass away,
O Thee, the Only Pious One, with me prolong Thy stay.
If you aren’t the fish with water you’re soon tired,
If you haven’t any daily bread, time is for you undesired.
For a lower man the stage of a perfect man is too high,
So cut a long story short and say to him “Goodbye.”
For more detailed information, refer to Assoc.
Prof. Dr. Emin Işık’s The Pigeons of Balkh.