Jalalud'din Rumi : Intermediary between East and West
The 13th-century teachings of Jalalud'din Rumi, the Sufi Muslim philosopher from modern-day Afghanistan, are rich with wisdom to guide and open the hearts every human being. Rumi's insights on love, awareness of the things of the soul and tolerance, could extend a helping hand across the growing culture gap dividing the West and the Eastern Muslim world.
Rumi wrote and taught that all religious groups are equal in the eyes of God. If he were alive in our modern time, he would have no qualm worshipping or praying in a church or synagogue instead of his own religious holy places. When we examine the philosophy revealed in his poetry, and his other writings, we see that Rumi taught people to look for their own individual relationship to God through existential and mystical means. Rumi’s deep love for all people and thing around him, without regard for what or who they were, illustrates that the West and East, the non-Muslims and Muslims are not as divided as many today believe.
Originally trained in theology as a Muslim cleric, Rumi later became a mystical teacher, leader, and poet following an encounter with Shams in 1244 A.D. Rumi expressed his beliefs primarily through poetry, which often speak of honest compassion and infinite tolerance for individuals living outside of Islamic teachings. In spite of his religious Muslim upbringing, Rumi did not discriminate against people of other faiths or even agnostics. In an essay about his relationship with Jesus, Rumi wrote "He Was in No Other Place":
“Cross and Christians, end to end, I examined. He was not on the Cross. I went to the Hindu temple, to the ancient pagoda. In none of them was there any sign. To the uplands of Herat I went, to Kandahar I looked. He was not on the heights or in the lowlands. Resolutely, I went to the summit of the [fabulous] mountain of kaf. There only was the dwelling of the [legendary] Anqa bird. I went to the Kaaba of Mecca. He was not there. I asked about him from Avicenna, the philosopher. He was beyond the range of Avicenna... I looked into my heart. In that place, his place, I saw him. He was in no other place.” (Shah 105)
In addition to respecting Christian teachings, Rumi deeply valued the life and teachings of Jesus. Essentially, in Rumi’s eyes, all religions were more or less equal and beautiful because they all are searching for the central truth about divinity:
What shall I do, O Muslims?
I do not recognize myself.
I am neither Christian nor Jew,
nor Magian, nor Muslim.
I am not of the East, nor the West,
not of the land, nor the sea.
I have put duality away
and seen the two worlds as one. (Rumi)
Rumi did not view the world through a narrow interpretation of God. Rather he taught the belief that there is no one single consistent set of truths explaining our world, and that all religions exist together offering the possibility of peaceful and cohesive insights to ourselves and our world. Strikingly, Rumi...