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Newsletter for March 2017
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Was Rumi a Sufi?
The short answer is no.
Rumi was a professor, a theologian and a scholar for most of his life. He was nearly 40 when he met the wild dervish named Shams who transformed his life. Until then he led a quiet, disciplined life of an orthodox religious figure from an elite family who was an incredibly popular university professor.
Going back eight hundred years and the life expectancy not being so great, 40 by the standard of the time was considered mature age. So, in essence his life should have remained the same for the remainder of his days, had he not met and embraced Shams.
Let's look at what it means to be called a Sufi. To be a Sufi, is the same as belonging to any cult or sect or small religious or spiritual group that has a structure and a system of hierarchy. There is the master at the top, then officers below him and then the disciples. The master, whether it's a small Christian cult in the Midwest of the US, or an ultra-orthodox Hasidic community in Jerusalem, or a small Sufi sect in Egypt, or a Guru in an ashram in a village in India, has complete and total control over the group. His or her word is considered a command and is obeyed by all the disciples blindly.
Unless the organization has grown very large to include multiple locations, no new student can join the group until deemed worthy by the master. Also, joining such groups means adhering to strict rituals and routine practices formulated by that cult.
Keep in mind that Sufism is a relative newcomer in the region that dates back many thousands of years and is rich with culture, spirituality, mysticism and the desire to explore the mysteries of humanity and the universe. Being a mystic in Mideast doesn't necessitate in being a Sufi. For examples many dervishes in Iran trace their heritage back to at least 5,000 years and would clearly distinguish themselves from Sufism, which is only a several hundred year old tradition.
Based on the above, Rumi certainly was not a Sufi. He didn't belong to any such sect neither did he pay homage to any particular master short of Shams, who was not a Sufi and had no other followers. Lastly Rumi knew Shams for only a couple of years before Shams was killed in the hands of Rumi's youngest son.
Rumi was a universal soul appearing as a Persian mystic poet, with an incredibly brilliant mind, who lived by his own code. Many years after he passed away, the order of Whirling Dervishes was formed in his honor and that often confuses people as though he was part of such a sect.
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