Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273) was a Persian poet, scholar and Sufi master. He is a hugely influential figure in Islamic culture, is one of the best-selling poets in the United States and collected translations of his works have sold millions of copies around the world.

Rumi was a traditional Muslim preacher and scholar until the age of 37, when he met the Sufi mystic Shams of Tabriz. The two formed an intense friendship and Rumi completely devoted himself to Shams, shunning his usual teachings and disciples. The two were inseparable for three years, until Shams suddenly disappeared (some say he was murdered by Rumi’s followers who were jealous of the two). Rumi was shattered by the loss of his great friend and what followed was the greatest outpouring of heartbreak art in history. Over the next 25 years, he produced an astounding amount of poetry, including 3000 love poems to Shams, the prophet Muhammad and God. He also wrote nearly 2000 quatrains (4 line stanzas) and the six-volume spiritual epic The Masnavi (one of the most important books in Islam).

In the centuries following his death, Rumi’s poetry became influential in Iranian, Greek, Turkish, Indian and Asian culture and thanks to popular translations in the 1970s (mainly by American poet and teacher Coleman Barks), Rumi has developed a huge following in the English-speaking world.

Ithaka by C.P. Cavafy.
Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
All The World’s A Stage by Shakespeare.
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann.
To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick.

– Rumi would dance in joyful swirling circles while dictating his poems, which became a ritual dance still practiced by his followers today.
– Further reading: Why is Rumi the best-selling poet in the US?
– Thanks to readers Kristen, Shelby, Shannon and Toby for submitting the poem.
– Post your favourite Rumi poem in the comments.