He was the son of an eminent Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic Baha-al-Din Walad. In the 13th century, Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi was already a known figure, and had achieved great scholarly feats, when he met Shams Tabrez. This meeting had a profound effect on Maulana Rumi.
There are fables as to how both of them met. Some people say that Shams Tabrez was asked by his spiritual mentor, Baba Kamal-ud –Din to go and exhort the haughty and inflamed mind- Maulana Rumi. Therefore, Shams Tabrez sought him all over, all the while seeking his “star student”. Finally, both of them met at a place in Konya, now the country of Turkey.
According to some, Maulana Rumi was once sitting among his numerous disciples; there were piles and stacks of books on all his sides. Shams Tabrez a rugged, rough, dusty looking ascetic wanderer approached Maulana Rumi and both exchanged fierce glances. Shams Tabrez in his ascetic excellence inquired from Maulana Rumi about those books and asked, “What’s all this?” Maulana replied in a caustic manner, “This is something that you are ignorant of.”
As soon as he had said this, abruptly a fierce fire erupted, and engulfed all those piles and stacks of books and everything there was destroyed. Maulana Rumi was left aghast. He inquired from Shams Tabrez, “What’s All this?” Pat came the reply, “This is that which you are ignorant of.”
Thereafter Shams Tabrez left the place. Maulana realized his mistake; he was left completely distraught and distracted, and sought the ascetic everywhere.
Others say that Maulana Rumi was sitting along a pool of water reading his books, the ascetic came around and threw all the books in the pool, but retrieved the same completely dry, upon which Rumi accepted him as his spiritual guide.
Yet another version of the incident goes like this:-
That Maulana Rumi was passing by in the market place of Konya in all his glory and aggrandizement when he encountered Shams Tabrez. He challenged Rumi with a question which changed the course of his life. He asked Maulana Rumi, “Who was the greater mystic, Bayazid (a Sufi saint) or Mohammad (PBUH)?”
Rumi replied, “What a strange question it is! Muhammad (PBUH) is the greatest of the saints/mystics.” Shams again prodded him, “So why is it then that Muhammad(PBUH) says to God, “I didn’t know you as I should have; while Bayazid proclaimed, ‘How exalted is my glory!’ , thus he claimed a superior station”.
Rumi explained that Muhammad (PBUH) was the greater of the two because while Bayazid’s quest came to an end, his thirst was quenched completely by a single experience of divine blessings.
He lost himself completely and was filled with God, his capacity was limited; but on the other hand Muhammad’s (PBUH) desire was endless, and he was always thirsty, because his capacity was infinite. He came closer to God with every moment, and then regretted his former distant state. For that reason Muhammad (PBUH) said, “I have never known you as I should have.”
After this exchange of words, Rumi felt a window open into his soul. He cried out and fell to the ground, and lost consciousness for one hour. Shams also realized that this was his ‘star student’, and his search was over.
When Rumi awoke he took Shams Tabrez by hand, and the two of them secluded themselves for 40 days. Rumi had realized that his knowledge was incomplete and his quest hadn’t come to an end. He found out the real essence of the couplet recited by Shams Tabrez which is as under:-
That knowledge which doesn’t take you away from yourself
JahlzanIlm Ba Bud Bisyar
Ignorance is better than such knowledge
Rumi realized that knowledge which would make him one with God was to be the ultimate motive of all his endeavor and devotion.
Rumi thus became a philosophical poet. His poetry is a manifestation of spiritual ecstasy. Tabrez the seer filled his soul with the light of knowledge and Rumi evolved as an independent spirit transcending socio-cultural and religious barriers.
The beauty and the force of his heartfelt poetry is indeed unshakable. Rumi went on to write 3000 songs dedicated to Shams Tabrez; 2000 rubaiyat/quatrains and 6 vols. of the divine epic that resonates with beauty and ecstasy.
Nigah’eMard’eMoomin se BadalJatihainTaqdeerein….
(by the glance of the man who is a true believer even destiny is changed)
Jo HoZauq’eYakeenpaida to katjatihainzanjirein….
(When the taste for certainty is created, then the chains are cut)
This is exactly what happened when Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi met the seer Shams Tabrez, he was transported into the seamless world of spirituality, became one with his God, and exquisite poetry flowed from his soul, thus faith enwrapped him galvanizing him from distractions, arrogance and ignorance. He realized the purpose of his existence. This is what we know as TASAWWUF-the essence or inner crux of Islam.
A seer taught me the meaning of Tasawwuf. He explained to me Tasawwuf begins at Aadab-good conduct whereby a person continuously strives for purity of soul, and ultimately he achieves the vision when veils are removed between him and the Almighty, and he becomes light within darkness-The Noor emanates from the illuminated heart.
Author is an advocate at Jammu Kashmir High Court, Srinagar