Love and Silence

Introduction to Odes of Rumi

We know very little of Shams of Tabriz, the elusive Master who wandered the Near East in the 13th Century, seeking ever higher levels of mystical companionship. The legend is that one night he cried out from his longing, ‘Lord, show me one of Your Beloved Ones!’

            A Voice came, ‘What will you give in exchange?’

            ‘My head.’

            ‘The hidden Truth you search for is Jelaluddin Rumi.’

            So it seems an agreement was struck in the invisible world, and in late October of 1244, in Konya, Turkey, they met.

Their subsequent Friendship is one of the Mysteries. With them, the categories of Teacher and student, lover and Beloved, Master and disciple, dissolved. They entered into the months-long periods of solitude and deep communion called sobet. But some in the community were disturbed by this Friendship. Several times Shams was forced into exile, though always he returned at Rumi’s request. Then, one night in May of 1247, while they were on retreat, Shams was gently called from outside.

            He knew it was to death. ‘I am called to the torture.’

            Rumi waited a long while to answer. ‘There is only One whose right it is to call. Answer That.’

            The Aflaki account, which I am following here, tells then that as the ambushers struck, Shams cried out, There is no Reality but God with such force that the conspirators fell to the ground unconscious. When they came to, there was no trace of Shams except for a few drops of blood.

            After Shams’ disappearance, Rumi broke into the spontaneous river of his poetry, more and more of which is gradually being brought over into English. Over a thousand of his odes end with some reference to Shams. In fact, he called the entire collection of his odes and quantrains the Divan Shamsi Tabriz, the Works of Shams of Tabriz. Rumi closes more than five hundred other odes with reference to Khamush, the Persian word for Silence. Those two endings are the double-noted theme in this collection.

Excerpt from introduction to : Rumi – Like This
by: Coleman Barks