Rumi and the Beloved Sham al-Din
The most important turning point in Rumi’s life was when he met the wandering dervish Sham al- Din. Sham was eccentric and unorthodox, but was filled with heart – felt devotion, that sometimes he couldn’t contain. Sham appeared to be quite different to the respectable and prestigious scholar, (as Rumi was at that point.) However Rumi saw in Sham a divine presence. This meeting and their close mystical relationship was instrumental in awakening Rumi’s latent spirituality and intense devotion. It was at this point Rumi abandoned his academic career and began to write his mystical poetry.
In one version of the meeting, Rumi was riding his donkey through the marketplace, when a man stepped in front of him and shouted, “Who is greater – Muhammad or Bestami?” In the exchange that followed Rumi became so overwhelmed by the presence before him that he fainted and fell from his donkey.
As the relationship matured between Shams and Rumi, they became inseparable, spending months together beyond human needs, relating together in mystical conversation – called “sobhet”. During this period Rumi’s disciples were all but forgotten by their teacher. They became deeply displeased and extremely jealous. Shams sensed trouble from this quarter, and felt that he needed to disappear from time to time – for his own safety and Rumi’s too. It is reported that during one of these disappearances, Rumi’s poetry writing and mystic whirling began.
After things would cool down, Shams would reappear and the episodes of being lost in each other’s company would resume. On one of these reappearances, Shams and Rumi fell at each other’s feet upon seeing each other. This was a telling moment in their relationship – remembering that the first time they met; Rumi fell in a faint at Shams feet. This time they bowed down to each other. What had begun as a master/disciple relationship had dissolved into pure loving friendship.
One winter night Shams, who was living with Rumi and his household, answered a knock at the back door. Shams disappeared, never to be seen again.
This disappearance caused in Rumi what may be called a spiritual implosion, an event in which, in the absence of the beloved, the lover falls “into himself” and disappears into his own emptiness.