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Yunus Emre is exactly the man described by Mevlânâ, and Mevlânâ the man described by Yunus. Yunus Emre is a seed, Mevlânâ a stately plane tree.
Mühsin Demirel, Calligrapher
I took my inspiration from the Mathnawi
So if I stole, it was public property that I took.
Şeyh Gâlib (1757-1799)
Gate generally produces great men in periods of chaos when people are unable to distinguish truth from falsehood. A great man emerges from amidst the deep valleys, sheer slopes and rugged peaks and invites human beings to the Right and the True, saying ‘Come, whoever you are, come’. Not confined to the time in which he lives, his words embrace the ages, whispering mysteriously of the warmth of being, the dignity of being human and the secret of living in perfect harmony with nature and other men.
The Crusaders from the west and the Mongol invaders from the east shattered the integrity of the Seljuk state in the period when Mevlânâ lived in Anatolia, and a transition followed to the period of Principalities when deception, betrayal and disorder ruled as far as the eye could see and no one listened to anyone else. In such a time, when order had broken down completely, two great figures appeared whose language and styles of expression were different but who said basically the same things: Yunus Emre and Mevlânâ Jalal Al-Din Rumi.
THE SEED AND THE PLANE TREE
Yunus Emre has survived to the 21st century through the poetry he wrote in such pure, pristine Turkish that the earliest literary men described it as so perfect and simple as to defy explanation or emulation. Mevlânâ meanwhile reproduced in powerful Persian, and contributed highly to Islamic Civilization. In essence he explained man, man’s nature, and his strengths and weaknesses, pronouncing him the most glorious of creatures and created in the most perfect form. In fact, the man Mevlânâ describes is exactly Yunus Emre. And what Yunus Emre describes in turn is Mevlânâ. Yunus Emre is a seed, Mevlânâ a stately plane tree.
Like all the great thinkers of the East, Mevlânâ speaks the language of wisdom in a magisterial style by which he lifts the veil of the familiar from the eyes of the person addressed without offending him personally. The truth about things and events is described in figurative language employing similes, metaphors and anecdotes, while the business of grasping the idea is left to the interlocutor’s ability, capacity and willingness to understand. Or, as the expression goes, ‘Opening the door of the intellect, but not depriving it of its own judgment.’
THE WEDDING NIGHT
Modern man’s concept of struggle, strife and domination, of which he can’t seem to let go, gives way in Mevlânâ to mutual succor, brotherly feeling, and living together in harmony. When he died in Konya in 1273, all the city’s Jews, Christians and Muslims were present at his funeral as members of diverse races and sects. The night of Mevlânâ’s death, which he called the ‘?eb-i Aruz’ or ‘wedding night’, was truly a celebration of this great man’s life.
According to Mevlânâ, Allah has created everything in this world in a special order which is part of a higher and greater order. Even though everything in this world may appear lifeless to us, in the eyes of Allah it is alive. For the world is being created anew at every moment, leaving the human mind in awe. Since man too is a small universe and a part of the greater universe, two of Allah’s attributes are especially important in this sense: his role as creator, nourisher and sustainer of the universe, and his love, which lies at the heart of his creation.
MEANING AND DUTY
Man, society, living creatures and the universe all come to life in Mevlânâ’s fertile, fecund, poetic utterances, exuberant as a rushing river, in which they are transformed into a virtual rainbow of sound and color. Everything and everyone is bound up in multiple relationships both within himself and with everyone else and with all the other creatures in the universe in a special sphere of meaning and obligation. And the world in turn, as a magnificent work of art that manifests clearly Allah’s attributes and qualities, is transformed into a book laden with profound significance.
All creatures great and small move and act in an awesome unity that embraces and intoxicates us. Mevlânâ in this sense offers a new outlook that fundamentally alters the modern mentality which views everything, even nature, with an eye to self-interest, thereby enabling us to take a deep and integral approach to every life at every stage. As a result, Mevlânâ and his work exhibit in every line and every couplet what we would today call a ‘multi-disciplinary’ approach, and can be characterized as addressing the need of people of every class and every walk of life for knowledge, love, thought, comfort and affection.
Those who were living in an abyss of pain fraught with the never ending and indescribable hunger, disease, despair and death that suffuse a time of chaos flocked to the hope and comfort held out by this divine mercy as if to bread, water and pure air. People from every walk of life drank thirstily from this wellspring. And man’s relations with nature, with himself and with the society in which he lived began to take new shape, and life itself to assume a new form.
THE OTTOMAN SYNTHESIS
Ottoman culture is a synthesis formed of this fermentation. Emerging a scant quarter century after Mevlânâ’s death, the Ottoman State throughout its 625-year existence lived and breathed Mevlânâ and his Mathnawi. Never before in history had so many races, religions, sects, tribes, geographical areas and climates lived together so long in concord and harmony beset by innumerable wars, incidents, rises and falls. It should not be forgotten that Mevlânâ and his Mathnawi formed the basis of Ottoman urban culture and intellectual tradition, just as the folk culture was based on Hacı Bektaşi Veli. Mevlânâ in this sense had a hand and a part in the poems of Baki and Fuzuli, in a dome or minaret by Mimar Sinan whether he was a Mevlevî or not, in the way neighborhoods and markets were organized, in lifestyles, in short, in the very air that was breathed in the vast Ottoman geography. Most of the men of music, poetry, literature and calligraphy in Ottoman urban culture and intellectual life were Mevlevî’s in any case: Neşati Ahmet Dede, Rasih Dede, Esrar Dede, ?eyh Galip, Itri, Dede Efendi, Zekai Dede... Our lives could be said to have been shaped by the Mevlevi sheikhs in the cities and by the Bektaşi fathers in the provinces.
Mevlânâ is being rediscovered today in a world that is being destroyed and recreated at every instant. His profound wisdom aside, there is no doubt that Mevlana is far more than a mere whirling dervish performance or series of rituals. When he died, he left behind a legacy of wise sayings to satisfy the eternal thirst of the human soul, heart and mind. He refined and polished man like a fine diamond; his hand kneaded and shaped man like clay and continues to do so today. Unfortunately man is becoming more and more alone in this globalizing and, as it globalizes, increasingly materialistic world. Too busy to look around at his fellowman with whom he lives, so far adrift from shore as to be unable to reach the things that really matter to him, man today is compelled to learn, at least to try to learn, to look at life from a different angle. In our day when it is frequently debated whether man and human relations have, or shouldn’t have, a deeper, more meaningful and more moral basis, Mevlana’s thought and teachings are assuming more importance by the day, a beacon to those who seeking the way.
FIVE YEARS FRAUGHT WITH DANGER
One of the Islamic cultural world’s most prominent figures, Mevlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi is thought by many people to have been born in Konya. Nevertheless, this is not true. The sources mention two possible birth places. One, the city of Wakhsh, in what is now Tajikistan, the other, the city of Balkh near the village of Haci Golak in today’s Afghanistan. Mevlana’s caravan set out from Balkh, the capital of Khorasan in the 13th century, finally arriving in Konya at the end of five long years fraught with danger. Stopping at a large number of settlements along the way, the caravan traveled through Merv, Nishabur, Baghdad and Kufa before reaching Mecca in Saudi Arabia. After visiting the holy places, Mevlana and his family turned northwards, to Anatolia, via Damascus, one of the leading centers of learning of the day. Following the cities of Erzurum, Akşehir and Karaman (Larende) in Anatolia, Mevlana Jelaladdin finally decided on Konya, becoming ‘Rumi’, in other words, a man of ‘Rum’ (Anatolia).