Begun in 1262 AD, Masnavi-ye Ma `navi, or `spiritual couplets', is thought to be the longest single-authored `mystical' poem ever written. As the spiritual masterpiece of the Persian Sufi tradition, it teaches how to progress to the ultimate goal of the Sufi path - union with God. Jalaloddin Rumi was a poet and a mystic, but he was first a teacher; in these verses he draws the reader into the complexities of human love and separation and explains the path to divine love through the elimination of self-regard and worldly desires. Drawing on diverse sources from bawdy tales and fables to stories of the prophet Mohammed, these verses are brief in expression yet copious in meaning.
Called 'Jelaluddin Balkhi' by the Persians and Afghans, Rumi was born on September 30, 1207, in Balkh, Afghanistan, then a part of the Persian Empire. He was the greatest mystical poet of Persia, famous for his didactic epic Masnavi-ye Ma'navi (Spiritual Couplets), a treasure-house of Sufi mysticism. Rumi died on December 17, 1273. Alan Williams is Senior Lecturer in Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester.