“Should I look for spiritual love, or material, or physical?
Don’t ask yourself this question.
Discrimination leads to discrimination.
Love doesn’t need any name, category or definition.
Love is a world itself.
Either you are in, at the center.
Either you are out, yearning”
– Shams Tabrizi
This poem, is not truly by “Shams Tabrizi.”
If you don’t know of Rumi, the famous Persian poet, you should.
In Persian, he’s known by his first name, Mowlana, but by the world audience he’s known as Rumi.
Rumi is well known for his prose about wine and love – and their relations to God and coming closer to God. He is known as the father of Sufism, a branch of Islam more focused on meditation and spirituality rather than the traditional hard drawn lines of the religion.
What’s most intriguing about Rumi, to a gay man like myself, is his devotion to his “friend” and mentor, Shams of Tabriz. Rumi studied spirituality and religion under Shams in what is today Konya, Turkey. It is said that they spent a secluded 40 days together before he fled to Damascus in fear of persecution.
In the time that the teacher and the student had spent together, Rumi had dedicated himself so much to Shams that his next series of works were dedicated to him to the extent that he stated that Shams was the author, Rumi himself just a vessel for the pen. He cared for Shams so much that he sent his son to Damascus to look for him. Sure enough when the two met again “one could not tell who is the lover and who is the beloved.”
Then one day after a conversation with Rumi, Shams is called outside of his residence and is never to be seen again. It is speculated why Shams disappeared but most scholars agree that at least one of Rumi’s students was so jealous of the closeness of Shams and Rumi that he murdered Shams.
That leaves me thinking, and now putting into words what most Muslims would never want spoken…
When two men spend a secluded 40 days together and come out completely dedicated to one another.
Then one of the two has to flee to Damascus.
When you love another man so much that you dedicate your own work to him.
When you love another man so much that upon seeing one another you fall to your feet.
When the man you love is murdered by someone who is jealous of your love.
When you love another man so much that after his disappearance you announce that you and him were one so why seek his body when he souls are one.
How can this just be a mere friendship between two men? Heck this sounds like a chic flick or a soap opera.
Clearly, there was more to Shams and Rumi than what Islamic scholars like to admit, for it would taint Rumi’s image, taint Rumi’s poetry since clearly homosexuality is a sin in Islam and very taboo in Islamic cultures.
The only argument that Islamic scholars have for denying such claims is:
- But Rumi was married! He had a child!
Right…because no gay men in the Middle East are forced into marriage in fear of persecution and discrimination, especially in the 13th century.
2. Rumi was Muslim. Clearly he knew sodomy was a sin.
Just because you are gay does not mean you have anal sex. Also, Rumi was also fond of wine and wrote many poems of being drunk. Clearly that’s another sin in Islam too.
The difference between Rumi and traditional Islamic views of God, is that Rumi focused on the Love of God, whereas most Muslims focus on the Fear of God.
Maybe more Muslims can take a lesson or two from Rumi, and not only his Love for God and God’s Love for him, but also his unscathed love and dedication to Shams.
Barks, Coleman. “the Essential Rumi” Harper Collins: New York 1995.