Rumi’s View of His Predecessors


The increase in Rumi’s popularity in recent decades has generated competing interpretations of his Sufi teachings and their relationship to mainstream Islamic theology, ranging from the views of traditional Muslims to those of New Age Universalists. In this article, an attempt is made to situate Rumi’s teachings more accurately within the Sufi tradition, through a careful reading of his own didactic writings, namely his Masnavi and the Fihe ma fihe. In the first place, his own predilections are highlighted by identifying the early Sufi figures in which he shows the most interest, and then comparing the innovative ways in which he depicts them.

   This analysis is expanded upon, by focusing on Rumi’s teachings about the divine communication received by Sufi friends of God and its relationship to that received by prophets, followed by his specific identification of his own Masnavi as an inspired book with the same divine origins as the Qur’an. The popular saying “Rumi’s Masnavi is the Qur’an in Persian”, as well as biographical accounts which compare his magnum opus with the Muslim holy book, are finally re-evaluated in light of these observations in Rumi’s own writings, in order to point to a more nuanced appreciation of Rumi’s place in the Sufi tradition. 


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