The Masnavi, Masnavi-I Ma'navi or Mesnevi (Turkish), also written Mathnawi, Ma'navi, or Mathnavi, is an extensive poem written in Persian by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi, the celebrated Persian Sufi saint and poet. It is one of the best known and most influential works of both Sufism and Persian literature. The Masnavi is a series of six books of poetry that amount to about 25,000 verses or 50,000 lines. It is a spiritual writing that teaches Sufis how to reach their goal of being in true love with God.
The title Masnavi-I Ma'navi means "Rhyming Couplets of Profound Spiritual Meaning." Rumi himself referred to the Masnavi as "the roots of the roots of the roots of the (Islamic) Religion.". The Masnavi is a poetic collection of rambling anecdotes and stories derived from the Quran, hadith sources, and everyday tales. Stories are told to illustrate a point and each moral is discussed in detail. It incorporates a variety of Islamic wisdom but primarily focuses on emphasizing inward personal Sufi interpretation. This work by Rumi is referred to as a “sober” Sufi text. It reasonably presents the various dimensions of Sufi spiritual life and advices disciples on their spiritual paths. “More generally, it is aimed at anyone who has time to sit down and ponder the meaning of life and existence.”
The Masnavi was a Sufi masterpiece started during the final years of Rumi’s life. He began dictating the first book around the age of 54 around the year 1258 and continued composing verses until his death in 1273. The sixth and final book would remain incomplete.
Each book consists of about 4,000 verses and contains its own prose introduction and prologue. Considering there are no epilogues, one must read the proceeding volumes to fully benefit from the wisdom presented by Rumi. Some scholars suggest that in addition to the incomplete work of Book 6, there might be a seventh volume.
The six books of the Masnavi can be divided into three groups of two because each pair is linked by a common theme:
Books 1 and 2: They “are principally concerned with the nafs, the lower carnal self, and its self-deception and evil tendencies.”
Books 3 and 4: These books share the principal themes of Reason and Knowledge. These two themes are personified by Rumi in the Biblical and Quranic figure of the Prophet Moses.”
Books 5 and 6: These last two books are joined by the universal ideal that man must deny his physical earthly existence to understand God’s existence.
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"Mawlana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, also known as Mawlana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Balhi, but known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, (September 30, 1207-December 17, 1273), was a 13th century Persian (Tadjik) poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian. Rumi is a descriptive name meaning "the Roman" since he lived most parts of his life in Anatolia which had been part of the Roman Empire until the Seljuq conquest two centuries earlier.
Modern scholars now believe that Rumi was probably born in 1207 CE in Wakhsh/Vakhsh (In modern day Tajikistan, then under rule of Ghurids), while traditional sources claim his father family had for several generations lived in Balkh (In modern day Afghanistan, then incorporated into the Khwarezm Empire around 1205 CE). Both these cities were at the time included in the Greater Persian cultural sphere of Khorasan, the easternmost province of historical Persia.
His birthplace and first language both indicate a Persian heritage. Due to quarrels between different dynasties in Khorasan, opposition to Khwarizmid Shahs who were considered devious by Rumi's father or fear of the impending Mongol cataclysm, Baha-e Walad (Rumi's father) decided to migrate westwards. Rumi traveled west with his father and family, first performing the Hajj and eventually settling in Konya (In modern day Turkey, then in the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum), where he lived most of his life , composed one of the crowning glories of Persian literature and profoundly affected the culture of the area. New Persian (also called Dari-Persian or Dari), a widely understood vernacular of Middle Persian, has its linguistic origin in the Fars Province of modern Iran. A Dari-Persian literary renaissance (In the 8th/9th century) started in regions of Sistan, Khorasan and Transoxiana and by the 10th/11th century, it overtook Arabic as the literary and cultural language in the Persian Islamic world.
He lived most of his life under the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, where he produced his works and died in 1273 CE in Konya. He was buried in Konya and his shrine became a place of pilgrimate. The shrine is now known as the Mevlana Museum. Following his death, his followers and his son Sultan Walad founded the Mevlevi Order, also known as the Whirling Dervishes, who are known for their famous ceremony called the sema..." (Quote from wikipedia.org)