Shams of Tabriz – Persian Sufi, roaming dervish and Scholar

Rumi

Rumi: “… And Your Soul Trembled”

by  Anne bayliss | Nov 9, 2019

Readers familiar with the Coleman Barks versions of Rumi’s work think of Rumi as a man who deftly celebrated love’s ecstasies… and he did. To imagine, however, that Rumi wrote verse only to praise wine or kisses, is to forget that he evoked those human delights as metaphors for something transcendental. Rumi was a devout Muslim cleric, and he wrote in celebration of unity with God. Yet even in his day, his personal life caused misunderstanding and scandal.

– Anne Bayliss

What do we know about Shams? He is mentioned only briefly and, often, only as the teacher of Rumi. But Shams, was more than just a wandering dervish or “poor man of God.”  A Shafi’i Sunni Muslim, he had traveled restlessly after leaving his hometown of Tabriz, visiting Baghdad, Damascus, Aleppo, and other places, working as a tutor, weaver, or day-laborer, and seeking out interesting lectures on Islamic theology as well as philosophy. 

Yet, according to Franklin Lewis, author of ‘Rumi, Past and Present, East and West’, Shams was also an accomplished Islamic scholar, and had devised a method for learning the Koran in three months. He was thus both a faqir, a Sufi practicing spiritual poverty, and a faqih, or scholar of Islamic law. Lewis suggested that Shams had “probably spent much of his life…sitting in on the lectures of famous teachers, most of whom he found disappointing in one respect or another.”

In the company of Rumi, Shams wrote, “‘I come for friendship, relief.’” According to some writers, “Shams searched long and hard and found none but Rumi who could tolerate his un-hypocritical and unconventional pursuit of truth.” Shams called Rumi “Mowlana (Master),” and says he would be “‘a fitting shaykh, if he would agree.’” 

Lewis, Franklin: Rumi Past and Present, East and West.

from Oneworld (2000) pp. 143-147
[3] Lewis pp. 154-164