Ours is not a caravan of despair
Shams el-Din said to Mevlana Rumi:
You have gone on pilgrimage
You can walk to a blessing anywhere.
If you just go for blessing
Blessing is excess of everything.
Don’t be content with being a faqih (religious scholar),
say I want more – more than being a mystic
Our bodies are created for motion.
say I need to move to stay healthy
Walk the Sufipath as devotional act
take the rough as you learn humility
a good human complains of no one;
and does not look to faults
The best things in life are free.
This certainly applies to walking.
As that path is open to commune
with all truly wondrous and beauty
As walking becomes your dhikr
Your path will be like clear water;
wherever you flow,
wondrous blossoms grow
From the Maqalat-e Shams-e Tabrizi (Discourses of Shams Tabrizi)
Shams el-Din Mohamed el-Tabrizi (died 1248)
The Sufipath is an old trail. And like the dervish movement itself has spanned several continents and cultures over a millennium. The Path of Shams el-Tabrizi was his road to Mevlana, the most wonderful mystical poet in the world (not only in the Islamic world). Shams was the man who transformed Rumi from a learned religious teacher into that great poet and founder of the Whirling Dervishes. For centuries now his grave in Konya is worlds most visited Sufi-shrine.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a thousand times
Now that Rumi has become one of the best-selling poets in North America, interest in his life and times has increased dramatically. He himself invited us to join the Sufipath:
Yes, you who’ve gone on pilgrimage –
where are you, where, oh where?
Here, on this path you can find the truth!
So come, come now, yes come!
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come…
From Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi
Mevlana Rumi (1207-1273)
Sufipath vs. Camino de Santiago
Similarities of the Sufipath with the Camino de Santiago are obvious. But it is hardly realised that low-cost, independent international travel had its origin in faith. That there was something going on around the tombs of important saints. The big one in Roman Catholic Europe was the hiking-trail to the relics of Saint James in Spain, the Ottoman Empire had its equal in Sufisaint Mevlana Rumi.
Both cults had their setback. The so called reformation made the now 1000 year old European pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella impossible from Protestant countries. And what is today worlds most visited sufi-shrine was closed all together in 1924. And nihilized with a ban on all Sufi-orders.
But like the Camino de Santiago the Sufipath was almost forgotten, waiting to revive, due to its richness in historical, cultural, spritual and natural values.
The Sufipath was again discovered by the western world during the Hippie trail of the 1960s and 70s. It calmed the troubled brow and breathes new life and vigor into those travelers. Hectic time seems to slow down, and the traveler had a chance to think about what is really important. Who we are and where we are going to.
It was during the Third International Mevlana Congress at Selcuk University in 2003 that a roadmap and Sufipath-guide to the Mevlana-shrine was suggested. Many battles and wars have been fought over religious beliefs. But we all can agree that the nature is indisputably Gods work, whoever or whatever God may be. There is growing interest but little historic knowledge about the backpackers sufi-tradition.
The Sufipath lead along natural, cultural, historical and geographical assets as an unique opportunity in the category active and alternative tourism. The Sufipath is filled with such places of historical ands natural attractions. Beside te spiritual centers there are caves, falls, woods and breathtaking rocky formations.
The Sufipath is focusing on Konya, but in no way, as in Santiago de Compostella, is Konya “the end of the world”. The dogs barked and the caravan went on!
Both sanctuaries are now more popular as it has ever been. Over 100,000 pilgrims travel to both shrines each year from points all over Europe, and other parts of the world. Turkey with its unique historical, cultural and natural riches has so much more to offer as crossroads of civilisations.
Saint James of Compostela
Santiago de Compostela.
Real name Yaakov Ben-Zebdi.
Death: Beheaded in Jerusalem, 44 AD.
James was one of only three apostles (of 12) whom Jesus selected to bear witness to his Transfiguration. Acts of the Apostles records that Herod Agrippa I had James executed in Jerusalem, making him the first of the apostles to be martyred. James himself has left us no writings.
According to a tradition that cannot be traced before the 12th century, the grave of Santiago (St James) is said to have been discovered in 814 by a bishop in the north os Spain. He was guided to the spot by a star, the legend affirmed. A later tradition states that St James miraculously appearedin Spain on the clouds to fight for the Christian army, and was henceforth called Matamoros (Moor-slayer). The authenticity of the bones of St James in Compostela was asserted on 1 November 1884 by Pope Leo XIII. After been decapitated in Jerusalem in 44 AD James’ body was taken up by angels, and sailed in a rudderless, unattended boat from Palestine to Spain, where his grave became one of the main centers of Christian pilgrimage, rivaled only by Jerusalem, Constantinopel (Istanbul) and Rome.
Mevlana Rumi of Konya (Iconium)
Real name: Jalal ad-Din Mohamed Balkhi.
Death: 17 December 1273 AD in Konya
He was the only apostle of the dervish Shams-e Tabrizi.
When you go to Konya to visit Rumi’s mausoleum, “the Green Dome” you must not forget to pay a visit to the memorial of Shams-i Tabrizi as well, for “otherwise, Shams will be angry with you!” as the pious people in the city will tell you.
Rumi had been a sober scholar, teaching law and theology to a small circle of students, but the coming of Shams turned him into a devotee of music, dance, and poetry. Three years after Shams’s appearance out of nowhere, he abruptly vanished on the night of 5 December 1248, never to be seen again.
Beginning with Rumi’s own son a great deal of legend was built up. Over the centuries Shams became a trope of Persian, Turkish, and Urdu literatures. When Rumi and Shams sat and talked, one or more members of the circle took notes. These were never put into final form, but they were preserved and sometimes copied by later generations, ending up in various libraries scattered around Turkey. In 1990 an Iranian scholar completed the long process of collating and editing the manuscripts to the Maqalat-i Shams-i Tabrizi, “The Discourses of Shams-i Tabrizi”, provides us with an extraordinary picture of an awe-inspiring personality.
Shams recounts: “What then do you know of me? I went into that thicket where lions wouldn’t dare to go (…) and awesomeness settled into me.”
Shams appears as raucous and sober, outspoken and subtle, learned and irreverent, cruel, and harsh. Lots of people around him hate him.
The connection between Rumi and wild man Shams is the essence of Islam: utter submission to the divine. Absolute and uncompromising, without insincerity or reservation. It is the Shams reminds us, as he reminded those around him, that this has nothing at all to do with sweet words and noble sentiments, with putting on spiritual airs and gaining the admiration of the faithful.
When Rumi himself died, the Muslims argued with the Jews and Christians about who would have the honor to bear this philosopher and mystic to his grave.
He was laid to rest beside his father and over his remains a splendid shrine was erected. Rumi’s importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders. His original works are widely translated into many languages. His 13th century shrine continues to this day to draw pilgrims from all parts of the world and is the main centers of Sufi pilgrimage. BBC News described Rumi as the “most popular poet in America”.
Camino and Sufipath
The similarity Sufipath to the Camino de Santiago is evident. Both are centuries old hiking-trails, both aiming for a pilgrimage shrine.
And yet so different.
The Camino ended in Finisterrae, what what the known end of the world. Did you move on from there, you would fall of the earth. So believed the pilgrims on their way to the tomb of the saint that wore the title Matamoros, the Moorskiller. A title they are ashamed for now in Spain. The Moors, trodden by the growing horse of the saint, are now discreetly covered with plastic flowers. The present pilgrim would rather not be reminded of the murderous aspect of the Saint in medieval Europe.
For centuries the trail to the shrine of Mevlana in Konya, Turkey. was unknown in the western world. That changed when Mohamed el-Fers introduced the idea of a sufi Way “of St James” as an active Sufipath for long distance hikers at the Third International Mevlana Congress at the Selcuk University of Konya on the 5th of May 2003.
The Shams Sufipath
There is another Sufipath, the one to the tomb of Shams of Tabriz. Shams lived together with Rumi in Konya for several years. Shams was immortalized in Rumi’s collection of poetry named the “Divan of Shams ad-Din of Tabriz”.
Shams himself was born in the city of Tabriz, and what we would call a rude boy. Too rough for the theological circles Mevlana used to roam and made Shams run away.
Rumi’s bereavement at his sudden disappearing was a shock to his followers. It made Mevlana sick and he refused to talk to them any longer. It was Mevlana his oldest som Walid that went to search for Shams as far as Bagdad and Damasc, and talked him into a return. Mevlana was estatic. But Shams sudden disappeared for a second time. Just walking out the door and not to be heard of for centuries. Rumi’s lost of Shams found expression in an outpouring of music, dance, and lyrical mystic.
(TO BE CONTINUED)