RumiAndShams.com
The teachings of the ascended masters
Jelaluddin Rumi and Shams of Tabriz,
as channeled to John Windwalker and
Jamila Hammad

Rumi and Shams
The Eternal Friendship

The Story of Rumi and Shams 

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In the middle of the 13th Century, the revered scholar Jelaluddin Rumi was walking through the marketplace of Konya leading a group of his students when a man ragged and dusty from travel approached him. Their eyes met and locked with fierce but hazy recognition. The first words out of the traveler's mouth posed a question that would forever change both men's lives.

For years, a religious rebel named Shams of Tabriz had traveled from town to town quizzing every scholar he met. He was searching for a teacher but none had the answers he sought. While all quoted from books and scripture, no one spoke from the heart, from personal experience. Shams wanted to go beyond books to the heart of God, through the heart of man. Everywhere he went, the townspeople called him crazy, a blasphemer, and he pitied them.

His searching took Shams to Konya, in what is now the country of Turkey. Upon encountering the famous scholar in the middle of the marketplace, Shams wasted no time in challenging Rumi. "Who is greater, the prophet Mohammed or the great teacher Betsami?"

Without hesitation Rumi answered, "of course, the prophet Mohammed."

Shams had to see what Rumi was made of, so he took his questioning one step further. "Betsami, the distinguished teacher, said 'I am great because God is within me,' whereas Mohammed said, 'God is great in His infinite mercy.' How would you explain this?"

Overcome by the personal significance of this question, Rumi fell to his knees. Shams had just unlocked a door deep within Rumi's soul. Even though he was considered one of the greatest scholars of his time, Rumi found little solace in his holy books. He had settled into life as a teacher but felt spiritually unfulfilled. Finding Shams was unexpected and astonishing. In that instant Rumi knew that no book could teach him what this soul could.

When Rumi regained his composure he answered Shams saying, "Betsami limited his understanding to one aspect of God's greatness. He was secure in what he knew and sought no further. Mohammed, on the other hand, was a seeker who recognized the vast infiniteness of the Creator. His perception of God was not limited to one idea or ideal. The more he knew God the more he recognized he did not know, and so he kept seeking. Mohammed said of God, 'We do not know you as we should.'"

Shams extended his arms and the two embraced. They recognized in each other a yearning to know God of an intensity that was equal one to the other. Rumi was captivated by this wild vagabond and eagerly welcomed Shams into his life.

They became inseparable. Rumi could no longer focus on his students or studies. He found in books only concepts of God. Shams found God in everything, in simple, every day experiences, and this filled him with an ecstasy that he was willing to share unconditionally with Rumi, something that Rumi desperately wanted.

Rumi and Shams often walked the narrow streets of Konya. The din of boisterous merchants hawking their wares merged with the barking of dogs and the grunting of camels. The fragrance of frankincense and cardamom spiced the air already heavy with dust and the dryness of the desert. Copper and brass pots glistened in the sunlight. Exquisitely woven Persian carpets exploding with color hung from the tents of Bedouins on the outskirts of the marketplace.

They stopped at the grocer's for a glass of fresh goat’s milk and a handful of sweet dates. They walked past the blacksmith, the goldsmith, and the baker. The succulent aroma of roasting kebobs drifted from the taverns alive with music from the oud, the dumbek and the flute. Though they savored every sight and sound, Shams and Rumi had distanced themselves from the world.
Shams offered Rumi the idea that loving God could be expressed as self-love and forgiveness.

In their conversations Rumi might say, "Of course I love God! But there must be laws and rules. There must be boundaries."

With a smile Shams would say, "Since when does the breeze limit itself and the sunlight cease from providing warmth? Since when does God limit Herself? Why should God require boundaries?”

Rumi trusted his heart and soul to Shams, and Shams said, "That is a good beginning. What more can you offer?"

"There is nothing more!" cried Rumi.

Shams replied, "Still you sleep, Rumi. It is a new day. Wake up! You resist my words because of your own insecurities and the fear that right now you could be the God that you truly are. Could I, as your friend, allow you to continue living a life of limitation when you know better?"

It was no secret that Rumi's students and colleagues were jealous of Shams and the apparent power he exerted over their teacher and friend. As the months went by, the pressure mounted until one of Rumi's fellow teachers confronted Shams. A heated argument ensued, threats were hurled. In fury and frustration, Shams left town without so much as saying good bye. Rumi was devastated.

is world crumbled around him. There was no one to whom he could turn for solace and support. He walked the town like a man possessed. As days turned into weeks, his emotions vacillated between grief and anger. An entire year passed.

One day came a rumor, Shams had been seen in Damascus. Immediately, Rumi sent his eldest son to petition for Shams' return. They found Shams playing chess at a local tavern. Shams listened stoically to the pleas of Rumi's son. After much begging Shams acquiesced. He knew the religious intelligentsia still reviled and blamed him, but he could no longer reject his friend.

When Shams returned to Konya, Rumi was beside himself with emotion. They fell into each other's arms weeping. Then Rumi took a good look at Shams. His friend's long hair was shorn, cropped close to his skull, but pitifully so. It was as if some amateur barber had wielded an angry razor. Shams had cropped his own hair as uneven as his life. He missed chunks in some places and scraped his scalp in others. Rumi shook his head and said, “What the hell have you been doing?”

“The same thing you would have done,” said Shams.

“Why did you leave me?” asked Rumi.

Shams looked at his friend and said, “why didn’t you hear my silent cries and follow me?”

The great scholar answered, “I was so despondent, and I am still very angry at you!”

“I laid down my carpet and waited, but your footsteps were ghosts!”

“Do you realize what you put me through?” Rumi said.

Shams said “Do you realize, beloved, what you asked me to do?”

Rumi cried “I asked you nothing!”

Shams replied, “You asked me in the world without words to help you change your life, and so I did! Forget your sorrow, Rumi. I am home to stay.”

They returned to the comfort of the world that they co-created, to the adventure of discovering the presence of God in all things. Shams showed Rumi that God within us is real, that we are not separate entities.

Shams said, "We live in a world of illusion bound by fear. To awaken the soul is to enlighten the mind. There is one eternal, simple truth: I AM. And because that is so, everything is because I AM. I AM God the Creator, everything else I am not, although I can be if I so choose. To illuminate the mind is to confront fear, to confront fear is to examine our limitations and boundaries. To open the mind is to invite the courageous soul into those places where once resided fear and worry. As the soul awakens from the slumber induced by being human, we are created, re-created anew."

Shams continued, "I AM is the spark of a God, all knowing, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal and invincible. I AM always with God, in God, as God, of God. Simple is it not?"

"No, Shams," replied Rumi. "It is not simple."
"I'm only teaching you what you already know, Rumi."

"And how do you know what I know?"

"Because you are me and I am you. And your love for me will lead you to sublime self-realization."

"Does it take another to know love?"

"It does not, but companionship certainly feels good."

Shams and Rumi were talking late into the night. Rumi's home was a haven for their endless conversation. There was a knock on the door and muffled voices calling to Shams. He rose to answer the call. In the darkness, a blunt object hit Shams with the force of hate.

When Shams did not return, Rumi went to the door. What was keeping him? Into the night he called to his friend. There was no answer. His heart sank. Had Shams left him again? Impossible. No, he wouldn't do that, he couldn’t do that! Rumi remembered that cursed year without Shams. The old anger rose like bile in his throat.

When Shams awoke he was trapped inside a sack. Left for dead, he was poorly tied. He freed himself and staggered to his feet. An ocean of sand surrounded him. In that instant Shams realized that he’d been left to die in the desert.

He called out to God, “Is this the way of love? Is this my reward for loving another soul as deeply as I love you?”

In the burning sun of his first day in the desert, anger and blame consumed him. In the coolness of night, the fever of his despair broke. He remembered his eternal truth, a truth he had so fervently shared with Rumi.

Shams faltered as he stood. He spread wide his arms, lifted his bloodied face to the heavens and began to twirl, sing and praise God for the opportunity called life, for the compassion to forgive his attackers.

While spinning in ecstasy, God came to him. In his last moments on earth Shams overcame the great lie of mortality. It was to Rumi that he spoke his final words. "Oh, beloved friend, can you hear me? In love there is no separation. God is holding me and blessing our eternal friendship. Be strong."

Rumi organized a search. This time he would visit Damascus himself. The journey proved long and arduous. He began to write a journal in which were expressed his deepest longings and darkest fears. Rumi wrote:

Through the weeping, I witness the path I have chosen.
I search for a lost soul, lost only to me.
With every step I pull a caravan of fear,
But there is no turning back.
Not a star points your way.
What remains of your tenderness
Are the memories my mind incessantly paints
And the yearnings of a heart torn from the breast of love.

Emptiness echoes into the abyss.
Even the wind denies me sorrow.
I have become someone in some other place at another time.
The shallow voice in the shadow of night is my own.
Where have you gone?
What might I touch to find you?
Shams, who wrested your life from mine?
c The mule of sorrow marches stubbornly.
Do not pull me so!
My steps are weighted and I wander in circles.
I am the hub of a wheel revolving in longing,
With hope as my destination.
Is he in Damascus?
Does his blood stain the sands?
Belighted One of Wonderment, is this the lot of fairness?
The flame of our fire no longer burns in my hands.
I require nothing, nothing but my friend.
Heavenly Star of all that loves, where is Shams?


In Damascus, Rumi searched every street, alley and shadow. No one had seen Shams. He wandered the marketplace lost in despair. One day as he stared absently into his food, a young girl dressed in rags stood before him. He lifted his gaze and looked into her eyes. She whispered, "Chew, you must chew, you must chew to taste."

Every day thereafter, the child, mute and wide eyed with devotion, appeared before Rumi. In her silence he found an invitation to speak. His heart emptied of pain and suffering, and all she did was listen. As Rumi waded through his emotions, he reached a new clarity about his love for Shams.

On what became her last visit, Rumi said these words to the little girl, "Shams risked everything, every moment. How can I not do the same? How can I let my beloved walk away with only God by his side? As you well know, little one, I can not.”


In Damascus the sun was setting below the horizon when Rumi heard the familiar laughter. Half mad with hope, Rumi ran into the desert. Before he could utter a single cry, his foot went out from under him and he fell, his open mouth filled with sand. In that moment he realized there was nothing to chase because there was nothing to catch. He could not chase God or Shams because each lived eternally within him.

Rumi left Damascus and returned to Konya a changed man. He left his books behind forever. It would take him the rest of his life to express the love and mysteries he shared with Shams. Rumi found in poetry the only form of expression befitting his reverence for his teacher Shams of Tabriz.


 


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