Towards a Chronology of the Works of Mowlânâ Jalâl al-Din Rumi


Modern scholarship and popular biographers have largely assumed a tri-partite life and career for Mowlânâ Jalâl al-Din Rumi, corresponding to: (1) his teaching career prior to encountering  Shams in 1244, during which his preocupations were homiletic and pedagogical; (2) an ecstatic and then frenetic period of union with, and then loss of, Shams from 1244 to c. 1251, during which time Rumi withdrew from his disciples, performed samâ‛ and composed ghazals; and (3) a cathartic gestalt in which the poet internalized the voice of Shams and eventually composed the Masnavi.Aflâki’s Manâqeb al-‛ârefin provides some purported circumstances of composition (though these should be understood as largely legendary accounts), while Schimmel and Gölpınarlı, among others, have pointed to a handful of individual poems that might be specifically dated.  No attempt has however been undertaken to mine the many poems of the Divân, or passages of the Masnavi, for chronological information that might allow us to begin provisionally dating parts of the oeuvre of Mowlânâ Rumi to specific decades and specific circumstances.

   This paper provides examples of specific poems in the Divân which make explicit mention of particular dates, including ghazals associated with particular individuals, and on this basis make suggestions for a more nuanced sense of the chronology of Rumi’s oeuvre, which may begin to make it possible to trace specific developments in his thought or style, as well as the thematic and theological foci of his work.  It also reconsiders the traditional dating of the beginning and ending of the composition of the Masnavi.  While it may never prove possible to give a rigorous dating to the majority of the poems of the Divân, the way we have come to expect for the poems of Chaucer or other medieval European poets, it is already clear from this initial step in the process of trying to construct a chronology that Rumi continued to compose ghazals well after the departure of Shams (and perhaps even before his arrival), and even after he had began to compose the Masnavi with Hosâm al-Din.


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