A brief history of Shams Tabrizi’s life

A brief history of Shams Tabrizi’s life


 After praising the beneficent God, we would say that the fame and popularity of some Persians (Iranians) have exceeded the national boundaries and have become international and even mythic. Without any doubt, “Shams Tabrizi”, the teacher and disciple of Mowlana, is one of those people that emerge in the garden of Iran’s literature and mysticism. His exact birth date is not clear but supposing that in his arrival time to Konya, he was 60 years old and Mowlana was 38 years old, Shams Tabrizi’s birth date will become 1186 A.d. Shams Tabrizi was son of Malekdad Tabrizi, and was born in Tabriz, a city in the north west of Iran. His first teacher was “Aboobakr Saleh Baf Tabrizi” but he left him in the quest of another master and greater investigation. He had other mystic masters like “Sajasi” and “Baba Kamal Jondi”. After having a dream in which he was inspired that the one, whom you are looking for, resides in Anatolia, he took the way to the west. In his mystical journey, he pondered in the status of many of mystics and Sheikhs and attended in the class of many of them but he did not find what he was looking for. He wanted to visit hidden mystics rather than those who pretend to be mystics. He visited “Fakhr Alddin Araqi” and “Oohaddin Kermani” but did not find them what he truly wanted. Even he talked to the “Ibn Arabi” (famous as “the greater master”) and “Shams Alldin Khooei” but did not see them perfect enough to follow them.

Shams Tabrizi was opposed to those who claimed to have “Keramat” and wanted to reach “Bayazid Bastami” and “Hallaj” in a short time. Even he did not have a good relation with “Bayazid Bastami” and “Hallaj” and believed that their sayings of “Sobhani” (Glory be upon me) and “Anal Haq” is a sign of their imperfection and hastiness. He separated himself from them. His most powerful Keramat, is his short and concise words and did not believe in separation of words form action and he did what he said.


Gölpınarlı, the greatest Turkish Rumi scholar, says “there is no information about dependency of Shams Tabrizi to any of the known Sufi systems. In fact, he claims that he has received “Kherghe” (cloak) from the Prophet Mohammad, not an ordinary Kherghe that decays and tears after a while, but the cloak of fellowship, the fellowship that is not bounded by the time.”

Shams Tabrizi was born in the worst political, cultural and economic period. In his springtime, there were three abolished political systems, “Fadaian Alamoot”, “Khelafat Baghdad” and “Kharazmshahi”. He also saw the attack of Moghuls and Crusaders to the world of Islam.

Shams Tabrizi entered to the Konya at the 6th of December, 1244. He was mature and perfect in that time and visited Rumi. Rumi used to teach at four big schools of Konya but Shams Tabrizi overturned his life and a new era began for Rumi. Rumi is son of “Sultan al-Ulama”, he is Mufti of the city, a dignified prayer, has students and followers, wears clerical clothing, follows his father’s method in teaching (according to the recitation of “Sepahsalar”), in the city of Konya is highly respected by all. But Rumi becomes charmed by this unknown and wandering dervish, Shams Tabrizi, in such a manner that could not distinguish his feet from head. “Aflaki” says that Rumi used to wear in a special mood that belonged to the saints but after visiting Shams Tabrizi, changes his clothes. According to the narration of “Sepahsalar”, Rumi imitated the clothing of Shams Tabrizi.

About the first encounter of Shams Tabrizi and Rumi, there are different narrations that some are close to myth and we do not quote them. Readers can refer to the book “Shams Tabrizi and Dar Alsafay Khoey”.

After this visit, Rumi said:

I tried the forehanded intellect

Since now I made myself lunatic.

The influence of Shams Tabrizi on Rumi was such that in a short time, he changed him from a dignified Faqih into a dancing lover. This unknown mysterious mystic, cooled the passion of Rumi for teaching, speaking and formal knowledge and brought him down from position of sermon and took him to the ring of dance and Sema, so that Rumi himself says:

I always used to carry Quran in my hands

Now I am playing music instruments

I had a mouth filled with prayers

Now it is filled with poems and quatrains      

(Ghazal 2351, Translated by Ehsan Ashrafi)


Rumi had a tendency toward Pantheism but Shams Tabrizi had gained the heavenly consciousness, was dissolved in that environment and had become a part of it. This was unconceivable for the students and followers of Rumi. “Rumi believed that he was strongly under the effect of   his friend and master, the wandering poet and globe trotter, Shams Tabrizi and owe him a lot.” (Ilya Pavlovich Petrushevsky, Islam in Iran, translated by Dr.Karim Keshavarz. P: 359).

This sudden change was not welcoming for the followers of Rumi. They stared complaining and roaring and attempted to take Shams’ life secretly. This situation was hard for Shams Tabrizi and without previous caution, left Konya and Rumi. Biographers have mentioned two absences for Shams but according to the Rumi’s Ghazals and the contents of the book “Riaz Alsiaha”, Shams left Konya for three times. The first time he left to Tabriz, some poems of Rumi and texts in “Maghalat”, approves this. The second time he left toward “Sham” and for the third absence, no one heard anything on his behalf. About the first absence, “Mirzay Shirvani” says: “Shams Tabrizi had to escape to Tabriz and the caused Rumi to moan and told pathetic poem… finally his tolerance faded and hurried toward Tabriz, after lots of troubles, found the beloved”. (Shirvani, Mirza Zeyn Alabedin, “Riaz Alsiaha”, P: 86)

Rumi himself,regarding this quest, says:

Oh, camel driver, take the load down from the camels

It is Tabiz city and the district of roses

May be it was in this journey that Rumi, in the Khoei city (on the way of the silk road), beside the Shams Tabrizi’s minaret, sees Shams on the top of minaret, carrying candle, goes the spiral stairs up but at the top, sees Shams down the minaret. This quest repeats a few times, and it is being told among people of Khoei. Shams Tabrizi and Rumi went to Konya together and started talking about mysticism, but again, the disciples started envying and told obscene words against Shams.

May God eradicate jealousy from Earth.

If there would be no jealous, the world would be rose bed.

This time, Shams Tabrizi departed to Sham and stayed there for about two years until they received a letter on his behalf and Rumi got to know his residing place. Since the disciples of Rumi saw him very sad due to absence of Shams, regretted their behavior and asked for mercy. Rumi accepted their remorse and he sent his son “Sultan Valad”, carrying some silver and gold to Shams to bring him back.

Oh friends, go and take back our sweetheart

Bring that fleeing idol back to me

Give sweet chansons and gold promises

Take that salubrious full moon back to home.

Shams Tabrizi accepted Rumi’s request and returned to Konya. There was a great welcome, they hugged each other, and no one knew who is lover and who is beloved because the attraction was on both sides. This was a proof that Rumi was still enthusiastic, and actually both of them were disciple and master. This situation is completely rare in the Iran’s history of literature and mysticism. Rumi gladdened for the visit of his friend, started doing Sema dance and singing:

Rumi gave one of the girls (named “Kimia Khatoon” whom were grown up in his home) to Shams to marry with her. These two mystics, Shams and Rumi, had a time of dialogues and did Sema with their followers. But these happy times did not last long and again the fire of hatred and jealousy kindled. Shams Tabrizi became angry and fulminated against these disgraces, insults, hypocrisy, and said: “now I see my two feet hang on the air, I did not come here to leave”.

After a short time, Shams Tabrizi disappeared and got out of Konya. After the death of “Kimia Khatoon” (according to Aflaki) or after the divorce of “Kimia Khatoon” (According to “Maghalat Shams”), it did not take a long time that Shams Tabrizi disappeared and never came back.

Shams Tabrizi on a Thursday on 1228 A.d, without being noticed, left Konya. At the morning when Rumi went to visit him, found his room empty. His hat and shoes with a little more stuff (that were obtained in Konya), were left intact.If he had not taken his necessary stuff for journey, Rumi would not believe his sudden departure, but Rumi noticed this fact quickly. He kneeled of fear and regret. This was a sudden and confusing strike on him. He rushed to the room of “Sultan Valad” and shout him “why are you sleeping? Get up and find your master”.

Shams Tabrizi is the king of the Turks                    

Go outside since the king is not in the house.

The search began right that. But this search was mixed with impatience and worriment. This was the the absence of Shams Tabrizi, they looked for him about one month but found no traces. Thereafter there was a rumor that Shams Tabrizi has been killed by the hostiles but “Sultan Walad” and “Sepahsalar” whom both are eye witnesses, do not talk about his murder. Rather they talk about his suddden absence and also Shams Tabrizi himself in his “Maghalat” talks about leaving: (( I promised myself that if I flee and get rid of, I give alms what I have and what I wear…)).

Shams Tabrizi had told Sulatan Walad repeatedly that “they want to separate me from Rumi, so I have made my decision and I will go somewhere that no one can find me”. Sulatan Walad in a poem, on behalf of Shams says:

This time I will flee so that

No one will know where I am

Every one will look for me in vain

No one will have any trace of me


Also Sultan Walad on behalf of Shams says: “this thime I will disappear so that on one will find me forever.”

The life of Shams Tabrizi is totally in darkness since then. Where did he go and what happened to him is not clear. To make this issue clear, we will notice shortly some quotes of biographers and researchers.

Ali Dashti says: ((the second residence of Shams Tabrizi in konya did not last long time. After a short time, disciples of Rumi started attacking him. Shams left there such that no one found any traces of him and there was rumor about killing of him by the elder son of Rumi and some disciples. Rumi cried and told some poems that spreaded in the whole world.

Mr.Ali Dashti has deeply pondered in Divane Shams Tabrizi and in his 315 pages book, has notices very interesting points that previous researchers have not noticed them. He belives that the rumor of Shams Tabrizi’s killing is very unlikely.

Carl Hermann Ethé also in his book “history of literature” ponits to the absence of Shams Tabrizi and says: ((what we can see from some Ghazals of Rumi is that Shams Tabrizi was disappeared and Rumi looked and cried for him for two years, days and nights.

Dr.Mohammad Javad Mashkoor also talks about his anscence: “biographers agree on the year of 1247 for the absence of Shams Tabrizi”. The birth and death date of Shams Tabrizi was also unknown for Rumi and he looked for him for for some years Damascus and Sham. The reason of Rumi’s 4th travel to Sham is his irritation from people of Konya and seemingly he had some news from Shams Tabrizi. These travels took place between 1247 and 1249. Rumi’s disciples also had unsuccessful efforts to find Rumi’s Master. ((It seems that the reed and Tanbour play of Molavieh tradition followers is an expression of this sudden and mysterious absence of Shams. All of the customs and traditions of dervishes of Molavieh are concentrated on this dance and Whirling which Rumi himself founded)).

Some biographers belive that Shams was killed by some fanatic followers of Rumi, including Rumi’s son, “Aladdin”, or Shams was disappeared suddenly so that no one got any news on his behalf.

The rumor of Shams Tabrizi’s murder was narrated for the first time by “Mohi Aldin Abdolghader” in the book “Aljavaher Almazieh” and then “Aflaki” renarrated it in the book “Managheb Alarefin” and then other narrators repeated it. Aflaki who lived a hundred years after Shams, narrates three different stories for the death killing of Shams.

There are different proofs for rejection of this myth. For example if we suppose that they knifed Shams, and a few blood drops felt on the ground, since no corpse was left, he has escaped and left Konya. Furthermore, why “Sultan Walad”, narrator of this killing, him self has not mentioned this in his “masnavi” book? Also “Sepahsalar”, the person who was contemporary of Rumi, has not mentioned this in his book and has only said (on behalf of Shams) : “due to the behaviours of this crowd of people, I will disappear such that no one will find me again”.

Rumi himself went to Damascus to find Shams and if he knew that Shams has been killed, would he go to find him? Furthermore, Shams was very famous in Konya, and had some followers. Would not they chase killers of Shams and deliver them to the governmet? By the whay, there are different ideas for his death place and time. Most of these ideas believe that he died in Khoey, Tabriz, Iran.