The Mesnevi

Mevlâna wrote 71 ghazels (poems) to Salahüddin, who died in 1262; and in his letters he refers to him as "the Beyezit of his time, the pole of poles." After his death Hüsamüddin Çelebi of Urumiye became Mevlâna's khalif and companion. But now Mevlâna's spirit, which had been growing calmer, was moved by fresh impulses, and this recrudescence of Agitation produced the Mesnevi. On the plea that mystical and didactic works like the Ilahinâme and the Mantik ut-Tayr of Sheikh Feridüddin Attar enjoyed great favour among the dervishes, Hüsamüddin Çelebi begged his sheikh to write a Mesnevi which should instruct the adept on the rules of the order and the mystical realities. Mevlâna thereupon pulled out of the folds of his turban a piece of paper with eighteen lines written on it, saying that he had already been thinking of this. On this basis they began to compose the Mesnevi, Mevlâna dictating and Hüsamüddin Çelebi writing down the inspirations and thoughts of his sheikh. When the first volume was complete Hüsamüddin's wife died and the work of composition came to a halt for two years. Later, on the plea of Hüsamüddin, work was resumed and the six volumes of the Mesnevi, with 26,000 lines, were completed. The whole work took seven or eight years: neither the exact date of beginning or ending is known, but the second volume gives 1264 as the date of beginning the work. Towards the end of the first volume it is stated that the Abbasids were ruling at Baghdad during its writing, indicating that the first volume must have been written in 1258.

The Mesnevi, one of the masterpieces of Islamic mystical literature, is a moral and didactic work written mainly for adepts and disciples. It largely follows the pattern of Attar and Senai (d. 1131) in expressing ideas, precepts and opinions in the form of parables. The course of the main story is interrupted by the insertion of other tales but is then resumed and completed after the interruption. Mevlâna was no formalist, and in this work, unlike the Divan-ı Kebir, he uses verse solely for its educative value.

This time there was no opposition to Mevlâna's friendship with his disciple, and after his death on 17th December 1273, on the urgent insistence of Sultan Veled, Hüsamüddin Çelebi agreed to become khalif.

Mevlâna's death, which took place at Konya after a short illness, was seen as one of the most important events of the period. Men of all countries, classes and religions followed his funeral cortege and watched night and day over his tomb. The event is described in Ahmed Eflaki's Menakib in these words: "In him the Christians mourned their Jesus, the Jews their Moses." A priest expressed the need all men felt for him: "Mevlâna is like bread: what man shall think of turning away from him?" Mevlâna's true greatness lay in the fact that, whereas the various religions and sects have a force within them making for separation, he brought all religions and sects together in the melting-pot of love, giving fresh life to dead and desiccated spirits in a veritable resurrection of the human soul.

In the Fihi ma Fih, a collection of Mevlâna's sayings put together by his son Sultan Veled or one of his disciples, we find an expression of his mystical conception of death: "Do not blame death and illness for me, for death exists merely to conceal the truth: what in reality kills is the matchless grace of God." In the same work we find his conception of the afterlife in the religious sense: a spiritual world beyond the terrestrial world, whose transitory pleasures do not satisfy; a world which man himself loves and creates by his struggles, in which he will find peace and serenity.

Mevlâna had two sons by his first wife Gevher Hatun, Sultan Veled and Alaeddin Çelebi. By Kena Hatun, whom he married after the death of his first wife, he had Muzaffuruddin Alim Çelebi and Melik Hatun. Of all these children the one who most resembled his father was Bahaeddin Veled (1226-1312). He had, therefore, been brought up with great care, and Mevlâna's father, Sultanül Ulema Bahaeddin Veled, handed on his own name to his grandson.

In 1284, after the death of Hüsamüddin Çelebi, Sultan Veled was appointed khalif on the urgent insistence of the adepts, and occupied this position until his death in 1312. During this period he wrote his work-s and sought to establish the Mevlevi order on a systematic basis, adding new rules and new methods to the structure of which his father had laid the foundations.

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