Jun 15 2012

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – No One Here but Him

Published by at 9:13 am under Poetry

No One Here but Him
by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

English version by Andrew Harvey

Watching my hand; He is moving it.
Hearing my voice; He is speaking…
Walking from room to room —
No one here but Him.

— from Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom, by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut

/ Photo by Lel4nd /

Isn’t this a lovely snippet of a poem by the great Jelaluddin Rumi? But he’s not just making a pretty, pious statement about God being the motivating force behind things.

Watching my hand; He is moving it.
Hearing my voice; He is speaking…

Mystics often say odd things like this. It makes one ask: Do they refuse to take responsibility for their actions? Do they take no action at all?

Sufis speak of an aspect of the personality called the nafs. In yoga, it is called the ahamkara. In modern English, we tend to translate this as the ego. This is the little self, the self-focused self, the self that endlessly proclaims, “I, me, mine.”

Typically we pass all action through the nafs. When I am moving my hand, the “I” moving it is the nafs. In doing so, every action subtly proclaims the doer as the center of existence. Every action great and small becomes a sort of self hypnosis, returning us back to the chant of the nafs: “I-me-mine.”

The heart of mysticism and true spiritual communion — whatever your tradition — is to overcome this petty ruler of the awareness. When we can let go of the nafs, our sense of self expands immensely. And the heart too glows and opens. As the old fences of the self fall, everyone and everything becomes a part of us in a very real way. Or, rather, we recognize that we have always been so, and it is as if our eyes have finally opened.

Now, imagine taking action from this state. Your hand still moves, but it is no longer moved by “I-me-mine.” There is an elegant stillness and spaciousness behind that movement, with a surprising capacity to affect transformation.

But who is doing this action if not the nafs? It is the larger Self, that aspect of us that does not separate itself from the Whole Reality. And despite the once constant protests of the nafs, was there ever anything other than that Wholeness anyway? Best check to be sure…

Walking from room to room —
No one here but Him.

Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

Afghanistan & Turkey (1207 – 1273) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

I haven’t yet sketched out a short biography about Rumi. It always feels a bit foolish to try to distill a rich, full life into just a few paragraphs, but it’s especially difficult with Rumi since so much has been written about him and his life.

How about just a few interesting details about Rumi:

Rumi was born in Balkh, Afghanistan. While he was still a child his family moved all the way to Konya in Asia Minor (Turkey). They moved to flee from Mongol invaders who were beginning to sweep into Central Asia. Konya, far to the west of the invaded territories, became one of the major destinations for expatriates to settle, turning the city into a cosmopolitan center of culture, education, and spirituality.

In fact, Rumi wasn’t the only famous Sufi teacher living in Konya at the time. The best known spiritual figure in Konya at the time was not Rumi, but the son-in-law of the greatly respected Sufi philosopher ibn ‘Arabi. The wonderful Sufi poet Fakhruddin Iraqi also lived in Konya at the same time as Rumi.

“Rumi” was not his proper name; it was more of a nickname. Rumi means literally “The Roman.” Why the Roman? Asia Minor (Turkey) was referred to as the land of the Rum, the Romans. The Byzantine Empire, which had only recently fallen, was still thought of as the old Eastern Roman Empire. Rumi was nicknamed the Roman because he lived in what was once the Eastern Roman Empire. …But not everyone calls him Rumi. In Afghanistan, where he was born, they call him Balkhi, “the man from Balkh,” to emphasize his birth in Afghanistan.

Rumi’s father was himself a respected religious authority and spiritual teacher. Rumi was raised and educated to follow in his father’s footsteps. And, in fact, Rumi inherited his father’s religious school. But this was all along very traditional lines. Rumi was already a man with religious position when he first started to experience transcendent states of spiritual ecstasy. This created a radical upheaval, not only in himself, but also within his rather formal spiritual community as everyone tried to adjust to their leader’s transformation.

One more note about Rumi’s father: It was only after his death that some of the father’s private writings were discovered, revealing that he himself was also a profound mystic, though he had kept this part of himself private, apparently even from his son Rumi.

Many of Rumi’s poems make reference to the sun. This always has layered meaning for Rumi since he was deeply devoted to his spiritual teacher Shams of Tabriz… as the name Shams means “the sun.” The sun for Rumi becomes the radiance of God shining through his beloved teacher.

The spiritual bond between Rumi and Shams was profound, but the two individuals were very different. Rumi was a member of the educated elite within the urban expatriate community, while Shams was a poor wandering mystic who rarely stayed in one place long. Shams would often disappear unexpectedly, then return months later. Many of Rumi’s family and students were jealous of Shams, resenting the closeness he shared with their master. Finally, Shams disappeared, never to return. Many believe that he was actually kidnapped and murdered, possibly by Rumi’s own sons!

You’ve heard of “whirling dervishes,” right? Not all Sufis practice that spinning meditative dance. That is specific to the Mevlana Sufis, founded by — yes, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi. The story is told that Rumi would circle around a column, while ecstatically reciting his poetry. The spinning is a meditation on many levels. It teaches stillness and centeredness in the midst of movement. One hand is kept raised to receive from heaven, the other hand is kept lowered to the earth, thus the individual becomes a bridge joining heaven and earth.

More poetry by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – No One Here but Him”

  1. Carol Burnson 15 Jun 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Thank you, Ivan. I love Rumi’s poetry, but I had never heard this one. Today
    this is very special, loved your commentary and the bio.

    My copy of Real Thirst is on it’s way and I truly look forward to it. Glad the response
    is good. A lot of us will be looking forward to it

  2. Nanci Warneron 15 Jun 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I know many traditions focus on letting go of the “me” ego. Still, when Jesus said “I Am” what does that tell us. I feel those two words could be an entire meditation in and of itself.
    Liked the format without the boxes at the top for eMail. No matter though, as long as the poem and your comments remain.

  3. Lorenaon 15 Jun 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Ivan, thank you so much for sharing with us all the beauty of life and its mysteries, written as poems. Have been subscribed to Poetry Chaikhana since some years ago….poems and your deep comments always leave me thinking, enriching my life….really, from the bottom of this mexican heart….muchas gracias !!!!

    I want to sincerely congratulate you for your book ‘Real Thirst’….am sure it’s wonderful and will try to buy it as soon as I have the means. So happy to know response has been enthusiastic.

    New email format is great, miss your ‘Thought for the Day’ though. but as Nanci says, we have the poem, your comments and I’m sure….your blessings.

    Please be so kind as to receive our blessings too.

  4. NaaNue Gowanon 15 Jun 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I agree, font is too small. Would like to see Thought for the Day in much larger print. Like the highlighted “Thought for the Day” tho. Glad you are open to suggestions.

  5. helen robertson 15 Jun 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Dear Ivan

    Many congratulations on ‘Real Thirst’! I am ordering my copy today. Your poems, comentaries and photographs have made a huge difference to may partner’s and my lives and we recommend Poetry Chaikhana all the time. Thank you for being there and doing what you do. Love and blessings, Helen
    p.s I actually prefer the old format of the website – stick-in-the-mud-me !

  6. helen robertson 15 Jun 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Me again – scrub my last comment – the page had not quite fully resolved itself when I said I preferred the old format. I love the new look! Helen x

  7. Stephen Paulon 16 Jun 2012 at 11:25 am

    Yes, only Him.

    Less is often so much more. Thank you for your efforts, Ivan.

  8. Patriciaon 16 Jun 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Hi Ivan thanks for all you do for us. Love, Rumi. I will buy the book the first of July. Love Patricia xxx

  9. ChAndon 17 Jun 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Love so much Sufism filosophy, as well as Rumi mind and heart… Thanks so much!!!!

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