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Shams Tabrizi and His Sufi Philosophy Is Not Merely About Tasawwuf or Islamic Mysticism, It Is Much More

By Binish Qadri

07 January 2019

Shams Tabrizi, also known by the title of Shams al-Din Mohammad, and widely known as Rumi’s teacher and spiritual guide is the 13th-century Persian Sufi Muslim saint (Everett, 1998). He was unquestionably and indeed a very good Sufi, a mystic, a poet, a theologian, and originally from Iran (Gamard, n.d.) who travelled throughout the Middle East praying and in search of someone who could endure and bear up his jocund company. Shams Tabrizi’s motivation, guidance, and stimulus is beyond what is seen and known which rise above or go beyond national limits and margins, thereby integrating national frontiers with international frontiers, and cultural ruptures and stratifications. Central Asian Muslims and the Muslims of South Asia, in particular, and the Muslims across the world, in general, have remarkably and astoundingly loved, respected, and treasured his mystical and unworldly inheritance and legacy for the last seven epochs which is one of the reasons why people value his dearest student Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi R.A. (Nasr, 1987).

Faqir is the term which is often misunderstood in the common parlance. In the Sufi world, it is not just a term but much more which is tagged with the person of high spirituality, a homeless Dervish. In mystical jargon, the word fakir point towards man’s unworldly, mystical, and divine need for the Deity who single-handedly is self-sufficient and all powerful. It is attached to a Sufi Muslim who has made spiritual promises and pledges of paucity, insufficiency, and reverence, relinquishing and refusing all dealings, affairs, relations, and personal effects, wealth and possessions.

There are leading Sufi Silsilas or order of Faqirs: Chisti, Suhrawardi, Qadri, and Naqshbandi (Encyclopaedia Britannica). It was because of Faqeeri that Shams Tabrizi was able to influence and bring long-lasting impact on the mind and soul of Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi (R.A). He was appreciated and respected as a great Faqir and Sufi by the intellectuals and societies of his times and was recognized and acknowledged as the light or Noor of his times in the Sufi world. His poems and writings are a relic for us and will renew and revamp our spiritual get-up and garnish our inner world for the healthier and improved version of life, which rests on the canons of love, respect, sensations, faith, originality, stimulus, reassurance, and provocation, both inner and outer.

The Maqalat-e Shams-e Tabrizi, a discourse, is a Persian prose book written by Shams which endures a mystical version and understanding of Islam and its fundamentals and encompasses spiritual guidance. Education is not merely being literate but follows much more: It is the acquiring of useful knowledge or useful learning which provides the appropriate skills and the leaning for making lucrative use of that knowledge. Since knowledge acquisition and skill development are parts of a dynamic process, education is an unending process. Being educated is being blessed, the more it is, the better is our personality, both inner and outer and vice versa.

Shams Tabrizi states in his book that we should not be contended with being merely a religious scholar or a Sufi scholar or a mystic, but more of each light and facet of education and spirituality. He quotes:“Don’t be content with being a Faqih (religious scholar), say I want more – more than being a Sufi (a mystic), more than being a mystic – more than each thing that comes before you.’’ (Chittick, 2004) According to him, a person should not complain and look at faults. Happiness is as clear as water and wherever it flows, incredible blooms grow while as unhappiness is like a dark calamity, wherever it flows it withers the blooms.

Poetry is an art and a wish at the same time to put life to dead or water a sterile garden of thoughts, rhyme or a piece of art which emanates from an inborn curiosity and attentiveness to depict the events and things around us (Spark Notes Blog). The poetry of Shams Tabrizi is an assortment or collection of mystical verses loaded with thoughts of love and kindness, religious sacred opinions and sentimentalities. As a human being who blooms and develops on the language of love and compassion, we are clearly drawn to art, craft, and poetry.

The poetry of Persian poets and authors, in general, and Rumi, Shams Tabrizi, and Saadi Shirazi, in particular, forms the basis of much classical poetry and literature of Central Asia (Afghanistan) and Western Asia (Persia). In Rumi’s works, particularly Diwan-i- Shams-i-Tabrizi, and poetry, divided into a number of groups containing the verses of Rubaiyat and songs of Ghazal of the Divan, the Masnavi, six in number, we find the spiritual connection between Rumi and his master Shams Tabrizi.


Sufi philosophy and poetry, in general, and philosophy of Shams Tabrizi, in particular, are out there what is understood and witnessed for it is not merely about Tasawwuf or Islamic mysticism or the construction of mysticism within Islam as a secret facet or element thereby making it the leading indicator and the most significant and dominant outward expression of spiritual and mystic exercise in Islam. It is much more. It is constantly being in touch with God and building that character and repute which interiorize and strengthen Islamic faith and practice (Chittick, 2004).

Sufis day in and day out argue that Islam cannot be understood and followed from the outside world but realized within. Sufi beliefs and considerations will attract only those who have a lust for knowledge and see the positive side in everything that makes it easier for people to see the life from a bigger side and realize the divine connection between man and his creator on the one hand and link that love has with life here and hereafter on another hand. In order to understand the construction of mysticism within Islam and the connection of spirituality with the trail of love, happiness or sadness, Sufi thoughts and writings are an essential guide and treat for the senses.


Encyclopaedia Britannica. Fakir Islam and Hinduism. Retrieved from

Jenkins, Everett (1998). The Muslim diaspora: a comprehensive reference to the spread of Islam in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, Vol 1. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 212.

Ibrahim Gamard, n.d. Rumi and Islam: Selections from his stories and poems, Pg Introduction xix

Seyyed, Hossein Nasr (1987). Islamic Art and Spirituality. Suny Press. p. 115.

Spark Notes Blog. Poetics. (n.d.). Retrieved from

William Chittick. (2004). Me and Rumi: The Autobiography of Shams-i Tabrizi, Annotated and Translated. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae.


 Binish Qadri is a Research Scholar, Department of Economics, at Central University of Kashmir, and an Academic Counsellor, IGNOU STUDY CENTRE 1209,S.P. College, Srinagar.