The most popular American poet – Rumi Essays: On the Life, Poetry, and Vision of the Greatest Persian Sufi Poet

Just before departing on a trip to Iran, Andrew Kosorok comes across a book which explains why Rumi’s poetry is so popular seven centuries after his life.

From my review on

By Andrew Kosorok

The most popular American poet – Rumi Essays: On the Life, Poetry, and Vision of the Greatest Persian Sufi PoetIn the mundane world, Rasoul Shams (his pen name) is an internationally respected professor of geology, educated and with academic experience in several countries. Over the years he has had to communicate across multiple cultures and belief systems, building relationships of mutual respect and appreciation around the globe.

His broad and varied experience lend a unique flavor to his understanding of a genius who is still recognized as one of America’s most popular and influential voices (BBC Culture) – although Rumi has been dead for centuries.

Founder of the long-running Rumi Poetry Club in Utah, Rasoul has made it one of his life’s missions to share his profound understanding of both the life and work of Jalaluddin Rumi to everyone ready to receive his centuries-old yet timeless message of universal harmony and understanding.

This collection of essays – introducing, analyzing, and comparing many aspects of Rumi’s work – is an excellent source of information regarding the Mawlana (meaning “Master” in Persian) and his teaching, ranging from introductory information to deep philosophical rumination.  Rumi taught the “religion behind religion behind religion”, and Rasoul uses his unique perspective of varied experience to share how the Master’s work applies to the human journey of personal growth across a broad spectrum of readers, regardless of faith or spiritual view.

Rumi taught the “religion behind religion behind religion”

Happily, I was able to read this before leaving for my fellowship to study Islamic art in Iran, the country of Rumi’s birth. In our group were academics from a half-dozen countries, both agnostics and practitioners of varied faith traditions.  We all spoke English to different degrees, but we were also united by a shared awareness and appreciation of Rumi – his work was a common factor to our interest in Iran.  Although drawn from a broad range of backgrounds, the principles Rumi shared in his writing helped us to sidestep cultural preconceptions and develop bonds of deep friendship and respect.

Tomb of Rumi Konya Turkey (Wikimedia Commons)
Tomb of Rumi Konya Turkey (Wikimedia Commons)

In addition to discussions on Rumi’s work and his role in history and the development of critical thinking, Rasoul also has two very interesting sections of essays – one section consisting of essays dealing with comparisons of the teachings of Rumi and the Buddha, and one section with essays exploring similarities between Rumi’s wisdom and that of Jesus.  Aside from presenting several eye-opening revelations, these two sections serve to wake the reader to the profound extent of Rumi’s expansive thought.

Two Sections:

  1. comparisons of the teachings of Rumi and the Buddha
  2. similarities between Rumi’s wisdom and that of Jesus

These two sections and the resulting intellectual wakefulness serve as a catalyst for bridging cultures and disparate points of view.  Keeping the tools I learned from Rasoul’s book in mind, they truly helped me during my Iranian “adventure” to recognize and build on points of commonality, allowed me to more readily see things from the perspectives of others, and open myself to rewarding relationships which could have easily turned out much different.

As an introduction to Rumi this works wonderfully well, but it also serves as a more advanced guide to deeper reflection and discussion.  An excellent source to help me in my own continued study of the Master, Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Rumi.

Rasoul Shams’ Rumi Essays: On the Life, Poetry, and Vision of the Greatest Persian Sufi Poet, can be found on

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

One thought

  1. Great post on Rumi’s poetry ISMAILIMAIL! The other thing I found very serendipitous for me personally was my attendance at the 6-lecture series on Rumi delivered by Professor Reza Tabandeh of the University of Toronto at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto in October and November 2017. The series ended the same evening that His Highness the Aga Khan arrived in Ottawa to hand out the very first awards for the Global Center of Pluralism. Thereafter our Imam was scheduled to have Mulaqats(face to face meetings of the Murshid with his murids or followers) with Eastern Canadian Jamats where he was slated to do important work for his followers relating to religious practice among other things.
    Upon the conclusion of Professor Tabandeh’s lecture series I thanked him for his excellent review of Love and Ecstasy in the poetry of Rumi. I also mentioned that the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Nizari Muslims had just arrived in Canada and that the professor’s lectures were a very timely reminder, review and preparation for the murids(followers) of the Aga Khan(their Murshid) to express and experience their affection, love and ecstasy to him for his physical presence among them. As a Twelver Shia Muslim the professor was well aware of the kind of fervent reverence, affection and veneration engendered within disciples of Imams Ali to Jafar As Sadiq in his belief system and Professor Reza Tabandeh was very excited by the news of the arrival in Canada of the Murshid of the Shia Ismaili Nizari Ismailis, he felt very happy for us and his facial expression showed it!


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