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The Life of Sayyid Burhan al-Din

Sayyid Burhan al-Din




The loss of his father left Rumi feeling emotionally and spiritu­ally empty. That was because he had lost not only a father but also a spiritual guide, a friend of heart, an example of knowledge and virtue, and a perfect man. As much as he was recognized as a shaykh, the head of the order, and a great scholar at his young age, and surrounded by many people, after Sultan al-Ulama's migration to the realm of eternity, Rumi could not consider him­self as a replacement for his father and suffered from spiritual loneliness. But one year after Sultan al-Ulama's death, one of his deputies, Sayyid Burhan al-Din Muhaqqiq Tirmidhi (d. 1245), came to Konya to see him. But he saw that his shaykh whom he loved very much had passed away and his son Jalal al-Din was in his place. Who was this Sayyid Burhan al-Din who came to Konya? When Baha al-Din Valad was in Balkh, Sayyid Burhan al-Din was there, too, and he was one of Sultan al-Ulama's disci­ples. When Jalal al-Din Muhammad was a child he had taken the responsibility for raising him. Rumi was very glad that Sayyid Burhan al-Din had come to Konya. He kissed the hand of his former teacher and father's friend. They remembered the good old days that had passed in Balkh. It then became clear to Sayyid why he had come to Konya. Once he had been the tutor of his dearly beloved shaykh's son, now he was going to be his spiritu­al guide.

After explaining the coming of Sayyid to
Konya and his meeting with Rumi, Sultan Valad writes that he said the follow­ing to his former student: "You are peerless in knowledge. You are a superior and outstanding individual. But your father pos­sessed spiritual states. You also should leave mere words and con­cern yourself with acquiring spiritual states. Work hard in this so that you may be his heir not only in knowledge but also in spir­it. Enlighten the universe like the sun and show the true path to those who remain in the dark and stray from the Muhammadi path." Rumi accepted these words that came straight from the heart as if they were his father's words. He submitted to Sayyid Burhan al-Din, who said: "I want you to receive the truth from me that I received from your father who was my shaykh (spiri­tual guide). Without wasting any time you need to set out on the path of dervishes. The knowledge of ladun, the knowledge of knowing and finding God, is the knowledge of the prophets and saints. Now it is time for you to advance in this knowledge."

From that day Rumi became a disciple of Sayyid Burhan al-Din, and he started to recite regularly the prayers and praises of the Kubrawiyyah order taught to him by his shaykh. First, Sayyid locked Rumi in a room for forty days and had him perform a khalwat (seclusion). Rumi was released from spiritual loneliness when he found his father's friend Sayyid Burhan al-Din and enthusiastically and ardently recited prayers and other recitations given to him by his shaykh. Although Rumi had learned much from his father and teacher, Sultan al-Ulama, Sayyid Burhan al-Din advised him to go to
Aleppo and Damascus to enhance his knowledge of religion and the law. Thus, following the order of his shaykh, Rumi went to Aleppo with a few of his dervish friends. When he sent his student and disciple to Aleppo to deepen his knowledge, Sayyid did not stay in Konya but returned to Kayseri. This was only temporary. When his dear disciple would come back, he too would return to Konya.

Aleppo, Rumi studied for two years in a Halawiyye madrasa, the most famous of that time. He learned Islamic Law from Kamal al-Din, the most renowned scholar of the region. This famous scholar had met with Rumi's father. Therefore, he took great care of the son of Sultan al-Ulama whom he knew and loved very much. He attended to him intensively. He was amazed by Rumi's talent and intelligence and helped him to advance his knowledge in every area.

Rumi went from
Aleppo to Damascus. Damascus was bursting with scholars and Sufis escaping the Mongol invasion. It was as if the Hand of the Most Powerful had prepared every­thing for the education of Rumi who was going to be a peerless Sufi and provide a service to the knowledge of ladun (gnosis) with a work like the Mesnevi, In fact in those days, Damascus was a city where saints gathered, almost a city of saints. Muhy al-Din Ibn al-'Arabi (d. 1240) who was going to be called the most distinguished Sufi of ail times was also in Damascus dur­ing this time. Rumi stayed in the Maqdisiyyah madrasa in Damascus. He benefited greatly from the scholars and Sufis here. He read with love and enthusiasm, frequently visited scholars and Sufis, attending their lectures, asking them questions, and receiving answers. He gained deeper knowledge of the views of Ibn al-'Arabi. Rumi stayed in Damascus for more than four years. He had a wide circle of friends. Everybody who knew him showed him respect. Everybody was amazed by his intelligence and spiritual insight.

The time for his return to
Konya came. It would not be cor­rect to restrict Rumi's educational experience to the two years he studied in Aleppo and the four years in Damascus because his­torical events show that Rumi had deepened his already broad knowledge in both cities. In fact, his education began in Balkh, a city full of scholars and Sufis. Although from the disputes about his year of birth one might consider him to be very young at that time, the fact that he was at an age where he could under­stand the book presented to him by 'Attar shows that he had not come from Balkh without any education. His real teacher was his father. And he was always with him. What a great gift and a divine grace it was for Rumi to be with a father who was the Sultan al-Ulama, to benefit from his lectures, ideas, suggestions, and advice, and to be raised by his manners. When Rumi came back to Anatolia, he first went to Kayseri and visited his Shaykh Sayyid Burhan al-Din. From there they went back to Konya together. The shaykh was very pleased with this situation. He had found Rumi very changed. Rumi's knowledge, maturity, and attachment to Islamic Law were clearly remarkable. He had fulfilled his duty of guiding his shaykh's son to perfection on the path of knowledge and faith. Now he was attending to him per­sonally, trying to advance him to an even more perfect state by his suggestions and views.

We do not know much about the life of Sayyid Burhan al-Din who contributed so much to Rumi's development. Like the lives of many saints, the life of Sayyid Burhan al-Din remains beyond parables. It is said that his ancestors go back to Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet, may God be pleased with him.21 It also is written that he possessed saintly miracles and knew what was in everybody's heart, and even that he foretold the coming of Shams to Konya without revealing his name and was therefore called by the nickname "Sayyid-i Sirdan" (Sayyid who knows secrets).

Rumi was raised by the hands of such a spiritual guide and teacher. Sayyid went to great efforts to educate Rumi. He instructed him to read his father's book Ma'arif over and over again for months and years. Every year that passed made Rumi even more mature. The days of fasting and asceticism passed. Now he had educated Rumi as he wanted. He had the inner comfort of a spiritual guide who accomplished his duty.

According to Burhan al-Din, the insan al-ka-mil, or the per­fect man, must be knowledgeable, a gnostic, a lover of God, a friend of God, and a beloved of God. He explained the most advanced issues of Sufism in a very simple and clear way. He spoke about philosophy, Islamic Law, natural sciences, chemistry, and Prophetic Traditions. He was truly a great scholar and at the same time a great mystic. We know that after his return from
Damascus, Rumi brought his shaykh to Konya. According to Sipehsalar, although Sayyid Burhan al-Din had asked Rumi's per­mission to go back to Kayseri, Rumi did not want to be separat­ed from his shaykh. Contrary to Rumi's request, Sayyid Burhan ai-Din attempted to go to Kayseri, but on the way his horse's foot slipped. Sayyid Burhan al-Din fell from the horse and injured his foot. He returned to Konya and asked Rumi why he-was tying his way and would not let him to go to Kayseri. To this question Rumi replied with the question: "O my Shaykh, why do you want to leave us?" Sayyid Burhan al-Din replied to this question: "In Konya a strong lion appeared. I am a lion, too. Two Hons cannot be in the same city. We cannot get along with each other anymore. Therefore, I would like to go." Upon hear­ing this, Rumi kissed the hands of his shaykh and with a few of his disciples sent him to Kayseri.

When Sayyid Burhan al-'Din arrived in
Kayseri, he was wel­comed enthusiastically by the governor of the city, Sahib Shams al-Din Isfahani. He was hosted in a dervish lodge. The notables of the town came to his presence and kissed his hands, welcom­ing him and presenting gifts they had brought. Sayyid Burhan al-Din ordered them to be distributed to the poor and the majzub (mentally unstable because of divine love) without even touching these gifts. At this point, he went into complete seclu­sion. Rumi pleased his shaykh by visiting him several times. The people of Kayseri showed great respect to Sayyid Burhan al-Din. They invited him to serve as the imam in a local mosque. He sometimes stood for hours in prayer, reciting long praises as he bowed and prostrated. The congregation could not carry this heavy burden, so when Sayyid Burhan al-Din noticed this, he asked to be excused from this duty: "Count me as excused. I am an anxious man. When in the presence of God I lose myself. I cannot be an imam. You find yourselves a different imam." And once again he returned to his little room of seclusion.

It was less than a year since Sayyid Burhan al-Din had come back to
Kayseri, and this holy man felt that he was living the last days of his life. One day he asked his servant to prepare hot water. When the water was ready he took a full body ablution (ghusl). He said to his servant: "Go close the door tight and to those whom you see outside call out: 'The poor Sayyid migrat­ed from this world.''' And retiring to a corner of his room he said his last prayers: "O my great God, O Friend, accepts me and takes my life. Take me from me. Take me from the two worlds. I want you. Take from me everything which is not with you."

The servant ran to Sahib Shams al-Din and gave him the news. The news of Sayyid's passing away was soon heard in
Kayseri and a big crowd gathered in front of his little room. While preparing the funeral, Sahib Shams al-Din informed Rumi about the death. The funeral was performed with prayer and remembrance of God. When Rumi received the news of his shaykh's passing, he became very sad and immediately went to Kayseri. When he arrived, he went directly to Sayyid's tomb and prayed there for hours.

Sahib Shams al-Din submitted his shavkh's books to Rumi. Rumi returned to Konya with these books, saddened and bro­ken-hearted. Among these books there was also Sayyid Burhan al-Din's famous book Maqalat. Sayyid Burhan al-Din Tirmidhi passed away in 1241.


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