Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi was born in 1207 in Balkh, today’s Afghanistan. At a young age his family abandoned Balkh because of the risk of the invading Mongols and settled in Konya, Turkey, which was at that time the capital of the Seljuk Empire. Bahauddin, was the father of Rumi, who was a religious teacher at the university in Konya.
Mevlana's initial spiritual education was given by his father Bahauddin and later under his father's friend Sayyid Burhaneddin. His father taught him "the science of the prophets and states," beginning with a strict forty day retreat followed by several prohibitions of meditation and fasting. During this time, Jalaluddin also lived for four years in Aleppo and Damascus taking lessons from some of the greatest religious minds of the time.
At the age of thirty-seven, Mevlana visited the spiritual vagabond Shams. Before his tryst with Shams, Rumi had been an accomplished professor of religion and a highly proclaimed mystic; after this he transformed into an inspired poet and a great humanity supporter.
Mevlana spontaneously created odes, or ghazals, which has been assembled in a large volume called the Divan-i Kabir. Meanwhile Mevlana also developed a prominent spiritual friendship with Husameddin Chelebi. One fine day Husameddin expressed an idea to Mevlâna of writing Mathnawi. Mevlana wrote on piece of paper the opening eighteen lines of his Mathnawi, which says:
Listen to the reed and the tale it tells,
how it sings of separation...
Husameddin was very happy and encouraged Mevlana to write more volumes. Mevlana in his early fifties started the dictation of this monumental work. The Mathnawi can worldwide be acknowledged as the greatest spiritual masterpiece ever penned by a human being. It encompasses the complete spectrum of life on earth, all types of human activity: religious, cultural, sexual, domestic, political, traditional - every kind of human characteristics form the vulgar to the defined; along with copious and specific details of the natural beauty, history and geography.
In Rumi's world, the Islamic life had created a high quality of spiritual development among the common population. The normal person would be someone who conduct regular ablutions and prayed five times a day, shunned away from food and drink for at least one month a year. Nevertheless, the Mathnawi can attract us on many phases with a rather greater level of spiritual awareness as an initial phase and stretches to the highest levels of spiritual understanding.