students felt neglected. Sensing the trouble, Shams disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared. Annemarie Schimmel, a scholar immersed for forty years in the works of Rumi, thinks that it was at this first disappearance that Rumi began the transformation into a mystical artist. “He turned into a poet, began to listen to music, and sang, whirling around, hour after hour.”
Word came that Shams was in Damascus. Rumi sent his son, Sultan Velad, to Syria to bring his Friend back to Konya. When Rumi and Shams met for the second time, they fell at each other’s feet, so that “no one knew who was the lover and who was the beloved.” Shams stayed in Rumi’s home and was married to a young girl who had been brought up in the family. Again the long mystical conversation (sohbet) began, and again, the jealousies grew.
On the night of December 5, 1248, as Rumi and Shams were talking, Shams was called to the back door. He went out, never to be seen again. Most likely, he was murdered with the connivance of Rumi’s son, Allaedin; if so, Shams indeed gave his head for the privilege of mystical Friendship.
The mystery of the Friend’s absence covered Rumi’s world. He himself went out searching for Shams and journeyed again to Damascus. It was there that he realized,
Why should I seek? I am the same as
he. His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself!
The union became complete.
The union became complete. There was full fana, annihilation in the Friend. Shams was writing the poems. Rumi called the huge collection of his odes and quatrains The Works of Shams of Tabriz.
After Sham’s death and Rumi’s merging with him, another companion was found, Saladin Zarkub, the goldsmith. Saladin became the Friend to whom Rumi addressed his poems, not so fiery as to Shams, but with a quiet tenderness. When Saladin died, Husam Chelebi, Rumi’s scribe and favorite student, assumed this role. Rumi claimed that Husam was the source, the one who understood the vast, secret order of the Mathnawi, that great work that shifts so fantastically from theory to folklore to jokes to ecstatic poetry. For the last twelve years of his life, Rumi dictated the six volumes of this masterwork to Husam. He died on December 17, 1273.