The Sufi-Rumi Connection

Kabir Helminski, a sheikh of the Mevlevi order, talks about Rumi, Sufism, and their roots in Islam.

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Rumi speaks to this sense that we have of our own human limitations, our own human unworthiness, and he convinces us that we are loved by God. Through the embrace of our pain, a spiritual door opens


we embrace that pain in the remembrance of God.

So, Rumi is the voice of this unconditional love. He is willing to talk about his own pain, for instance--the pain of loving God, the pain of being human. He is honest. He touches our wound. He demonstrates how a human being can be the intimate friend of God.

Rumi was a Sufi. What is Sufism, and how is it connected to Islam?

Sufism is made up of several branches. We have no serious doctrinal differences between these branches, nor is one branch in competition with another.


Sufism comes from


which means purification of the human heart without which we cannot know God. As the Qur'an says, "Indeed in the remembrance of God hearts find peace." The end of the training process of Sufism is the spiritually mature human being.

But we should understand that in every religious tradition, there are different levels. One level is the common practice of religion that they are typically born into. Within a religious tradition, there is also "the path" or "the way." The word for this in Islam is "tariqa." Tariqa is a conscious choice that a person makes to go beyond belief to "experience." It is different than nominally belonging to a religion. In Islam, there are many tariqas. Someone who walks the path of tariqa is a Sufi.



In Islam, there is the level of Shari'ah, or religious law. The Shari'ah governs our outer actions and behaviors. Sufism has more to do with the inner understanding of those outer practices and the quality of consciousness that we bring to those practices through the development of our inner spiritual capacity, particularly through consciousness and love. This development of one's spiritual capacity is much more possible through a relationship with someone who has made this spiritual journey and can help to guide us and help us avoid the pitfalls of the journey. This person is called a "sheikh," a "guide," a "teacher," or sometimes just a "spiritual friend."

It should involve a kind of apprenticeship. There are rare examples who receive this spiritual enlightenment without a guide, without a teacher. They are called

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