The writings of Jalalud’din Rumi, the 13th century Sufi Muslim philosopher from modern-day Afghanistan, and the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century Christian transcendentalist from Boston, Massachusetts, are filled with lessons that enrich every human soul. Rumi’s and Emerson’s similar thoughts on religious tolerance, love, and care for the soul can help bridge the ever-growing chasm between the West and the Muslim world.
Both Rumi and Emerson viewed all religious groups as equal before God. If they were still alive today, neither would have a problem praying in a house of worship outside of their own religious tradition. As we will see in their poetry, essays, and lectures, Rumi and Emerson encouraged people to search for their own personal connection with God through existential and wondrous ways. Their love for everyone and everything, regardless of who or what they were, shows that non-Muslims and Muslims are not as different as many people imagine.
As a young man, Rumi was trained as a theologian and Muslim cleric, but he later became a mystical poet after meeting his mentor Shams in 1244. Rumi conveyed his thoughts mainly through poems, many of which speak to infinite tolerance and compassion for people outside of Muslim circles. Despite his Muslim background, Rumi did not discriminate against Jews, Christians, Hindus or even Atheists. In one piece of writing called “He Was in No Other Place,” Rumi wrote about his relationship with Jesus: