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The Life of Baha al-Din Valad

Baha al-Din Valad (Sultan al-Ulama)

Rumi's father was Muhammad, son of Huseyin Hatibi. He is known as Baha al-Din Valad. He was given the title Sultan al-Ulama, the king of the scholars. There is another account in which it is related that the Prophet gave the title Sultan al-Ulama to Baha al-Din Valad. One night, Rumi's father had a dream: The Prophet was sitting and talking with his closest Companions in a majestic tent set up on a battle ground when suddenly Baha al-Din Valad comes in. He approaches the Prophet's presence with respect. The Prophet compliments him and shows him a place to sit on his right side. Then, addressing the group present, he says: "In our eyes, Baha al-Din Valad's value is very high. From now on, call him by the title Sultan al-Ulama." The next day three hundred scholars who had seen the same dream came to Baha al-Din Valad's school. They wanted to disclose their dream. But before they could begin telling the dream, Baha al-Din Valad narrated the dream to them. They were astonished completely. It is because of the Prophet's love for Rumi's father that he will be called the king of scholars until Judgment Day.

In fact, Baha al-Din Valad was not only the king of scholars, but also the king of all virtues. He was a perfect role model and a perfect human being. In addition to breadth of knowledge, he also had Muhammadi morals and virtues. He used to do good for everybody and would abstain from evil. He lectured those around him, warning them in order to protect them from faith­lessness and going astray. He was an eloquent orator, and those who listened to him would be ecstatic with love and faith.

He was not a cowardly scholar. He even pointed out the mistakes of sultans to them. Just as Shaykh Sadi shouted "You are a tyrant!" to the face of Hulagu who had devastated
Baghdad completely, Sultan al-Ulama said to Khawarzmshah's face that the path he was on was not that of Muhammad. He was not a scholar who kept his opinions to himself because of fear, and he never praised the sultans and behaved hypocritically because of material interest. He warned scholars as well as sultans who were under the influence of the Greek philosophy. Therefore, the faithful people treasured him. The people of the city of Balkh, which was a center of learning and gnosis at that time, showed great love and respect for Baha al-Din Valad, which frightened Sultan Khawarzmshah. Most of the scholars who could not appreciate him and who did not recognize his faith envied him. But he did not hesitate at all to express his opinions freely. According to Aflaki, Sultan al-Ulama's father Husayin, son of Ahmed Khatibi was one of the most well known scholars and most virtuous of men of his time. Razi al-Din Nishaburi, a prominent twelfth century scholar of law, was taught by him. Muhammad Baha al-Din Valad's mother was a member of the Khawarzm dynasty.

Baha al-Din Valad's Migration from Balkh

Sultan al-Ulama migrated from
Balkh due to differences of opinion and belief. Khawarzmshah's relationship with the mem­bers of the Kubrawiyyah order was not good, and Baha al-Din Valad was devoted to Najm al-Din Kubra (d. 1221). In his ser­mons, he openly proclaimed that the scholars who were taken by philosophy and overvalued reason were not following the way of the Prophet, Thus the scholars who did not agree with him turned the sultan against him. Meanwhile, Majd al-Din Baghdadi, a deputy of Najm al-Din Kubra, was thrown into the river Ceyhun by the order of Khawarzmshah and drowned. On one hand, Sultan al-Ulama was envied, but on the other hand, he was kept under psychological pressure. As a matter of fact. Sultan Valad wrote that his grandfather had migrated because the people of Balkh off ended him and broke his heart. On the other hand, Sepahsalar and Aflaki wrote that the great scholar of the time, Fahr al-Din Razi (d. 1210) had caused Sultan al-Uiarna's migration. But since Fahr al-Din Razi had passed away a few years before Baha al-Din Valad's departure from Balkh, it is apparent that Fahr al-Din Razi did not personally cause Sultan al-Ulama to leave Balkh. However, although he had passed away, Khawarzmshah and other scholars who had adopted Fahr al-Din Razi's opinions and philosophical views flinched at this great scholar who fearlessly criticized Razi's philosophical views. It was in this situation that Sultan al-Ulama decided to migrate in order not to cause any instigation. It is not known precisely, however, when Baha al-Din Valad migrated from Balkh.

Baha al-Din Valad left
Balkh together with his closest dis­ciples, deputies, and family, including his wife Mumine Khatun, daughter of the sultan of Balkh, his older son Ala al-Din Muhammad, and his younger son Jalal al-Din Muhammad. Some of his relatives remained in Balkh. Sipehsalar wrote that after leaving Balkh, traveling from one town to another, he went to Makka for pilgrimage, stopping over in Baghdad. He then proceeded to Anatolia, and after spending the winter in Ak?ehir near Erzincan, he came to Konya upon the invitation of the Seljukan Sultan Ala al-Din Kay Qobad.

How old was Rumi when this migration started? This is not known for a certainty. Although Rumi's date of birth is usually given as 1207, based on his statements in Fihi Ma Fih, it can be concluded that this year is not his real date of birth and that his actual date of birth must be around 1200. One can consider that Sultan al-Ulama's departure date tor pilgrimage is again approx­imately at 1221 and that when this migration started, Rumi was 21 years old. However, Sultan Valad states in his Ibtidaname that Rumi was 14 years old at the beginning of the migration.

Baha al-Din's Meeting with 'Attar

The migrating caravan's first important stop was the city of
Nishapur, another important Gnostic center of that age. Moreover, Farid al-Din 'Attar (d. 1220), who was a disciple of the same Kubrawi shaykh as Sultan al-Ulama, lived in this city Both were among the prominent deputies of Najm al-Din Kubra (d. 1221), the founder of the Kubrawiyyah or Zahabiyyah order who was martyred along with his disciples while fighting against the Mongols. When 'Attar heard of Sultan al-Ulama's arrival in Nishapur, he went to visit him. The two saints attained the secret of the Qur'anic verse: "He has let free two seas meeting together."' It is said that during this meeting Farid al-Din Attar, sensing the spiritual greatness of young Rumi, said to his father: "It is hoped that this son of yours will soon set on fire the hearts that burn with divine love." And he took great pleasure in pre­senting his book Asrarname as a gift to the spiritual boy in his early youth, the boy who would indeed set fire to the hearts that burn with love and who would become familiar with the divine secrets. Rumi liked Asrarname a lot. He always kept it with him. Years passed, and when he was dictating his Mesnevi, he not only included tales from the Asrarname, but he also expressed his love for 'Attar at every occasion. In his Divan-i Kabir Rumi writes: '"Attar was the spirit. And Sanai was his two eyes. We came to the realm of truth after Attar and Sanai. We followed them."

Baha al-Din in
Baghdad


The second important stop of Sultan al-Ulama was
Baghdad, which was the capital of the Abbasid state. As Jami narrates, when the caravan of Baha al-Din Valad arrived in Baghdad, people asked: "Who are these people? Where are they coming from? Where are they going to?" Sultan al-Ulama answered: "We came from God. We again are going to Him. We have no strength except for God." When they related this answer to Shaykh Shihab al-Din Suhrawardi (d. 1235), the author of Awarif al-Ma'arif, he said: "Nobody except Baha al-Din Valad of Balkh could have made this statement." He immediately went to see him. When he saw him coming with his caravan, he got off his horse to show respect, approached the caravan, and kissed the knee of Baha al-Din Valad. He asked them to stay and honor his dervish lodge.

But Sultan al-Ulama stayed in a seminary, saying: "It is more appropriate for scholars to stay in a school." Suhrawardi did not leave this honorable guest alone, stayed with him and served him.

The caliph of
Baghdad wanted to make a donation to this great saint. He sent three thousand golden Egyptian dinars. Baha al-Din Valad did not accept this gift, stating: "It is unlaw­ful and dubious." The caliph wanted personally to welcome him and to have him as a guest in his palace. Rumi's father rejected this wish of the caliph as well because he had heard that the caliph continuously drank and engaged in illegitimate activities, inconsiderate of the spiritual significance and value of his posi­tion. It was not appropriate for a Sufi to stay in such a person's palace and accept the gold that he has sent.

The sermon he gave in the biggest mosque of
Baghdad was magnificent. Countless believers, including the caliph, filled the rnosque. It was so crowded that it was impossible to find a place to sit. Everybody was standing and listening to this great saint. The entire congregation was excited, and people shed plenty of tears. This luminous and faithful saint who migrated from Balkh and was going to visit our Prophet in the Hijaz with his family and disciples spoke perfect Arabic and fascinated everyone, including the caliph. This holy man who practiced what he believed and voluntarily migrated and endured the pain of being separated from his home, conquered the hearts of all the people of Baghdad with his conduct and speech. Before visiting the Ka'ba, he had visited the of hearts of countless believers; he had addressed them from his heart and made them aware of the calamities that Islam faced, and he had warned them. He mentioned that the beautiful city of Balkh, which he had left, had been crashed under the feet of the Mongols and that the Khawarzmshah ruler Sultan Tekish had been overthrown. The caliph as well as the believers who listened to him became his admirers. They asked him to settle down in Baghdad, but he did not stay for more than three days. He continued on his pilgrim­age. After performing the rites of the pilgrimage, Sultan al-Ulama touched his face to the holy shrine of the Prophet in Madina, the luminous city of the Prophet. The father, along with his sons and deputies, shed tears of love in the tomb (Rawdba. al-Mutahham—the Pure Garden) of Muhammad Mustafa who was sent as a mercy to all the worlds. Then continuing on their way and passing through many places, they reached Jerusalem. There they visited Masjid al-Aqsa, the first qibla of Islam. Then they came to Damascus. Upon hearing that a great saint was about to enter their city, the people of Damascus gathered out­side the city to welcome Baha al-Din Valad. After meeting some well-known scholars in Damascus, they continued on their way to Anatolia.

Leaving the city of
Damascus behind, the caravan went to Aleppo. They stayed there a few days before continuing on their way. Soon they set foot in the land that in those days was called the "land of the Romans." The caravan proceeded without stay­ing for more than a few days at any place. Arriving in Malatya, they headed to Erzincan. In those days, Erzincan was the capi­tal of the Mangujak dynasty. When the Mangujak Sultan Fahr al-Din Baliramshah (d. c. 1218) and his wife Ismati Khatun learned that Sultan al-Ulama was coming to their city, they traveled to AkSehir near Erzincan to welcome him and his caravan. The sul­tan desired to take them to his palace and host them there, but Baha al-Din Valad stayed in a learning center, as he had done everywhere else. He remained there for some time.

Sultan Fahr al-Din Bahramshah appreciated knowledge and scholars, and therefore he supported the scholars and poets, appreciated their works, and as an incentive, he donated money for the books dedicated to him. In fact, Nizami, the famous poet of Ganja, dedicated his book Makhzan-e Asrar to the shah of Mangujak, and in return the shah awarded him with one hun­dred thousand gold coins and five valuable horses. Such a gen­erous and scholar-cherishing dynasty wanted to give their lives to the saint from
Balkh. But, as everywhere else, he did not want to live here under the favor of others. After staying in Erzincan for a while, he came to Larende, or Karaman as it is called today, traveling through Sivas, Kayseri
, and Nigde.

Baha al-Din in Larende

In this age in which there was no telecommunication equipment like telephones or telegrams, the approaching of great saints and highly esteemed scholars to cities was heard far in advance, and the people would gather at the outskirts of the city and welcome them with love and great anticipation, an expression of the value attributed to gnosis and knowledge at the time. These glad tid­ings would spread from mouth to mouth, and it was as if the news would reach its destination by the blowing wind and flying birds. In those ages there was no telephone, but there were respect, feelings, and love in the hearts of the believers who loved knowledge, humanity; and God. As in other cities, in Larende the coming of Baha al-Din Valad was heard a few days in advance. The sultan of Larende, Amir Musa Bey, who was a lover of God and a man of virtue, along with the other high ranking officials of town came out of the city on foot. They welcomed "the King of the Scholars" with respect and excitement. The Sultan insistently invited him to his palace. But as in other places, he politely refused Amir Musa's offer. "We need to sit in a semi­nary, not in a palace." He asked for a place to be assigned to him in a seminary. His request was accepted, and he was hosted in a seminary. However, Amir Musa immediately ordered that a fiew learning center, or madrasa (an institute of higher education) be built for this great saint who had come to his city. At an appro­priate location, a beautiful madrasa was built, and Sultan al-Ulama settled at this college campus in a short time with his family and disciples. There he began lecturing and preaching.

The Sultan of the Scholars was happy in Larende. Amir Musa and the public loved this great saint very much. His ser­mons were a source of abundant spiritual benefit and faith. Meanwhile, Mevlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, as a young but very knowledgeable dervish, attended the lectures of his father and never missed any of his sermons. He also spent his rime reading other scholars' works and expanding his knowledge on Islam.

The Death of Baha al-Din Valad

Sultan al-Ulama was already over eighty five years old. It had been two years since he had come to
Konya. He became sud­denly ill in the winter of 1231. On the morning of the third day of his illness (January 12, 1231), he closed his eyes to this mor­tal world. The next day an immense funeral was held for him. Commencing with Sultan Ala
al-Din Kay Qobad, all com­manders, scholars, and shaykhs were present at his funeral. Sultan al-Ulama, who had taken a place in the hearts of the people of Konya for the past two years, now was proceeding toward his holy destination on their shoulders and above their heads. Everybody was crying. People of sensitive hearts were very sad about his leaving. They had become the orphans of a spiritual father.

In describing Sultan al-Ulama's passing away, Sultan Valad wrote in his Ibtidaname: "When Sultan al-Ulama's coffin was being carried it was like The Judgment Day. Men and women, everyone was shedding tears of anguish. Scholars and com­manders, along with the sultan, fell in front of the coffin with nothing on their heads. Because of his sorrow, the sultan could not sit on his throne for a week." The mourning in the Seljuk palace lasted for forty days. The sultan and his officials did not ride their horses for forty days in the Seljuk palace.

The following was written on his tombstone, which was erected after some time: "God is Eternal. This is the resting place of our Master, High Office of the Law, Source of Wisdom, Rejuvenator of the Prophetic Tradition, Remover of the un-Islamic Beliefs, the One loved and followed as an exemplary Muslim, Man of God, Learned Man, the One who Practiced what He Knew and Believed In, King of All Scholars, Mufti of the East and West, the Value of the Law and the Religion, Shaykh of Islam and Muslims, Muhammad, son of Husayn, son of Ahmad of Balkh. May God be pleased with him and his ancestors. He passed away on the eighteenth day of the month Rabi al-Akhir of the year six hundred twenty-eight (after Hegira) in the late morning. May God have mercy on him."

One year later a simple shrine of sun-dried bricks was built over Sultan al-Ulama's tomb. Later, in place of this modest shrine, the Seljuk vizier Muin al-Din Pervane (d. 1277) asked Rumi about building a large shrine arid a high dome appropriate for the glory of the king of the scholars. Upon this offer, Rumi asked Vizier Pervane this question: "Can you build a bigger and higher dome than the one encompassing the universe?" The Vizier answered: "No." And Rumi replied: "Then do not both­er to build a new one." The magnificent shrine seen today was built after Rumi's death, and it contains the tombs of Rumi's loved ones including Sultan al-Ulama. The tall wooden sarcoph­agus on Sultan al-Ulama's tomb, regarded as one of the most beautiful examples of wood carving from Seljuk era, had been placed on Rumi's tomb until the time of Suleyman the Magnificent. In the time of Suleyman the Magnificent, this tall wooden sarcophagus was taken from Rumi's tomb and put on his father's tomb; a shorter sarcophagus made of marble with a puside (cover) on top of it was constructed for Rumi. Contrary to common misconception, Sultan al-Ulama did not stand up to show his respect for Rumi's knowledge and virtues when he entered the room. Neither the father nor the son needed to exalt each other by standing up. However, those who have given their hearts to them stand up in their presence with excitement, love, and respect, and they will continue to stand till Judgment Day.

Sultan al-Ulama Muhammad Baha al-Din Valad had writ­ten a three-volume book in Persian called Ma'arif. It is said that Ma'arif was compiled from Sultan al-Ulama's sermons or lectures given in various places. Aflaki Dede relates that Rumi told what he remembered from his father's sermons and lectures while others wrote these down, and even Shaykh Mahmud Sahib dried the manuscripts over the oven. No matter how it came to be, Rumi benefited very much from the work of his father, who was a great public speaker. In fact, the greatest work of the sultan of scholars is his son Rumi. He was his father, teacher, and spiritual guide. After his father's death, Rumi lived without a spiritual guide for one year. Then Sayyid Burhan al-Din Muhaqqiq Tirmidhi became his spiritual guide.

Resource: Fundamental’s of Rumi’s Thought: A Mevlevi Sufi Perspective by ?efik Can

 

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