Bahauddin Valad

Bahauddin Valad

Coleman Barks and John Moyne on the Maarif by Bahauddin Valad, the father of Rumi

This book introduces readers to a document known as the Maarif,[2] written by Bahauddin Valad (1152-1231), father of the mystic poet Rumi. The Maarif is a collection of visionary insights, questions and responses, conversations with God, commentary on passages from the Qur’an, stories, bits of poetry, sudden revelations, medicinal advice, gardening hints, dream records, jokes, erotic episodes, and speculation of many kinds. A mystical compost heap, may it thrive and nourish readers.

Other than Shams Tabriz, Rumi’s fiery friend, perhaps no one had more influence in shaping his awareness than his father. One of several legends about the meeting of Rumi and Shams involves this book, the Maarif. Rumi is sitting by a fountain in Konya talking to students. Bahauddin’s notebook is open on the fountain ledge. Shams interrupts and pushes that precious text and others into the water.

“Why are you doing this?” asks Rumi, protesting that this copy of his father’s diary is the only one extant.

“It is time for you to live what you have been reading of and talking about. But if you want, we can retrieve the books. They’ll be perfectly dry. See?” He lifts Bahauddin’s book out, “Dry.”

So there’s a powerful intersection of Shams and Bahauddin in Rumi’s transformation, though they never actually knew each other. Bahauddin dies (1231) before Shams and Rumi meet (1244). Both are passionate, daringly original mystics. They talk intimately and sensually of Friendship with the divine. Neither is a poet, but Bahauddin carves out what Annemarie Schimmel calls “great glowing, awe-inspiring boulders of Persian prose, passages whose bizarre sensual imagery express his intense love of God,” and Shams drives a fierce, confronting, jocular back-and-forth through his discourses.[3] They both passionately long for more intimate and essential motion within the presence.
Coleman Barks and John Moyne in their introduction to their translation of Bahauddin Valad’s (also transliterated as Bahāʼ al-Dīn Valad, Bahāʼ-i Valad, Bahā ud-Dīn Walad) The Drowned Book: Ecstatic and earthy reflections of Bahauddin, the father of Rumi, (San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), p. xv.


[2] Maarif may be used here in the generic sense of “teachings” or “ideas,” or it may carry esoteric significance, as we suggest later. The text has the feel of notes taken on retreat, with its abrupt stops and starts. There is not the flow of a discourse or the chatty dailiness of a journal. The eminent Rumi scholar Annemarie Schimmel, who taught at Harvard University, where John Moyne studied with her, and at the University of Bonn, calls it “diarylike.” Schimmel died recently. Sufis love retreats, the replenishment of going into silence and being away from society. Bahauddin’s questionings and assertions have the flavor of having flowered out of practice. Franklin Lewis says it is not unusual for a Sufi master of this period to keep a private record of his internal life, with no intention to make it available as a book.

[3] See William Chittick‘s new translation of the Maqalat, titled Rumi and Me: The Autobiography of Shemsi Tabriz (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae Press), 2004.