The Essential Rumi Characters

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The Essential Rumi Summary & Study Guide Description

The Essential Rumi Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Essential Rumi by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi.


This was Rumi's first Friend. The impression readers have is that Rumi was quite a special fellow who had difficulty finding that "kindred spirit." One day, one actually appeared. His name was Shams. He and Rumi became very close. Rumi had a Friend and he was ecstatic and his love grew boundless. Most of the time that they were together was spent in conversation.

Shams went away. He was sought out and brought back. After he had been back for quite a while, he one day disappeared. Rumor has it that he had been murdered. To this day, this stands as an unconfirmed but suspected reality.

Rumi began writing poetry after his disappearance; therefore, Shams is viewed as the number one inspiration. Although Rumi wrote poems sequentially in time, and in relation to three major best living friends, Shams was the first. The Essential Rumi includes writing samples from times when each of the three main people were Rumi's closest Friend. However, the poetry has been arranged out of purely chronological order which has added to the frequency of Shams being referred to in poems later on in the book in addition to the beginning of the book.

Jesus the Christ

This is the famed Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish King, Messiah (Prophet according to many of those who are presently Jews), and spiritual teacher. Due to his success and fame as a religious teacher and his influence in the Middle Eastern regions, the Arabians were aware of him and his work.

Jesus is used repeatedly during the course of the book. Rumi felt connected with him, and enjoyed using Jesus and moments of his life story as a point of reference in many of the poems. Jesus does not appear in every poem, nor does he appear in only one or two sections of The Essential Rumi.

Most readers have at least heard of Jesus the Christ of the Jews. Huge portions of the readers either do or have at least had it suggested to them that they become followers and devotees of Jesus the Christ as their spiritual guide and guardian. The extent of knowledge that any given reader has about the individual's earthly life is not clear. There has been a great deal written of his life and work prior to his resurrection. There is very little written work about his life after his resurrection. Finally, he is so much more talked about, prayed to and criticized or referred to during bouts of irritability that it is safe to think that while readers have probably at least heard of him, their levels of knowledge and intimacy with this divine incarnation is not presumed to be identical for every reader.


Like with Jesus the Christ of the Jews, the vast majority of readers of Rumi have at least heard of Mohammad. Due to the probability that readers are more familiar with Christianity, a little more information will be provided about Mohammad. Mohammad is the man who brought Islam to the world. He was sent by God to the Arabian people, once they were ready. They were not ready until a few centuries after Christ had done his pre-resurrection work among the Jews. Mohammad developed a reputation in his hometown of being wonderfully gentle and kind and really rather wise.

At some point he was stricken by what to his best interpretation was a strong recommendation made by God through a powerful angel. God, through this angel, told Mohammad that he needed to write a book, a holy book for God, to share with the Arabian people and others of the Earth.

This upset Mohammad because it was such a "tall order". The reason why is that he was illiterate. The angel assured him not to worry about such a detail. The angel explained that Mohammad could provide recitations. A book deal in fact came together the way many matters that are or seem "meant to be" do so. A team of people formed so well that it gave people the feeling of a pre-arranged event after the manner of so many other well organized circumstances and events.

The entire Holy Q'ran is the result of this very effort. The Q'ran and this miraculous message are the foundation of the Muslim faith. Islam is a giant religion on the global level even though it is the minority on North America.

Rumi was an Arabian and a Muslim. As such, Mohammad comes up repeatedly throughout the book as a beloved spiritual leader on the order of Jesus, who also comes up.


This is a mouse who stars in one poem early in the book. He is used to describe a deeply important relationship between two very dissimilar entities. This is a main character in a poem entitled "The Long String".

The mouse lives near enough to a pond. Something happens to him because he goes there, near to the pond. Somehow, strange as it is, he and a frog overcome their usual boundaries. They do something else that humans have been known to do at times. They make friends outside of their own species.

Interspecies relationships have been known from the mists of time and uncertain beginnings. In this poem, it is simply that the entities who make friends are this mouse and a frog.

Their connectedness affects them both. Rumi describes a sort of invisible string that ties them together. The desire to be together pulls the mouse to the pond and draws the frog up to the surface and near enough to the edge to be able to relate with that mouse.


This is obviously an animal. This entity occurs in two poems during the first subdivision in the summary. The being lives necessarily and voluntarily in a pond.

From the shore, beyond where he can reach due to his own limitations, there are an array of other entities of diverse species. Among these, over time, it becomes clear that one wants to befriend this "self as individual frog". The short version is that it works. A creature from the surrounding area, a mouse, successfully befriends this particular frog.

The frog and his or her friendship with the mouse who comes near to the pond comes up in two poems in the first half of The Essential Rumi. One of these poems is "The Long String", whereas the other one occurs later in the poem entitled "The Force of Friendship".

Saladin Zarkub

Saladin Zarkub was the second eminent companion of Rumi's. He did not come into the author's life until the unexplained and permanent disappearance of Shams of Tibaz. Saladin's profession was that of a goldsmith.

This man is introduced at the beginning of the book when the translator explains a little bit about what happened in one of those incredibly brief descriptions of the author's life.

He is referred to in different poems much later in the book. Again, his role is that of the Friend. This is a decidedly spiritual position. It is the simple daily function of a best friend. Most readers will understand how to distinguish between having a feeling of affinity with another and working to relate well to someone with whom one does not necessarily feel any automatic affinity or affection for.

Husam Chelebi

This is the third and final main companion of Rumi's lifetime. This is the only one of the three that came from the pool of men that people expected him to get his main companions from. He was actually one of Rumi's students. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the author's main occupation was to fill a post as a religious leader. He had inherited this position as was the custom in his land and time.

Only after the deaths of the others, much later in life, did the author take one of his own students to be his prominent companion. The reasons for this are not clear.

Even so, Husam was also a scribe. As such, he was able to help Rumi a great deal when it came to writing down the poetry that emerged. Perhaps Rumi had not wanted a subdominant figure to be in this role. It is not certain. Husam is mentioned in several poems precisely because he was successful as a scribe, student, and intimate personal friend of Rumi's.


This is the world famous Jew who, among other feats, was the one who received the Ten Commandments—behavioral advice for the Israelites. He was said to have received this tidy formulation during an era when writing things such as "laws" was still a new and rather strange idea. This is now such standard practice that people right readily forget how true it is that there was a time when this was new.

This religious leader spent time meditating or seeking intimacy with God in high places, rather literally than strictly sociologically speaking.

Due to his fame, at least, so near to the Mediterranean Sea, he existed in the minds of the Arabian people such as Rumi. The author uses him and references to him similarly to the ways in which he uses other people. He appears here and there throughout the work in poems.

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