NOTE: Excerpt from my article Rumi and Emerson: A Bridge Between the West and the Muslim World
Rumi not only respected Christian teachings, but he also greatly admired the life and values shared by Jesus. In essence, for Rumi, all religions were more or less equally beautiful because they all sought the divine truth:
I am neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim
I am not of the East, nor of the West…
I have put duality away, I have seen the two worlds as one;
One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call
(Divan-I Shams-I Tabriz, II)
Rumi did not judge people through a narrow interpretation of God. Instead he emphasized what we would today call pluralism, or the belief that there is not one consistent set of religious truths about the world and that all religions can work in harmony in a single society. Similarly, Rumi emphasized that there are many ways through which people can come into contact with God and that Islam is not the sole path to the hereafter.
Rumi’s fondness for interfaith dialogue between people of different faiths is visible in one of his quatrains, in which he notes that
There is a path from me to you
that I am constantly looking for,
so I try to keep clear and still
as water does with the moon.
This moment this love comes to rest in me,
many beings in one being.
In one wheat grain a thousand sheaf stacks.
Inside the needles eye, a turning night of stars.
Rumi’s appreciation and devotion to interfaith dialogue and to people of non-Muslim backgrounds was also on displayed at his funeral in Konya, Turkey in 1273. Attended by people from all walks of life, it is said that a weeping Muslim man asked a Christian man, “Why are you crying at the funeral of a Muslim poet?” The Christian answered: “We esteemed him as the Moses, the David, the Jesus of the age. We are all his followers and his disciples.” It is the Christian man’s affinity for Rumi’s life work that has made the Sufi poet so revered in most, if not all, religious circles.