Jalaluddin was born on September 30, 1207 AD in Balkh (Afghanistan) to a family of religious scholars. After wandering through Persia and the Middle East he settled in Konya (Turkey) and died there on December 17, 1273 AD.
Up to the age of 40 he was known mainly as a great scholar but then came Shams of Tabriz, a wandering dervish. It is said that Rumi asked him questions. The answers were simple, but so deep, that he went into trans and was transformed completely. This happened in 1247, eleven years before the fall of Baghdad. Factual accounts may not do justice to the spiritual intensity of Rumi´s experience, and it seems that for this reason some members of the inner circle came up with two parables.
The first tells us that Rumi was sitting with a heap of books and lecturing to his pupils when Shams came and irreverently questioned him about his work. Rumi replied, "These are matters of intellectual import and you won´t understand." Shams looked at the books and they got burnt, but at Rumi´s protest he pulled them from the ashes, unburnt, and said, "These are matters which you won´t understand."
The other parable places Rumi by the side of a pond. Instead of burning the books, Shams throws them into water. On Rumi´s protest he pulls them, dry and unharmed. The dialogue is almost the same as that in the first parable.
Both stories seem to be pointing at the same thing: there comes a time in the life of seekers when they must give up their knowledge in order to be alone with themselves. A source of deeper knowledge is then discovered within, just like books coming back from ashes or from water. However, the first step is to let go: burn the books or drown them, so that you may transcend your learning and be yourself.
"I say over to you the message of the Sage of Rum: Knowledge, if it lies on your skin, is a snake; knowledge, if you take it to heart, is a friend.” Read more about the meeting between Rumi and Shams Tabriz in Secrets and Mysteries (1915-17) by Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal
More information, facts and resources about Rumi can be found at the official website of his descendants, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi.