In the West we hear little of the beauty and wisdom of Islamic tradition. Jalalud-din Rumi, the founder of the Mevleviyya Sufi Order, has at least become known to us by name, even if we see only distorted snippets of his poetry.
If you've heard the name or you've seen quotations you like and want to find out more, this book is the best place to start. (The paperback is sure to reappear.) The editor Kabir Helminski, the only Westerner to become a Master of the Mevleviyya Order, is uniquely placed to create an accessible Beginner's Guide that does at least something like justice to the whole Rumi.
Some excerpts come from Rumi's vast output of lyric poetry, often extemporised in a state of rapture. (Remember that in the original the poems rhyme throughout, are written in intricate Persian metres, and were meant to be sung, not spoken.)
Others come from Rumi's great work the "Masnavi". Nothing like it exists in the West: we'd have to get Chaucer, Shakespeare, St Teresa and William Blake to collaborate. It contains poetry, philosophy, spiritual guidance, but above all teaching stories. Muslims understood the complexity of the learning process about a thousand years before anybody in the West realised. Some things are too subtle to learn directly; and some the mind, with its ingrained habits and patterns, actively resists learning. A story can smuggle in a message that would be rejected in any other form.
The final source is a book called "Fîhî ma Fîhî", records of Rumi's day-to-day talk with people who came to see him. Here we see Rumi as he was: a devout practising Muslim, a professional expert on Muslim Sacred Law like his father before him.
If Buddhist spirituality can be austere and bleak, with Rumi we are in a world of light, beauty and flowers. 5 stars because this is an ideal introduction; but remember this is a teensy bouquet from Rumi's vast and crowded garden.