Jelaluddin Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystical poet (1207-1273), was born in the city of Balkh (now part of Afghanistan) along the eastern edge of the Persian Empire. When the Mongols invaded, Rumi and his family fled westward to the city of Konya (now part of Turkey), where Rumi lived the last thirty years of his life.

Although many of his poems can be read as ordinary love poems, they are really about the love of God, whom he often called the "Friend" or the "Beloved."

Rumi spoke the poetry extemporaneously, and a companion would then write it down. Rumi often said that it was not he (himself) who was speaking the poetry but his beloved teacher, Shams of Tabriz, speaking through him.