Mevlana’s greatest work is the six-volume didactic poetical work in Persian known as the Mesnevi. A ‘mesnevi’ was a form of classical Divan literature which consisted of a series of couplets, distiches corresponding in measure. According to the oldest known manuscript of Mevlana’s work in the Mevlana Museum, the Mesnevi consisted of 25,618 couplets. The first 18 couplets were written by Mevlana himself and given to his follower Celebi Husameddin, upon whose insistance the poet dictated to him the remainder of his work, six volumes in all. The author probably later corrected the text before the preparation pf the final manuscript.
Each volume begins with a prose foreword summarising the content of the work. The text itself is an expose of Mevlana’s mystical ideas, punctuated by a series of anecdotes in unbroken narrative. The anecdotes served to illustrate his ideas. Mevlana was an exponent of that ancient didactical method which relied on narrative with digressions as a feature, so that his anecdotes were stories within stories, aimed at engaging the attention of the reader and explaining his mystical approach to the world of ideas as vividly as possible. He channelled his considerable entellectual skills to the expression of ecstasy and spiritual overflowing.
The fluent style of the Mesnevi rendered it one of the great works of mystic literature, in which ideas were interlinked with quotations from the Koran, extracts from tradition and tales from popular literature, often expounded with great literary and philosophical skill.
The Mesnevj was widely read and interpreted by the followers of Mevlana after his death, for whom it became a standard work of reference, communally recited, and even taught in schools founded especially for that purpose -Dar’ul – Mesnevi.
The works has been translated in a number of annotated versions into modern Turkish and several other languages. There also exist prose transcriptions. Two of the most recent versions published in modern Turkish were translated by Veled Celebi (Izbudak) and Abdulbaki Golpinarli.