Ruzbihan Baqli was born in 1128 to a family of Dailamite origin in the town of Fasa in Fars Province. Although Ruzbihan Baqli had religious visions at ages three, seven, and fifteen, he claims that his family was unfamiliar with any sort of religion. At age fifteen, these visions, also described as dreams and powerful ecstasies in his own text (The Unveiling of Secrets) caused him to abandon his trade as a grocer (the name Baqli is derived from the word for grocer) and take refuge in the desert. He spent a year and a half in the desert, all the while receiving visions. After he left the desert, he joined a Sufi sect.
In The Unveiling of Secrets, Ruzbihan Baqli says he had his first “unveiling” in his training with the Sufi sect. He then returned to Fasa to seek a master and spiritual guide; there he met and became a disciple of Shaykh Jamal al-Din Abi al-Wafa’ ibn Khalil al-Fasa’I. While there are no sources to confirm this, it is speculated that Ruzbihan Baqli spent the next years travelling. He went to Syria, Iraq, Kirman, Arabia, and made the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) twice. He returned to Shiraz in 1165 and set up a hospice where he taught for 50 years until his death. His center for Sufi training and his teachings remained popular several generations after his death. He married several wives and had two sons and three daughters. Ruzbihan Baqli died in 1209 in Shiraz and was placed in a tomb in his ribat. For several generations after his death, Ruzbihan Baqli’s legacy as a Sufi master continued and Shiraz became a place of pilgrimage. However, the popularity of his order waned and eventually disappeared and his tomb fell into disrepair. In 1972, his tomb was restored by the Iranian Department of Antiquities.
Ruzbihan Baqli lives on through Najibuddin Kubra and Shah Khizr Rumi and flows through the Firdausia and Qalandariya Silsilas, Baqli’s writings continue to be of value to the larger Sufi community. He is immortalized by his hagiographies and his own texts. The two most important hagiographies written about him were written by family members almost a century after his death: The Gift to the People of Gnosis, in Memory of the Chief Axis of the World, Ruzbihan (1300); and The Spirit of the Gardens, on the Life of the Master Ruzbihan (1305). Some groups in the Ottoman regions, Central Asia, India, and Persia still study his texts today.
Ruzbihan Baqli wrote his spiritual experiences and his poetry in a dense, rhetorical prose style. He composed mostly in Arabic and Persian. His writings are unique because, while they do not include many dates or chronology, he talks about his personal life and his family, while not mentioning other outside events. Ruzbihan Baqli was known for his fondness and defense of many early Sufis’ ecstatic sayings (shathiyat) and therefore was dubbed “Doctor Ecstaticus.” He completed his book Commentary on Ecstatic Sayings or Sarh al-shathiyyat in 1174. He also wrote The Spirits’ Font in 1184. The Unveiling of Secrets or Kashf al-asrar was completed in 1189 after taking eight years to compose. It is both an autobiography and a diary of visions and Sufi teachings. Many of his works emphasize the Sufi theories of love, and also defend early Sufi saints in their ecstatic utterances. The Sufi saint Hallaj was a primary example in Ruzbihan Baqli’s text.
While direct literary references to Ruzbihan Baqli in later Sufism were not common, perhaps because of the difficulty of the texts, he was known for his love of beauty: fine fragrances, a beautiful face, and sweet voices. His texts were studied, however, by Jāmi of the fifteenth century and a Mughul prince of the seventeenth century.