Iran News ...


10/23/06

Rumi, Poet of Love and Justice

By Soudabeh Sadigh
 
Nearly 8 centuries ago, on Sep. 30, 1206, a person was born in Balkh, then part of Persia, who came to make great contributions to the Persian and world literature. A great poet and mystic whose name will always shine on the pages of history: Rumi
 
Tomb of Rumi in Konya
 
Tehran, 30 September 2006 (CHN Foreign Desk) -- Molana Jalal-e din Mohammad Balkhi, commonly known as Rumi, was a Persian philosopher and mystic of Islam. His doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love. To him and his disciples, all religions are truth and his peaceful and tolerant teaching has appealed to men of all sects and creeds. It is one way in which he described himself:
My Mother is Love                  My Father is Love
My Prophet is Love                 My God is Love
I am a child of Love                I have come only to speak of Love
Rumi was born on 30th of September 1207 in Balkh in today's Afghanistan, then within the domains of the Persian Empire, and died on 17 December 1273 in Konya, present-day Turkey where he spent many years of his precious life. His body was laid to rest beside his father and a splendid shrine was erected there, which every year attracts a large number of pilgrims from all parts of the Muslim and non-Muslim world.
 
The dance of Whirling Dervishes called Sama is a part of the inspiration of Rumi which today is known as a part of the Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture. Last year, the ritual was registered in the list of UNESCO's World Intangible Heritage. Sama represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to a state of "Perfection."
 
Rumi wrote his poetry in Persian language and his works are widely read in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where Persian language is still spoken. He lived most of his life under the Seljuk Empire. 
 
Rumi began his career as a preacher and theologian but after meeting Shams-e Tabrizi, he became a mystic or Sufi. Rumi wrote the largest corpus of lyric poetry in the Persian language, amounting to 40,000. Jalal el-Din Rumi was more than just a poet. He was a perfect master. His poems were more down to earth than the great master poet Hafiz and thus have been easier to translate as well, being more easily digested into the English vocabulary. The popularity of his poetry has spread in the west because of its heart-felt themes of lover-beloved mysticism, and its spiritual joy which seems to originate even from the most distorted versions in English.   
 
Rumi has been hailed by western scholars as the greatest mystical poet of all time. The translation of his poems into the English language became the best seller book in the US in 1997. Ever since, the book of Rumi's poetry has always been among the best selling books in the United States.
 
The beauty of Rumi's poems transcends the scope of belief, location, and time. Even in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and despite the growing negative atmosphere against Muslims in western countries, a devote Muslim mystic who was born in Central Asia almost eight centuries ago becomes American's best selling poet. But what does it take to become a successful poet in today's world?
 
"Jalaluddin Rumi was, among many other things, a lover of irony, of the odd and absurd juxtapositions that life creates. So it may be that he would have savored the fact that Madonna set translations of his 13th century verses praising Allah to music on Deepak Chopra's 1998 CD, A Gift of Love; that Donna Karan has used recitations of his poetry as a background to her fashion shows; that Oliver Stone wants to make a film of his life; and that even though he hailed from Balkh, a town near Mazar-i-Sharif situated in what is today Afghanistan, his verse has only become more popular with American readers since September [2001], when HarperCollins published The Soul of Rumi, 400 pages of poetry translated by Coleman Barks. September 2001 would seem like an unpropitious time for an American publisher to have brought out a large, pricey hardback of Muslim mystical verse, but the book took off immediately. It has a long road ahead, however, if it is to catch up with a previous Rumi best seller, The Essential Rumi, published by HarperCollins in 1995. With more than 250,000 copies in print, it is easily the most successful poetry book published in the West in the past decade" [Ptolemy Tompkins, Time Asia Edition, September 30, 2002]. 
 
Translations of Rumi's poetry brought this great Persian poet international recognitions such that he is recognized among the world's leading figures in 2005 and 2006 and UNESCO has announced the year 2007 as the International Rumi Year, during which some special ceremonies and programs will be held all over the world to commemorate this great Persian poet. This includes a project entitled "The Cultural Train of Rumi's Love and Patience" which will be organized by Turkey on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birthday in 2007, which will tour 17 European countries.
 
It is with extreme regret that while the birthplace and native tongue of this great poet all indicate a Persian heritage, the real identity of this master of Persian poetry and ethics is being ignored deliberately or unintentionally even by international organizations such as UNESCO, not to mention indifference shown by some responsible organizations within Iran.
 
In the letter of 14/01/2005, addressed to the Director General of UNESCO, the Turkish Permanent Delegation to UNESCO, supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan requested that UNESCO should be associated in 2007 with the 800th anniversary of the birth of Rumi. Considering that this request meets the criteria adopted by the executive board at its 159th session, UNESCO Director General accepted that UNESCO be associated with the celebration of this anniversary. While 2006 is the international Mozart Year, 2007 has been announced as International Rumi Year and UNESCO plans to celebrate the 800th birthday of Rumi in 2007.
 
"Eminent philosopher and mystical poet of Islam, Rumi advocated tolerance, reason and access to knowledge through love. His mystical relationship to Islam produced masterpieces that well beyond the borders of Turkey have marked Islamic culture and devotion. His work and thought continue to have universal relevance today," says UNESCO in its announcement.
 
However, it came as a big surprise when UNESCO, as an international body that supports preservation of cultural heritage, called Rumi a great Muslim and Turkish (!) poet in its formal announcement and recognized Turkey, Afghanistan, and Egypt as the organizers of the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birth while nothing of Rumi's real identity, Iran, has been mentioned.
 
Yet Rumi's poetry speaks of his origin.
 
Perhaps the popularity of this great poet is rooted in the world's quest for spirituality as Rumi's poems reflect human's quest for love. His words reveal beauty and ecstasy of Sufism. Rumi has attracted large disciples with his teaching, preaching and ecstatic or as the religion scholar, Karen Armstrong, puts it "Rumi's spirituality is suffused by a sense of cosmic homelessness and separation from God, the divine source."
 
Rumi himself invites the world to join in the spiritual journey by saying:
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire,
Come even though you have broken your vows a hundred time,
Come, and come yet again,
Ours is not a caravan of despair...
 
 

... Payvand News - 10/23/06 ... --



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