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Rumi is the Answer to All Our Problems: On the Occasion of Moulana Rumi's 800th Birth Anniversary

By Rasoul Sorkhabi


For the past thirty years I have been fascinated with the poetry of Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi. The poems and parables of this great Persian Sufi poet have given me consolation, insight and joy in various places I have lived. In recent years, Rumi has become one of the most-widely read poets in North America. And I am delighted to see this phenomenon not because he was a Persian poet and thus a part of my cultural roots, but because his poetry is about love (both Divine and human), and as Rumi himself says ("Ma eshg khoreem": We eat love), love is like food to be eaten.


When you enjoy a particular dish you like to offer it to others so that they also enjoy the fragrance, taste, texture, saltiness, sweetness, and warmth of your favorite dish. When people from various walks of life read Rumi's poems, they eat the food of love. Good poetry enriches our lives, and Rumi's poetry is a treasure. It gives us peace of mind, compassion, timeless wisdom, healing words, inspiration, and friendship. And all this at no cost other than willingness to listen and calmness to enjoy. It is for all these reasons that I believe Rumi (and sages of that caliber) is the answer to all our problems  our personal, interpersonal, social, and international problems.


Before you judge me as a naive person, let me tell you a story. Sohrab Sepehri was a modern Persian poet. In his most famous poem, The Sound of Water's Footstep (Seda-ye Pa-ye Ab), Sepehri paints a beautiful rural landscape and says that let's not pollute the stream flowing through the village because pigeons drink water from the stream. When this poem was published in the mid 1960s, some literary critics blamed Sepehri that how he could be concerned about pigeons' drinking water while the world was facing bloodshed and the threat of more war and violence (those were the days of the Cold War, Vietnam War, etc.). Sepehri, who rarely answered to his critics or admirers, is recorded to have replied that his poem actually points to the root of our conflicts: If people and politicians care about a pigeon's drinking water, they will value human life even more and will not create bloody and destructive wars.


The more we read and enjoy Rumi's poems, the more compassionate and the less selfish and less greedy we become. The more Rumi's poetry spreads around the world and enlightens people's mind, there will be more peace and happiness in the world. If our political leaders read and understand Rumi's poetry and live up to that understanding, the less violent and the more friendly nations will be. If you think that religious fanatics are destroying human life and freedom, Rumi is the answer because he calls for understanding, tolerance and friendship, and views love and compassion as rays of the Divine light shining upon our inner being.


This year marks the eight hundredth anniversary of Rumi's birth. UNESCO has issued a Commemorative Medal in honor of Rumi. This year is an auspicious occasion to read Rumi more to ourselves and to others. The Persian-speaking peoples around the world, in particular, should better introduce Rumi to the world. Take time to organize or participate in events that celebrate Rumi's birth anniversary. Give Rumi's books as gifts to friends and family.


The fact that Rumi's sweet poems are on our lips seven centuries after his death (and in countries far from his cultural lands) testify to the truth of Rumi's vision and the beauty of his poetry. Rumi is badly needed in our increasingly interdependent world because Rumi's constituency is not a particular creed or community but the human heart. With the popularity of Rumi's poetry in the West, this spiritual poet can be a valuable bridge between the Islamic world and the West because he is a poet who awakens all of us to our common heart and to the spirit of joy, peace, and beauty within us all. Early this year I was talking with a well-known English translator of Rumi's poems, and he said: If you think deeply, the alternative to Rumi's message is suffering, violence and destruction. Those who read Rumi's poetry and watch the world news would appreciate this statement.


About the author:  Dr. Rasoul Sorkhabi directs the Rumi Poetry Club in Utah. Email: The above is an excerpt from his forthcoming book Listen to This Flute: The Rumi Essay.
Copyright: Rasoul Sorkhabi (2007)



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