Sunday, September 30, 2007

800 Years of Mawlana Rumi

The roar of Rumi - 800 years on
By Charles Haviland BBC News, Balkh, northern Afghanistan

For many years now, the most popular poet in America has been a 13th-century mystical Muslim scholar.
Translations of Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi's - better known as Rumi - verse are hugely popular and have been used by Western pop stars such as Madonna.
They are attracted by his tributes to the power of love and his belief in the spiritual use of music and dancing - although scholars stress that he was talking about spiritual love between people and God, not earthly love.
Rumi, whose 800th birth anniversary falls on Sunday, was born in 1207 in Balkh in Central Asia, now part of Afghanistan.
I came here to see whether he has much resonance in his native country which, under the Taleban, went so far as to ban music.
Still standing
A young Afghan archaeologist, Reza Hosseini, took me to the ruins of the mud-and-brick-built khanaqa - a kind of madrassa or religious school - where Rumi's father taught and the young boy is believed to have studied, lying just outside the old mud city walls and probably within yards of his birthplace.
It is a quiet and melancholy place, the structure eroded and encroached on by shrubs and bushes.

An amazing amount of the madrassa is still surprisingly intact
But an amazing amount of it is still standing - the square structure, its four arches with pointed tops, in the Islamic style, and half of the graceful dome.
Mr Hosseini says the floor was originally constructed of baked bricks and lined with carpets donated by those who came to share the learning.
Sufism - or Islamic mysticism - was already enshrined here before Rumi's time and Mr Hosseini imagines that this corner of the town, by the madrassa, would have echoed to the sound of Sufi singing and prayer.
But, he says, it is unclear how widespread, or acceptable, practices such as music and dance were in the wider population.
When Rumi was barely out of his teens, Balkh was reduced to rubble by Genghis Khan's marauding Mongol invaders.
Rumi had fled in advance with his family and settled in Konya, now in Turkey.
After the murder of his close friend, a Persian wandering dervish called Shams-i-Tabriz, he was depressed for years but later wrote his greatest poetic work, the Mathnawi.
It describes the soul's separation from God and the mutual yearning to reunite.
With his injunctions of tolerance and love, he has universal appeal, says Abdul Qadir Misbah, a culture specialist in the Balkh provincial government.
"Whether a person is from East or West, he can feel the roar of Rumi," he says.

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  1. Eid Mubarak to you and your family :) May the day be filled with love and joy!

    Ya Haqq!

  2. Khayr Mubarak! Ameen, yours as well :)