Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion or cultural system. I am not from the East or the West, not out of the ocean or up from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not composed of elements at all. I do not exist, am not an entity in this world or the next, did not descend from Adam or Eve or any origin story. My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless. Neither body or soul. I belong to the beloved, have seen the two worlds as one and that one call to and know, first, last, outer, inner, only that breath breathing human being.

Rumi was raised in the Islamic faith and his father, Baha Valad, occasionally preached at the local mosque and as a Sunni jurist. Rumi eventually came to be identified with Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam and “a school of practice that emphasizes the inward search for God and shuns materialism,” accoring to The New York Times. But Rumi’s work has been lauded for expressing peace and tolerance and “his doctrine advocates tolerance, reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love, looking with the same eye on Muslims, Jews, Christians and others alike,” according to the UMass Rumi Club website.

But among Rumi’s shorter works, Farzad is drawn to one that alludes to the biblical and Quranic story of the creation of man, which she says can be translated as:


The dew of Love
turned a lump of clay
into Adam
and the whole world
was stirred with fervour and joy
A hundred cupid lances pierced the veins of Spirit,
one drop fell to earth
and they named it Heart!

4. His Message Is of Self-Empowerment and Spiritual Development

From the dust of the earth to a human being,
there are a thousand steps.
I have been with you through these steps,
I have held your hand and walked by your side.
And I will be with you
as you move beyond this human form
and soar to the highest heavens.

“Rumi’s message of universal love, tolerance of religion and race, self-empowerment, spiritual development and enlightenment are truly timeless and timely for today’s audiences,” says author Shahram Shiva, founder of Rumi Network and author of “Hush, Don’t Say Anything to God: Passionate Poems of Rumi.” “Those few lines talk about the promise of self-realization, enlightenment and ultimately ascension, where you evolve beyond the boundaries of a mere human to much higher aspirations.”

5. He Is a Pop Culture Phenomenon to This Day

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

This particular passage from the poem, “The Guest House,” gained popularity in an unlikely context: it was featured on a Coldplay album. As Rozina Ali wrote for The New Yorker in 2017, the “erasure of Islam from Rumi’s poetry started long before Coldplay got involved.” But as the poet and his work have been adopted and adapted in the Western world, the fact remains that passages like this one are steeped in Muslim teachings — an important aspect of Rumi’s work that’s often ignored in modern Western discussions of his poetry. As Ali points out, “The Guest House” is from Rumi’s six-book epic, the Masnavi, which is “riddled with Arabic excerpts from Muslim scripture; the book frequently alludes to Koranic anecdotes that offer moral lessons.”

“It would be nice if people could go beyond the breathless renditions of a handful of Rumi poems which have been the backdrop of fashion and catwalk shows for example, or (although poorly translated and completely removed from the original) are YouTube or Instagram hits,” Farzad says. “It would be good if people paused to remember that Rumi was first and foremost a scholar of Islamic philosophy and mysticism, that his poetry was composed during one of the most turbulent periods of the 13th century, and has a depth and breadth that is rarely considered. I worry that sometimes the real scholar is overshadowed by the parody of a whirling and hopping and skipping guru that was created in the late 20th century.”

Rumi died on Dec. 17, 1273 in Konya in south-central Turkey. His body was carried through the city by a crowd of local Jews and Christians and he was buried beside his father in a splendid shrine, the Yeşil Türbe, or Green Tomb, which is today the Mevlâna Museum.

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