The exotic imagery of the Whirling Dervishes and the thirteenth-century epic poem Masnavi have come to signify something altogether different in the West than a simple curiosity with an oriental culture.
If you ask anyone from Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Tajikistan, who the greatest poet in their history is, they would all give the same answer without a single moment’s hesitation: Rumi. Or Jelaluddin Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi, to be more specific. He is the author of Masnavi, which comprises six books of poems that amount to more than 50,000 lines. The ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes is the legacy of Rumi.
The celebrations initiated by UNESCO in 2007 for the 800th anniversary of Rumi’s birth, and the immense popularity of the English translations of Masnavi, endorsed in popular culture by such names as Madonna, Demi Moore and Sarah Jessica Parker, transformed the thirteenth-century mystic, poet, and theologian Rumi’s name into a popular new age guru in the West.
By the end of the twentieth-century, there was an avalanche of new translations of his poetry, academic research into his look on religions and spirituality in as many as 30 countries, and a flurry of visitors to Turkey to watch the Whirling Dervishes commemorate Rumi’s death on 17 December in the Anatolian city of Konya.
Who is Rumić
Rumi, or Mevlana to people of Turkey, is a thirteenth-century mystic, poet, and theologian, who began his spiritual journey as a religious scholar and later had a life-altering encounter with a dervish, Shams-e Tabrizi, whose profound influence shaped Rumi’s philosophical outlook.
The mysterious disappearance (presumed murder) of Shams-e Tabrizi would lead to an immense grief for Rumi, eventually outpouring into a masterpiece of 50 thousand lines of poetry, Masnavi, the epic tale of “the nightingale separated from the rose.” Masnavi is considered as the supreme expression of mystical Islam, where a unique individual spirituality is advocated to reach God not through fear but love.
Rumi’s universal teachings deem religion as a personal experience, focusing on the existence of a natural urge (defined as ‘love’ by Rumi) to evolve and seek enjoinment with the divinity from which all the matter in the universe has emerged, of attainment of God being the specific goal for every human being, and that God is the ground as well as the goal of all existence. His complex views transcend nationalities and ethnic identities, with a tremendous influence on various cultures in Near East and Asia, all embracing Rumi and his words on love’s creed being separate from all religions as his proud legacy.