Sunday, April 08, 2007

UNESCO’s International Rumi Year celebrates the great poet/thinker

Ozge Esirgen / Istanbul
Cyprus Observer, 3/30/'07
Having accepted the proposal of the Culture and Tourism Ministry of Turkey in March 2006, 2007 was declared as the "International Rumi Year" by UNESCO. The recognition is intended for the commemoration of Rumi's 800th birthday and has given rise to many activities regarding the mystic’s appreciation in many countries as well as in Turkey. Upon the designation by UNESCO, the three countries that Rumi had lived in during his lifetime: Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan will be holding special programmes commemorating the man and his philosophy.

The recent news is that Iran and Turkey will cooperate in holding a Rumi International Conference in Turkey during the spring of 2007. Similar conferences are planned to be organised in Iran and Afghanistan as well. Other events that are being arranged include: the preparation of a bilingual book of Rumi’s most celebrated work, the ‘Mathnavi’ in Persian and its translation in Turkish, a ceremony in commemoration of Iranian and Turkish experts in Rumi studies, the publishing of a Turkish-Persian idiom dictionary, and also the organising of various concerts to be performed by Iranian artists in Turkey. There are film and documentary projects in relation to Rumi’s life, with some being joint productions of the countries concerned. Recently, the Iranian musician Peyman Soltani, announced that he has finished composing the soundtrack for a Turkish film on Rumi. The movie, called ‘Seven Cities’, is scheduled to be screened at the 60th Cannes International Film Festival this year. Turkey’s programme also includes a project entitled “The Cultural Train of Rumi’s Love and Patience” which will tour 17 European countries this year.

Mevlana, who is known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, was a 13th century Persian poet, jurist, and theologian. Rumi was born in Balkh (then a city of Greater Khorasan in Persia, now part of Afghanistan) and died in Konya (in present-day Turkey). His birthplace and native tongue indicate a Persian heritage. He also wrote his poetry in Persian and his works are widely read in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and in translation in Turkey, Azerbaijan, the US, and South Asia. He lived most of his life in, and produced his works under, the Seljuk Empire. Rumi's importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders. Throughout the centuries he has had a significant influence on Persian as well as Urdu and Turkish literatures. His poems are widely read in the Persian speaking countries of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan and have been widely translated into many of the world’s languages in various formats.
As the Turkish writer Talat Sait Halman wrote in his book on Mevlana, “His ideas, which stressed the immortality of the loving soul, the joys of passion, the inherent worth of the human being, the aesthetic as well as the ecstatic imperative of faith, the need to go beyond the confines of scholasticism and to transcend schisms, and above all the Godliness of Man not only gave renewed vigour to Islamic mysticism but also represented for the Islamic religion in general a counterpart of the Renaissance which was to emerge in Europe a century after Mevlana’s death.”
After Rumi's death, his followers founded the Mevlevi Order, better known as the ‘Whirling Dervishes’, who believe in performing their worship in the form of the dance and music ceremony called the sema.
A most beloved mystic, Mevlana has touched the hearts of countless over the past eight hundred years. His impact on many prominent figures has also been unquestionable throughout history. Friedrich Hegel saw him as one the greatest poets and thinkers in world history. Reynold A. Nicholson hailed him as the greatest mystical poet of any age. Goethe drew inspiration from his poetry. The celebrated poet Jami from Persia said of Rumi: “He is not a Prophet, but he has written a Holy Book.” Rembrandt drew him from a miniature painting. Gandhi frequently used his quotes, especially the one ‘To unite is why we came / To divide is not our aim.’ In 1958, Pope John XXIII wrote a special message: ‘In the name of the Catholic world, I bow with respect before the memory of Mevlana.’

Today, despite the 800 years that have passed since his death, Mevlana’s works still preserve their originality. It might also be said that today’s world is perhaps living a time that needs Mevlana and his philosophy more than any other time. It seems that in a world where violation of human rights is becoming widespread, due to the outrageously increasing ethnic and religious conflicts all around, the persistence of a hopeful belief in humane and peaceful aims which promise a better world can only be achieved through the enlightened path that such people as Rumi revealed.
The Reflection Cafe- Sufism
Islam and Peace: A Sufi Perspective, M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen
All Through Eternity, Mevlana Rumi
Women and Sufism, Camille Adams Helminski
The Alchemy of Love, Mevlana Rumi

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