In case you’re wondering about this millennium’s top-selling poet, it is not Walt Whiteman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, or even Ralph Waldo Emerson. The honor goes to a humble man, whose words have expressed the unutterable longing to merge with the eternal! This man, beset with a good irony and life’s rational and irrational juxtapositions, is Mawlana Jalal ad-Dine Muhammad Rumi Balkhi, known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi. This great Persian poet spoke to us through his mystical verse, infinite wisdom of words, unprecedented lyrical grace, spiritual daringness and philosophical excellence as he sought to move us closer an ocean of unity with his Beloved God!
Many have fallen in love with the poetry of this great mystic. They have been mesmerized by his soulful beauty, tolerant humanity and mysterious spontaneity. Their exposure to anglophone cultures and appreciation of Rumi would not have happened without the efforts of American scholars such as Coleman Barks, Ibrahim Gamard, Rawan Farhadi, who have translated almost all of Rumi’s quatrains, making his works accessible to the English language readership.
When reciting Rumi’s poetry, Mr. Barks is very soft-spoken and humble as he is overcome by Rumi’s words. He has admitted that his work could never do justice to Rumi’s original Persian texts as it is impossible for English translations to capture the true essence of Rumi’s emotions and beliefs.
Rumi’s masterpiece, the Mathnawi, is a series of six books of poetry, each amounting to about 25,000 verses. It remains the most fabulous work ever composed in human literature. It is not only an oceanic hodgepodge of suspenseful Sufi fables, scenes from everyday life and fantastic folktales, but also a philosophical reflection on Quranic revelations where the transient and the eternal speak loudly in utter harmony and wholeness with the divine.
Many in the East argue that while he was not a prophet, he definitely brought his own scripture. In the West, he is frequently praised and often quoted in many monasteries and synagogues. Undoubtedly, Rumi’s poetry made of him a bridge between all cultures and religions. He does not exclude anybody from his Sufi circle and invites all mankind to this divine embrace he calls love.
Rumi believed passionately in the use of poetry, music and dance as a mystic tool to achieve communion with God. His Sufi teachings were the base for the Mawlawi Order in Turkey and in many other countries. He is a cosmopolitan man, accepted and highly revered by everybody. His mystical poems are mysteries only a few can decode. They are love-letters sent from his beautiful soul to all people. His creed was: Here is love, come see it. Experience it!
Let all lovers be content
Give them happy endings
Let their life be celebrations
Let their hearts dance in the fire of your love.
According to his admirers, at Rumi’s funeral, Christians confessed, “He was our Jesus!”, Jews proclaimed “He was our Moses!” and Muslims cried, “He was our Muhammed!” Indeed, Rumi was a romantic poet entirely obsessed with God. He belonged to everyone, exalting the divine universality of the heart in every creation. He was that spokesman for transcendence and freedom of the mind, body and soul. His images are unique, playful and full of spiritual food for thought.
This excellent poet, as Hegel called him, has inspired many Western poets including Emerson, Goethe and Robert Grave. As the German poet Hans Meinke stated, “he is the only hope for the dark times we are living in.”
Gamble everything for love
If you’re a true human being.
If not, leave this gathering.
At this moment of tension and mistrust, it behooves us to study the works of this renowned mystic and use his words to influence our thoughts and actions. Rumi’s work could be invaluable as a remedy to many of the misunderstandings that continue to hinder world peace and stability.