Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rumi - America's Best Selling Poet

Sunday, September 30 is the 800th anniversary of the birth of Rumi, one of the great spiritual poets of all history and the best selling poet in the United States for the last several years. Born in what is modern-day Afghanistan, Rumi fled through Persia to Turkey ahead of the Mongol hoards that later conquered all of Central Asia. Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi is credited as the founder of the Sufi branch of Islam. Sufis are Islam's mystics, using sacred dance and meditation to connect with and to channel the love of God. As such, Sufi mystics are often persecuted by more fundamental Islamists like the Salafi Muslims of Saudi Arabia - who appear to be more interested in Jihad than in love. Indeed, like fundamentalists of every stripe, the Salafis believe that the use of music is "Halal" or "forbidden" by the faith. How weak their faith must be to deny themselves and others the beauty of music, art and human culture. In contrast, Sufi Muslims use sacred song, dance, poetry and most of all love to unlock the divine within.

2007 has been declared the "Year of Rumi" in Turkey and Central Asia, where Dervishes continue to whirl in meditative dance to the sacred music of the region. (image: Rumi's Tomb, Turkey) But most of us know Rumi from his poems, which often focus on love and always reflect insight and an appreciation for great beauty. I've included several relevant YouTube videos. The first is a short elocution on the poetry of Rumi by Dr. Majid M. Naini, a leading authority on Rumi who has authored several books on the Sufi master.

The second Video showcases one of Rumi's poems, set to colorful images accompanied by peaceful music. Just for a taste. And the third video is a clip of Sufi Dervishes whirling in sacred dance. These three Dervishes, from the Damascus Dervish group, really capture for me the trancelike meditation of the dance. One hand raised to heaven to connect with divine love, and the other facing down toward the earth passing that love along to all creatures as the Dervish whirls. Check it out.

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