Rumi – 800 years on

“Mawlana says – if the sky is not in love, then it will not be so clear. If the sun is not in love, then it will not be giving any light. If the river is not in love, then it will be in silence, it will not be moving. If the mountains, the earth are not in love, then there will be nothing growing.”

For many years now, the most popular poet in America has been a 13th-century mystical Muslim scholar. Translations of Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi’s – better known as Rumi – verse are hugely popular and have been used by Western pop stars such as Madonna. They are attracted by his tributes to the power of love and his belief in the spiritual use of music and dancing – although scholars stress that he was talking about spiritual love between people and God, not earthly love. Rumi, whose 800th birth anniversary falls on Sunday 30th September 2007, was born in 1207 in Balkh in Central Asia, now part of Afghanistan. I came here to see whether he has much resonance in his native country which, under the Taleban, went so far as to ban music …

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