America’s Secret Interest in Rumi

“O’ Muslims, what is to be done, for I do not recognize myself. I am not Christian, nor Jew, nor Magian, nor Muslim. I am not from the East, nor of the West, nor of the Land, nor of the Sea. I am not of Nature’s mint, I am not of the air nor of the fire. I am not of India, nor of China, and I am not from the Unbelievers. I am not from the people of Paradise, nor of Hell. But my place is the Placeless, my trace is the traceless! For he is not flesh, and he is not spirit; for I am in truth of the spirit of the beloved Spirit.”

With those words the great Sufi magnate Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi (1207-1273) expressed the universalism of his ideas, and his unlimited tolerance for all religions and ideas, in “Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi.” Through this text he was able to excise mysticism from the framework of legalism, present conditions, locality and a focus on outward manifestation, and transform it into something universal, widely regarded as interesting and distinguished close to 800 years after the death of its founder. Rumi represents what has been smothered in the West, due to the overwhelming materialism and the lack of spirituality. In the East, however, Rumi is motivational. People are displeased with the traditional religiosity and the stereotypes of other religions in literature and the arts, and they instead wade through the stream of Sufism with the aid of Rumi’s poetry (which reached its pinnacle with his famous text “The Masnavi”), because mysticism heals the heart, purifies the soul, and charges the consciousness with the ray of hope both in his sayings, which grab you by the throat, and in his poems, which are stamped with the seal of his wisdom. Rumi is followed by many different Sufi schools and small sects, for the souls are wearied and are discouraged by suffering. We do not know how aware our great poet was (who is considered by some to occupy a status similar to Goethe or Dante) that his poems would spread the spirit of Sufism to the whole world in the 21st century. …Is the reason due to the power of his explanations, his poetic imagination, and his skillful use of imagery? And why has the world tinted his poems, and the music associated with it, with new colors, as if it were as magical as the northern lights, and as if modernity discovered it, its joy and its richness?

So who is Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, who transformed Sufism into a worldwide phenomenon, whose book Laura Bush put in her picture when she was celebrating the success of her husband’s second presidential term? What prompted Madonna to sing to him, “You teach me how you say goodbye”?* Why is the ney flute featured on most music tracks? The ney is characterized in the poem, in which the flute tells how it suffers from the pain of separation since being cut from the forest, and the people are lamenting its sadness. “Everything after its foundation requires communion and remembers the sweet days which it spent with its beloved.”* All seek the silence of contentment, and something to put an end to the contradictions of existence, and all seek the music, which deeply affects the heart through the union between the Eastern, Sufi, Christian and Islamic Hymns and Western electronic rhythms. … What is the underlying meaning of this flood of specialized pages about Rumi, which we are greeted with immediately when searching on Google?

As for the Mevlevi Order that is associated with Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, its popularity and creed are present on the five continents. Part of their practices involve listening to the Sufi music called “Sama,” and a dance which involves spinning around, and raising the soul, healing the spirit with love and serenity in those gatherings. After the dance, the soul returns from the heavens more pure. …The one beacon in Rumi’s philosophy, which is founded on the ideas of the unity of the universe, and of a world of greater compassion and coherence, and fewer differences, is the great verse that says, “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His messengers,” – i.e. there is no difference between Jesus and Moses. In love of the divine, Rumi was always searching for the deeper meaning. It seems the facts of his life bore some resemblance to our present reality. When he was in the first quarter of his life, the Mongols invaded his homeland, so he traveled with his father to Baghdad, and from there to Mecca, then Damascus. He was taught by his father initially, and by his Sheikh Burhan al-Din Tirmidhi. Afterwards, he returned to Konya, which is now located in Turkey, and taught Islamic jurisprudence. He was quickly surrounded by loyal followers. When Rumi was 38 he met Shams al-Din Tabriz, his friend and mentor, who would draw him into the sea of mysticism. The link the two men shared through their deep spiritual connection would push Rumi’s students to become jealous of their new guest. Shams Tabriz would be killed, and the suspicion would fall on Rumi’s followers, though in other sources the son of Rumi is indicated as the murderer, though he has no motive. Some of the wilder sources argue that Shams Tabriz is a fictitious character fabricated by Jalal al-Din Rumi in order to give voice to his poems which carry the name “Shams Tabriz,” creator of “The Masnavi,” which he described as “Healing the heart, a cure for sadness and a searchlight for the Quran.” This text would demonstrate Rumi’s skill in style, dialogue and thought, as he spoke on the topics of nature and the human soul. Rumi also created prose, quatrains, wrote a book titled “Seven Sessions” (Sermons), and another titled “In It What’s In It,” as well as poetry in Arabic which, according to most specialists, is of a lower quality than its Persian counterpart.

From Rumi’s exquisite quotes that are featured on the site GoodReads, the most liked quote is “Do not panic from your wound, for how else would the light enter you?” and “What you seek is seeking you.” Whatever makes you feel pure is the path of truth.

As for Shams Tabriz, he reached wide fame in the past years as a result of the novel “Forty Rules of Love” by Elif Shafak. One of his sayings is, “The world in a disharmonious state is not able to reform the corrupt and replace them with good; the opposite happens. For the corrupt convert the less corrupt.” Another is, “The unbeliever is worthy of praise because he does not say explicitly I am your enemy… the hypocrite is more dangerous than an unbeliever.”

The present is so similar to the past. Rumi was a contemporary of the Mongols, and today the world suffers from extremism and brutality embodied by the Islamic State. The world suffers from the globalization of terror and the globalization of Sufism. The Oscar-winning screenwriter Dave Franzoni announced his intention to make a film about Jalal al-Din Rumi starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr., who would play the role of his mentor Shams Tabriz. Hollywood has produced nothing for the Arab region, or the Islamic world, so does this come arbitrarily or for the pursuit of profit? For publicity alone, or to shed light on the virtues of personal spirituality, like this flash of Sufism? What is the reason, I wonder?

Franzoni stated that Rumi is “like Shakespeare,” in that his value and influence is still continuing since the 13th century, and additionally, his poetry is a best seller in America. Franzoni stated that the challenges that face the film are linked to the ability to build a compelling portrait of Rumi through his books and the texts that have been written about him. His life has been the subject of disagreement among historians, so Franzoni said he would search in his personal history and “find the human being who became a saint, because we can’t write about a saint”!

So it is the deliberate intention to present the life of Rumi according to Hollywood’s view of him! And from a good and detailed reading of his life, it can be inferred what that view would be.

For the United States, ever worthy of the title of Imam Ibn al-Jawzi’s text, “The Devil’s Deceptions,” has no qualms restructuring identities or cultures, or tampering with the established values of a community. Over a decade ago, Dr. Abdel Wahab El-Messiri mentioned that a freedoms committee affiliated with the United States Congress recommended encouraging the Sufi movements associated with Rumi and Ibn Arabi, because asceticism in the world begets quietism in politics and political affairs. Afterwards, this recommendation was reinforced during the study conducted by Yale University, which has shown that Sufis brought Islam to two-thirds of the areas in which it is now present in Africa and Asia. The issue here is larger than the DiCaprio film, or the Egyptian singer Dina el Wedidi, and the music of Marcel Khalife … “Do not worry if all the candles in the world flicker and die, we are the spark which starts the fire.”… “Do not go with flow, be the flow.” This misleading opiate is stamped with the seal of a great Sufi like Rumi and is in every country and among all of humanity, to the point that even in fashion shows it is impossible ignore this global Sufism and cosmic love. We debate on Twitter matters like what happened last week about DiCaprio and his suitability for the role, and we forget the atomic weapons, the smart bombs, and even the use of Sufism if necessary.

Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi told a story where he told a student to retrieve a bottle from a room. However, the student returned and asked him, “Which of the two bottles should I bring?” because he had found two bottles. However, Rumi was clever and realized the student was cockeyed, and replied to the student, saying, “It is one bottle,” which the student would not believe. So Rumi asked the student to break one bottle and bring the other. However, after he broke it, the student discovered that it was one bottle; he was mistaken and his teacher was correct. It was a maxim and a lesson that cannot be forgotten: “There are not two realities,” but one truth. America is one, and her politics never change!

*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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