Five facts about Rumi
- Rumi has been the best-selling poet in North America for three decades, more than 700 years after his death in Balkh, near the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. At the same time, he is one of the most popular poets in the Persian-speaking world, a status he has held for centuries. The best selling novel ever published in Turkey, where he is buried, is also about Rumi’s life. Rumi’s poetry is also popular in Turkish translation, because he spent most of his life in Konya, Turkey, and his followers there and in the expanding Ottoman empire began to use Turkish more than Persian.
- Rumi’s Masnavi (“The Rhyming Couplets”) is the longest mystical poem written by a single author, at approximately 26,000 verses, and is commonly referred to as “The Qur’an in Persian.” When Bosnians adopted Islam they embraced the Qur’an and the Masnavi, and still today both are recited alongside each other in religious services there.
- The most quoted verse in North America today is the following by Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks), which is especially popular at weddings:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
- Rumi’s followers are known as the Whirling Dervishes because of the famous whirling dance ritual they perform in special white costumes. This ritual has been performed in Houston before, including at the Rothko Chapel. The followers chose this form of ritual because of Rumi’s propensity to whirl around himself in ecstasy, such as when hearing the rhythmic beating of goldsmiths in the marketplace.
- Rumi’s use of catchy meters and extensive rhyming schemes gives his poems an intense musicality which has made it the most popular medieval poetry for pop singers in Afghanistan and Iran, where Persian is still spoken today. Lines of his catchy poetry were also adapted as protest chants during the 2009 demonstrations in Iran in disbelief at the official election count.
Five facts about Jawid Mojaddedi
- Jawid Mojaddedi is Professor of Religion at Rutgers University. His area of research is early and medieval Sufism. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and raised from the age of five in Great Britain, he moved to the United States in 1998.
- Jawid’s verse translation of Rumi’s magnum opus, The Masnavi: Book One, was awarded the 2004 Lois Roth Prize by the American Institute of Persian Studies, the most prestigious literary prize for the translation of Persian literature into English. The award committee gave this award in recognition of the first volume and “in the hope that the project will continue to completion.”
- Jawid has published translations of the second and third books of The Masnavi, in 2007 and 2013, respectively, and he has recently completed his manuscript of Book Four as a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellow. It is forthcoming in the same Oxford World’s Classics Series of Oxford University Press in 2017.
- Rumi has been a major interest of Jawid’s since his teenage years in England, when an acquaintance recommended to him a translation of “Sufi stories from Afghanistan” after learning about his nationality. Three years later, before going to university to study Persian and Arabic, he was given as a leaving present by his bookworm landlady “a five-volume set of old books picked up at a jumble sale for fifty pence.” It turned out to be the only complete translation of Rumi’s Masnavi, by Reynold A. Nicholson.
- Rumi’s “Song of the Reed” uses the symbol of the reed that has been uprooted from its reed-bed origins as a symbol of the mystic in painful separation from his or her origins with the Divine Beloved. It has an extra resonance for contemporary Afghans and Iranians, as well as others, who have been displaced from their earthly homelands or beloveds.
Song of the Reed: Rumi
Thursday, November 5, 2015 | 6 PM
Julia Ideson Building | 550 McKinney St., 77002
Scholar and translator Jawid Mojaddedi discusses the beauty of Rumi’s Masnavi: fascinating folks talks, sacred history and lessons – all written in rhyming couplets. Classical composer and Persian performer, Amir Vahab, will perform the poems with his ensemble to music following Mojaddedi’s dialogue.
The Traveling Word: A West African Epic
Thursday, November 19, 2015 | 6 PM
Central Library | 500 McKinney St., 77002