• Image: According to the BBC: “It is believed that Rumi would turn round and round while reciting his poetry, and it is this dance which formed the basis for the Mevlevi Order, or Whirling Dervishes, after his death. Dervish means doorway, and the dance is believed to be a mystical portal between the earthly and cosmic worlds.”
  • Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد رومی‎), also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, and more popularly simply as Rumi (30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273), was a Persian poet, faqih, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic originally from Greater Khorasan.
  • Jamal Mehmood (جمال محمود) is “a writer, poet and committed people watcher living in Kent and working in London….Jamal also works in arts and cultural affairs for Restless Beings – a human rights organisation focusing on marginalised communities. He loves Yasiin Bey, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Urdu/Punjabi: نصرت فتح علی خان) and Nina Simone.”
  • Contains Strong Language is the BBC’s national poetry and spoken word festival, with coverage on national and local radio and TV. It is a partnership between the BBC, Wrecking Ball Press, The Arts Council, Absolutely Cultured, 14-18 NOW and The British Council.

This week’s edition of Radio 4’s Beyond Belief (available via BBC Sounds), broadcast from Contains Strong Language at Hull, was a discussion chaired by Ernie Rea about the appeal of Rumi. Jamal Mehmood was one of the contributors, and said:

“Yeah, I guess the influence is far more subtle than, you know, I’m a poet who’s very influenced by Rumi. I wouldn’t say that my work is considered Sufi poetry at all. There’s elements of that in there that find their way in because of who I am and what I practise, but it’s more an understanding that there is something beyond the, kind of, the black and white of books and rules – which is something that has been acknowledged by many Muslim cultures for so many hundreds of years

But I think there’s just a broader trend, especially right now about – I guess in liberal western society, however you want to call it – in the West this leaning towards eastern spirituality without its root, right. We have “mindfulness” and “headspace” and apps that teach you to meditate, and all these kind of things that are borrowing things from eastern traditions, be it Islam or Buddhism, and I think Rūmī fits quite neatly into that.

I was looking yesterday: there was over a million posts on Instagram with the hashtag Rumi – whether any of them are actually using Rūmī quotes, or his actual poetry, or what they’re doing is completely separate – but they’re all using this kind of catch all term of Rumi, of Sufism maybe, of spirituality – that whole popular term, probably more so in the States, that “I’m spiritual, not religious”. It’s complicated: I think for me there is a danger of stripping Islam from Rumi.”

When the contributors were asked to quote their favourite lines from Rumi, Jamal chose:

Somewhere beyond the realms of belief and disbelief there is a field: I will meet you there”.

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