This is what I am: sometimes hidden, sometimes seen.
Sometimes a momin, sometimes Jew or Christian,
Able to fit into any heart,
Taking on a new face every day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Rumi? Why now?

UNESCO declared 2007 as the Year of the Mevlana; a year of love and understanding. But, how can we make every year one of love and understanding? Or, at least, how can we embrace and accept our differences, see our similarities, and agree on a world vision free of hatred?

Viewers of this blog are invited to post their comments and ideas on this question so as to set in motion a meaningful dialogue that will connect people who may not otherwise be connected.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rumi: Music and visual poetry

Understanding metaphor is vital to interpreting Rumi’s verse. While his message of Love is specific to the love of God, his overall message of tolerance is one of dismantling borders between religions, races, and ethnicities.

Many scholars have said that English translations of Rumi’s poetry have taken great liberty in poetic license, but the essential messages are applicable today. Common humanity is above all else.

It has been said that Rumi remained optimistic even though he suffered deeply. In times of suffering, fundamentalism, and rampant terrorism, the human race must remain optimistic that change will come, however slowly. That understanding, tolerance, and nonviolence will reign over religious factions and national borders.

Part of the beauty of Rumi’s poetry is that it can be appreciated by anyone. Everyone’s level of understanding may differ, but everyone can benefit from Rumi’s message of tolerance. Art, if it reaches the masses, has the power to raise people above suffering. Rumi the Fire of Love comes after a long hiatus from film. Muzaffar Ali has been focusing on fashion design endeavors as well as many other projects. As he explained in the first issue of Hu magazine, an endeavor of the Rumi Foundation, music has the potential to lift people’s spirits. Having organized annual Sufi music festivals around Mevlana Rumi and Indo-Persian Sufi poet, Amir Khusrau, Ali hopes the singing in these musical performances “should be accepted.” He has described the festival, Jahan-e-Khusrau as creating “a kind of spell which gives you that direct connection between the divine and yourself.” Adding that, “divinity is brought down to the audience; the audience becomes divinity personified…they get bathed in a light and their whole aura changes.”

As music has proved so powerful in these performances, it will also be a pivotal aspect of Rumi the Fire of Love. For audiences, both East and West, Ali’s latest film endeavor promises to be a thoughtful and vivid visual and auditory experience that will hopefully provoke audiences of all backgrounds to imagine the possibilities of living in a world without borders.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Inner and outer journeys

Jami, Sir Mohammed Iqbal (national poet of Pakistan), Gandhi and Pope John XXIII have spoken very highly of Rumi, to a name a few. Rumi's poetry has inspired singers from Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, India and Pakistan; flute players from Turkey. Now, it is time for Rumi to inspire yet another generation through film.

Film acts as a medium of visual poetry, allowing audiences to break free of their everyday experiences and become wrapped up in deeper worlds of existence. Muzaffar Ali's latest passionate endeavor, Rumi the Fire of Love, seeks to reach out to everyone--youth especially--in order that they may seek deeper connections between their inner and outer worlds. For, like the film, there are both inner and outer journeys to be experienced in life. Coming to know the self and the self's relation to greater forces--irrespective of religion or belief--helps us to come to know others. Rumi, a humanist to many and poet to all, has inspired every generation. In times of turmoil, whether it be acts of terrorism like those seen on 13 September in Delhi or everyday violence on the street, perhaps it is best to remember one of his poignant lines from I Have Relinqueshed Duality...

I am neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Magian,
nor Muslim.
I am not of the East nor of the West, not of the land nor of the sea.
I am not from nature's mine, nor from the circling spheres.
I am not of earth, nor water, nor wind, nor fire.
I am not of the heavens, nor dust, nor existence, nor entity.
I am not of India, nor China, not of Bulghar,
nor Saqsin...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Journey from page to silver screen

The spiritual journey of renowned 13th century Sufi poet, known widely today as Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, will spring from page to silver screen when Rumi: The Fire of Love hits theatres. Now in pre-production, shooting of the film is set to start in December 2008. After 20 revisions to the script and much hard work, eight years later, director Muzaffar Ali's vision is finally coming to fruition. Ali's first film in more than 20 years, Rumi: The Fire of Love appeals to youth today who want to change the world, but who do not know how to do so. The Fire of Love is the story of one man's struggle with the search for knowledge to the discovery of the Path of Divine Truth. It is also the story of today's human quest to cast aside the boundaries that separate religions and find peace in a world where clashing beliefs can co-exist without violence and without threat of annihilation.

Like whirling dervishes seeking to become closer to the Divine, we are all engaged in a dance to become closer to ourselves, closer to our beliefs--whatever they may be--and find tranquility in one another. Rumi's journey to show that there is not only one Truth remains relevant in today's world; religion should not be forced upon us nor should it forge boundaries between brethren or justify war.
Likewise, The Fire of Love promises to be a vast, visual epic which comes from the heart rather than from East or West.