Monday, October 01, 2007

"I'm a Moth Who's Not Afraid of Burning"

By Charles Haviland - BBC News South Asia - Balkh, Afghanistan
Sunday, September 30, 2007

A young Afghan archaeologist, Reza Hosseini, took me to the ruins of the mud-and-brick-built khanaqa - a kind of madrassa or religious school - where Rumi's father taught and the young boy is believed to have studied, lying just outside the old mud city walls and probably within yards of his birthplace.

It is a quiet and melancholy place, the structure eroded and encroached on by shrubs and bushes.

But an amazing amount of it is still standing - the square structure, its four arches with pointed tops, in the Islamic style, and half of the graceful dome.

Mr Hosseini says the floor was originally constructed of baked bricks and lined with carpets donated by those who came to share the learning.

Sufism - or Islamic mysticism - was already enshrined here before Rumi's time and Mr Hosseini imagines that this corner of the town, by the madrassa, would have echoed to the sound of Sufi singing and prayer.

Rumi's greatest poetic work, the Mathnawi, describes the soul's separation from God and hers yearning to reunite.

With his injunctions of tolerance and love, Rumi has universal appeal, says Abdul Qadir Misbah, a culture specialist in the Balkh provincial government.

"Whether a person is from East or West, he can feel the roar of Rumi," he says.

"When a religious scholar reads the Mathnawi, he interprets it religiously. And when sociologists study it, they say how powerful a sociologist Rumi was. When people in the West study it, they see that it's full of emotions of humanity."

The Sufi mystical tradition is not immediately apparent in modern Afghanistan, but with Mr Hosseini's help, I traced a small group of eight Sufi musicians in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif whose great love is Rumi's poetry.

First there is a solo from Rumi's favoured instrument, the reed flute. Then the flute player is joined by Mohammed Zakir, usually a shopkeeper, who fills the room with his powerful voice in interpreting the words:

"I'm a man who's not afraid of love;
I'm a moth who's not afraid of burning".

In the third song, all the men join in with an extraordinary, percussive vocal sound which, Mr Zakir says, comes straight from the heart. It continues for nearly 10 intense minutes.

According to Professor Abdulah Rohen, a local expert on the poet, Rumi brought Sufi mysticism away from asceticism and into the heart of the people.

Many western fans of Rumi have secularised his message, which was in fact a religious one; and, says Prof Rohen, Christians and Jews as well as Muslims flocked to his funeral.

I ask him to sum up the poet's message and he offers a quote:

"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."

1 comment:

irving said...

This article has been all over the web, and I am glad it it here, as it is a really good one :)

Ya Haqq!

Monday, October 01, 2007

"I'm a Moth Who's Not Afraid of Burning"
By Charles Haviland - BBC News South Asia - Balkh, Afghanistan
Sunday, September 30, 2007

A young Afghan archaeologist, Reza Hosseini, took me to the ruins of the mud-and-brick-built khanaqa - a kind of madrassa or religious school - where Rumi's father taught and the young boy is believed to have studied, lying just outside the old mud city walls and probably within yards of his birthplace.

It is a quiet and melancholy place, the structure eroded and encroached on by shrubs and bushes.

But an amazing amount of it is still standing - the square structure, its four arches with pointed tops, in the Islamic style, and half of the graceful dome.

Mr Hosseini says the floor was originally constructed of baked bricks and lined with carpets donated by those who came to share the learning.

Sufism - or Islamic mysticism - was already enshrined here before Rumi's time and Mr Hosseini imagines that this corner of the town, by the madrassa, would have echoed to the sound of Sufi singing and prayer.

Rumi's greatest poetic work, the Mathnawi, describes the soul's separation from God and hers yearning to reunite.

With his injunctions of tolerance and love, Rumi has universal appeal, says Abdul Qadir Misbah, a culture specialist in the Balkh provincial government.

"Whether a person is from East or West, he can feel the roar of Rumi," he says.

"When a religious scholar reads the Mathnawi, he interprets it religiously. And when sociologists study it, they say how powerful a sociologist Rumi was. When people in the West study it, they see that it's full of emotions of humanity."

The Sufi mystical tradition is not immediately apparent in modern Afghanistan, but with Mr Hosseini's help, I traced a small group of eight Sufi musicians in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif whose great love is Rumi's poetry.

First there is a solo from Rumi's favoured instrument, the reed flute. Then the flute player is joined by Mohammed Zakir, usually a shopkeeper, who fills the room with his powerful voice in interpreting the words:

"I'm a man who's not afraid of love;
I'm a moth who's not afraid of burning".

In the third song, all the men join in with an extraordinary, percussive vocal sound which, Mr Zakir says, comes straight from the heart. It continues for nearly 10 intense minutes.

According to Professor Abdulah Rohen, a local expert on the poet, Rumi brought Sufi mysticism away from asceticism and into the heart of the people.

Many western fans of Rumi have secularised his message, which was in fact a religious one; and, says Prof Rohen, Christians and Jews as well as Muslims flocked to his funeral.

I ask him to sum up the poet's message and he offers a quote:

"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."

1 comment:

irving said...

This article has been all over the web, and I am glad it it here, as it is a really good one :)

Ya Haqq!