Central Konya province of Turkey has once again become a pillar connecting various cultures across the world as scores of people flocked to the city to mark the 748th anniversary of the passing of Mevlana Jalaluddin al-Rumi -- a distinguished Islamic scholar, poet, and Sufi mystic.
Despite the rain, snowfall, and freezing temperature in Konya, the Mevlana Museum – where Rumi’s tomb is located – hosted tens of thousands of people who wanted to learn more about the man of wisdom, his spiritualism, and "divine love for the Almighty."
Among the visitors was Ajay Shrivastav, 51, who said he had met the work of Rumi some 20 years ago and his life had been greatly touched and influenced by the philosophy of the enigmatic scholar.
The Indian man first heard about Rumi while in New York, where he spent 18 years before moving to Amsterdam.
“I’ve been following his studies, his philosophy, and what has always attracted me is the pure love for God. I come from an Indian background and we follow Krishna that has the same philosophy: Love for God,” he said.
Shrivastav went on to say that the Sufi culture and music were “soulful,” prompting spiritual satisfaction creating a “self-connection” moment for him whenever he viewed such artwork.
“After 20 years of knowing Mevlana (Rumi), he sent me an invitation this year and my whole family is here,” he said, adding that every minute in Rumi’s presence was like a moment of tranquility.
An English couple, Simon and Gayle Clark, were impressed by the whirling dervishes’ dance performance held as part of the commemorative event “Seb-i Arus,” or “the wedding night,” marking the passing of Rumi.
The Sema ritual, declared one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, is performed by the members of the Mevlevi Order -- also known as the Order of the Whirling Dervishes -- that was founded by followers of Rumi after his passing.
“I did not really understand it (ritual) until I came here, the background of it,” said Gayle, but noted that the performance she watched was mesmerizing and helped her grasp the concept of Rumi’s spiritualism.
Simon, a retired police officer, said he had seen a lot of Muslim societies in Leicester city but did not have any contact with them, while his experience in Konya, Turkey was an enhancing one and helped him see another aspect of Islam.
Manuela Gherghel from Romania said she had never thought Rumi’s influence over different geographies was that big and she was surprised to see so many people of different cultures and countries paying tributes to him by his tomb.
“I knew he was a spiritual master and had a big influence, but I did not know that his influence was so enormous,” said Gherghel, a 57-year-old French language teacher.
“... We saw the festival program (Whirling dervishes’ ritual) yesterday, it was very impressive because of the Sufi music, deep and profound feelings,” she said. “You don't need to understand the world to feel the message. ... We are discovering all here now.”
She further noted that the ritual was an enigmatic event that helped her think not only about God but also the “wheel of existence” surrounding every human being, adding he was already known in Romania, mostly as a poet, with most of his works translated.
Wali Ismael, 28, traveled all the way from Malaysia to pay tribute to Rumi and said Sufism was pretty big in his country as many people respected the teachings of this school of thought.
Ismael, a farmer, said: “Spiritualism and mysticism are parts of Islam, so coming to a prominent place like this is quite good for me.”
He said Sufi was a globally renowned poet and the passion for art related to Sufism and its teachings drove countless people to Turkey and he was glad to be one of them./aa