Happy Birthday Rumi. 1207-forever



Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion
or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up
from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,
am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam or Eve or any
origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.
I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

Mevlana Rumi

The tomb of  Sufi poetess Rabi’a Balkhi, in Rumi’s birthplace, Balkh, present-day Afghanistan.
Words from “Be Lost in the Call” by Rumi

When the affair – and the poems – were discovered, her outraged brother stuck Rabi in this dungeon. The stories that come down to us vary. Either Rabi slit her own wrist in despair or the angry brother did it for her. In any event, it’s believed Rabi spent her dying moments writing her final and best poem on the walls of her prison in her own blood.

Balkh, once a glorious trade route capital of architectural splendour – Alexander the Great married his beauteous Roxanne here – was sacked by Genghis Khan and utterly destroyed. It has risen only fitfully from those ashes, eclipsed in modernity by nearby Mazar-i-Sharif, but there’s something dreamy and magical about the place still, appropriate for myth and magic and love among the ruins.

The tomb’s genuineness is solid enough for the lovelorn who come looking for inspiration in solving their own romantic problems, or just pleading for a special someone to enter their lives.

In a country where marriages are arranged and love considered an inessential folly – at best, something a couple grows into after they exchange vows – passion is a veiled emotion, as hidden as a woman’s face. There is no touching, no courting, no intimacy for a boy and a girl – yet sparks can fly nonetheless, through layers of burqa and eons of cultural convention.

The heart wants what it wants, even in Afghanistan.

It is touching, then, on a fine spring afternoon, to watch teenage girls, shy but tittering, as they cluster around Rabi’a Balkhi’s shrine, making their own little pilgrimage to romance.

Upon leaving, it is customary to tie strips of cloth to what remains of the bars that once shuttered the crypt, to remind the poetess of their quest.

An old gatekeeper squats by the entrance as he has, apparently, for decades, a self-appointed guardian of the sanctuary. He is surrounded by the oddest assortment of handmaidens, not lovely Graces but crones and hags. In return for alms, they will offer up prayers to their poetess-mistress for requited love and happily ever after.

Based on an article by Rosie DiManno in The Star

One thought on “Happy Birthday Rumi. 1207-forever

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