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What is to be done, O Moslems? For I do not recognize myself.

I am neither Christian nor Jew nor Gabr nor Moslem.

I am not of the East, nor of the West, nor of the land, nor of the sea;

I am not of Nature’s mint, nor of the circling heavens.

I am not of the earth, nor of water, nor of air, nor of fire;

I am not of the empyrean, nor of the dust, nor of existence, nor of entity…

I am not of this world, nor of the next, nor of Paradise, nor of hell.

My place is the Placeless, my trace is the Traceless;

’Tis neither body nor soul, for I belong to the soul of the Beloved.

I have put duality away, I have seen that the two worlds are one;

One I seek, One I know, One I see, One I call.

He is the first, He is the last, He is the outward, He is the inward…. — trans. R. A. Nicholson, Diwan of Shams-i-Tabriz


Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207–1273), is the exemplar of the Muslim version of the “Renaissance Man.” A poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic, “Rumi” (as he is known in the West) is also the founder of the Mawlawiyah Sufi Order, which is better known as the Order of Whirling Dervishes. Adding to his luster as a spark that set Persian culture on fire in the 13th Century, Rumi wrote in the new Persian language — confirming the ascendancy of the Persian literary renaissance begun in the early 9th Century. In 2007, the 800th anniversary of his birth, he was described by the BBC as the “most popular poet in America.”

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