HOW RUMI INSPIRES YOUNG AFGHANS
What is it like to use Rumi’s words to flirt or rebel in life? Or to figure out how you want to live your life in the first place? Five youth from all over Afghanistan use central themes from Rumi’s poetry and life to explain this in short and personal stories.
The story of Nasanin: ‘How can I ever live without you?’
Rumi was mad with grief when Shams, his kindred spirit and great spiritual love, suddenly disappeared. Without his heartache we might have never even heard of Rumi, as it turned out to be an all-defining moment in his life. After the wandering dervish Shams had opened Rumi’s mystic eyes in Konya the two became inseparable; disconnected from the outside world and completely carried away by each other’s presence.
When Shams disappeared, Rumi began a panicked hunt. He even travelled to Damascus in Syria. Rumi then arrives at a great insight: ‘What am I actually searching for? Anything you lose comes round in another form. I was looking for myself all this time.’ It is not until that moment, when he is 41 years old, that Rumi starts making poetry – as an ode to his love for Shams – and for God through this love. The final twelve years of his life Rumi composed his masterpiece, the Masnavi.
Nasanin (21) lives in Herat, close to Iran in the West of Afghanistan. Rumi’s poems helped when she had to cope with a great loss in life.
The story of Farkhonda – ‘The fire of your love’
Dating or falling in love with someone of your own choice is not the most common path of romance in Afghanistan. Mothers usually choose a suitable bride for their sons. In progressive families in big cities such as Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif, however, youngsters are granted more and more space to explore a different kind of love.
The language and practices for modern love in Afghanistan are still a work in progress. That is why young Afghans are creating their own love stories using snippets of romantic love that they came across before. This results often in a cheesy mix of Bollywood films, Turkish soap series and: Rumi’s poetry.
Romance in Afghanistan:
Turkish soap series
Farkhonda reads a poem of Rumi on her mobile phone
Rumi’s poems about being madly in love and wild desires are perfectly suited for sending sweet chat messages and flirtatious texts. Rumi’s poetry, dedicated to the love for God, is now also used for the earthly kind of love– in Afghanistan and in rest of the world too.
Zakia (not her real name) is from Mazer-e Sharif. “I noticed Omid around at the university campus. He heard from friends that I am into Rumi, so when he finally made a move, Rumi was the first topic of our conversation. He was talking about the first and famous two lines of the Masnavi. ‘What do they really mean? What was Rumi trying to say, you think?, he said. Many many more conversations followed after that first one. And we always met under the guise of learning and discussing Rumi. It was the perfect excuse to spend a lot of time together. Reading Rumi’s poetry of love together is very intimate. Later on, Rumi’s words helped us to admit we had fall in love with each other.”
Farkhonda also got to know her husband through a shared love for Rumi. How does that work, having Rumi as the same source of inspiration for worshipping God and flirting with your boyfriend?
Masooma’s story: ‘Unfold your own myth’
An entire Afghan generation is growing up in war, but in the major cities youth also experience more personal freedom then their parents ever did. And for young women, the freedom to believe and do what they themselves want is often hard-won, with the support of their parents being of crucial help.
This new-found freedom is exciting, but can feel scary and confusing too. What do you really want from life? What choices will you make? Rumi’s poetry, with reoccurring encouragements to figure out and design the life you want to live, can be of guidance in this regard. Because in Rumi’s world, one should never simply accept things as they are; your own lived experiences and discoveries are always more important and true than what books or other people say.
Masooma’s father struggled for his children to have more freedom and education than he had in life. After graduating, Masooma moves to Kabul to take up a job as a journalist. This is where she starts to re-read Rumi: from everyday lullabies her father used to tell, to poetic advise in her new life in the big city.
Masooma’s family is from Uruzgan. She grew up with Rumi listening to her father’s stories during cold winter nights.
Listen to Masooma’s search to understand Rumi her own way: ‘Whenever I open the Masnavi, Rumi is sitting right in front of me.’
Mahdi’s story: ‘Be grateful for whoever comes’
It is one of Rumi’s most loved and well-known poems: ‘This being human is a guesthouse.’ The poem teaches us that pain and suffering are always part of life. Rumi encourages to not identify with hardships and problems: ‘They will pass, for everything is only temporary.’ The guesthouses Rumi writes about were, in his time, no ordinary hotels, but caravanserais: places where traders and their camels came to rest and relax.
Mahdi (37) is a youth worker from Balkh, the birthplace of Rumi. He works in a ‘cultural container’, a creative hub where young people can come to talk, paint, make music – or simply to relax. Like a modern-day caravanserai in Afghanistan, with Mahdi as its welcoming host.
Mahdi reads the famous poem to find perspective in his own worries: ‘I know that everyone is struggling with something.’
Yekta’s story: ‘Find your wild mind.’
Yekta is 23 years old and wants to shake up and provoke the establishment. She wants to make her own rules and speaks her mind in wild, feminist and sometimes erotic poetry. As an admirer of Rumi’s poetry, she writes hers in a similar style: without rules and about anything that comes to her mind.
An important message of Rumi’s poems is to awaken your heart in order to find your ‘wild mind’. It is only then that you will be able to un-learn that which you believed to be the only existing truth. This is what Rumi calls the ‘jungle’ in your head, the place that houses the self-invented ideas about who you ought to be.
It is said that Rumi once threw all his books into a fountain. Until then, he had been a famous and devout theologist and teacher. But after meeting his soulmate Shams, he starts to study and believe in a very different way. Instead of reading books, he awakens his heart with the wandering dervish Shams, by having ecstatic and endless conversations.
Yekta started writing poems four years ago: ‘Whenever I write, I feel liberated from my thoughts.’
She wants be free from what other people believe she should be or do. In a poem she turns the world as it is upside down. (Yekta recorded and edited the video herself):
In the guestbook of The Rumi Remedy you find more short and personal stories from youth in Afghanistan, Turkey and the Netherlands.
From Afghanistan, where Rumi was born, the Rumi Remedy now continues with stories from Turkey. After a years-long journey from Balkh, the family of Rumi arrives in Konya, now part of Turkey. Rumi will stay here the biggest part of his life. In the next chapter, youth from Konya tell a completely different story from their peers in Afghanistan. They are fed up with how Rumi’s heritage is used for commercial and political gain in Turkey. Growing up as Rumi fans, they are now disillusioned with the story of the peace-loving and tolerant poet.