Discovering Rumi

Shehrazad had to tell a story in order to survive. She told such interesting and compelling stories that Shehrayar couldn’t resist but let her live one more night and then another and then another. After one thousand and one night , Shehrayar gets attached and forgets his murderous desire.

In December of 2001, my husband and I went on a three day vacation to Victoria city on Vancouver Island. I was feeling depressed about the “about to happen” war on Afghanistan, thinking about all the orphaned children and widowed women. That country has been through so much, Russian occupation, civil war, Taliban regime and now the Americans. On our last day in Victoria, we visit a bookstore. Browsing around I notice a poetry book on sale for 10.00 dollars. The introduction said that the poet was born in Afghanistan and that the poetry has been translated from Persian to English. I wanted to read something beautiful that came from Afghanistan to offset the haunting images of refugees on the news every night. I am tired of seeing images of women that look like walking tents and men with long beards saying harsh words. “For 10 dollars it will be a cheap diversion”, I thought to myself. Plus I haven’t read much poetry since I was into Ahmed Muttar in my teens. While waiting for the ferry to take us back to Vancouver, the loud speakers announce that our ferry will be delayed by 3 hours due to windy weather. My husband and I move to the main terminal and after walking around a bit and drinking coffee, we get bored. Both of us sit down and start reading; I pull out my newly purchased book. Boom! There it was. Rumi.

How does a part of the world leave the world?

How can wetness leave


Don’t try to put out a fire

by throwing on more fire!

Don’t wash a wound with blood!

No matter how fast you run,


shadow more than keeps up.

Sometimes, it’s in front!

Only full,

overhead sun

diminishes your shadow.

But that shadow has been serving


What hurts you blesses you.

Darkness is your candle.


boundaries are your quest.

I can explain this, but it would break


glass cover on your heart,

And there’s no fixing that.

You must have

shadow and light source both.

Listen, and lay your head under the tree of


“The Essential Rumi ” a translation of Rumi poetry by Coleman Barks. I started reading it every night before going to bed and I would have beautiful and vivid dreams like I never had before. One night I dreamed of a beautiful garden with flowers of every color. Peacocks walking around and a full rainbow stretched across the horizon.

George Bush tells us about fighting terrorism and evil, Osama Bin Laden wants to convert the infidels and Rumi says.

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing

there is a field. I’ll meet

you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is

too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other

doesn’t make any sense.

I read in an article that Rumi poetry is the most commonly read poetry on Afghani radio. I also read in a separate article that Rumi is the most sold poetry in the US. People in both countries must have something in common. The thought warmed my heart.

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,

Buddhist, sufi or zen. Not any


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


of elements at all, I do not exist,

I am not an entity in this world or the


did not descend from Adam and 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


first, last, outer, inner, only that

breath breathing human


There is a way between voice and presence

where information


In disciplined silence it opens.

With wandering talk it closes.

It took me so long to figure this out on my own. Why wasn’t I given this Rumi poem when I was 12? Right at the time I started asking who am I? and where do I belong? It might have saved me years of turmoil, oh well it doesn’t matter, I have arrived at last.

I never thought that a book of poetry could change my life. That it would change my perspective so.

I don’t feel sorry for Afghani people any more, I envy them, because they can understand the original Persian these Rumi poems were written in. I will try to learn as much as I can by quietly observing on the side.

Dear Zeyad, some of us are feeling a bit down, tell us something beautiful from Iraq. Tell us a story. If we tell interesting and compelling stories, shooting us becomes harder. There will be another day and another and another and another.

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