Dr. Akbar Ahmed brings the full breadth of knowledge of the history of Islam as well as its contemporary context to “Rumi Returning.” He is a tireless activist for peace among different faiths and cultures through education and dialogue, perhaps best exemplified by his participation in Muslim-Jewish Dialogues with Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl.
Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, Dr. Ahmed is “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam,” according to the BBC. He is regularly interviewed on the BBC, CNN, CBC, and ARY TV, and he has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Night Line. Dr. Ahmed is narrator of “The Glories of Islamic Art”, a three-part television series for Channel 5, UK. Among numerous articles and books, he is author of Islam Under Siege, Islam Today, and Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (recently published by Brookings Institution Press). He was the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain and is Trustee of the World Faiths Development Dialogue. He received the first Gandhi Center Fellowship of Peace Award.
Coleman Barks offers what many in the West consider to be Rumi’s voice to “Rumi Returning,” as his translations are much of the reason the 13th century Muslim poet is the best-selling poet here. In his own Western way, Coleman embodies the eloquent teacher-poet and eternal student of life that Rumi himself was. In Coleman Barks we come to know the phenomenon that is the immense popularity of Rumi’s poetry.
Coleman Barks was Professor of Creative Writing and Poetry at the University of Georgia for 30 years. He is widely considered the premier English interpreter of Rumi and the reason Rumi is the most widely read poet in the U.S. He is translator of The Essential Rumi (with John Moyne), which sold more than 300,000 copies, and 15 other books on Rumi, to include The Soul of Rumi. He was featured in the film “Rumi: Poet of the Heart” and subject of a segment in Bill Moyers’ “Language of Life” series on PBS. A poet himself with works such as Gourd Seed, Coleman Barks is featured in Bill Moyers’ poetry special “Fooling with Words.”
As the foremost mystical scholar of our time, Andrew Harvey contributes a deep and intimate grasp of Rumi’s mystical path of Sufism to "Rumi Returning." Through his radiant explanations, we learn the crucial message Rumi offers our world at this moment of crisis.
Andrew Harvey was the youngest ever to be awarded a fellowship to All Soul’s College at Oxford, England’s highest academic honor, and a teacher at Oxford and Cornell Universities, among others. He was subject of the BBC documentary “The Making of a Modern Mystic” and created his own film based on his original concept of “Sacred Activism”. Andrew Harvey has been expert commentator in “Rumi Turning Ecstatic” and “The Consciousness of The Christ: Reclaiming Jesus for a New Humanity”. He was collaborator on The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and is a translator of Rumi and author of books on Rumi and Sufism, such as Light Upon Light, The Way of Passion, and Teachings of Rumi.
Üzeyir Özyurt (pronounced Ooh-zeh-eer Urz-yoort) brings the invaluable insights of someone living the Sufi dervish path directly inspired by Mevlâna Jalâluddin Rumi. He lives only steps away from where the spiritual master and poet lived much of his life. Describing himself as Sufis often do as a "fakir," an Arabic word meaning "poor man," in the sense of "blessed are the poor in spirit," Üzeyir was born and still lives in Konya, Turkey. At the age of 12, he began his study of Sufi teachings and old Arabic at a highly disciplined Sufi monastery. In his own words, he and his 150 fellow students "had to educate our ego (nafs) for serving and respect for others." For five years of immersion, he did not see his family.
At Konya University, Üzeyir studied French literature. Since then, he has studied Italian, English, Spanish, and German languages, which he uses in his travels to lecture about Mevlâna and Sufism, or to network with international seekers visiting his Dervish Brothers Center for information about Rumi. Üzeyir's uncle was the director of the Mevlâna (Rumi) museum. Üzeyir grew up in Rumi’s light (and shadow).
Üzeyir considers these as the highlights of his life: Meeting the great teacher Mevlevi Suleyman Hayati Dede in his last year; making Zikr (prayer of remembrance) during the Mevlâna celebration with Master Nuri Baba's Mevlevi dergah (prayer group); and coming to know Celalettin Celebi and other descendants of Rumi's family.