In “RUMI RETURNING,” Rumi expert Andrew Harvey, makes this connection between Rumi’s chaotic, violent times and ours: “That instability of the world drove him in the deepest level to try and find what is permanent, what will last, what is eternal. And I think that this may be one of the greatest reasons for the intensity of his search, just as it is one of the greatest reasons for the intensity of the mystical search that we see all over the world at the moment.”
“Our prophet’s way is the way of love.
We are children of love.
And our mother is love…
Come, join us. We are lovers of God;
join us so we open for you the doors of the garden of love…”
Unlike other films about Rumi, we emphasize the context from which this Sufi mystic came: the rich history and traditions that bore him. With special permission from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, our camera was able to capture locales and landmarks that were familiar to him in his daily life, as well as antiquities and artwork rarely glimpsed in the West but important to Islam or serving as spiritual and cultural foundation for Rumi’s place in time. Our camera lovingly scans magnificent mosques such as the Selimiye Mosque (Edirne, Turkey), considered one of the finest in Islam, as well as stunning statues like the world famous Artemis (Ephesus Museum) and legendary locations (Troy, Ephesus, Sille) symbolic of great cultures that predated Rumi.
Commentator Akbar Ahmed, Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, places Rumi in both his historical and theological context.
“When Rumi arrives, he’s not coming out of nowhere; he’s not coming on a blank slate.” In one fascinating sequence, Dr. Ahmed tells us about Rumi being caught “in the eye of the storm” of his times, between the Crusaders on one side and the Mongols on the other, but rising above to provide the world with solace and compassion. In another, he describes one of Rumi’s precursors: Rabi'a, considered by many to be the originator of the way that Sufis such as Rumi relate to the Divine as their "Beloved".
We present in high definition the mesmerizing dance of the Whirling Dervishes he inspired by his own rapturous turning. We witness this prayerful dance known as “the Semâ” in all of its glory and mystery. We begin to grasp its transcendent meaning.
“I have no name for that which circles so perfectly. . .”
“RUMI RETURNING” reveals “high definition” truths of his Sufic path, in the past veiled by secrecy and profundity, and rarely heard in this part of our world. The foremost mystical scholar of our moment, Andrew Harvey, explains “rare and subtle points” about Sufism, which is notoriously difficult to define. He stresses the importance of Islam’s Prophet to Sufism and compares it with other belief streams, especially Christianity, with which many Westerners can best identify.
Even if not Christian, spiritual seekers will find the comparisons between Islam and Christianity a highlight, as we did while immersing ourselves in Islam to create “RUMI RETURNING” just after mining the essential inner truths of Jesus in our most recent full-length documentary, “THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE CHRIST: RECLAIMING JESUS FOR A NEW HUMANITY.” (Read more.) Although there are distinctive differences, the similarities between“people of the book” (as Muslims refer to Christians, Jews, and Muslims) are both surprising and inspiring. We also were intrigued by comparisons between Sufism and Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Zoroastrianism.
Sometimes we forget how all of these great faiths have coexisted peacefully at different times and places in history, how ways of thinking can influence and enrich each other without endangering. This quatrain of Rumi’s, for example, is found carved in stone over the door of a Christian church in Shiraz (Iran):
“Where Jesus lives, the great-hearted gather.
We are a door that’s never locked.
If you are suffering any kind of pain,
Stay near this door. Open it.”
“The sufi opens his hands to the universe
and gives away each instant, free.
Like someone who begs on the street
for money to survive,
a dervish begs to give you his life.”
At this very moment Western ignorance and fear of Islam and the Middle East endangers our very existence. Yet, as if to reverse this, Rumi, born into what is now Afghanistan and speaking and writing primarily in Persian, has become the top-selling poet in the United States. Translated into an accessible, resonant English idiom by poet Coleman Barks, Kabir Helminski, Andrew Harvey, and others, Rumi’s luminous poetry continues to grow in popularity in America, even since 9-11. Having sold an unprecedented half a million copies in a country where there is no spiritual tradition of poetry as in the East and where poetry doesn’t usually sell, Rumi is to contemporary poetry what the Beatles were to music—but more: a phenomenon whose universal message of love and peace resonates with the deep Western desire for sacred connection and its dire need to understand Islam and the Middle East.
Thus, we offer “RUMI RETURNING” as a way to educate the West about Islam and Islam’s heart: Sufism. But the movie is more: we intend it to validate the intense Eastern yearning for respect and to inspire Muslims to respect this beautiful Sufi way. Fusing these two goals, we have been holding screenings that feature inter-faith dialogues afterward. We believe such events can help to bring our splintered world together.
“What is to be done, Oh, Muslims
For I do not recognize myself.
I am neither Christian, nor
Jew . . .nor Muslim.
I am not of the east, nor of
the west . . .”
As Dr. Ahmed tells us: “If there’s one motto that the post-9-11 world needs to adopt, I would say it should be a line from Rumi, in which he says, ‘I go to the synagogue, I go to the church, I go to the mosque, and I see the same altar, and I feel the same spirit.’ It is the embodiment of the universal spirit without which I’m afraid in the 21st century—and I can say this with great confidence—we as a world civilization, are lost.”
Ahmed knows what he is talking about: after arriving in the United States just two weeks prior to 9/11, he has made it his mission to assist in bringing our ever-diverse world together by educating the West about the three different models of Islam he describes as mystical (Sufi), orthodox, and modernist. He’s been traveling the Muslim world surveying Muslims to aid our understanding of divergent views within Islam about Islam during this time of rampant globalization. He chronicles his findings in his book Journey Into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization. His conclusion is that the Sufi model, “which embodies pluralism and acceptance of others, is perhaps the only one that can lead Muslims out of the ethnic, religious, and political conflicts that globalization has thrust on them and that they continue to ignore at their peril.”
Thus, Rumi’s chosen path becomes the key to world peace! His mystical way, whose secrets were transmitted to him from Shams’ heart and with which Rumi’s heart extends to us, is the way of Love.
“A secret turning in us
makes the universe turn.”
Rumi himself predicted that his and Shams' love would someday "rain down" to turn the earth green. There is not one ounce of coincidence in the fact that Rumi is as popular as he is today. His love is "raining down" just as he said it would! His universal mysticism is "returning" to us now when we need it the most! We are happy to bring "RUMI RETURNING" to our world when we need him the most!