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Embassy Hosts Rumi Scholars from Around the World

On September 28, the Embassy of Afghanistan hosted dozens of scholars who were in the Washington metro region as part of a University of Maryland Center for Persian Studies international conference on Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi (1207-1273), known in the West as Rumi.

The Persian poet is widely read both in his birthplace of Afghanistan and throughout the world, and has recently been honored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) declaration of 2007, the 800th anniversary of the poet’s birth, as the International Rumi Year.

The reception occurred in the midst of three days of lectures, discussions and performances exploring the legacy and universal vision of Rumi. “Rumi is Afghanistan’s gift to the world. His words are as relevant today as they have been throughout the centuries. They have inspired artists and preoccupied scholars for hundreds of generations. We are lucky to have the latest generation of Rumi scholars today, a very rare and special gathering of passionate admirers and distinguished intellectuals,” said Ambassador Said T. Jawad.

To explore the legacy of Rumi 800 years after his death, the BBC and other news organizations traveled to Balkh, where they brought their viewers to the ruins of the mud-and-brick-built khanaqa (religious school) where Rumi's father taught. Though two centuries short of a thousand years old, the square structure still stands.

Afghans who were interviewed spoke of their great love for the poet’s words, and agreed that his appeal extends to both the Eastern and Western hemisphere. "When a religious scholar reads the Mathnawi, he interprets it religiously. And when sociologists study it, they say how powerful a sociologist Rumi was. When people in the West study it, they see that it's full of emotions of humanity," said one Afghan professor.
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