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UN Celebrates 800th Birth Anniversary of Rumi

In a befitting tribute to renowned Afghan poet Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi (Rumi), the United Nations observed his 800th birth anniversary at its headquarters on Tuesday July 3rd.

The daylong event co-hosted by Afghanistan , Iran and Turkey was attended by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, General Assembly President Sheikh bin Khalifa, and Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

”The messages of the Maulana are mirrored in the UN Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights, and we must live up to his legacy,” said Ambassador Tanin. “Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey, countries that enjoy common cultural and historical ties, honor Maulana’s heritage as a prominent poet and philosopher who belongs, not only to the Islamic world, but indeed to humanity as a whole. Maulana’s work has no frontiers,”

Speaking on the occasion, both Ban Ki-Moon and Sheikh bin Khalifa emphasized the identical nature of the ideals espoused by Maulana Balkhi and UN principles. General Assembly President Khalifa added, “Rumi liberates religion from rigid readings; it encourages thinking especially at a time when rising suspicion among peoples of all cultures and religions is the name of the day. We, the Member States of the United Nations, must invoke Rumi’s spirit in our combined efforts to address the challenges of today’s world.”

Maulana was born in Afghanistan's Balkh Province on September 30, 1207 to a family of learned theologians. He is one of the greatest spiritual and literary figures of all times. As the most celebrated poet of the Farsi language, Maulana is renowned for his message of love, humanity and peace, and for his founding of the Mawlawia order, better known as the "Whirling Dervishes".

While fleeing his homeland during the Mongol invasion of Central Asia with his father, Maulana met and received the blessing of Farid al-Din Attar, the preeminent Sufi poet of the day, whom he was to succeed in the annals of Persian Sufi poetry. Maulana's family traveled through the Middle East and made the pilgrimage to Mecca before settling in Konya, Turkey, where he would compose his poetry over the next 40 years.

Maulana was not a poet who happened to practice Sufism, but great Sufi master expressing his deep spirituality though the language of poetry. He founded the Mathnawi Order, which influenced Ottoman society, poetry and musical arts for decades. Maulana composed his Mathnawi and Divan-i Shams, the monumental works devoted to gnosis and divine ecstasy and became a celebrated artist in both the Persian and Turkish speaking worlds. The Mawlawia dervishes continue to celebrate Maulana’s death, on December 17, 1273 as a festival.

Attended by hundreds of Afghans, Iranians and Turks living in the Tri-State area, the event comprised an academic session that included a seminar on the teachings of the celebrated poet, followed by a cultural evening.

The panel discussion featured Wali Ahmadi, Professor of Near Eastern Studies at the University of California at Berkeley (Afghanistan), Mahmud Erol Kilic (Turkey), Talat Halman (Turkey) and Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Iran).

The celebration concluded with a performance from Ustad Mahwish, one of Afghanistans most distinguished vocalists.

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