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Who was the real Rumi? See our documentary, film and drama series

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi is one of the Islamic world’s greatest poets. Muslims have respected his spiritual legacy for seven centuries, while his global reputation spreads ever wider. We look at biographically and historically accurate portraits of his life in film and documentary, and take a trip to his shrine in Konya, Turkey.

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi is one of the Islamic world’s greatest poets. He is usually known in the English-speaking world simply as Rumi. Sufi mystic, philosopher and scholar, he was born in Baksh (an area now part of modern-day Afghanistan) to Persian speaking parents in 1207, and he died in 1273 in Konya (in modern Turkey). It was there that his family and followers established the Mevlevi religious order to preserve and transmit his teachings and ideas to subsequent generations. Today his tomb and shrine complex in Konya receives more than three and a half million visitors every year.

Rumi’s influence transcends national borders and ethnic divisions and Muslims across the globe have respected his spiritual legacy for the past seven centuries. He has also become increasingly popular throughout the western world with a 2014 study concluding he was the most popular poet in the United States. Given this kind of popularity it is no surprise that there are numerous stories, quotations or poems attributed to Rumi that are either seriously misquoted or even completely made up. This is all compounded by the internet, which can get a lie halfway round the world before the truth gets its boots on!

Another aspect of Rumi’s absorption into the mainstream is that he often seems to have been secularised into a kind of new age liberal romantic or self-help guru, with a commercialised quote for every occasion. This means that the Islamic content of his teaching has very often been severely diluted or removed altogether.

So who was the real Rumi? Alchemiya has several programmes about, or related to, this celebrated figure in Muslim history and here is a short round up of just some of them including biographically and historically accurate portraits of his life, and a trip to Konya that also looks at the enduring aspects of his legacy in the present. Also included are two documentaries which explore his international connection to other poets and religious figures through the medium of music.

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

We’ll start with Jalal ad-Din Rumi which is an eleven-part, biographical drama series that tells Rumi’s life story from youth, into adulthood and old age. The series gives a comprehensive picture of those close to him and a broad historical sweep of the important and dramatic events throughout his life. In the short clip at the top, the young Jalal al-Din learns about the importance of silence from his father.

Rumi

Rumi: The Animated Biography

For children there is Rumi: The Animated Biography which is one for the whole family to enjoy. A feature length animation for children that covers the main events of Rumi’s life.

Rumi animated

Rumi Returning: The Triumph of Divine Passion

A biography filmed on location at Rumi’s shrine in Konya, Turkey. Rumi Returning: The Triumph of Divine Passion shows the magnificent mosques, architecture, ruins and gardens. Featuring also the ecstatic dance ritual of the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey that Rumi inspired.

Rumi Returning: The Triumph of Divine Passion

Rumi in the Land of Khusrau

Rumi was born in 1207 in Balkh, Afghanistan, which was then a part of the Persian Empire. Amir Khusrau was born in 1253 in Patiali, grew up on the banks of the river Ganges and composed poems of a mystic nature. Rumi in the land of Khusaru is based on Tajjali, a Sufi concert where Persian and Indian performers, musicians and singers perform in tandem with each other. The Indian musicians from regions of Kashmir, Awadh and Delhi render poems and compositions of Khusrau, and the Iranians sing the poems of Rumi. The film inter-cuts the concert with details from the life of Khusrau, and similarities between his poetry and Rumi’s.

Rumi in the Land of Khusrau

When Rumi Met Francis

In a world troubled by violence, Pejman Tadayon, an Iranian musician who lives in Italy, expresses through music his conviction that what brings us together is far more important than what keeps us apart. Through his music, he evokes two personalities from the 13th century: Islam’s Sufi poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi and the Christian poet St Francis of Assisi.

When Rumi Met Francis

Short film, Nobody’s Metaphor follows four teenage Muslim girls as they learn to fence and express themselves, challenging discrimination in the process. It is a powerful documentary with much contemporary relevance, especially for our young women.
Nooreh is an award-winning film set in a village on the India-Pakistan border. Told from the perspective of an eight-year-old Muslim girl, it is a subtle and powerful story about the effects of conflict on children.
On A Wing and A Prayer is a heart-warming documentary that follows Monem Salam's attempts to get a US pilot's license. A film about a resilient family as American and suburban as The Simpsons, but Muslim!
Short film, Nobody’s Metaphor follows four teenage Muslim girls as they learn to fence and express themselves, challenging discrimination in the process. It is a powerful documentary with much contemporary relevance, especially for our young women.
Nooreh is an award-winning film set in a village on the India-Pakistan border. Told from the perspective of an eight-year-old Muslim girl, it is a subtle and powerful story about the effects of conflict on children.
On A Wing and A Prayer is a heart-warming documentary that follows Monem Salam's attempts to get a US pilot's license. A film about a resilient family as American and suburban as The Simpsons, but Muslim!
A small community of Muslim Tzotzils, an ethnic group descended from the Maya, live in the mountains of San Cristobal in Chiapas State, Mexico. New documentary Somos Musulmanes, tells their story and explores a fundamental period in late 20th century Mexican history.

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