By: Vahid Jafarian
Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan have renewed a battle over the bragging rights to Rumi’s epic poetry after Tehran and Ankara recently announced plans to register the 13th-century sage’s masterpiece, Masnavi Ma’navi, as joint national heritage with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The move immediately sparked anger in Kabul, where the Afghan government on June 9 appealed to a UNESCO envoy and sent out word to Ankara of its objections via Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani.
Jalal al-Din Mohammad Balkhi, also known as “Rumi”, was born 1207 in what might be described as the greater Balkh region — either in modern-day Afghanistan or, as some scholars have suggested more recently, in the village of Wakhsh in today’s Tajikistan.
He fled the area as a child after the brutal Mongol conquest of the region, and traveled through what is now Uzbekistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, where he settled long enough to study in Damascus in his 20s. Rumi’s final stop was Turkey, where he spent most of his life. He died in 1273 in the then-Seljuk city of Konya.
The Iranian officials have said that although Rumi was buried in Konya city in Turkey he wrote his poems in Persian, and therefore Iran and Turkey are keeping the rights to share Rumi as a common heritage.
On the contrary, Afghans say that Rumi belongs to present day Afghanistan and yesterday’s Khorasan.
The cultural showdown between these countries take places under circumstances that Rumi has long been an internationally respected poet.
More precisely, Rumi is a cross-border character which belongs not only to Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey but also to all lovers of poetry and literature around the world.
So it is advisable that all three mentioned countries to cease their cultural useless tug-of-war and instead work together to introduce better Rumi to the world.
It appears that Iran has taken the initial step on the way. On June 10, Iran welcomed Afghanistan into jointly inscribing Rumi’s work, Masnavi Ma’navi, as world heritage.
The announcement was made by Farhad Nazari, director of Historical Work Registration at Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported.
According to Sadeq Osyani, professor of literature at the University of Balkh, Sufi poet Rumi “actually has three homes.” “One is the whole world as his home, the second one is his home of language and the third is his birthplace in Balkh,” DW quoted him as saying.
He said. “I don’t think there was a need to claim Rumi as one’s own before. Since his art and his impact belong to the world”
In summary, it can be said that cultural conflicts between countries – and in this particular case over Rumi’s works – is a kind of blind prejudice that just will disincline art enthusiasts from their historical artistic figures.
It is worth noting that Masnavi is one of the best known and most influential works of Persian literature.
Masnavi is a series of six books of poetry that together number around 25,000 verses or 50,000 lines. It is a spiritual work that teaches how to reach true love with God. Rumi began dictating the first book around the age of 54 in the year 1258 and continued composing verses until his death in 1273.