The conversation between the editor-in-chief of our magazine, and Ms. Esin Celebi Bayru, the direct descendant of the famous medieval poet Jalaluddin Rumi, and the leader of the International Mewlana Foundation, took place at her hospitable home in Istanbul, in February of 2012, in Turkish.
-During our conversation over tea, the hafizes were mentioned. The hafizes are the people who know the Quran by heart, and can recite it. I remembered a story from life of our holy man Mewlana. This story was published in a book by one of his followers.
One time people came to Mewlana and said, "There's a young man who knows the Quran so well, all you have to do is just say a word, and he will tell you, if this word is mentioned in the Quran. And if it is mentioned, he will tell you how many times, and in what chapters and verses. He also has a beautiful voice. When he starts reading the Quran, you become mesmerized just by the sound of his voice".
Mewlana smiled and said, "Mashallah! This young man learned well how to count walnuts. May Allah grant him wisdom to learn how to crack the walnuts, and see what's inside."
The people who read the Quran, who know it, are like those who learned how to count walnuts. But the true purpose is in cracking those walnuts, and understanding the meaning. The goal is to eat what's inside of the walnut. To go beyond the surface, to allow oneself to be penetrated by the deeper meaning, is what really means to live according to the Holy Quran.
At one time I got a feeling that God wanted to give me a certain commission to fulfill. One night I got up and walked across the corridor toward the bookstand. I picked a random book, sat down to read it, and only then I realized that it was the Holy Quran. I opened it on the surah Taha (chapter 20), the ayahs (verses) which spoke of the prophet Musa (Moses) praying to the Lord after God called him to the prophetic ministry.
- When Moses took the responsibility upon himself...
-There it says, "O my Lord! Open for me my chest." Whenever a person assumes full responsibility for something, whenever he starts a new thing, his chest literally feels too small, it feels squeezed. A person is always concerned and anxious whether he can manage, succeed, or explain adequately what needs to be explained. The prayer of Moses was literally for God to expand his chest in order to make his speech easy and understandable.
This was the prayer said by Prophet Moses. Of course, every prophet has some kind of a lesson to teach us. Our religion, Islam, recognizes all prophets. Naturally, I thought that it was a gift sent to me from my Lord. Probably, something similar happened with you when you decided to make this magazine. May your path be light! May your words and intentions be understood correctly! People are in great need of such a ministry.
-Thank you very much. I want to ask you a question: what exactly is the doctrine of Mewlana?
-A brief answer is this. Holy Man Mewlana, whose real name was Muhammad Jalaluddin Rumi, offered people a way of life, a path to follow. This was later developed into a philosophical school by his son Sultan Walad, and his grandson. The doctrine of Mewlana was his worldview, his message to the future generations. We call this message mevlevilik in Turkish, the doctrine, or the teaching of Mewlana. The people who follow this path are called the mevlevi (the followers of Mewlana), and the buildings where the schooling takes place are called mevlevihane.
-Can you tell us about Mewlana's life story?
-Mewlana was born in 1207 in the city of Balkh, in the present day Afghanistan. At that time Balkh was a part of a Turkic state of Horezmshah. Mewlana himself was related to the shahs of Horezm. His grandmother was the shah's daughter. He died in 1273 in the city of Konya. As far as we know, his family left Balkh when he was still a child. At first, they went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, and after that they moved to Anatolia. They lived in different cities until, upon the invitation of Alaeddin Keykubad I, they settled in Konya. Here Mewlana spent the rest of his life. I must mention that Mewlana's father was called the sultan among the alims (Muslim scholars and theologians). From Balkh all the way to Konya, his father was always surrounded by scholars and books. Whenever on a journey, they would always lodge for the night at the nearest madrasah school, and refuse the invitations to stay in fancy mansions. In these madrasahs Mewlana got to know some of the best scholars, and learned a lot from them. This was his way to attain great knowledge.
-Thank you. Can you now tell me about yourself and your family history?
-My name is Esin Celebi Bayru. I am a descendant of Mewlana in 22nd generation on my father's side. As it was said before, the son and the grandson of Mewlana chose to follow his path. Since that time the leader of the disciples of Mewlana is always chosen from among the descnendants of Sultan Walad. All of this was documented, and the records are kept in Konya, where the first mevlevihane school was opened. The last leader of the order of Mewlana (the Mewlewi Order) was my great-grandfather Abdulhalim Celebi. Just like Ataturk, he decided to send his son to the nearest mevlevihane, which was located in the city of Aleppo. After all the mevlevihanes were closed down in Turkey, the leadership of the order moved from Konya to Aleppo in Syria. This also happened because Abdulhalim Celebi passed away shortly after.
Mevlevihanes were opened everywhere where the Ottoman Empire expanded to. All of them were connected to their main center in Konya. When the center shifted from Konya to Aleppo, the leadership role was given to my grandfather Bakir Celebi. He died when he was only 42 years old, still quite young. After that, my father Celaleddin Celebi assumed the responsibility of the order's leader.
-What was the farthest place in the world you visited while lecturing on Rumi?
-As of today, the farthest place is Brazil. Life is full of surprises. In November of 2011 I was invited to Sao Paulo by a local Brazilian group. The Turks who live in Brazil found out about my visit, and came to see me. I got to know several of them. In Brazil I tried to explain the ideas of Mewlana to people. I gave two lectures in Sao Paulo. Four days later, they took me to the mountains, where the center of spiritual knowledge was built. It was really a retreat center. A lot of things in decor were directly related to Mewlana. For instance, there was a large hallway of the whirling dervishes, the semahane.
Everywhere in the world people know about Mewlana. If God grants me enough patience, I will be able to do my ministry in a worthy manner. May the Lord help me to get connected to the good people who will help me to speak clearly and be understood. Wherever the invitations come from, I always accept them and go there to speak about Mewlana.
-How long is your average lecture?
It lasts about an hour.
-Where in the world can the followers of Mewlana be found? Do you have such information?
The Mewlewi Order was born and developed in Anatolia. Mewlana himself lived in Anatolia. Of course, the largest number of Mewlana's followers lives in Turkey. As far as his popularity in the world is concerned, there is a great deal of interest toward Mewlana in America. Though, the Americans mostly know him only as a poet. Many people can recite Mewlana's poems by heart. There are many people in the world who know about him. But everywhere, especially in the West, Mewlana is known by a different name, Rumi.
-Yes, in Russia he is known as Rumi too.
-Yes. In the East he is known as Mewlana, in the West as Rumi. That's why whenever I start my lectures, I always mention both of his names, Mewlana, and Jalaluddin Rumi. I also keep using both of these names interchangeably throughout my lectures, so that people would understand and get used to it.
-We can't avoid the question of what the word mewlana means. Our readers would be very interested to find out.
-Yes, let's talk about it. Mewlana means "our lord" in Farsi. This word was used in the ancient times in Persia, Anatolia, and Central Asia, and is still used in Iran today as a term of reverence. It means something like "sir", "teacher", or "master". This word is used in relation to men of high learning, especially to those who possess deep spiritual knowledge.
-It means "master", doesn't it?
-Yes. Mewlana means all of the above. The name Rumi, used in the West, comes from another Persian word Rum. Rum was the Farsi name given to Anatolia (Asia Minor), which was part of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire before the Turkish conquest. So the name 'Rumi' just meant 'Anatolian', someone who lived on the territory of the former Eastern Roman Empire.
When he was born, his family gave him the name Jalaluddin Muhammad. He was never known by his name Muhammad. His full name Jalaluddin Muhammad was exactly the same as that of his grandfather, and was also hardly ever used. When his name became famous and popular, he started to be known as Mewlana and Rumi. In Iran, people also call him Balkhi, because of his hometown Balkh. These all are his legitimate names, Mewlana, Jalaluddin, Balkhi, and Rumi.
-Is there anything in Rumi's spiritual heritage that speaks of his views of the future for mankind? Are there any of his writings, or records of his which talk about it?
-As you know, Mewlana called mankind to unity, to unification. The lessons we learned from him brought us to the following conclusion. A human being consists of both, physical essence and spiritual essence. Mewlana gave us the formulas which help us to balance the material and the spiritual sides in everyday life. The source of this is found in the Holy Quran.
When we read Rumi's works, such as Masnavi and Divan i Kabir, we must interpret them from Islam's point of view. The biggest heritage Rumi left for us was this: we need to learn how to balance these two sides. Islam, as well as all other religions, gives the same advice. There is no clergy in Islam. Everybody is equal, and we all must learn how to live with each other and do the right things. After all, we are mere humans, not angels. The Lord created us with our human nature. We must learn how to live in the material world, and not lose sight of the spiritual side of us. Only then we will achieve inner peace and happiness.
-Maybe the next question will seem too long to you, but I would like to hear your answer, nevertheless. After the Second World War for the first time people got an opportunity to live in peace. Peace treaties were signed, which put wars between major nations to an end. The energy of a large part of the world was redirected elsewhere. The world changed, and the energy of people started to look for new outlets for self-realization. At that point, a new trouble besieged the human race, the consumerism. Everything in life started to be evaluated on the basis of profits and material possessions. Throughout its history, the humanity practiced religious beliefs, without too much fanaticism. The sign of our times is that the majority of the world's population consists of radical fanatical consumers. Everyday thoughts of people are directed toward earning more money, acquiring more possessions. We all are witnesses to this state of the world today. This situation forces us to think about what's happening. The human race must sooner or later start climbing out of this sorry state, for there is no other way. Can you say something about this?
-I've already answered your question in a way. Every human being comes to the world with two sides, material or physical, and spiritual. Material side is very important to us, because this is what sustains our bodies. Yes, material side depends on money, but everything physical is ultimately connected with our planet Earth.
I may have a bigger house, or a better car, my family's living conditions may improve, etc. But if we go in this direction, we reach a dead-end quickly. Many people, who achieved everything the world had to offer in terms of wealth, pleasures, and possessions, did not feel happy in the end, quite the opposite. Various studies were made to find out, what the problem was. It turned out, their problem was spiritual hunger. Humans cannot live a happy life without satisfying the spiritual part of them. You can feed the body, but if the spirit is still hungry, man will not find rest and harmony. The only thing that can satisfy human beings, and fill their spiritual hunger, is spirituality itself.
People are starting to seek spiritual things. For me, the fact that more people are getting interested in Mewlana, study his philosophy, is a sign that we do have something that can satisfy people's spiritual hunger. At first, many people just asked questions, "What has to be done?", "what shall we do?", and then they turned to their own religions in search of answers. We've had Americans, other nationalities from every where. Then they learned the teachings from India, Japan, etc. However, all of these things were not enough for many of them. It was during these searches, when some of them found Mewlana.
If you balance the material and the spiritual, if you can satisfy your spiritual hunger, then you've found what you were looking for all your life. Of course, we are all mere humans. We all tend to be confused and lost at times. When we tip the balance, we start feeling uncomfortable, and try to regain the lost balance. This is the right thing to do. As long as people feel spiritual hunger, they will find a way to satisfy it. Only then they will attain peace and happiness.
People are at the seeker stage right now. The disease of modern humanity is dissatisfaction. People are dissatisfied with everything, they are looking for something, but they don't even know what they are looking for.
-They sure don't...
-Yes, they don't know what they are looking for. Mewlana can give them the answer. Friend, you have a soul, find it. Look for the precious gem hidden in you. Look for it with all of your strength, and you shall find it, not without but within yourself.
Within us is our own peace, our satisfaction. Mewlana says, "Friend, you are what you think, the rest is just meat and bones. You consist of your own thoughts. If you think of bread, then you are bread. If you think of money, then you are money. Whatever you think of, this is what you are." Everybody can understand these words. But every time you read them again, you get deeper and deeper in meaning, understand something new, and receive more answers to your life questions.
-Are there any data which prove that Mewlana was sent to Anatolia with a special mission?
His father decided to move here. The area where they used to live before was very unstable. After the pilgrimage, their family came to Anatolia through Syria. First, they settled in Antep, and then in Kilis. After that, they lived in Karaman for eight years. There Rumi married a daughter of a fellow migrant theologian. He had two sons in that city. After that, Mewlana's (Rumi's) mother and his older brother died, and his father got an invitation from the local ruler to settle in Konya. His father was very respected by everybody, and he was Mewalana's first teacher.
-Do you know whether Mewlana had any connections with India?
-If Mewlana lived today, what would he say to the people of the world, especially to the young generation?
-As we all know, great personalities don't die. They simply pass from one room to the next. That's why Mewlana continues to live today. In order to live, you don't have to have a physical body. The biggest lesson for us is that anyone who has left a trace here on earth is immortal. When we ask ourselves, why are we here, we can only find answers deep within ourselves. Once we find that answer, we must follow it through. We all come to the world to fulfill a certain role. Happy is he, who knows his role and does it well. This is what it means to be successful, to attain immortality. If you left a heritage after yourself, then you did not die. When you read a book written by an author long time ago, you feel as if he is right there, talking to you.
-When I first sat down for the interview, I did not want to use this chair because I wanted it to be reserved for Mewlana. So I used the more distant chair. But I had to move closer to you to conduct the interview, so I sat in this chair, though I already felt as if Mewlana was already sitting in this chair. My thoughts corresponded to what you have just said.
-Mewlana helps me a lot. He talks to me and through me.
-Anyway, can you still answer this question briefly?
-There is a short four line poem. It is beautiful and very precise. The main problem of the modern man is his spiritual hunger and seeking. I just love this poem. Another thing people are concerned with is the lack of love in their lives. This lack of love is another one of those modern diseases. These are very good words, "the value of a loved one is measured by how much he or she is loved." You must ask yourself, what is your value? These are the last two lines from one ghazal poem. As much as you can love and appreciate others, you are loved and appreciated yourself.
-So, what is man, according to Mewlana?
-Man is God's most beloved minister. Humans were created by God for knowledge and love. Rumi was inspired by the Quran, and he told the same thing to people. One the one hand, he asks, "Who are you?" On the other, he tells you, "You are the most precious among all beings." When we look at today's difficulties as a problem, we will feel hurt. But when we will see it as an opportunity to learn a lesson, it makes life a lot easier. A man can find a way out even in the midst of the hardest circumstances, and use them for his benefit. The Lord never sends to us trials and tribulations through which we cannot pass.
Human being is the most beautiful and the highest part of God's creation. Every person must think of himself or herself as precious and valuable. God created us beautiful and made us his servants, his ministers. Every person must live in a manner worthy of his or her dignity and high status. Quite often, we can only blame ourselves for our troubles.
Praise the Lord; we are having such a beautiful conversation together. This is truly a gift from God. But God gives us gifts every moment of our lives. Even our breath is a gift from God. You have to feel grateful for your own benefit.
-How many languages was Rumi translated into?
-I can't say for sure. If you want to, I can find out for you. The Municipality of Konya wants to sponsor translations of the Masnavi into every language of the world. You know, the Masnavi is a big book. It consists of six volumes. Parts of it were already translated into many languages. As far as I know, the works of Mewlana were printed and studied even in China.
-Now I want to talk about the whirling dervishes. Many people are interested in this phenomenon. Almost everybody heard of them, even those who never even heard of Rumi, and never read his poems.
-Whirling or spinning is a natural human motion. Just look at a little child. He gets up, walks a little bit, and then starts spinning. Every religion has the phenomenon of whirling. Africans spin around a bonfire, American Indians spin around their totems, etc. When you are very excited about some unexpected good news, you start spinning naturally. Or even when you receive very bad news, you might start spinning in despair. Spinning or whirling is a natural motion which comes straight out of the human soul.
Of course, the whirling motion did not originate with Mewlana, or the Mawlawi Order. As I said, it is present in slightly different forms almost in every religion. Even within ourselves, we have different forms of spinning. Atoms spin in our cells, for instance. Blood circulates around our bodies in a similar fashion. We spin together with our planet. Planet Earth spins around the Sun. Our solar system spins around our galaxy, and our galaxy spins together with other galaxies. There are so many different forms of spinning out there. I am sitting here with you, and yet, I participate in so many different spinning motions of the universe in the same time. We have to remember about it.
Mewlana was a very excited man. Whenever he got happy, he would start whirling. After him, his son and grandson added music to it, and turned whirling into a spiritual exercise. Everything in the dervish dance, beginning with the style of clothes, down to every dance move, has a very specific symbolic meaning. The dervish dancing shows the evolution of the human spirit.
-Our magazine has a policy. We don't criticize anybody. We only want to write about positive things. This was our conscious decision right from the start. What do you think; did we make the right decision? What would Mewlana say about our decision?
-I would like to answer you with the words from a ghazal of Mewlana himself. He said, "Come closer, closer, and even closer. How long will this strife continue? You are me, and I am you. What is yours, and what is mine, anyway? We are a reflection of our Creator. So why do we conflict with ourselves and with each other?" Mewlana advised all of us to stop the war that was going on within ourselves. Why does one light bearer run away from another light bearer? His ghazal ended with these words: "While you remain alone, you a drop, or a speck. When you unite with others, you become an ocean, or a mountain." Mewlana advised us all to unite, to become one. If we unite our thoughts, our strengths, and our actions, we can become like an ocean. According to religious beliefs, our souls were born out of the breath of God. God's breath is our own breath too. When we unite, we get even closer to God, and become stronger. Everything that we need is within ourselves.
I was invited to come to America for one week, to give lectures at a seminar. At the end of one of my lectures someone asked me, what I would do if I had a lot of power. I replied that I would start a TV channel and a newspaper, which would reflect on everything positive, everything beautiful that went on around the world. My audience applauded when I said that. My listeners said that they wanted to do the same thing. Wherever I go, I tell about this vision to people, and they share my vision.
The path which you have undertaken, this new magazine which is in the making, is the answer to my prayers. We need a lot of patience whenever we start to do something. When the Lord sees our patience, he rewards us for it. Of course, on our part we must work hard and show a lot of effort. We also must rely on God in everything we do. What you are doing now is the answer to the prayer which I prayed in America. God willing, in other places people will start following your example, and there will be more media sources of this kind.
-I must say, it was a great privilege for us to have you at the very start of our publication.
-Thank you for coming here.
-Our goal is to remind all people of the earth about spiritual things. We must tell them, "live and remember about spirituality, remember that you are a spiritual being."