The Sufi-Rumi Connection

Kabir Helminski, a sheikh of the Mevlevi order, talks about Rumi, Sufism, and their roots in Islam.

Kabir Helminski is a sheikh of the Mevlevi Order, which traces its lineage back to Rumi. He is the translator of many books on Rumi, as well as several collections of Sufi writings. Helminski has toured the world, bringing the music of Sufism and the art of the whirling dervishes of Turkey to people everywhere. He is the author of two books on Sufism: "Living Presence" and "The Knowing Heart," and is the translator of Rumi's poetry collections, including "Jewels of Remembrance," "Rumi the Path of Love," and others.

Helminski talked with Beliefnet's Islam producer, Rhonda Roumani, about Rumi, Sufism, and their connection to Islam.

What is it about Rumi's poetry that has made him so popular in the United States?

The United States is an openly religious country, unlike Europe, where there is a lot more cynicism toward not only religion but even toward spiritual matters. Americans are a naturally openhearted and spiritual people. Our spiritual history--the Euro-Christian legacy--has been a legacy in which the direction of our humanness and the direction of religion seem to be pointing in opposite directions.


And Rumi brings it back together by showing us that the way to God is through our humanness, through our brokenness. And only God dissolves our shame and helps us to know that we, God's creation, are profoundly loved.

Islam makes every aspect of human life sacred. Whereas there are other kinds of religious understanding which suggest that the way to God is through the denial of our humanness and the overcoming of our humanness. The Islamic way is much more that we have an inherently good nature. We're not born with original sin. Muhammad (PBUH) showed a way to incorporate the highest spiritual attainment into a very human life. And this is frankly a pretty radical and new concept within the Euro-Christian tradition, where people have denied themselves and gone to monasteries and lived with the burden of sin.

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