Westerners fail to gauge Rumi's place in Islamic mysticism and spirituality, according to the chairman of the Mevlevi Order (Whirling Dervishes) of Australia.
"Rumi's teachings are popular in the West. They like his poems and how he refers to love, but they do not know his place in Islamic mysticism and spirituality," Abdul Aziz said. Jalaluddin Rumi - fondly known by his followers in Turkey as Mevlana, which means scholar - was a Sufi poet and philosopher born in present-day Afghanistan. He is buried in Konya, central Anatolia, where his followers flock to his mausoleum, especially on his death anniversary.
The celebrations for the 744th anniversary, Shab-e-Arus or the "night of union" are taking place in Konya from Dec 7-17. In Sufi mysticism, death of saints is revered and celebrated as the final union with the "Beloved" or God.
Aziz, a British national, converted to Islam after being influenced by the Shab-e-Arus ceremony he attended for the first time in Konya in 1980. On his return home, he formed the Mevlevi Order of Australia in 1986.
"We work hard to spread Rumi's message in Australia," he said. "Rumi is one of the greatest spiritual leaders of Islam. We are following his traditions."
Aziz added his hope that the world learn from Rumi's message of peace and become a better place to live in.
Rumi's Mathnawi poem, with its more than 50,000 verses, is considered the most influential work in Sufism, and has been translated into 25 languages.
Aziz's organization will mark the Shab-e-Arus on Dec.17 in Melbourne.
*S.Ahmet Aytac contributed to this story from Ankara.