William Dalrymple in the Guardian points out some of the ironies surrounding the popularity of Rumi in the West where his verses are " mouthed by such spiritual luminaries as Madonna, Goldie Hawn and Demi Moore" and available in the form of a self-help audiobook: while in the East his work has been entirely neglected. There is no accessible modern edition of his work in contemporary Turkish, while the order of sufi dervishes that Rumi belonged to is outlawed and the open practice of the Sufi mysticism that Rumi represented can still technically result in a seven-month prison sentence.
Rumi was heretical enough to believe that God can "best be reached through the gateway of the heart", that you do not necessarily need ritual to get to Him, and that He is equally accessible to all creeds.
"My religion is to live through love" he said.
It all adds up to an archetypal - if unusually poignant - case of east-west misunderstanding: a west earnestly looking eastwards for an ancient spiritual wisdom, which it receives through the filter of sexed-up translations that most Persian scholars regard as seriously flawed, and which recreate a Rumi wholly divorced from his Islamic context; while in the east, a Republican Turkish government anxious to integrate Turkey with Europe bans Rumi's Sufi brotherhood as part of its attempt to embrace a west it perceives as rational, industrial, intolerant of superstition and somehow post-mystical.Here are lines I love from a Rumi poem called Spring Giddiness :
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.