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Jalaladdin Mohammad Balkhi (1207-1273), known as Molavi in Persian-speaking countries and Rumi in other places, was a 13th century poet. Being born in either Vakhsh (modern-day Tajikistan) or in Balkh (modern-day Afghanistan) most of his poems are written in Persian. However, his works extend to Medieval Greek, Arabic and Turkish. After his death, his works were collected in three books, Mathnavi Ma'anavi and Divan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, and Fihe ma Fihe, which is prose.
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In America, mostly due to conflicts with Iran, he's famed as a "Sufi Poet". Recent translations of his books mostly contain his more spiritual poems, rather than the ones dealing with his affections to Shi'ia Islam and the Islamic prophet. Centuries after his death, he still enjoys popularity in Iran and a modest fame in Western Countries.


Rumi's life and poems provide examples of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Because Persian doesn't have gender cases and pronouns, many translators have taken the liberty to translate his work with the masculine case, causing confusion amongst LGBT community (if you visit any gay poetry website, they are filled with his poems). However, there are historical evidence that support his intense affections towards some males, such as his love for Shams-e Tabrizi.
  • I Have Many Names: As shown above. Jalaladdin Mohammad is his given name. Balkhi is a nisba, an Arabic title that indicates a person's origin; in Rumi's case, it is the city of Balkh. When he moved to Anatolia, the nisba changed to Rumi, meaning "from Rome" (Rome was what medieval Muslims called Anatolia, which was ruled by the Eastern Roman Empire). Molavi/Molana is an affectionate nickname, derived from Arabic mawlana, meaning "our master".
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  • Mistaken Nationality: Most western readers don't actually know where Rumi was from. He was born in Central Asia and moved to Anatolia when he was young. At that time, Anatolia was controlled by the Seljuk Turks, while Balkh and Vakhsh were ruled by the Turkic-descended Khwarezmians, so some might think that he's a Turk. Most people thinks that he came from the land of "Sufi", which is actually a religious designation (akin to calling someone coming from "the land of Kabbalah"). Rumi spoke and wrote mostly in Persian, so one might think he's a Persian (a sketchy conjecture, to say the least, since Persian was and is widely spoken as a first language in Central Asia). Of course, applying nationalism on a historical figure who hailed from a time before it was cool is rather meaningless.
  • Values Dissonance: He loved to spend his leisure time in communal baths... with young boys (who recorded his poems).
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