Earth Architecture and Persian Mystic Poetry
Jalaloddin Mohammed Balkhi Rumi was a solemn, pious man in the 13th century small town of Konya located in Turkey today. He was born in September 1207 in the city of Balkh, today’s Afghanistan, then a city in Khorasan province, part of the Persian empire (Iran today). As a child he had fled with his family from their home town of Balkh, before the invading Mongols arrived. It took many years and thousands of miles before they settled in this quiet town. By the time he was 30 years of age he was speaking Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and was learned in many varied studies of the day. Rumi’s father, Baha Walad, was a well-know and respected scholar, Sufi, and author. When he died, Rumi became his successor. Rumi was recognized as a great preacher and scholar of Islamic philosophy, logic, and divine law.
Then, close to forty years old, he met an enigmatic man called Shams al-Din of Tabriz, or Shams-I Tabrizi, and his life was changed completely. Shams was an unknown man of about sixty from the town of Tabriz to the east. Having arrived in Konya with the specific mission of meeting Rumi and legends of their first encounter are still speculated upon as new scenarios unfold from poems and stories—perhaps Shams went to Rumi’s library to meet him, perhaps he grabbed the reigns of the mule Rumi was riding and stopped him in the middle of the road amidst his follows. Regardless, all agree that from the moment of meeting Shams, Rumi was no longer the same man. Rumi himself put it best,
I was a pious preacher
you changed me to a poet
and in me you instilled
rebel rousing and
drunkenness in every feast
I was a solemn
man of sustained prayer
you made me the playing object
of street children
In the following months, Rumi and Shams met for long hours of conversation, day and night, they were inseparable. Rumi abandoned his pulpit, robe, and followers. He gambled everything on an intense mystic love,
blessed is the gambler
who has lost everything
except the desire
Shams seems to have opened up to Rumi dimensions of the mysteries of divine love that he had never experienced. Rumi and Shams were together for years, and then one day, Shams was gone—some accounts claim he was murdered by a jealous follower of Rumi, others that he traveled to Khoy and is buried there. Regardless, after Shams left, Rumi, who had always despised poetry, overflowed with 65,000 verses of poems; to many, the greatest in music, rhyme, and mystic meanings in the Persian language, surpassing every poet before and after to the present time. For Rumi, Shams became the embodiment of God’s beauty and love for mankind and his separation from Shams was the outward sign of the separation from God, though he celebrates the joys of union. Rumi’s poetry makes it certain that he was never separated completely from Shams nor God. Rumi died in 1273. He is buried in Konya. His epitaph reads: “When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.”
Nader Khalili and Rumi
For 25 years, Nader Khalili’s specialty as an architect was skyscrapers. Then at thirty-eight, his turning point in life, he “… bought a motorcycle and went to the desert for five years in Iran to see what the solution was for sheltering the poor in the world and to learn from what already existed. There [he] got to know five personalities: earth, water, air, fire and Rumi, the 800 year old Persian mystic poet...." Rumi taught him the unity of these universal elements, forming his "Archemy" — architecture and alchemy. Water is fire, earth is water, and there is a unity in all elements.
In Rumi, Dancing the Flame, Khalili wrote, “I have also discovered, dealing with these universal elements for my own earth-and-fire architecture, that Rumi, more than any other individual has dealt with fire and water, or earth and wind, and yet no one to my knowledge has looked at Rumi’s life and works through these elements. I have been blessed by making my life’s work following this narrow stream springing form the ocean that is Rumi.”
In addition to his revolutionary earth architecture and Superadobe techniques, a great part of his life’s work was translating Rumi’s Rubaiyat and Diwan-i Shams-i Tabrizi. “In the last seven hundred years many millions have lit their candles from Rumi’s fire and I feel I am one of them—awake or dreaming.”
“Rumi’s message transcends the limitation of language and the boundaries of time. Human beings were born for unlimited freedom and infinite bliss, and their birthright is within their grasp. But in order to reach it, they must surrender to love. What makes Rumi’s expression of this message different from other expressions is his extraordinary directness and uncanny ability to employ images drawn from everyday life.
“Nader Khalili has been able to bring out the fact that Rumi’s message has practical and concrete relevance to our everyday world. Beauty, Rumi knows, is a profound need of the human soul, because God is beautiful and the source of all beauty, and God is the soul’s only real need. Nader has been performing a major human service by bringing beauty into architectural forms… he illustrates his versatility by bringing it into linguistic forms as well.”
Professor William C. Chittick
State University of New York, Stony Brook,
21 June 1992
Nader Khalili’s Dreams of Rumi
“Rumi’s poems, in Persian, have been whispered in my ears for over fifty years. The endless ocean of his sixty-five thousand couplet-verses have blessed my own creative work, letting me search for fire in its tranquil waters for two decades. And I have been graced by his visit in my dreams which bestowed on me enough courage to enter his words:
In my dream Rumi is standing in the street, next to the curb, with several companions. The young and jovial Rumi, is about twenty-eight, round-faced, with a full head of curlicue hair. He is wearing a blue-grey suit and wearing a white shirt with the last button undone, and is a firm, healthy five-foot-five, looking younger than his age. His smile is surely the most striking feature o his physical presence. A smile brimming with quest, humbleness, victory, needlessness, and love.
I smile at him. I am standing on the sidewalk, desperately wanting to go forward and meet him, but the man next to him is my enemy. This man is young Rumi’s guide for the tour of our city. He is the only man I have known in my life who hates me as much as I once hated him. Thus my meeting Rumi seems impossible. Until seconds late, when in my dream I declare to my heart and God that I am ready to go and beg my enemy’s pardon, just so that I can have a chance to meet Rumi. No sooner do I make this wish than I find Rumi sitting next to me.
We are kneeling next to a low table, on adjoining sides, and looking at a large paper filled with Persian calligraphy. All along I keep looking at his face, at his smile, and feel more at ease in my body and soul. I lower my head with shyness and say:
“These are your poems. I have calligraphed all my favorite ones on this paper.”
He looks at them for a long time, then takes the pen from my hand, and right in the middle of the paper, over a couple of the Persian words adds three or four missing dots. He then smiles and says, “Ah, these poems!”
I look at him, smile, and say, “But the verse I love the best is not here.”
“What verse is that?”
“Aab kam ju teshnegi aavar bedast, seek not water, seek thirst.”
He smiles and says, “That one is my favorite one too.”
And I wake up.
--Nader Khalili, Rumi, Fountain of Fire