Jalal al-Din Rumi, who died at Konya in 1273, is recognized throughout the world as one of the greatest poets and mystics of all time. His lyrical output amounts to some 35,000 verses, while his mystical epic known as the Mathnawi-yi Ma‘nawi includes over 25,000 verses.
The Rumi Institute was founded in 2002 at Near East University in Nicosia, Cyprus as a centre to coordinate academic research into the legacy of Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, and to promulgate the universal ideas which underlie Rumi’s teachings in these verses that are of immediate relevance to today’s world.
In providing a forum for scholars and students whose work is devoted to the study of Rumi, the institute has chosen to adopt a wide and inclusive view of the subject. This applies not only to the topics that the Institute addresses, but also to the audiences that it seeks to attract. Its role is not merely academic, but includes programmes intended for elementary and secondary schools and activities for the public as a whole, as a way of restoring to prominence the forgotten legacy of Rumi among Cypriots.
The foundation of the Institute coincided with the renovation of the Mevlevi Tekke Museum in Nicosia. This was an event of real importance in Cyprus, as the cultural history of Cypriot Turks began with the arrival of Lala Mustafa Paşa and other members of the Mevlevi order in 1571. To celebrate the reopening of the Mevlevi Museum on December 17, 2002, the Institute organized the first sema on the premises since 1956, along with an academic conference at Near East University. These are now part of an annual programme organized under the auspices of the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey and with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education. Every December, an entire week is dedicated to academic symposia, musical concerts, performances of the sema, readings from the Mathnawi, and drama or poetry presented by elementary and secondary school children.
The institute was first proposed by its founder, Gökalp Kâmil, and established by Şenol Bektaş, the Vice President of Near East University. Roderick Grierson, Mentesezade Research Fellow at the Institute, was a founder member. In 2003, Talât Sait Halman was invited to be the first chairman of the international advisory committee, and appointed as the first Mevlana Professor at the Rumi Institute. His successor, the current chairman and Mevlana Professor, is James W. Morris (Boston College).
A series of academic conferences that began in 2002 at Near East University culminated with the symposium organized in December 2007 by the Rumi Institute in association with the Governorship of Konya and the Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism. The symposium was presented at the shrine of Mevlana in Konya, as a commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the birth of Mevlana Jalal al-Din Rumi. A memorial publication of the event, entitled The Philosophy of Ecstasy: Rumi and the Sufi Tradition, will soon be available. The proceedings of another symposium, organized in London by the British Museum and the Iranian Heritage Foundation and entitled Wondrous Words: The Poetic Mastery of Jalal al-Din Rumi, will be published at the same time. Both volumes will appear as imprints of the Rumi Institute (distributed by I.B. Tauris Publications: London), and will serve as memorials of a year that UNESCO declared to be ‘the Year of Mawlana’.
The scholars who attended the conferences and have contributed to the success of the Institute include Talât Sait Halman, James W. Morris, Hossein Elahi Gomshei, Carl W. Ernst, Franklin D. Lewis, Jawid Mojaddedi, Simon Weightman, Alan Williams, Leonard Lewisohn, Roderick Grierson, Mahmud Erol Kılıç, Shahram Pakouzi, Paul Ballanfat, Süleyman Uludağ, Erkan Türkmen, Adnan Karaismailoğlu, Mustafa Kara, Naci Bakırcı, Erdoğan Erol, Nuri Şimşekler, Slobdan Ilić, Alexandre Popovic, Natalie Clayer, Mohammed Isa Waley, Nuket Saraçel, İsmail Kara, Mustafa Aşkar, Kudsi Erguner, Nurhan Atasoy, Netice Yıldız, and Hamid Dabashi.
Members of the Board of Directors, Editorial Board, and Advisory Committee, along with Members of the Rumi Institute and Esin Çelebi, the 22nd generation grandaughter of Jalal al-Din Rumi, at the shrine of Mevlana after the conference organized to commemorate the 800th anniversary of his birth.