The passenger had just arrived in Mazar. It was around 6:30 in the afternoon and he was in a bus heading downtown Mazar. He was not tired from the flight; instead, he was enthusiastically exchanging glances out of the window of the bus. In the beginning his view was of a flat landscape of beige desert sand. Nearer to the city apartments and buildings sprang up along the bus route, many new, many in need of repair.
A flash of light caught his eye. The sun; he couldn’t stop tracing the sun. Oh, it must be Rumi’s sun (Shams), he thought. It is the sun (Shams) that he wrote about, my sun and my Idol. I have reached from you to God… the sun was almost hidden by thick clouds. The sun appeared red and even the thick, black clouds were looking lovely with a reddish glow from the sun. The passenger continued following the sun which was about to set as he thought about Rumi. The passenger smiled with joy; the view and thoughts of Rumi flooding his mind! He wished he could share the joy but all he could say to the young man next to him, was: “Look at the sunset!” He heard: “Yeah, like every day.”
The passenger came to Mazar to see the Blue Mosque for the second time, but it was not all he came to Mazar for. This time, he came to visit a place; an insecure place, perhaps as troubled and fought over a place as it has always been. But he had decided to go, to visit, to get inspired, and connect to the sun shining from the sky of mysticism. He wanted to see, to be at the place of Rumi’s birth, the Balkh Monastery of Rumi. Rumi who is known everywhere, held in esteem by readers of all religions and quoted by many. Rumi bright as the sun that shines everywhere.
The passenger hired a taxi to take him 20 km north to Balkh. He started a conversation with the driver of the taxi. The driver looked to be in his 30s. The driver commented that he has lived almost all these years in Balkh, and that he came to Kabul a few times. The driver laughs and says: “I am sorry, but I didn’t like Kabul. It is so crowded, it is polluted and it is not as green as Mazar.” The passenger replied with a smile: “I agree that Mazar is greener, and it is warmer than Kabul. I have lived in Kabul more than 18 years. I have traveled in a few provinces, but not of them becomes My Kabul Jan!” The passenger continued: “You know, your Mazar has a very mesmerizing sunset.” The driver frowned and replied slowly: “Yes, it’s good.” The driver seemed a bit sad after the reply. The passenger stopped talking for a moment and asked himself: “Why did the driver reply like that?” “Maybe he doesn’t value sunset, or maybe because it is repetitive for him! Or he doesn’t care. Or maybe he doesn’t like it because of some reasons.” Then the passenger had a new thought. “Maybe as many workers, his face is the sun shine for his family. And it rises anytime he gets back with some money or it may set anytime he gets home with no work and money!” Perhaps the beauty of the sun is in the eye of the beholder.”
The passenger took his phone out of his pocket, and plugged the earphone. He played a song about Nawruz and Balkh, Sharif Sahel and Manizha Sabah. He remembered that the first time he listened to this song was Nawruz of 1395 and he enjoyed listening to the song more than any other song. He listened to it once again and then he asked himself: “How many times have I listened to this song?” He didn’t have any exact figure to say but it was many times. The verse he liked the most was about Rumi. The verse was: “Rumi come back to your own city, to your own Balkh, to your own home from Konya.”
It didn’t take long before the driver said: “We are almost arriving old Balkh.” The passenger was ready and couldn’t wait to jump out of the car, and walk in the place where Rumi took his first steps of life. The passenger was counting seconds to hear from the driver that they had arrived, but the driver drove on in silence. It was almost 30 long minutes!
Finally, he said something but that was not what the passenger was waiting for: “We are lost! I am not sure where Monastery of Rumi is!” The passenger asked: “Have you ever been to Monastery of Rumi?” The driver replied: “Yes, but it was long ago!” The taxi slowed and the driver started asking people for directions. “Which way is to Rumi’s birth city?” “Who? They asked.” Shoulders shrug and heads gave a, I do not know turn. How can this be? People out there didn’t know Rumi! They didn’t know at all. The passenger tried giving details about Rumi to people he saw on his way so that they could help find the way. No one seemed able to help... One of the conversations went like this.
The passenger: “Sorry, do you know where Mawlana (Rumi)’s Khaneqa is?
The stranger: “Well, this is Khan Aqa! Who do you want to meet?
The passenger: “Is there any place from Mawlana Jaludin?
The stranger: “Who is he? Do you mean Khaja Sahib?
The Passenger thought maybe they call him Khaja so he said: “Yes!”
The Stranger: “It is there. It is 5 minutes away from here. Khaja Sahib is well known of hospitality. You can stay for lunch there!”
The passenger disappointedly said: “Thank You”
A mile away he went to a boy who had a school bag in his back. He tried to find out if he knew about Rumi.
The Passenger: “Hello?”
The boy: “hi”
The Passenger: “Do you go to school?”
The boy: “No, I go to Madrasa (Islamic Studies Center)
The Passenger: “Do you know who Mawlana Jalaludin Mohammad Balkhi is?
The boy: “No!”
The Passenger: “Thank you”
The passenger had come all the way from Kabul to visit Rumi’s place, Rumi’s Monastery, Nava Vihar, the Sun Temple. He respected Rumi, and loved his poems. He wondered, how a man who for seven centuries has moved the world with his spiritual legacy of poems and writings, could be unknown or not recognized by name in his own birthplace! It is a strange tale, that the world knows him but his people do not know him!
The passenger calls a friend and says that they are lost and they have found nothing! The place they are now is called Khan Aqa!
His friend says: “The place that you are is part of the place Rumi has lived. The village of Khan Aqa is the place you can go and visit. You may wonder why they don’t know about Rumi. It will be worse when you go further to the village. Who understands ignorance? But you can’t go further than that because a few kilometers from the place is not secure at all. Don’t risk your life.”
The passenger is sad and happy now. Happy for making it to the city, getting lost in the city, struggling to find the city. He was happy that he breathed the air of the city even if he didn’t know it was the city he wanted. It felt to him like being in love for a long time, but not knowing it. He was also sad. Sad, for the people who didn’t recognize where they lived. Sad, for the people who did not appreciate their heritage, the legacy of Rumi. The people who lost Rumi long ago, and the tradition.
Then the passenger remembered a poem of Mawlana Rumi:
I have sent you hundred letters
I have shown you a hundred ways
Is it that you don’t read the letters that you don’t know the way
If you don’t read the letters, letters ask you come
If you don’t know the way, the guide will find you
This poem made the passenger happier and he smiled. He said to himself for Rumi, “You don’t need to come back home because now you are everywhere! And every heart is your home. And if they do not know the way, the guide will find them.”