The letter from Qonya

Talat Farooq
 Nothing in the prevailing state of despair and devastation could have lifted the soul more than nine-year old Merve Tekinay's letter to President Zardari along with her donation of one year's pocket-money and her doll for the flood victims in Pakistan. In her hand-written letter she says "I saw Pakistan in the news and felt so sad. Please don't hesitate to ask; we are your best friends." (The News, September 11). There is no doubt that Turkey has stood by us in times of need. Those of us who have visited Turkey can vouch for the warmth that the Turks show towards their Pakistani friends, not just at the governmental level but more prominently in the streets of Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. Merve's letter is a reminder of this friendship; it is also a reminder of our mutual heritage.

Written from Qonya, the city of Jalaluddin Rumi, the words of the child are reminiscent of the saint's philosophy of combining the temporal with the spiritual. A little girl with a big heart, untarnished by hypocrisy has had not only the compassion to 'feel sad', but also the courage to translate this sadness into positive action. In reaching out to the wretched and the broken- hearted far beyond her borders she sacrificed not only hard cash, but also something of sentimental value -- her doll.

She is probably too young to understand the complex jargon in the academic work on Rumi, but she possesses the most appropriate medium for receiving higher truths -- a pure heart. It is therefore not surprising that what she has felt, said and done is the clearest manifestation of Rumi's message that interprets religion in its purest form by integrating material appearances with spiritual dimensions.

Rumi acquired the knowledge of exoteric religious sciences through formal studies and became a respected religious teacher, whose opinion was sought on matters of canon; but he did not stop there. Instead he searched for deeper meanings of religious thought to understand the esoteric aspects. In his quest for higher truth, humanity and humaneness became more important than ritualistic religious practices. For Rumi the meaning always dominated the form and led to tolerance and inclusiveness.

Life's quest for growth and newer heights and man's potential to attain higher morality through unconditional love are recurrent strands of Rumi's thought. Creative passion, says Rumi, is a seed planted in every spirit and if watered and pruned properly grows from a sapling to a towering tree. His Masnavi draws upon the lives of the prophets and saints not to narrate events but to highlight the spiritual meaning of their journeys through life. Syed Hossein Nasr has compared Firdausi's 'Shahnameh', the epic Persian poem that depicts the worldly exploits of the Persian kings, to Rumi's Masnavi that shifts the focus to the inner battlefield of the soul of man. Nasr concludes that the former symbolises 'jihad-e-asghar' while the latter interprets 'jihad-e-akbar'.

Since his death seven hundred years ago, the influence of his monumental works, Masnavi and Diwan Shams Tabreezi continue to impact Turkish, Persian and Indo-Pakistan religious thought and practices, and make him the most popular mystic poet in the west. It is precisely because of Rumi's faith in the universality of human goodness and his acceptance of diversity as a manifestation of the Ultimate Truth that makes Rumi's influence so widespread and relevant to the 21st century.

On the other hand, the onslaught of Wahabism in Pakistan and Afghanistan has managed to relegate the complex and diverse inner meanings of religious thought to mere ritualistic phenomenon, and to create confusions through its vociferous proponents. This focus on the outward forms of practices of worship, without understanding the deeper nuances, invariably creates a judgmental mindset based not on knowledge, but bigotry. Lack of critical thinking skills in our educational system are matched by the absence of critical analysis in our religious studies. It is this divisive thinking pattern that divides people into sects and groups.

The human insecurities and fear of survival in a hostile world are often exploited by vested interests for political ends. In times of social decay and political turmoil, it is difficult to indulge in introspection and take practical steps to improve and prosper; it is more convenient to seek ideologically insulated bubbles within which one can be amongst the known and the familiar and where one has neither to think nor decide nor choose or discard; all is taken care of. In this bubble, uniformity becomes linked to security and safety while diversity or dissent become synonymous with danger to survival. Hence the division of the human species into 'we' and 'the other'. This tendency is then translated into bombings of Sufi shrines, Ahmedi mosques and Christian churches.

Rumi endeavored to rejuvenate the society in the aftermath of the devastating Mongol brutality, by highlighting the symbiotic relationship between the spiritual and the material and between the limitless human potential and the boundless human will to realise it. Today the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular, stand at the crossroads of history, caught in the quagmire of inaction and self-righteousness. In the decay and destruction around him in the 13th century, Rumi yearned for a spiritual hero who had risen above the animal level at which most humans lived and died, saying: "I am sick of beasts and animals: my wish is for a human being."

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

The writer is a PhD student at Leicester, UK. Email:
Published in The News on 21st September 2010


ANKARA, Sept. 11: A nine-year old Turkish girl student Ms Merve Beyza Tekinay has donated her one year’s pocket money of TL 150 in cash and her doll as a contribution to help the flood stricken people of Pakistan.
In an instance of sublime affection demonstrated by the ordinary Turkish citizen for their Pakistani brethren, Ms Merve, hailing from Konya, also addressed a personal letter to the President of Pakistan.
The hand written letter promises continued help for Pakistan. “I will go on sending my help. Don’t hesitate, we are your best friends,” writes little Merve.
Merve’s letter says, “I don’t know how much you need, I am sending you my one year’s pocket money and my doll. In the name of our friendship, I also send a photo of me.”
She goes on and says, “I am little, I saw Pakistan in the news and felt so sad. My Baba told me that you helped us in our War of Independence a lot. So now it is our turn to help you in these floods.”
“I wrote this letter because I want you to know that we are all informed about this”, the letter said. She concludes her letter with “May God help you, Kisses.”
The cash contribution of Merve has been deposited in the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Relief Fund account maintained by the Embassy of Pakistan in Ankara.

Help the flood affectees of Pakistan
Pakistan Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund Account Numbers:
US Dollar Account: 3457808/5010
Turkish Lira Account: 3457808/5011
T.C. Ziraat Bankasi A.Ş., 920 – Gaziosmanpaşa, Filistin Sok. No. 12, ANKARA

Jang Multimedia

Jang Multimedia

Saadat Party shows solidarity with Pakistan

ANKARA, September 7:  Chairman Saadat Party Prof. Dr. Numan Kurtulmuş today visited Pakistan Embassy in Ankara and conveyed sympathies and condolences of his party for the flood affectees of Pakistan.
 “To show solidarity with the people of our brotherly country Pakistan, Saadat Party has cancelled this year’s Iftar party,” said Prof. Dr. Nauman. He presented a cheque of TL 25,800. This amount was earlier earmarked for the Iftar dinner.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Turkey, H.E. Mr. Tariq Azizuddin briefed the delegation of Saadat Party on the present status of floods. He informed that over 20 million people have been affected by the devastating floods and 1,752 people have died. The floods have destroyed 4,458,680 acres of cropped area, he added.


Help the flood victims in Pakistan
Pakistan Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund Account Numbers:
US Dollar Account:                3457808/5010
Turkish Lira Account:             3457808/5011
T.C. Ziraat Bankasi A.Ş., 920 – Gaziosmanpaşa, Filistin Sok. No. 12, ANKARA