My Muslim hero is Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī. He is better known as Rumi in the West. Rumi is an Islamic Sufi mystic from the 13th century who lived in what is now Konya, Turkey. I chose Rumi as my Muslim hero for two main reasons:

Firstly I believe that Rumi is a shining example of the things I admire most about the Turkish culture. Growing up as a disabled person in the United States I had become accustomed to people treating me differently because of my disability. I got used to thinking that the first thing people see when they look at me is not the type of person I am, it’s my wheelchair.

I assumed that it was going to be that way in all cultures because I had never been exposed to any other cultures except my own. That all changed the first time I met Turks. I was welcomed with open arms and treated to wonderful Turkish food. They wanted to get to know me the person and my wheelchair didn’t even faze them. For the first time in my life I forgot about my wheelchair and could just be myself. It was a complete culture shock for me because for once I wasn’t judged based on my disability. I cannot even put into words how good it felt. I think this is a shining example of Rumi’s teachings on love and tolerance.

The second reason is that I see so many similarities between his teachings and Catholicism. Both religions have meditation as an essential part of prayer. For instance Rumi and his followers used simple music in meditation and prayer. In Catholicism we have prayers such as the Rosary to help us meditate on our prayers so that we can bring ourselves closer to God. Both religions also encourage peace and tolerance which is very important in this post 9/11, 7/7 world. Perhaps the most critical thing for me is that Rumi’s teachings attract both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Sometimes you will even see Christians and Muslims praying together. This has made it easier for me because the teachings have taught me that I can participate in things like Ramadan without compromising my identity or my beliefs as a Roman Catholic.

These cross culture experiences have led me to be a stronger and well-rounded person. Therefore Rumi will always be my Muslim hero because he has helped me to understand the true meaning of peace, tolerance and love.

Written by Aydan G.

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