"My life in service of the Quran, if I have one,

I'm the dirt of Muhammad, the chosen one.

Wheover attributes anything to me other than what I tell,

I'm disgusted by him and what he has to say as well."

-Moulana Rumi, Quatrain 1330

Rumi was Muslim

To those familiar with his writing, this goes without saying. After all - his name was 'Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī,' he wore the turban of Islamic knowledge, like his father before him. Rumi was Muslim through and through, but if one were to find him through translation, this wouldn't be immediately clear.

What if you didn't know much about Rumi, and you're not fluent in Persian, how would you learn about Moulana? You'd google him. This is where the problem begins. Look what you're greeted with when you google 'Rumi':

There he is, the 13th century poet Moulana, or is it?

No, it's Leonardo DiCaprio. That's alright, it's just a mistake by Google.

What if you wanted to read Rumi's work?

You click on the 'books' tab in the search bar:

Or you go to Amazon:

Both searches yield you books by the same author: Coleman Barks.

Barks doesn't know Persian or Arabic, and he doesn't have any other type of qualification to translate medieval Islamic poetry. But that didn't stop him from publishing over a dozen 'translations':

Despite having no qualifications, Barks managed to establish himself as a 'scholar' of Rumi's poetry, and he's often described as the 'foremost expert' and 'translator' of Moulana's works.

These books are largely responsible for the prevalence of quotes falsely attributed to Rumi all over social media - the vast majority of which emerged from the imagination of Coleman Barks.

Coleman's 'Rumi quotes' have become part of American pop culture, take this one from 'The Essential Rumi':

Ivanka Trump tweeted it out after her their failed attempt to make peace in Afghanistan. Ironically, her father wouldn't let Rumi into the United States if he were alive today.

Brad Pitt even got it tattooed right by his pit:

After quite a bit of research, we were able to track down the source of this quote, that Bark's has 'translated,' here it is in the original Persian with our English translation:

Now, let's compare Bark's 'translation' with our mostly literate translation:

In his version, Barks has erased the context and meaning of the poem, and reduced it to something nearly meaningless. Now take this second example, a quote we found online:

We trace it back to - you guessed it - our old friend Barks. It's in his book 'Open Secret: Versions of Rumi'

Again, after much research, we are able to track down the source of this 'translation,' and we have translated it ourselves:

Compare our translation with Bark's rendering:

Barks has transformed the gender-neutral 'yar' (which could be interpreted as either a mystical partner or a romantic one) into 'woman' removing any possibility of a spiritual reading of this poem (which is likely the correct reading). Some took up the cause of defending Barks, saying that his renderings are still a spiritual poet, and translation need not be so strict. How can you excuse this? He has needlessly taken a spiritual poem and made it about one thing: sex. Orientalists have always had their hangups about sex and viewed the east as a place of harems and slave girl markets. They sexualize everything about us, even up to the sacred elements of our culture, like the hijab (which they've even featured in porn). We Muslims are the spiritual descendants and inheritors of Moulana Rumi's teachings. We are the custodians of his writings, which are distinctly Islamic, and we refuse to allow any orientalist to tear Rumi from his context, remove the Islam, add in sex, and make millions of dollars and a career in the process.

The damage that Barks' 'popularization' of Rumi has done is immeasurable. Anyone reading these translations would wonder if Rumi was Muslim at all. So again they google, and they find the first answer:

Thousands of people have seen this answer, how many were mislead, and sent astray? How many Muslims will simply never look into Moulan's writings again, after being presented with such a distorted and outright false image of his work?

This is what Moulana had to say about his religion:

But you wont find that in anything written by Coleman Barks.