"Come unto me, even with blood on your hands, but without making rules or laws."
Mawlana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi(1207-1273)
Rumi was born in Balkh, Afghanistan. His poetry is in Persian and his works are widely read in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and in translation especially in Turkey, Azerbaijan, the US, and South Asia. Rumi's importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders. After Rumi's death, his followers founded the Mevlevi (Sufi) Order, better known as the "Whirling Dervishes," who believe in performing their worship in the form of dance and music ceremony called the sema.
Sufi Muslims, who have Orders in many countries, have always departed from orthodox Islam's stern script. Placing an emphasis on spirituality over religious protocol, the men who came to be called dervishes developed a pantheon of saints, challenging Islam's strict monotheism. Since 1993, the Mevlevi dervish lodge in Istanbul has permitted women and men to perform the sacred dances together.