Beyond the Limited Self

Posted on September 30th, 2018

Last week I travelled to the beautiful city of Baku in Azerbaijan where on Friday I performed at the opening of the very first Nasimi Festival in Baku. Imadeddin Nasimi (d. 1417) was one of the giants of tradition and among the very first to write an entire dīvān in the Azeri language.

The theme, ‘Beyond the Limited Self’, is an essential part of Nasimi’s message. The impressive 4-day festival offered music, poetry, theatre, lectures and more. It was moving to see such a major event dedicated to the profound spirituality that flowed from the pen of this mystical poet and to witness the ways people are bringing these ideas into today’s world.

Congratulations to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Mehriban Aliyeva its President and Leyla Aliyeva its Vice-President, and to the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan for conceiving and executing this extraordinary event. Kudos to Azerbaijan for all their efforts in preserving and promoting Azerbaijani culture and tradition and for making this great sage and his thought better known in the wider world.

Here are my comments that preceded my concert:

Good evening. Respected brothers and sisters of Baku and Azerbaijan, and all those who have travelled from other lands, I greet you with the greeting of peace and love: Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

I’m here tonight at the gracious invitation of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Ministry of Culture which it was my honour to accept. And I’m here to pay tribute to the legacy of Imadeddin Nasimi. I’m privileged to share the same roots as Nasimi, to be connected to him through blood and language and culture. But his legacy goes far beyond this one nation. The words of this remarkable man reverberate today not only throughout Azerbaijan, but in other parts of the Islamic world, and among people everywhere who know the inner meanings of Sufi poetry.

Nasimi was a great sage and a significant figure of Islamic civilization. While his ecstatic sayings were misconstrued by some, like other great Sufi poets, he spoke a different
language – one that not everyone understood — he spoke the language of love.

Nasimi is remembered to this day, not only because he is one of the first poets to write in Azeri, but because he made of that language a vehicle to speak of the human quest to touch the Divine. His mystical poems have guided seekers across the centuries. And today, as we gather here in his honour, his message of spirituality with its emphasis on love and tolerance could not be more relevant and more urgently needed. The essence of Nasimi’s faith came from his inner experience of the truth and beauty of the Divine. And his words ring out across time to tell us that such experience is ours if we but seek it.
Both worlds can fit within me, but in this world I cannot fit
I am the placeless essence, but into existence I cannot fit

Məndə sığar iki cahan, mən bu cahâna sığmazam
Gövhər-i lâ-məkân mənəm, kövn ü məkâna sığmazam

منده صغار ايكى جهان من بو جهانه صغمازام
گوهر لامکان منم كون و مکانه صغمازام



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