The current edition of the NEH's Humanities Magazine features great friend of the blog and creative writing professor emeritus Coleman Barks:
Poetry in the Muslim world takes on many forms and touches upon myriad sentiments and sensibilities. Its roots lie in the epic and in romances, oral traditions that flourished in Persia and in the Ottoman and Mughal courts. Today, in Pakistan and India, truck drivers paint their entire rigs—cabs and trailers—with lines from favorite poems; in Turkey, dervishes whirl to the inspiration of Sufi poet Rumi; in Yemen tribesmen conduct negotiations in verse, and the Arabic calligraphy that sets lines on the page in many other Muslim countries is an art unto itself.
A poet known as Hafez wrote more than four hundred of them. In his hands, the form was “intense, passionate, ecstatic, often bearing multiple meanings,” according to the NEH-funded website Poetic Voices of the Muslim World. Hafez, the site hastens to add, “despised religious hypocrisy.”
In spite of the ghazal’s popularity among contemporary American poets, readers favor the work of Jalal Al-Din Rumi (1207–1273), the best-selling poet in the U.S., hands down. Spiritual and worldly at once, the verse finds joy in the every day. Greatly increasing Rumi’s popularity in English-language countries is the work of Coleman Barks, whose translations hit home with a contemporary idiom.
Emphasis mine. Just think about that for a second - the best-selling poet in the U.S. by far is a thirteenth-century Sufi mystic. When Barks traveled in Afghanistan a few years back, he noted that per the first paragraph above, the local politicians and businessmen in any city or town gather regularly to recite poetry. What if the American elite were connected to each other by such a tradition? It's hopeful to contemplate. Also of note, when the U.S war in Afghanistan began in 2001, Jalal Al-Din Runi was the most popular poet in both countries, thanks in no small measure to the work of Barks. More proof that there is always far more that connects rather than divides us.