In generosity and helping others: be like the river.

In compassion and grace: be like the sun.

In concealing others’ faults: be like the night…

Either you appear as you are, or: be as you appear.

On this day (30th September) in 1207, Sufi theologian and poet Mowlānā Jalal al-Din Balkhi - more commonly known as Rumi - was born in the town of Balkh in modern-day Afghanistan.

Famous for his reflections on the nature of God, spirituality and love, Rumi’s work is still celebrated the world over and he is currently the most popular poet in the USA.

However, Rumi’s origins may not be as simple as it first appears. While his birthplace of Balkh is indeed within the borders of modern-day Afghanistan, in 1207 the town sat on the edge of the then-Persian Empire, and is typically associated with the cultural traditions of Iran. This is further complicated by the fact that Rumi fled Afghanistan as a young child and eventually settled in Turkey, where he wrote the majority of his life’s work.

There has been much contestation over the mystics origins over the years but historian Sadeq Osyani - professor of literature at the University of Balkh - takes a softer view, saying that the Sufi poet "actually has three homes… One is the whole world as his home, the second one is his home of language and the third is his birthplace in Balkh."

Rumi's work has inspired people in countries across the world and, whatever your view on the subject, this story reflects Afghanistan’s hugely diverse cultural history. Happy birthday Rumi!

Find out more about Afghan culture