Walead Mosaad, director of Muslim Student Life at Lehigh, has hosted a series of Zoom weekly meetings where he reads poetry by Rumi — a renowned 13th-century poet and Muslim scholar — and invites anyone to listen, interpret and discuss their perspectives on Rumi’s work.
When Lehigh shifted to remote learning, Mosaad thought it would be constructive to take that extra time to reflect on traditional wisdom.
Mosaad was quarantining in Egypt with his family for around three months, but returned to New Jersey just last week. He began the Rumi Wisdom series in Egypt, and ran all of the meetings from there even with the drastic time difference. His attendees have been able to form strong connections from these meetings.
Hope Sagnip, an interlibrary loan and metadata specialist for Lehigh’s Library and Technology Services, is a supporter of religious freedom and has always been curious about other religions. When she heard about the series, she thought it would be an opportunity to learn more about religion and connect with others who share her interests. Sagnip said this series would give her a chance to explore and learn in a safe space.
Mosaad said Rumi is credited with being the most popular poet in America today, and he thought his poetry could help individuals remain reflective during this time of unprecedented isolation.
“Every day seems the same as the one before and the one that may come after,” said Tahya Keenan, an administrator in the Zoellner Arts Center programming office.“It’s hard to remember where we are because we are drifting in murky waters of unknown and uncertainty.”
Keenan said Rumi’s poetry has helped shape who she is today and appreciates hearing Mosaad’s perspective and interpretations of him. She has been reading and reciting Rumi’s works for over 20 years, and she said that is what makes these meetings special for her. There are few people who she can converse with about Rumi, and she said she is grateful to have found a space to do so.
“For me, to sit back and have Dr. Mosaad read interpretations of Rumi and reflect on them, is like rain on the desert for me,” Keenan said.
Sagnip said she likes the challenge of taking a step back and thinking about how others in the group are interpreting things, since Rumi’s poems provoke a lot of thought.
She said she feels lucky that the group as a whole is welcoming to new members. She never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome and believes that when others tune into the meetings, they will form valuable connections.
“I’m quite hopeful that once we are back on campus, the religious discussion continues and it is open for people to come together and do this,” Sagnip said. “It’s something I have really come to look forward to on Fridays.”
Keenan said she has enjoyed each meeting and encourages more people to attend and discover the wisdom of Rumi.
“I feel like there’s a lot swirling around me, like I’m Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz,” Keenan said. “But going to these meetings at 2 p.m. on Friday, boom! That’s my anchor.”
As long as there is interest in the series and people are attending, Mosaad said he plans to continue with the meetings into next semester and wants to initiate similar programs in the future.
“I think at least for the foreseeable future, probably until next winter, we’re thinking that we’re going to have to do more of these types of programs in general,” Mosaad said.