Who could have predicted that the 13th century Persian poet Rumi would have such a huge presence on the Instagram feeds of post-Millennials? Jalal ad-Din Muhammed Rumi, to give him his full name, was a Sufi master who wrote ecstatic mystical poems about joy and love and the search for divine truth. His poetry would literally move people to dance, which is where the notion of the ‘whirling dervish’ comes from. 800 years on, what is it about the poetry of Rumi that continues to strike a chord with so many today, including artists like Madonna and Coldplay’s Chris Martin? For some, Rumi has been sanitised for a secular Western audience, but not everyone can read Persian.
Ernie Rea chairs a special discussion about Rumi's appeal, recorded at the BBC's Contains Strong Language Festival in Hull.
Narguess Farzad – Senior Lecturer in Persian Studies at SOAS University of London;
Alan Williams – Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester, who is currently translating the six volumes of the Masnavi;
Shaykh Paul Salahuddin Armstrong – Managing Director of the Association of British Muslims and member of the Naqshbandi Sufi order;
Jamal Mehmood - writer and poet.
Producer: Dan Tierney
Frankenstein, the tale of a scientist who creates a creature that ultimately destroyed him, has been a popular subject for films for many years. But the religious content of the original novel written by Mary Shelley is lost on the big screen. Her story centres on the scientist Victor Frankenstein, who plays God. His creation identifies first with Adam and then with Satan in Paradise Lost. He has admirable human qualities but is deprived of love and affection and becomes brutalised. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are Andrew Smith, Professor of Nineteenth Century English Literature at the University of Sheffield; Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Professor of English Literature at the University of the West of England; and Dr James Castell, Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University.
Producer: Helen Lee
The Nature of God
Who or what is God? Assuming here, that he or she exists. The traditional image is that of an old man with a beard, sitting somewhere up there, keeping an eye on his creation. But for many the nature of God has evolved far beyond this. But to what? What do we mean by God in today's world? Can we ever pin down the unknowable and does that matter?
Ernie Rea is joined by the Right Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon; Dr Mark Vernon, a Psychotherapist and author of A Secret History of Christianity and Pradip Gajjar, President of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness movement in Leicester and a teacher of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics.
The Religion of Spain
500 years ago this summer a fleet of ships left Spain in search of the Spice Islands and a way around the new world. Three years later just one ship returned barely afloat. The first documented circumnavigation of the Earth was complete. The voyage signalled the growth of the Spanish Empire and the spread of Christianity to the new world. The voyage was financed by a Papal grant and Spaniards were committed by Vatican decree to spread Catholicism to the new world. So how do we assess the role of religion in Spanish history, what have been the key moments and how has the place of religion changed in today’s contemporary Spain. In this episode of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea is joined by historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Dr Elizabeth Drayson, author of “The Moor’s Last Stand: how seven centuries of Muslim rule in Spain came to an end" and Dr Javier García Oliva, Senior Lecturer in Law, The University of Manchester.
Religion and Climate Justice
Barely a day goes by without some dire warning about the state of the environment. But we also hear that if we act now we may be able to avoid the worst consequences of man-made climate change. The vast majority of the world’s population hold to a faith tradition. So what role can religion play in bringing about the kind of change that is needed? Religion appeals not only to science but to deeply held beliefs and values. Religion can talk the language of hope as opposed to fear and can tap into vast networks and mobilise communities. So what difference can religions make, what kind of things are already happening and are they doing enough to tackle a problem that will connect all people regardless of faith and belief?
Joining Ernie Rea to discuss religion and climate justice are Dr Husna Ahmad is Chief Executive Officer of Global One 2015, a Muslim Independent non-governmental organisation led by women, Gopal Patel, Director of the Bhumi Project, which works to mobilise the Hindu community on environmental issues and Martin Palmer former Secretary-General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation.