New exhibition on Rumi at the Aga Khan Museum

The Aga Khan Museum will be hosting a thought-provoking exhibition that explores the life and impact of one of history’s most renowned poets, marking the 750th anniversary of his passing.

Opening May 13, Rumi invites visitors on a fascinating journey through the life and legacy of poet and mystic, Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi (d. 1273). In a time where uncertainty has been one of few constants, Rumi’s words continue to touch the hearts of many, acting as a beacon of peace and love. Despite countless interpretations and translations of his work, his transformative messages have endured, providing solace and guidance in a world that often feels out of control. Rumi’s words have become familiar to audiences all over the globe, appearing everywhere from social media to visual art.

“One of the centres where candlesticks of this type may have been made is Konya, the city where Rumi spent most of his life. Its figural designs appear to have been adapted from the arts of Christian communities that lived in the region. At the same time, we know that similar candlesticks were donated to Muslim religious institutions as pious endowments. Ultimately, such objects speak to the cultural diversity of Konya during Rumi’s lifetime.” – Dr. Michael Chagnon, Curator, Aga Khan Museum -© 2008 RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

The exhibition will introduce visitors to the mystic behind the poetry, exploring his early life in Central Asia, experiences with displacement and migration, transformation into a master Sufi, and the multiple ways in which his words have and continue to impact arts and culture — from 16th-century painter, Sadeqi Beg to iconic pop star, Beyoncé.

“In this exhibition, we seek to unravel who Rumi was and to view him with clarity in his historical and literary context — to separate the facts about his life and writing from his later reception,” says Dr. Michael Chagnon, Curator at the Aga Khan Museum. “In addition to showcasing new discoveries related to Rumi’s poetry in our own Collections, placing these objects in dialogue with contemporary works that respond to the exhibition’s core themes emphasizes the breadth of his impact and the enduring timelessness of his teachings.”


The exhibition combines historical masterpieces with eye-opening contemporary artworks. The former include manuscripts, paintings, and artifacts from the Aga Khan Museum’s Collections, including a rare, illustrated copy of Rumi’s Masnavi, one of the most renowned works of Sufi poetry and a landmark of world literature. Rumi will also showcase objects from the collections of prestigious global institutions, such as the V&A, the Louvre, and the Met.

One of two known folios from an illustrated copy of the Masnavi, this illustration is presumed to have been produced in the Royal Library in Tabriz, Iran, in the 16th century. It illustrates one of the last stories from the Masnavi, focusing on the nature of vision and how one should not trust or follow one’s eyes. Photo courtesy Aga Khan Museum

“In times of upheaval and uncertainty, Rumi’s message of peace and love resonates today as powerfully as ever. In this exhibition, historical and contemporary arts come together to speak of his lasting legacy and impact,” says Dr. Ulrike Al-Khamis, Director and CEO of the Aga Khan Museum. “At the same time, the Rumi exhibition aims to remind us that the arts, just as Rumi’s work itself, are uniquely powerful in providing hope, building bridges, and bringing people together across and beyond differences in the name of peace.”

Rumi will run until October 1st. Please visit the Aga Khan Museum website for more details.

Transcribed in refined nasta’liq calligraphy by a noted calligrapher of the 16th century, the quatrain on this album folio refers to the transformative power of a direct encounter with the divine. For centuries, this quatrain was believed to have been written by Rumi, though recent research suggests that it was probably composed by an earlier poet. Below it is a delicate depiction of a beautiful woman drinking wine by Sadiqi Beg, one of the late 16th century’s greatest Persian painters. – © The Aga Khan Museum

Top Image: Painted in Mughal India ca. 1600, this painting, once mounted in an album, shows a majestic crowned peri (fairy) and its elephant mount formed from multiple, interlocking creatures, packed tightly together — birds, mythical and actual quadrupeds, and humans. Guiding them is a footman dressed in the garb of an Indian qalandar (itinerant mystic), who is overpainted in luminous translucent white, forming a stark contrast to the motley, crowded figures behind him. Image courtesy Aga Khan Museum