Call for papers: A Boundless Ocean: Rumi’s Thought and Reception

15 April 2023

On 23-24 November 2023, we are organising the international conference A Boundless Ocean: Rūmī’s Thought and Reception at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. The conference is part of the ERC Advanced Grant Beyond Sharia: The Role of Sufism in Shaping Islam. The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 15 April 2023.

Image from the Masnavi of Jalal al-Din Rumi
dated A.H. 894/1488–89 CE, page 172 recto (source:


Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, Maarten Holtzapffel, Amin Ghodratzadeh, Alexandra Nieweg, Fatemeh Naghshvarian, Zhinia Noorian, Arash Ghajarjazi

Why a Conference on Rūmī?

The year 2023 marks the 750th anniversary of Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī’s death (1207-1273), one of the most read authors in the Islamic world, and a best-selling poet in the United States, praised for his aesthetics, his wisdom, practical advice, and passionate love. Rūmī composed an impressive amount of works, his poetry consists of about 120.000 lines. His magnum opus, the Spiritual Poem (Masnavī-yi maʿnavī) is called the Koran in the Persian language as he comments on the Koran in an attractive fashion, adorning his message with metaphors and illustrative anecdotes. His opening lines about the complaint of a reed cut from the reedbed are a metaphor for the separated human soul, longing to return to the original home. His oeuvre is unmatched. In Professor William’s words, “It is perhaps the single most influential piece of mystical writing ever conceived”. Why is Rūmī so appealing to people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds? What is his timeless message that attracts both Muslims and non-Muslims alike? How can the modern appreciation of Rūmī be explained? How are his transgressive ideas used as a counter to the violent ideas of Islamist ideology, emphasizing a different Islam?

Aim of the Conference

This conference brings together scholars who have worked or are working on various aspects of Rūmī as a mystic, a religious scholar, and a poet. We would like to invite scholars working on Rūmī to present their papers on any aspects of this medieval sage. More emphatically, the conference is organized to encourage discussions on the understudied aspects of Rūmī’s poetry, mystical philosophy, personality, legacy and reception history.

Call for Abstracts

We would like to invite abstracts of maximum 300 words together with one paragraph CV (maximum 250 words) by April 15, 2023. Research master and PhD students are encouraged to apply as we would like to create a mixture of early-career, mid-career and established scholars. The abstracts are assessed based on their innovative character, both thematically and methodologically. Accepted contributions will be asked to submit a draft paper of about 2000 words before 15 September 2023. After the conference, we shall invite a selected number of scholars to submit their papers for publication in a peer-reviewed university press.


15 April 2023: Deadline for abstract submission

15 May 2023: Decision on accepted abstract

15 September 2023: Submission of the draft papers (2000 words)

16-17 November 2023: Workshop at Utrecht University

15 December 2023: Submission of the final paper

Costs of the Conference for presenters

The organisation will cover the reservation for the conference hall, lunches, and conference dinner on the first day. Applicants should cover their own travel expenses and accommodations.

How to submit

Please send your abstract and CV in one document by email to (