By Charles Haviland BBC News, Balkh, northern Afghanistan
A young Afghan archaeologist, Reza Hosseini, took me to the ruins of the mud-and-brick-built khanaqa - a kind of madrassa or religious school - where Rumi's father taught and the young boy is believed to have studied, lying just outside the old mud city walls and probably within yards of his birthplace.
It is a quiet and melancholy place, the structure eroded and encroached on by shrubs and bushes.
Mr Hosseini says the floor was originally constructed of baked bricks and lined with carpets donated by those who came to share the learning.
But, he says, it is unclear how widespread, or acceptable, practices such as music and dance were in the wider population.
When Rumi was barely out of his teens, Balkh was reduced to rubble by Genghis Khan's marauding Mongol invaders.
Rumi had fled in advance with his family and settled in Konya, now in Turkey.
After the murder of his close friend, a Persian wandering dervish called Shams-i-Tabriz, he was depressed for years but later wrote his greatest poetic work, the Mathnawi.
It describes the soul's separation from God and the mutual yearning to reunite.
With his injunctions of tolerance and love, he has universal appeal, says Abdul Qadir Misbah, a culture specialist in the Balkh provincial government.
"Whether a person is from East or West, he can feel the roar of Rumi," he says.
But with Mr Hosseini's help, I traced a small group of eight Sufi musicians in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif whose great love is Rumi's poetry.
First there is a solo from Rumi's favoured instrument, the reed flute.
In the third song, all the men join in with an extraordinary, percussive vocal sound which, Mr Zakir says, comes straight from the heart. It continues for nearly 10 intense minutes.
I meet Professor Abdulah Rohen, a local expert on the poet, who says that, regrettably, knowledge of Rumi - also known as Mawlana - has declined recently.
"Forty years ago the economic situation of the people was good. People would work in the summer time collecting food and would eat it in winter. In winter they were free. They would gather in mosques and sing Mawlana's poems.
He says the advent of communism in Afghanistan brought poetry into disfavour because it was seen as backward-looking.
It was in fact a religious one; and, says Prof Rohen, Christians and Jews as well as Muslims flocked to his funeral.
"Mawlana says - if the sky is not in love, then it will not be so clear. If the sun is not in love, then it will not be giving any light. If the river is not in love, then it will be in silence, it will not be moving. If the mountains, the earth are not in love, then there will be nothing growing."