Wearing long, flowing robes and tall hats, the Whirling Dervishes twirl to live music played on ancient instruments, a form of worship said to bring them closer to God. Would you like to learn the complex spiritual beliefs behind this ancient Turkish ritual? Then this post is for you!
Mainly accepted to be the mystical dimension of Islam, sufism is defined as a means by which a person makes his personality free from bad habits, cleanses his soul and attains maturity with his love for God. Sufism is a lifestyle, a different attitude towards life.
On the other hand, the order is an institutionalized phenomenon arising from Sufism. We can imagine it as the relationship of ice and water. Ice is made up of water but it is the solid state of water. So we can tell sufism is another form of Islam, a mystical dimension into islam.
In the Islamic world, there are many orders that are still being practiced. The most well known around the world is the Mevlevi order. It was established in 1273 by Rumi’s son, Sultan Veled after the death of his father. He is regarded as the original founder of this order as he is the first person who systemized and organized his father’s ideas. The basis of the Mevlevi order is love and tolerance.
The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony
In the universe, everything revolves. From atoms to the solar system and to the blood which circulates in the body. Sema is a ritual, a spiritual journey which the soul makes to reach the God as it becomes mature and attains unity. After this journey, it returns to life to servet he humankind again.
In dervish lodges, flutists, drummers, chanters and choir comprise of a band called “Mutrip”. Semahane is located in front of the Mutriphane. Directly across from the entrance to the Semahane, there is the sheikh post. The line between the post and the entrance is the shortest way to the unity going to the eternal truth. The sheikh is the only person to tread on this line during the ritual. The sheikh represents Mevlana (Rumi).
Symbols of the Ceremony
It is a sign of spiritual post and it represents sheikh the spiritual leader. Spiritual leader is the representation of Rumi, commonly known as Mevlana in Turkey.
Sikke is the name of the dervish’s conical hat. It represents the tombstone.
Hırka is the name of the dervish’s coat. It represents the tomb.
It is the name of the dervish’s white dress with long skirt. It represents the shroud.
The Phases of Sema Ceremony
Sema comprises of seven parts.
After Mutrip, whirling dervishes and sheikh take their places in the post. “Nat- Serif” is recited by the chanter. This work praises the Prophet Mohammed.
Following the chant, drum is played symbolizing the order “Be”.
Then, ney improvisation starts. Ney represents the first breath which gives life to the universe.
Upon the completion of the improvisation,”Devr-i Veled” starts with the accompaniment of “peshrev”. The sheikh and the whirling dervishes revolve for three times in the semahane with the music. The first revolution tells the creation of the sun, the moon, stars abd all non-living things. The second revolution tells the creation of the plants abd the third revolution tells the creation of the animals. While passing the post during “Devr-i Veled”, the whirling dervishes plead with each other and prostrate themselves before the hearts of each other.
Taking his place in the post, the sheikh meets with the whirling dervishes, who remove their coats as the first salute of the ritual begins. Then the dervishes start revolving. This represents the birth of humanity. The whirling dervishes wear a special costume symbolizing the death of the ego. The conical hat represents the thombstone, the coat represents the tomb and tennure represents the shroud.
The whirling dervishes’ arms are crossed across their chestss while they enter the circle. In this position, they look like a ”one”, attesting the unity of God. As the whirling begins, they extend their arms up into the sky with their right hand facing upwards and the left hand facing downwards. This means “From God we receive, to man we give, we keep nothing to ourselves.”
The whirling dervishes revolve both around their own axes and also around the sun. They salute 3 times.
The sheikh returns to his post with ney improvisation. The ritual continues with reading passages from the Quran.
Sema ends with Fatiha prayer, fort he souls of all prophets, our martyrs and all believers and a prayer fort he salvation of our country. Thus the journey ends.
“When you enter the Sema, you will leave both of the worlds; this World of the Sema is outside of both worlds.” – Rumi
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