The name Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi stands for Love and ecstatic flight into the infinite. Rumi is one of the great spiritual masters and poetical geniuses of mankind and was the founder of the Mevlevi Sufi order, a leading mystical brotherhood of Islam.
Rumi was born on 30 September 1207 in Balkh in present day Afghanistan to a family of learned theologians. Escaping the Mongol invasion and destruction, Rumi and his family traveled extensively in the Muslim lands, performed pilgrimage to Mecca and finally settled in Konya, Anatolia, then part of Seljuk Empire. When his father Bahaduddin Valad passed away, Rumi succeeded his father in 1231 as professor in religious sciences. Rumi 24 years old, was an already accomplished scholar in religious and positive sciences.The mevlevi brotherhood is founded completely on love and tolerance. He died on 17 December 1273 in Konya in present day Turkey. He was laid to rest beside his father and over his remains a splendid shrine was erected. The 13th century Mevlana Mausoleum with its mosque, dance hall, dervish living quarters, school and tombs of some leaders of the Mevlevi Order continues to this day to draw pilgrims from all parts of the Muslim and non-Muslim world.
The Exalted Mevlana is saint of love : gave his heart to the creator and he taught us to speak always of love and to love all creation as being from the Creator. He asks,
“If you fill a jug from the ocean , how much can it hold ? One day’s supply.”
Thus. Just as the ocean can only fill the jug to its capacity , so mevlana can only fit into words and our perception in proportion to our capacity . In any case , Mevlana is beyond the highest and finest conception. He said,
“Be a lover , a lover. Choose love that you might be a chosen one.”
To give up one’s own existence and become non-existent in God , that is , to bind ones’s heart completely to God , is shortest way to God . Whoever has given his heart to the Divine Truth has no “self ” left . It is god who moves every particle of him. In this way that person no longer acts in accordance with his ego , doing the bad things that would cause harm to others. He has become enfolded in the moral principles of God . Exalted Mohammed and the Exalted Mevlana are examples of these qualities for us.
Mevlana is limitless being , unable to be contained by this world. He is the Divine Voice giving the good news to those seeking beauty , truth , goodness , light and Divine Truth. He is the voice of mercy offering consolation to those under tyranny. He is the breath of healing , bestowing health on those crying out in separation. He is the teacher of humanness to humans. He teaches that every thing is within the human being and that the whole universe is under man’s command.
Mevlana is a great lover of the Divine Truth. He is the master of love . He himself is love . To those who asked what love was he answered thus
“Be like me and know ; whether in light or darkness , until you have been like this you can ‘t completely know love.”
Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi is an illustrious being, Divine Light, a spritual sun who brought a brand new message to human thinking ; who offered the ideas and system of Islamic thought and articles of faith within the triangle of spirit, mind and love ; who opened new horizon to man by adding excitement to the way of morals, religion, wisdom, and knowledge. The greatest message he brought to human thinking is Love , Divine Love and Unity.
Rumi brought enthusiasm to hearts with his saintly characteristics; he was a saint, spritual master, whose human mind had been bathed in light; he cleanses hearts and minds of impurities and rescues them from duality.
He rejects nothing but rather unites, perfects and causes love. He is prejudiced toward none because he knows that everything is the manifestation and actualization of God and he reflects this as a spritual state to the mind and heart of man Mevlana is asuperior and saintly master . He is a system in himself , a life an order. He is a monument to spritually who , through his sublimity , displayed his moral values , his knowledge , wisdom love , intelligence , perception of God , behaviour , everything . His is the true representative of the prophets , the highest element and realization of love and intelligence.
“Man is the nost honorable of all creation.” is one of his maxims.
The Exalted Mevlana embraced those of every language , creed and race or color ; he is the symbol of love peace , brotherhood, and tolerance.
The night of 17 December is the holiest in the Mevlevî calendar, a night of union, a wedding night (Şeb-i Arus), when Mevlana departed the mortal world to become one with He who loves and is loved. It is not a time to mourn but to rejoice: At my death do not lament our separation…As the sun and moon but seem to set,In reality this is a rebirth. Each year thousands of people from the far corners of the world, travel to Konya in response to Mevlana’s call of 735 years ago:
“Come, come again, whoever you are, come!
Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come!
Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times,
Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are.”
To understand Mevlana one should read his works. It is suggested to start with his major work, The Masnavi . Mevlana’s books are translated to many languages and are among the best selling books of their sort all over the world. At present, Mevlana, better known there as Rumi, is the “best selling poet” in United States of America. The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks has sold more than a quarter of a million copies and is one of the top 1000 best selling books at Amazon. It is by far the largest selling poem book ever!
Sufi Tradition & Mevlevi Order
Sufism is a mystical Muslim school of thought and aims to find love and knowledge through direct personal experience of Allah. Sufism, often referred to as the mystical dimension of Islam, was formerly understood in Orientalist scholarship as a spiritual movement that reached its apogee during the medieval period of Islamic history, with its crowning achievement being the brilliant literary productions in Arabic and Persian that became the classics of the Sufi tradition.
Many Sufi orders exist across the Muslim world. Sufis are “mystics” on the path to the Beloved (God). Most Sufis are Muslims, followers of the religion of Islam. Some Sufis (primarily in “the West”) are involved with other religions, or no formal religion — as directed by the higher source of wisdom within the human heart.
The Mevlevi, or Mevleviye, one of the most well-known of the Sufi orders, was founded in 1273 by Rumi’s followers after his death, particularly his son, Sultan Veled Celebi (or Çelebi, Chelebi) in Konya , from where they gradually spread throughout the Ottoman Empire. Today, Mevleviye can be found in many Turkish communities throughout the world but the most active and famous places for their activity are still Konya and Istanbul.
The Mevlevi were a well established Sufi Order in the Ottoman Empire, and many of the members of the order served in various official positions of the Caliphate. The centre for the Mevlevi order was in Konya, where Rumi is buried. There is also a Mevlevi monastery or dergah in Istanbul, near the Galata Tower, where the sema ceremony is performed and accessible to the public.
During Ottoman Empire era, the Mevlevi order produced a number of famous poets and musicians such as Sheikh Ghalib, Ismail Ankaravi (both buried at the Galata Mevlevi-Hane) and Abdullah Sari. Music, especially the ney, play an important part in the Mevelevi order and thus much of the traditional “oriental” music that Westerners associate with Turkey originates with the Mevlevi order. Indeed, if one buys a CD of Turkish Sufi music, chances are it will be Mevlevi religious music.
During the Ottoman period, the Mevlevi order spread into the Balkans, Syria, and Egypt (and is still practiced in both countries where they are known as the Mawlawi order). The Bosnian writer Mesa Selimovic wrote the book Death and the Dervish about a Mevlevi dergah in Sarajevo.
The Mevlevi Order is also linked to other Dervish orders such as the Qadiri (founded in 1165), the Rifa’i (founded in 1182), and the Kalenderis.
The Mevlevi Order was outlawed in Turkey at the dawn of the secular revolution by Kemal Atatürk in 1923.
The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony
Mevleviye are known for their famous practice of whirling dances. At their dancing ceremonies, or Sema, a particular musical repertoire called ayin is played. This is based on four sections of both vocal and instrumental compositions using contrasting rhythmic cycles and is performed by at least one singer, a flute-player (neyzen), a kettledrummer and a cymbal player. The oldest musical compositions stem from the mid-sixteenth century combining Persian and Turkish musical traditions. The repertoire was continuously broadened, and the first notations were made from the early twentieth century onwards.
Dancers would receive 1,001 days of reclusive training within the mevlevihane, a sort ofcloister, where they learnt about ethics, codes of behaviour and beliefs by living a practice of prayer, religious music, poetry and dance. After this training, they remained members of the order but went back to their work and families, combining spiritualism with civic life.
Following a recommended fast of several hours, the whirlers begin to rotate on their left feet in short twists, using the right foot to drive their bodies around the left foot. The body of the whirler is meant to be supple with eyes open, but unfocused so that images become blurred and flowing. The Sema takes place in a large circular-shaped room that is part of the mevlevihane building.
As a result of secularisation policies, all mevlevihane were closed in 1925. In the 1950s, the Turkish government, began allowing the Whirling Dervishes to perform annually in Konya on the Urs of Mevlana, December 17, the anniversary of Rumi’s death. In 1974, they were allowed to come to the West. They performed in France, for Pope Paul VI, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and other venues in the United States and Canada – under the direction of the late Mevlevi Shaikh Suleyman Hayati Dede. Many practitioners kept their tradition alive in private gatherings, and thirty years later, the Turkish government began to allow performances again, though only in public. From the 1990s, restrictions were eased and private groups re-emerged who try to re-establish the original spiritual and intimate character of the Sema ceremony.
The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony is proclamated as an INTANGIBLE WORLD HERITAGE in Traditional performing art social practices themes by UNESCO in October 2005.
Sema: Human Being in the Universal Movement
Text by Dr. Celaleddin Celebi, illustrations by Ingrid Schaar «Dr. Celebi’s other writings»
Sema is part of the inspiration of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi (1207- 1273) as well as of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture.
From a scientific viewpoint we witness that contemporary science definitely confirms that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object, no being which does not revolve and the shared similarity among beings is the revolution of the electrons, protons and neutrons in the atoms, which constitute the structure of each of them. As a consequence of this similarity, everything revolves and man carries on his live, his very existence by means of the revolution in the atoms, structural stones of his body, by the revolution of his blood, by his coming from the earth and return to it, by his revolving with earth itself.
However, all of these are natural, unconscious revolutions. But man is the possessor of a mind and intelligence which distinguishes him from and makes him superior to other beings. Thus the “whirling dervish” or Semazen causes the mind to participate in the shared similarity and revolution of all other beings… Otherwise, the Sema ceremony represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to “Perfect.” Turning towards the truth, his growth through love, desert his ego, find the truth and arrive to the “Perfect,” then he return from this spiritual journey as a man who reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole of creation, to all creatures without discrimination of believes, races, classes and nations.
Sema consists of seven parts:
The first part:
The dervish with his headdress (his ego’s tombstone), his white skirt (his ego’s shroud) is by removing his black cloak spiritually born to the truth, he journeys and advances there. At the onset and each stop of the Sema, holding his arms crosswise he represent the number one, and testifies to God’s unity. While whirling his arms are open, his right hand directed to the skies ready to receive God’s beneficence, looking to his left hand turned toward the earth, he turn from right to left around the heart. This is his way of conveying God’s spiritual gift to the people upon whom he looks with the eyes of God. Revolving around the heart, from right to left, he embraces all the mankind, all the creation with affection and love… It starts with an eulogy “Nat-I Serif” to the Prophet, who represents love, and all Prophets before him. To praise them is praising God, who created all of them.
The second part is a drum voice, symbolizing God order to the Creation: “Be.”
The third part: is an instrumental improvisation “taksim” with a reed “ney.” It represents the first breath which gives life to everything. The Divine Breath.
The fourth part is the “dervishes” greetings to each other and their thrice repeated circular walk “Devr-i Veled,” with the accompaniment of a music called “peshrev.” It symbolize the salutation of soul to soul concealed by shapes and bodies.
The fifth part is the Sema (whirling). It consists of four salutes or “Selam”s. At the end of each as in the onset, the dervish testifies by his appearance to God’s unity.
The first salute is man’s birth to truth by feeling and mind. His complete conception of the existence of God as Creator and his state of creature.
The second salute expresses the rapture of man witnessing the splendor of creation, in front of God’s greatness and omnipotence.
The third salute is the transformation of rapture into love and thereby the sacrifice of mind to love. It is a complete submission, it is annihilation of self with in the loved one, it is unity. This state of ecstasy is the highest grade in Buddhism, defined as “Nirvana” and in Islam “Fenafillah.” However, the highest rank in Islam is the rank of the Prophet, he is called God’s servant first and his messenger afterwards. The aim of Sema is not unbroken ecstasy and loss of conscious thought. At the termination of this salute, he approves again by his appearance, arms crosswise the Unity of God, consciously and feelingly.
The forth salute: Just as the Prophet ascends till the “Throne” and then returns to his task on earth, the whirling dervish reaching the state of “Fenafillah,” return to his task in creation, to his state of subservience following the termination of his spiritual journey and his ascent. He is a servant of God, of his Books, of his Prophets and all his creation.
The sixth part: Sema ends with a reading of the Quran and specially of the verse from sura Bakara 2, verse 115, “Unto God belong the East and the West, and whither over ye turn, you are faced with Him. He is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.”
The seventh part is a prayer for the repose of the souls of all Prophets and all believers.