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What We Do Know About Mevlevies – Performances of the Mevlevi

The Turkish dervishes or whirling dervishes are the men who practice the Mevlevi dances.

But who the Mevlevies are ?

At the time of the troubled problems and conflicts in Persia, on the 6th of February of 604 h. On September 30, 1207, Mevlana Xhelaluddin Rrumiu was born, the most prominent name of Sufi-speaking poets in Persian, known not only in the East but also in the West.

Mevlana Rrumiu was born in the city of Belh, province of Khurasan, north of Afghanistan. Belhi’s city occupied the Arabs in 31 AH.

The original name of Mevlana Rrumiu is Muhammad, while Rrumi means Byzantium, the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Some sources from his ancestry associate with Abu Bakr, though it can hardly be argued. This group is larger than that of Ali. Some other sources associate Mevlana Rrumiu’s link with Ali through the Shaykh chain, so they call it Tarikati Alija. Some authors call it the synthesis of Alije-Bekrije streets. Although the alijian group was under Bektashi, alevi and other influences, however, this group did not feel close to them, but viewed themselves as Sunni.

Also known as “whirling dervishes”, they are called men who practice the Mevlevite dances – of Mevlana, “our teacher” -, in which they dance and turn on their own axis – they symbolize the “dance of the planets” – at different rhythms; it is a ceremony in which, through an ecstatic trance, an experience of faith is represented that helps them to reach the inspiration and the encounter with the divine.

The dervishes are part of the religious Muslims called Sufis – by Sufism, one of the denominations of the mystical themes of Islam – and its founder was the Persian spiritual guide and poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi. In a general way and to better understand how they see life, we will borrow an analogy that compares it to a bicycle wheel: the exterior part represents the norms that govern moral and religious behavior -sharia-; radios are the roads leading to Allah – the tarikats; and the center is where the Truth or Reality is located -the Haqq-, that is, where Allah is in the heart of every human being.

In addition to music and dance, another way in which the sulfides seek to reach the mystical union with Allah is through stories.

The gyrovago ritual began to be practiced after the thirteenth century, but after 1925, when Turkey had already become an independent secular republic, the fraternities of the dervishes were banned. It was not until the end of 1953 that an agreement could be reached to recover the Mevlevi dance, but it was only achieved that it was represented as a tourist attraction.

During the ceremony, the dervishes dance and repeat all the forms of the name of Allah. Especially the phrase “la illa ha illa ‘Ilah” is used, whose pronunciation and cadence help reach the mystical state that is sought.

As in any ritual, there are several rules to follow; For example, initiated Sufis should look for a shaykh-a teacher. Finding it and being accepted by it is considered a great gift and also implies a huge responsibility. The relationship between the shaykh and the disciple is considered one of the most sacred ties in Sufism.

Every year on December 17 – the anniversary of the death of al-Rumi – there are international dervish tours and, although the meaning of this dance has changed a lot over the years, it is believed that there are still dervish orders that, secretly, follow the original tradition.

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