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Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes

Rumi's mausoleum and Mevlana Museum, Konya

Rumi's mausoleum and Mevlana Museum, Konya

"Let the beauty of what you love be what you do"

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” 

“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.” 

Born in present day northern Afghanistan, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī grew up in an enclave of Persian culture. Rumi's father was a theologian and mystic.  When Mongols invaded Central Asia, the family moved west across the Persian empire.  It was during this trek westward that the young Rumi encountered some of Persia's most famous mystic poets.

The mystical and spiritual philosophy of Sufism was highly regarded in the Persian Empire and was responsible for a flourishing intellectual culture across the region.  Rumi was encouraged to seek out Sufi scholars during his travels, continuing to shape Rumi's spiritual philosophy and heavily influence his writings. Rumi's father was eventually invited to settle in Konya, Anatolia and become head of a madrassa (religious school).  Upon his father's death, Rumi inherited the position.

It was in Damascus where Rumi met the Dervish Shams-e-Tabrizi, and the two became close friends. Rumi set aside his respected position as teacher and jurist to become an ascetic, and pursue his deeper spiritual and mystical quest through poetry, music and dance.  Shams disappeared and was rumored to have been murdered.  The sudden loss of and bereavement for resulted in an outpouring of lyrical poems dedicated to his friend.  

Whirling Dervish Sema, Istanbul.

Whirling Dervish Sema, Istanbul.

Rumi's poetry found many admirers and supporters. He was encouraged to continue writing poetry, resulting in his seminal masterwork, the Masnavi , dictated during the last 12 years of his life.

Following his death, the Mevlevi Sufi order was established by Rumi's followers. As was the custom during Rumi's time, they believed that dance could heighten the spiritual connection with God, and continue to this day, their whirling dance in a ceremony called the Sema.

Our Origins of Civilization journey visits Rumi's mausoleum and Mevlana Museum. Although the Sema is only performed once a year in Konya, we can arrange for you to observe this religious rite in Istanbul if your schedule allows.



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