Ishaq Ibrahim Adham
by Seyedeh Sahar Kianfar
from Vol. 2, No. 4
by Titus Burckhardt
from Vol. 3, No. 2
Tariqa & Haqiqa
by Seyedeh Sahar Kianfar
from Vol. 9, No. 2
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Living Tradition of Mevlana Jelaluddin
ir Rahman ir Rahim
In the Name of God, The Compassionate, The Merciful
the Holy Quran, Unto Allah (God) belongs the East and
the West and whithersoever you turn, there is the Face of God.
Lo! Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.
path, the Mevlevi path of the Whirling Dervishes, is the path of Hazreti
Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi. Rumi is, apparently, now the most popular poet
in the U. S., but sometimes people dont make the connection between
the poetry of Hazreti Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi and the tradition of the
Whirling Dervishes. The Whirling Dervishes are the Sufis of the Mevlevi
Order, the Mevlevi tariqa, or path. There are many different Sufi Orders
and most of them take their names from great saints who have placed their
stamp on a tradition which grew up after them. Hazreti Mevlana placed
his stamp on what became the Mevlevi tariqa, the Mevlevi Sufi way and
the main feature of that way is the Sema, the whirling or turning dance
of the Mevlevis. In referring to Rumi as Hazreti Mevlana, Mevlana means
Lord or Master and Hazreti is like a title; it means Presence.
is a ceremony of dhikr Allah, which means remembrance of God. All the
various Sufi Orders do different forms of dhikr and ceremonies of dhikr.
In our way, the Sema is our group ceremony of remembrance of God. We use
dhikr Allah as a private, personal devotion as well as a group devotion,
so when the dervishes are turning in the Sema, they are saying in their
hearts, the dhikr of the order, which is simply the name, Allah. When
the dervishes turn, they are focusing their attention on their inner centre
and they turn around and around their own centre in this way, and there
should be nothing else in their hearts except remembrance of God.
Hazreti Mevlana said: Sema is peace for the lovers of God, and, The Sema
is made for the union with the Beloved. Those who have their faces turned
toward the Qibla,
them it is the Sema of this world and the other.
Even more for the circle of dancers within the Sema
Who turn and have in their midst, their own Kaaba.
for Muslims is the Holy House in Mecca, the place of pilgrimage. In our
turning, we make a pilgrimage to that centre of our own being. The Kaaba
is also the place where all Muslims turn to make their prayer; wherever
they are in the world, they are turning towards that centre for their
prayer. Sema is prayer and the way I would ask people to view the Sema
is not as a performance, but as a sharing of the experience of our prayer
in the Sema. It is for this reason that we ask people not to applaud after
the Sema, because it is worship. It is, for example, like going into a
room and seeing us make the Muslim devotions, the Muslim prayer. After
an initial moment of curiosity, you would just accept our prayer as we
were doing it and join in that feeling of prayers. You would not view
that prayer as a performance, as something we were doing to impress you
or show you or entertain you. You would see that this prayer was given
for our own personal reasons; for Allah Almighty. It is in that way that
I ask people to view the Sema; as an experience of devotion and prayer
that we are privileged to share with you.
The Sema is based on Hazreti Mevlanas experience and Hazreti Mevlana
was, like all the Sufi Sheikhs and Masters, a follower of the Sunna, the
Way, and of the revelation of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu aleihi
wa salaam, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him. Mevlana wrote:
I am the slave of the Quran while I still have life. I am dust on
the path of Muhammad, the Chosen One. If anyone interprets my words in
any other way, I deplore that person and I deplore his words. The ceremony
and the way of the dervishes is a way that uses and submits to the religion
of Islam, the Sunna of the Holy Prophet and the saints who followed in
His footsteps. Much has been said of Hazreti Mevlanas universal
message. It is universal because the truth of the way of the heart is
universal and meaningful to all of us.
In the Sema, the ceremony begins with a song called the Naat, a
recitation: Ya Hazreti Mevlana, and this means: Presence of our Lord,
or Master. This is commonly used when referring to Mevlana Jelaluddin
Rumi, but these words in the opening recitation do not relate to Rumi,
rather they relate to the Holy Prophet, s.a.w.s. After this opening, there
is the ney (reed flute) playing, recalling this yearning and separation
of the soul from its divine origin. Then we enter into the Sema with the
cycle of Sultan Veled in which the dervishes walk round three times and
bow to each other. As they bow in front of the post the red sheepskin
throne of the Sheikh, they are recognizing in each other the divine
spark. There follows a period of dhikr Allah before we begin the four
selams or salutations, the four greetings, which comprise the turning
or whirling of the Sema itself. Finally, there is a recitation from the
Holy Quran and often the passage used in that recitation is the
one that I began with, . . . whithersoever you turn, there is the Face
Hazreti Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi was from a family of Sufis and he was
taught in the traditional Sufi way by his father and by other Sheikhs.
At the same time, he was naturally gifted intuitively; he was one of those
great ones who, when he stepped into the world, understood that there
was a relationship between the seen and the unseen. However, Mevlana had
an experience in his life which created a change of vast significance.
Although he had been taught and trained with retreat and with dhikr by
Sufi masters, it was only when a wandering dervish sheikh, a great Sheikh
called Hazreti Shamsuddin of Tabriz, came into his life that Mevlana became
the spiritual force which created the Mevlevi tradition and sent its vibrations
down through the centuries to the point where, even today, people in the
Western world, just as they have for many centuries in the Middle East
and the East, are appreciating his poetry.
a great and powerful Sheikh. His name means the sun, the sun of the faith,
and his energy was the energy of positive power. Mevlana said: I was raw,
I was cooked and then I was burned. Hazreti Mevlana was burned by the
sun of Shams energy. When Shams, on his lonely path, entered Konya
where Mevlana lived, he met Mevlana and Mevlana swooned with the force
of the Presence of Shams. They closeted themselves away for many months,
until eventually jealousy and resentment by Mevlanas existing pupils
drove Shams away because they did not understand who Shams really was;
he did not fit in with their preconceptions. Mevlana, on the other hand,
submitted himself to Shams completely; he didnt hang onto any of
his former status. He let it all go and followed Shams energy and
light. Shams, in a famous story, met another Sheikh on his travels; a
Sheikh well respected in his own locale, and this Sheikh recognized that
Shams was a great teacher. He said to Shams: Oh, I must follow you, and
Shams said: Well, I dont think you will be able to.
The Sufi master said: Oh, I must, I must be with you. Shams said: Then let
us celebrate. Let us go down to the Jewish quarter, buy some wine and toast
this beginning. Now the Sheikh immediately said: Oh, I do not think I could
do that; you know I have a reputation here and people will think worse of
Shams said: I told you, you cannot be with me. In Islam, of course, it is
prohibited by law to drink alcohol, but with Mevlana it was nothing like
that. Mevlana, according to his son, Sultan Veled, said: When Shams came
into my life, he lit the fire of mystic love within me.
Eventually, Shams disappeared completely from Mevlanas life and it
was rumored that he had been murdered. From that time on, as we understand
it, Mevlana changed the way he taught because he was aflame with mystic
passion; with the passion of love which is Mevlanas legacy. Mevlana
wrote: Know that it is the waves of love that turn the wheels of heaven.
It is through the energy of love that we communicate from heart to heart
and in the Sufi tradition it is said that the heart of one can communicate
with the heart of another. Hazreti Mevlana wrote: There is a way from your
heart to mine, and my heart knows it, because it is clean and pure like
water. When the water is still like a mirror, it can behold the moon.
The dhikr, the remembrance of God, is the way that we cleanse the heart.
Through the repetition of various phrases and words within the Islamic Sufi
tradition, we clear the mind and then the heart so that we can listen to
the voice that guides us; that guides us with love, towards success; success
in the way that it is said in the Adhan, the Islamic call to prayer. Come
to prayer, come to success. To know success is to be in love with the Beloved
in the way that the great Sufi saints, particularly Mevlana, describe it;
where there is no more self, in the personal sense, we turn only around
the greater Self, the Divine Consciousness.
Shams was gone from Mevlana's life, Mevlana began to turn in; the
way that we have inherited this tradition. In Mevlana's time it was
an ecstatic, spontaneous turning. There is a famous story illustrating
this. There was a close colleague who became one of Mevlana's closest
associates, a fellow student, Sheikh Salahuddin Zerkub, which means
the gold-beater. This Sheikh earned his living beating gold and he
also had apprentices. Now, it is said that once when Mevlana was walking
in the marketplace in Konya,
of God, is the way
that we cleanse
the rhythmic hammering of the gold-beaters apprentices and of the
gold-beater Sheikh. As he heard this sound, Mevlana slowly opened his
arms and began to turn around and around in the marketplace in ecstasy.
In that rhythmic hammering he heard the dhikr: Allah, Allah, Allah . .
. and it set off within him the energy of love which made him turn. In
Mevlanas own time, he often had gatherings with music, singing and
poetry and the Sema, in this spontaneous way. In later generations, particularly
with his son, Sultan Veled, the ceremony became more formalized and over
the centuries a musical tradition also grew up around the ceremony. There
are particular robes which we wear in the ceremony and these have a symbolism
which relates to dying and being resurrected. We are really referring
to the great Sufi phrase of, Die before you die . . .
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Azziz was born and educated in the UK and he is a murid of the Naqshbandi
Sufi Master, Hadrat Sheikh Abdullah Sirr Dan al Jamal. Under his Sheikhs
direction, and with the permission of Rumis descendant, Hazreti
Jelaluddin Celebi, Sheikh Abdul Aziz was guided to the Mevlevi tradition.
He had been teaching the Mevlevi Sufi path in Melbourne for over ten years.
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