Friday, January 25, 2013

Whirling Dervishes

"All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!"  -- by Jalaleddin Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet

Islamic Sufism and Dervishes go together. There have been Semazen or Dervishes for the past 700 years; as an element of Sufiism, a mystical practice within Islam, the Sufi way of living is focused on love, tolerance, worship of God, community development, and personal development through self-discipline and responsibility. A Sufi's way of life is to love, to serve people, to abandon the ego as a false self, and all illusion, so that one might reach mature wholeness or holiness, and attain Allah, the True One. The Sufi doctrine of Rumi: Illustrated Edition by William Chittick delves into Sufi spirituality deeply.

The practice of the Whirling Dervishes is one branch of Sufi practice within Islam. Sufis value universal love and service to all of Creation. The Order of the Whirling Dervishes has been in existence since at least the 13th century; when the great Rumi, inspired by Turkish tradition, fell under influence by the Sufi movement, it was a chance meeting with a Dervish that converted Rumi's thoughts to those of a mystic and an ascetic.

The thought that the earth is round, the seasons rotate, the stars travel the sky, the human body circulates blood, the great wheel of the earth turns, thus there is no created being which does not revolve in some fashion. While this may all be quite natural and without effort, humankind possesses an intelligence which permits these observations, distinguishing him from other creatures.

By twirling, rather than move into an estatic
state as some might suppose, the Dervishes seek to revolve in harmony, with all things in nature. So in fact, he is engaging in a harmonizing action by whirling, witnessing the existence and magnificence of the Creator. So says the Qur'an: "Whatever is in the skies, or on earth invokes God." (64:1)

While the whirling is perhaps the most dramatic
aspect of their practice, the Sufi seeks unity with three principal parts of human nature: the mind, the heart and the body. Sufis seek connection with the mind through intellectual activity such as gaining in knowledge or thought-meditation; they seek connection through the heart with activities such as poetry, musical expression of feelings; the body is sought in Sufi expression by whirling, by physical engagement with life activities.

Uniquely the Sufi is inspired in all these ways through the Sema, or whirling ceremony. The Dervishes engage in this practice as representation of the human spiritual journey. They grow by turning towards the truth of all things, transcending the ego, then growing through love; this spiritual journey is completed with a sense of holiness, an ability to love and serve all equally.

Sufism mostly concentrates on the interior
world of human life, addressing the meaning and effect of specific practices on man's spirit and heart which while abstract, is not contradictory to any Islamic teaching based on the Qur'an or Sunna.

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