Sufism: Kinesthetic Spiritualism -‘Whirling Dervish’

Sufism is not deemed to a sect of Islam, but is instead an esoteric and spiritual outlook of the world. Thus, one can be Sunni and Sufi, Shia and Sufi, and so on.  Muslims express their faith through literature, dance, dhikr (remembrance of God), music and other modes of practice. During the time of the great poets like Rumi, many Sufi orders were created and made their own specific ways of practicing their spiritualism.

The Mevlevi order was founded by followers of Jalaluddin Rumi which is also none as the ‘Whirling Dervishes.’  They have a famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr. Dervish is a common term for an initiate of the Sufi path; the whirling is part of the formal Sama ceremony. This Sama represents a mystical journey of humanity’s ascent through consciousness and love to the Divine’s grace. The human must let go of their own desires and egos, and fill their hearts with divine love, light, and truth.  In Ersnt’s The Shambala Guide to Sufism chapter “Sufi music and dance” he states:

“The novices during their 1001-day training studied this poetry as they were trained in the dance, learning to whirl in place by spinning around a large nail placed between the big toe of the left foot and toe next to it. Musical accompaniment came from the plucked tambur, the bowed rebab, and above all the reed flute, or ney, which has a prominent symbolic role in Rumi’s poetry.” (192)

This is exactly what is represented by the Whirling Dervish I drew. Currently, the order is only allowed to practice for touristic purposes as Sufi groups gave faced persecution and even illegally banned over the past decades (193). With this reproduction of Sufi music for new audiences the concert stages have:

“redefined this spiritual practice as an aesthetic event for spectators in which music takes priority over the word.” (198)

 Despite this, the spiritual journey and connection to the divine remains at the heart of the practices of offers like the Mevlevi Order.

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