Sufi Whirling – Mawlawi Order – History
The Mevlevi became a well-established Sufi order in the Ottoman Empire by realizing a blood relationship with the Ottoman sultans when Devlet Hatun, a descendant of Sultan Veled, married the sultan Bayezid I. Their son Mehmed I Çelebi became the next sultan, endowing the order, as did his successors, with many gifts.
Many of the members of the order served in various official positions of the Caliphate. The centre for the Mawlawi order was in Konya, where their 13th century guiding spirit, Mawlana (Jelaleddin al-Rumi) is buried. There is also a Mevlevi monastery or ”dergah” in Istanbul, near the Galata Tower, where the ”sema” (whirling ceremony) is performed and accessible to the public.
During the Ottoman Empire era, the Mevlevi order produced a number of famous poets and musicians such as Sheikh Ghalib, Ismail Ankaravi (both buried at the Galata Mevlevi-Hane) and Abdullah Sari. Vocal and instrumental music, especially the ney, plays an important role in the Mevlevi ceremony and famous composers such as Dede Efendi wrote music for the ”ayin” (cycle of Mevlevi ceremonial music). The ayin text is normally a selection from the poetry of Mevlana. If one buys a CD of Turkish Sufi music, chances are it will be a Mevlevi ayin.
During the Ottoman period, the Mevlevi order spread into the Balkans, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt (and is still practiced in both countries where they are known as the ”Mawlawi order”). The Bosnian writer Meša Selimović wrote the book “The Dervish and Death” about a Mevlevi ”dergah” in Sarajevo.
The Mevlevi Order has some similarities to other Dervish orders such as the Qadiri (founded in 1165), the Rifa’i (founded in 1182), and the Kalenderis.
The Mevlevi Regiment
During World War I, Mevlevi Regiment served in Syria and Palestine under the command of 4th Army. A battalion of some 800 dervishes was formed December 1914 in Konya (the Mucahidin-i Mevleviyye) and was sent to Damascus. Another battalion of regular recruits was added at the end of August 1916, and together they formed the Mevlevi Regiment. This unit did not fight until the end of the Palestine campaign and was disbanded at the end of September 1918.
Mustafa Kemal met with members of the Mevlevi Order in 1923 before its institutional expression became illegal.
The Mevlevi Order was outlawed in Turkey in September of 1925 by the new ruling regime of the time. The Dervish lodge eventually became the Mevlana Museum.
It is believed that Rumi’s family still practiced their unique form of dancing dhikr or, Sema. In 1954 the Mevlevi’s were given partial rights to perform Sema but primarily because it was important as a tourist attraction for Turkey but as a Sufi order they are still banned. In 1971, they performed in London with Kani Karaca as lead singer. In 1972, they toured North America for the first time with Kani Karaca, Ulvi Erguner, and Akagündüz Kutbay among the musicians. They performed in France, for Pope Paul VI, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and other venues in the United States and Canada – under the direction of the late Mevlevi Shaikh Suleyman Hayati Dede. In April 2007 the order initiated another tour of the U.S. where they performed to sold-out crowds, in places such as Denver and San Francisco.
The order is still active in Turkey, currently led by the 20th great-grandson (22nd generation descendant) of Rumî, Faruk Hemdem Çelebi. The Mevlevi Order survives because it managed to transform itself into a nonpolitical organization.
Adapted from the Wikipedia article Mawlawi Order, under the G. N. U. Free Documentation License. Please also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki