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Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning) is a form of Sama or physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. It is a customary dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes (also called semazens) aim to reach the source of all perfection, or kemal. This is sought through abandoning one’s nafs, egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one’s body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun. As explained by Sufis In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen’s camel’s hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt (tennure) represents the ego’s shroud. By removing his black cloak (hırka), he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God’s unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God’s beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God’s spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen
embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love. Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi says, "All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!"

A dervish practices multiple rituals, the primary of which is the dhikr, a remembering of Allah. The dhikr involves recitation of devotional Islamic prayer. This dhikr is coupled with physical exertions of movement, specifically dancing and whirling, in order to reach a state assumed by outsiders to be one of "ecstatic trances" Among the Mevlevi order, the practice of dhikr is performed in a traditional dress: a tennure, a sleeveless white frock, the destegul, a long sleeved jacket, a belt, and a black overcoat or khirqa to be removed before the whirling begins. As the ritual dance begins, the dervish dons a felt cap, a sikke, in addition to a turban wrapped around the head, a trademark of the Mevlevi order.

The sheikh leads the ritual with strict regulations. To begin,The sheikh stands in the most honored corner of the dancing place, and the dervishes pass by him three times, each time exchanging greetings, until the circling movement starts. The rotation itself is on the left foot, the center of the rotation being the ball of the left foot and the whole surface of the foot
staying in contact with the floor. The impetus for the rotation is provided by the right foot, in a full 360-degree step. If a dervish should become too enraptured, another Sufi, who is in charge of the orderly performance, will gently touch his frock in order to curb his movement, The dance of the dervishes is one of the most impressive features of the mystical life in Islam, and the music accompanying it is of exquisite beauty, beginning with the great hymn in honor of the Prophet (na’t-i sharif, written by Jalaluddin himself) and ending with short, enthusiastic songs, some things sung in Turkish.

Mevlevi Order

The Mawlaw’īyya / Mevlevi Order, or the Mevlevilik / Mevleviye is a Sufi order founded in Konya (then capital of the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate) by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic jurist, and theologian. They are also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of God). Dervish is a common term for an initiate of the Sufi path; the whirling is part of the formal Sama ceremony and the participants are properly known as semazen-s.

In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed the "The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony" of Turkey as amongst the
Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The Mawlawi believe in performing their dhikr in the form of a "dance" and musical ceremony known as the Sama, which involves the whirling, from which the order acquired its nickname. The Sema represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to the "Perfect". Turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth, and arrives at the "Perfect". He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, able to love and to be of service to the whole of creation.

Rumi has said in reference to Sema: For 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 Ka’aba.


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