Travelogue to Turkey- Part IX- Whirling Dervish Show

D6- 26th March, 2015

We reached the place for whirling dervish show roughly about 6pm. Once reached there we were greeted by a person at the entrance who gave us a pamphlet on whirling dervish ceremony.  We were among the first group reached the hall. The hall had a stage for the dervishes to perform in the centre and the benches were arranged in semi-circular arrangement. Above there were names of the prophet Muhammad s.a.w along with all 4 rightly guided caliphs as well as the names of Saydina Hassan and Hussein names hung from the ceiling. At first I only saw the name of Saydina Hussein (Hehee... thought of whether there's Syiah influence), but after I looked around, I realised they put all the names. On the stage, at the far end, there was a hat or tarbush with surrounding light. According to Finar, that was supposed indicating or symbolised  Mevlana Jalaluddin Ar- Rumi. I didn't know whether it's true or not, because when I read the pamphlet later it didn't mention it. Furthermore I guessed it might be a symbolic that the Mevlana was there. Hehehe...kind of creepy.

I tried to read the pamphlet before the performance, but I definitely could not concentrate at that time. Partly it was already late and we were kind of tired and partly due to the light was not suitable for my old eyes to read. So, I just put it aside for reference later once I need it. We were seated on the right side of the stage. Later, the other audiences from other nationalities entered into the hall and filled up the empty benches. The hall was almost full.

Roughly at 6.30pm, the light was dimmed and the dervishes entered the stage and the ceremony about to began.

Ok before I give my own view on this topic, let's learn something what's this ceremony all about. Basically I took the information from the pamphlet which was given to me earlier to understand their view first.

[Sema (the whirling dervish ceremony), is the inspiration of Mevlana Jalaluddin ArRumi (1207-1273) as well as Turkish custom, history, belief, and culture. Sema has seven parts and each part symbolised a stage of the mystic journey to perfection called ascension ('Mirac' in Turkish).
Contemporary science definitely confirms that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object or being which does not revolve, and the commonality amongst beings is the revolution of the electrons and protons in their atoms, which constitute all things from the smallest particles to the stars in the sky.
As a consequence of this similarly, everything revolves and man carries on his life, his very existence by means of the revolution in his atoms, in the structural elements of his body, by the circulation of his blood, by his coming from the earth and return to it, and by revolving with the earth itself.
However, all of these are natural, unconscious revolutions. But man is the possessor of a mind and intelligence which distinguishes him from and makes him superior to other beings. Thus, the whirling dervishes ("Semazen" in Turkish) cause their minds to participate in the shared similarity and revolution of all other beings. 

The sema ceremony represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to perfection ("Kemal" in Turkish). Turning towards the truth, a dervish grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth, and arrives at "Perfection".
Then he returns from his spiritual journey as a man who reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to all of creation, and to all creatures without discriminating in regards to belief, class, or race.

The dervishes, with their head-dresses ( representing the ego's tombstone), their white skirts (representing the ego's shroud) are spiritually born to the truth by removing their black cloaks, and they journey and advance to spiritual maturity through the stages of the Sema ceremony. At the onset and at each stage of the Sema ceremony, holding their arms in a criss-cross position, they represent the number one, and testify to God's unity.
While whirling, their arms open, their right hands directed towards the sky and ready to receive God's beneficence, gazing up, they turn their left hands towards the earth and turn from right to left, pivoting around the heart.
This is his way of conveying God's spiritual gift to the people upon whom God "looks with a divine" watchfulness. Revolving around the heart, from right to left, they embrace all of humankind, and all of creation with affection and love.

The Sema ceremony consists of several parts with different meanings...
1. It starts with a eulogy "Nat-iserif" to the Prophet, Muhammad, who represents love and all prophets before him. To praise them is praising God, who created all of them. 
2. This eulogy is followed by a drum sound symbolising the divine order of the Creator... "Kun=Be!"
3. Then follows an instrumental music improvisation ("taksim" in Turkish) with a reed wind instrument called a "ney", which represents the first breath which gave life to everything: The Divine breath.
4. The fourth part is where the dervishes greet each other and perform their thrice repeated circular walk called the "Devri Veledi", accompanied by music called "peshrev".
This part symbolised the salutation of soul to soul concealed by shapes and bodies.
5. The fifth part is the Sema (whirling), which consists of four salutes or "salams". At the end of each salute, as in the onset, the dervish testifies to God's unity with his appearance.
A- first salute is man's birth into truth through feeling and the mind. It represents his complete conception of the ecstasy of God as the creator and his own state of being.
B- second salute expresses the rapture of man witnessing the splendour of creation in front of God's greatness and omnipotence.
C- third salute is the dissolution of rapture into love and thereby the sacrifice of the mind to love. It is complete submission; it is the annihilation of self in the love one, in His unity.
This ecstasy is known as "Nirvana" in Buddhism and "Fenafillah" in Islam. In Buddhism, this is the highest state of ecstasy. However, the highest rank in Islam is the rank reached by Prophet: He is called God's servant foremost and subsequently his messenger.
The aim of Sema is not unbroken ecstasy and loss of conscious thought, but realisation of submission to God. 
D- The fourth salute: Just as the Prophet ascended to the "Throne" and the. Returned to his task on earth, the whirling dervishes, following the termination of their spiritual journey and ascent, return to their tasks and to their state of subservience. 
At the end of their salute, they demonstrate this again with their appearance, arms crisis-crossed over the chest to represent the unity of God, consciously and feelingly. 
6. The sixth part of the Sema is a reading from the Quran, especially of the verse " Unto God belong the east and the west, and wherever you turn, there's God's countenance. He is All embracing, All Knowing" (Surah Baqarah, verse 115)
7. The Sema ceremony ends with a prayer for peace of the souls of all Prophets and all believers. after the completion of the "Sema" ceremony, all the dervishes return silently to their cells for meditation ( "tefekkur" in Turkish). ]***

That was the explanation step by step from the pamphlet. Hmmm...sound ok in some part and not so ok in the other. I am not here to judge whether they are a deviated sect or not, nor do I have the right to talk about fatwa whether it's haram or halal. Let's those in authority give their verdict. Talking about's like a coincidence because once I came back from Turkey, majlis fatwa Malaysia gave the fatwa on 'zikir menari'. So in a way it gives us a clear answer on this subject.

Ok, what I am going to tell here is my own opinion after seeing the performance. Some might have different opinion...depends on how you think about it.

After the light was dimmed, about 10-12 dervishes walked to the stage. The hall was suddenly quite. We were not allowed to make noise or make any recording. There's going to be another session after they had completed the performances for the tourist to take photos or record it. Half of them were the 'performance' who did the dancing part and the rest seated at the back and their job was to play the musical instruments including flute. All of them stood up and facing the place where the tarbush I mentioned earlier and bowed down, a sign of salutation. I was not sure to whom the bowed down, whether the salutation was meant for the Prophet as what mentioned in the pamphlet or 'the spiritual Mevlana' as mentioned by Finar. Then they positioned their arms in criss-cross and bowed as a salutation to one another. 

Then they started whirling around with the right hand pointed up and the left hand pointed to the ground. They kept this movement for quite a long period with their trained foot step to make them maintained in the same posture. If one looked at them...they were like immersed in their own world without knowing what's happening outside their realm. Ida said that she thought she could do this movement...hahaha. I was just afraid she'll get vertigo after few whirling...😜😝😛. One of the dervishes (don't know whether he's the leader) ...still wearing the black cloak, kept walking in the middle like wandering around while reading something (I guessed he read zikir). The people who seated at the back were the one who played background musical instruments which accompanied the dervishes dance and the one who recited few Quranic verses at the end of the session.

I think the whole ceremony took approximately 1 hour. I didn't know the exact time...but I felt it was so long. Seeing the dervishes just whirled around made me sleepy, especially with a very good ambience to sleep. I was amazed that Fauzan could sit quietly watching this ceremony, when I was already bored....😜.

Few points I would like to mention here, why I am not in favour of this 'whirling dervish'
1. It is definitely not a sunnah from Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. In other word it's bid'ah. Especially when it comes to bid'ah in the name of worshipping Allah.
The Messenger of Allah s.a.w said: "Every innovation is misguidance and going astray". reported by Abu Dawood (no. 4607), at-Tirmidhee (no. 2676) and it is saheeh.
And he s.a.w. also said: "... and every innovation is misguidance and all misguidance is in the hellfire." Reported by an-Nasaa'ee (1/224) from Jabir bin Abdullah and it is saheeh.
2. The 5 obligatory daily prayer are the best way of worshipping Allah. It doesn't need all these stupid dancing to get closer to Allah. Solah is the only act of worship which Allah directly ordered to our beloved Prophet without any intermediary by the angel Jibrail. How high is the status of solah. It's better to do the voluntary prayer rather than perform this whirling dance. Do as much as you want the voluntary prayer and speak directly to Allah.
3. For me such act of worship by dancing is just a waste of effort. Allah does not ask us to perform in such a way to worship Him. So why do something which was not prescribed by Allah and never been done by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w
4. Our act of worship is not base on the sheikh or maulana...We already have a perfect example and the best role model who ever walked on this earth. Why we need to follow a maulana when we have Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. as our role model
5. Allah s.w.t said " Today, I have perfected your religion for you, and have completed My blessings upon you, and chosen Islam as Deen (religion and a way of life)- Al- Maeda (vs 3).
Our religion is already perfect without this kind of innovation.
6. The issue of background music accompanied the act of worship....I think this is wrong. The scholars even debating about whether we can play the musical instruments especially when it comes to flute or something which works in similar manner. May be some allow 'duff' something like 'gendang'...but I don't think it is allowed to accompany any act of worship.
7. Lastly worth to mention here... It was maghrib prayer time when they did the performance. And it took almost the whole time of maghrib. The evil side of me asking...did they perform their maghrib prayer? The good part of me said...Jangan bersangka buruk. They might rush for maghrib after the ceremony...😇. By the way...malam ni malam Jumaat pulak tu...😑

When it was over, there had a separate session of whirling dance for the benefit of those who intend to take photos or record the movement of this dance. Only 2 or 3 of them performed. The rest already out. 

When the event finished, it was already dark outside. We run to our bus and went back to Ramadha hotel. Tomorrow we will have another long journey...Cappadocia-->Ankara--> Bolu.

Till next time...👋🏻👋🏻👋🏻


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