The Order of the Whirling Dervishes
Question: Sufism has always been closely associated with the whirling dervishes. Can you explain the role of these whirling dervishes in Islam?
The so called ‘whirling dervish,’ we don’t like to use that word ‘whirling Dervish,’ that is what the west is putting. We have our own ways of expressing ourselves. We have our own narratives, we have our own stories, we have our own names, we have our own titles.
Sufism, which is tasawuf. Tasawuf is tarikat. Tarikat is living the lifestyle of Holy Prophet (asws). Shariat is what the Prophet brought, his orders, and Tarikat is how he live. Meaning that how he lives is not just the physical aspect of things, but it’s a spiritual aspect. It is batin way that his living in this world for the ahiret.
The whirling, the turning, it is the method of zikir, of remembering Allah. It is the way that they are remembering Allah.
Every Tarikat has a way of remembering Allah. Some, they are going to be standing, some they are going to be sitting, some they are going to be jumping. Yes. Some, they are going to be having a loud zikir.
Some is completely silent, and some zikir they whirl. And that is something that Hazret Mevlana Rumi brought. That is also according to sunnat of the Holy Prophet (asws) and the sunnat is not just his sunnat, but meaning the sunnat of the sahabi e-kiram.
Something that the Sahabi e-kiram did and Holy Prophet saw and he approved. And it’s come down to us that that was what Hazreti Abu Bakr as-Siddique (r.a), he did. One of the things, one of the dalils that we have, one of the proves that we have. Because on the day that Hazreti Abu Bakr as-Siddique (r.a), he gave everything away to the way of Allah. Everything that he had, he gave to the poor. Everything. That he even gave the shalwar that he was wearing away to the poor and he had nothing to wear. He then took the date leaves and he tied it around his waist like a skirt. When he came to the presence of the Holy Prophet (asws), Holy Prophet started laughing until the white of his teeth started showing. He started laughing seeing him walking like that.
Understand that Hazreti Abu Bakr (r.a), he was one of the most influential, most wealthy, most powerful people living at that time, but he sacrificed everything. It is not that easy. Don’t think it is an easy thing. There’s only one Abu Bakr, not two. He did that. It’s not just his own property that he did but he sacrifice everything, his own standing in that society.
So, Holy Prophet laughed and smiled and he said, ‘Ya Abu Bakr, what you did is so beloved to Allah swt that the Angels they are so happy and honoured that they themselves are all wearing this date tree palms around their waist for your honor.’
And when you are turning and making the zikir of Allah swt, you are turning in your own orbit, you are pulling yourself into yourself and when you are turning, you understand, you are not turning, the world is turning. The world is going around you, but you are fix.
Just like the whole world is turning around that sun but the sun is fix.
The sun is whirling around the galaxy, something has to be fixed, the Qutub, they are fixed.
So, when they are turning, of course they are mimicking, they are imitating everything in creation that is also turning and remembering Allah. Everything in creation is making zikir of Allah. The smallest atom, they are turning, constantly turning and making the zikir of Allah to the biggest galaxy, they are turning around and remembering Allah. Everything gets its energy from ‘La illaha ilallah.’
So, in that method of zikir, remembering Allah, they are turning. The clothes that they are wearing is representing the shroud, funeral shroud, the kafan, and so many other symbolism that is also attached there, but they have lost themselves into remembering Allah, turning.
Turning. So many may turn, they are still stuck to the ground. Real Mevlavi, when they turn, they are off the ground. Sheykh Effendi himself had witnessed one time when he was sitting with Sheykh Mevlana, there was one person whirling. Sheykh Mevlana giving him the permission to whirl. He started whirling and people were just looking because so many times, especially this whirling dervishes now, definitely we know, now it’s become a show. Isn’t it?
I’m not talking about those ones who are sincerely doing it. I’m not saying about those ones. I’m talking those ones who are getting money for whirling, for making a show, it’s become a show, it’s become a dance. It’s dancing. Not those ones.
So that, or people they were watching that man that was whirling, and Sheykh Mevlana is saying to Sheykh Effendi, he said, ‘look, his feet, they are not on the ground.’ So many people, they are not watching that, because they were looking at the face, they were looking at the person who is whirling. So wrong way of whirling.
Whirling, you are supposed to take, you are supposed to give, you are supposed to look to your heart. Anyway, what do we know. But that person’s feet, they were off the ground and he was turning. Not making a big show, but it is there.
Like Sheykh Mevlana is also saying that in the hajj, when people are turning around the Kaaba, they are turning around, around the ka’aba, that is the level of the animals, when people are kicking and screaming and biting each other.
But above that and above that and above that, there are countless levels of other ones, Awliya Allah and other creatures and the Angels that are also making tawaf right up to Baitul Ma’mur, the original Kaaba in the Paradise and the Mevlavis, they are whirling around there. The real ones.
So, that is one method of zikir, and every tarikat they have their own method of making zikir. And the zikir, it is not the backbone, it is the marrow of Islam. Zikir, it is the life, it is the essence of Islam. If you do everything else, but you are not remembering Allah then you are not understanding what Islam is.
The shahadat is to bear witness to Allah, is to remember Allah and His Prophet (asws). The prayer, it is to remember Allah. The fasting, it is to remember Allah. The Hajj, it is to remember Allah. Everything you do is to remember Allah. And the Zikir is to remember Allah.
So, those who are saying that Sufism has nothing to do with Islam, or it’s mixed up, or you are taking from this, and you are taking from there, they don’t know. They are speaking not from their mouth, I don’t know where they are speaking from, but there are so many different ideas these days.
Not so much now, because at least now muslims are starting to tell their own story, like what I said before, in the past only non-believers, non-muslims, they are talking about tasawuff, so they are saying, ‘ohh, these are secret Christians, these are nordics, these are these, these are that….,’ they are mixing everything up.
It’s nothing but the lifestyle and the practices and the hidden practices of the Holy Prophet (asws) that is taught to those ones who want more, who want to taste more. Who want to be closed to their Lord. We are making zikir to remember Allah, to be close to Allah because Allah is saying, ‘remember Me and I will remember you.’
We remember everything, but we don’t remember our Lord. Remember, it is a matter of the question of love. If you remember the one that you love, you are never going to forget. The minute you forget, you think that you have betrayed. You will always be lost in remembering that one. You understand everything in dunya is supposed to make you to understand the ahiret.
If you have fall in love, you’ll understand. If you haven’t fall in love, fall in love first. That’s what Hazreti Rumi (qs) is saying, ‘fall in love, then come. Then you may understand what this path is.’ But the west understanding of love is just, ‘give me, give me, love me…’
Islamic understanding of love is, ‘I give, I give, I give everything. I sacrifice everything.’ And with that sacrifice comes hardship. With that hardship comes a sweetness. So, that is as much as I want to say right now.
Hoja Lokman Efendi, the khalifah of Shaykh Abdulkerim el Kibrisi (qs)
OSMANLI DERGAHI – New York
December 18, 2012