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Sufi Islam


Doctrines The beliefs and practices of the Mawlawiyyah order are generally considered to be consistent with the doctrines of mainstream Sunni Islam. Like other Sufi orders its distinctive identity derives from the particular types of spiritual practices undertaken by its members.
Initial entry into the order is made by approaching a Mawlawi shaikh (spiritual guide). The novitiate (known as the murid, which means "seeker") undergoes a long period of trial and training. After completing 1001 days of service, which include intense periods of prayer and the performance of ceremonies, the seeker is considered to be experienced enough to teach the knowledge and the arts which he has acquired to the seekers who have come after him. At this stage the seeker is given the title dada. Depending upon his ability the dada may become a shaikh. As frequently happens in many orders, the successor of the founder of a tariqa is generally a member of his family.
The most characteristic feature of this order, known in Turkish as the Mevleviya, is the celebrated whirling dance. The Mawlawis, the whirling dervishes, are famous for their dancing ritual, a variation of the earlier practice of sama (the recitation of music and poetry). The sama ceremony is performed after prayers.

History Mawlawiyyah traces its origins to the thirteenth century Turkish mystic and poet Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi (d. 1273), and owes its name to the fact that the al-Rumi was often referred to as Mawlana (our master). However, it was al-Rumi's son, Sutan Walad, who actually organized an order proper. Mawlawiyyah reached the height of its influence during the Ottoman empire. During this period the order spread into cities throughout Anatolia, as well as into Istanbul. However, with the emergence of the secular government under Kemal Ataturk in 1925 the order was suppressed and its library in Konya handed over to the town museum.
Following the suppression of the Sufi orders in Turkey, the last head of the order, Muhamad Baqir, went to Aleppo, where ritual gatherings were held until the early 1950s when the last active shaikh (Muhammad Shahu) died. Today the sama is performed for one week annually in Konya between 11 and 17 December.
Other Mawlawi orders had been established in the Islamic world, but they have suffered under the impact of the political and secular pressures that have affected the twentieth century. The Mawlaw community of Damascus, which dates back to the sixteenth century, disappeared in the 1960s when the last shaikh died. The Mawlawiyyah also had centres in Beirut, which were active until May 1982 when the last shaikh lost his life as a result of Israeli bombardment of the city. In the Balkans, the Mawlawiyyah survived into the post-Ottoman era in Greece and Yugoslavia. In Greece it appears to have ceased in the 1920s, and in Yugoslavia in about 1959.

Symbols The sama ceremony contains a number of actions which are symbolic in character. During the sama the right hand of the performer (the samazan) is raised to heaven and is a sign that the dancer is receiving inspiration from God. The left hand is pointed downwards and signifies that the dancer is giving to the people what he has received from God. The dance is performed in four stages, each of which represents a closer experience and manifestation of the presence of God.
The order's dress consists of a cap called sikke, a long sleeveless skirt called tennure, a jacket with sleeves called deste-gul, a waist-band called elif-lam-end, and a cloak with sleeves called khirke. The instruments used in the dance are the reed flute, the zither, the rebeck, the drum and the tambourine.

Adherents The order has no contemporary adherents.

Main Centre
 Historically the main centre of the movement has been in Konya in Turkey.