Whirling Dervishes: a Spiritual Dance Performed by Islamic Mystics

April 2007, Yale University

This afternoon, Yale University hosted Whirling Dervishes: a Spiritual Dance Performed by Islamic Mystics, an afternoon of music, poetry, and whirling dedicated to the renowned mystic poet Rumi, on the occasion of the 800 th anniversary of the year of his birth. Abbas Amanat, Professor of History at Yale, opened the afternoon with an introduction to the context of Whirling and how, 800 years ago, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi brought together the mystic traditions from East and West, from Persia and Andalusia, to meet in present day Turkey.

Sheikha Khadija Radin, of the Mevlevi Order of America, led the afternoon, which included recitations of Rumis poetry, a Quranic recitation, music from the Ney, and illahis, or devotional songs, in several styles, accompanied by drums and an oud. The whirling dance of the Sema was performed throughout the event, both by individuals and by the group as a whole, accompanied by music and the chanting of remembrance, dhikr. At the end of the afternoon Khadija invited everyone onto the stage to try the Whirling for themselves, and audience members took off their shoes and flooded the floor with their movements.

The event was held in Battell Chapel, and the audience filled the seats, with several hundred people attending the gathering to celebrate the birth of Rumi. The event nicely coincided with the Mawlid, or the celebration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (saws), which is also celebrated by those who celebrate Rumis life. People of all ages came from throughout the University, including professors, members of the Chaplains Office, and University Officials, as well as community members from throughout the New Haven and surrounding towns.

The performance was hosted by the Yale Friends of Turkey, the Muslim Students Association at Yale, and the South Asian Society, and sponsored by the Chaplains Office, Office of the Secretary, Council on Middle East Studies, Macmillan Center, and the Deans Office.

Some of the recitations:

Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving. It doesnt matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times, come. Come, yet again, come, come.

What is the whirling? The whirling is an opening of the eyes of the heart

Click for more information about Rumi and the Mevlevi Order.


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