The Mevlevi path has for seven centuries offered spiritual training based on the principles of Sufism. The tradition traces back to Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi (d. 1273) arguably one of the world’s most read mystics and poets.

History and Development

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.

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.  The Mevlevi Order was outlawed in Turkey at the dawn of the secular revolution by Kemal Atatürk in 1923.


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. 

The purpose of the whirling dance is the same as with most other Sufi orders practicing dhikr: The achievement of nearness to God. Through the dance, the sufis pass through certain stages, where the ego is left behind, truth is realized and perfection achieved at the end.  The sema dance is performed spinning on the right foot.
The Mevlevi order has through history produced famous poets and musicians. It is especially with music that the Mevlevi have achieved influence in Turkey, having shaped much of the country's traditional music.

Mevleviye Today

The Mevlevi order has spread to Syria and Egypt, where it is known by its Arabic name, "mawlawi".

Mevleviye can also be found in many Turkish communities throughout the world but the most active and famous places for their activity are still Konya and Istanbul despite the fact that the order in Konya has been outlawed in Turkey, later permitted to perform sama to the entertainment of tourists, usually limited to certain times through the year.






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