There are some experiences in life that have such a profound effect on the heart and mind such that they don’t leave you with the passing of time. Beautiful are not, such moments? How can we forget when we are in a place we love and are drawn to effortlessly? Konya was such a place and being a part of the sama mehfil (a ceremony of whirling dervishes that symbolizes union with the beloved) was a delightful time and well-spent. These montages are a miniscule effort to celebrate (Jashan) the life of a timeless teacher Hazrat Maulana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (r.a) still remembered by many the world over.
Jashan also celebrates the countless Invisible Masters; invisible only due to the times we live, in the mad oblivion of self-love. The lives and legacies of the great mystics of Islam are rich and purposeful. This chapter wishes to use photo illustrations to express that the world of Islam, in contrast to contemporary perceptions of crisis and violence, has another side entirely, clear in the open-minded and refined writings of the great Muslim saints. These ‘masters’, whose fame has spread even to the West, left an imprint on successive generations and their message is just as relevant today as when first written down.
The inner pilgrim wraps himself in the light of the holy
spirit, transforming his material shape into the inner
essence, and circumambulating the shrine of the heart,
inwardly reciting the name of God. He moves in circles
because the path of the essence is not straight but circular.
Its end is its beginning.
Sheikh Hazrat Abdul Qadir Al Jilani r.a
O day arise! The atoms are dancing
Thanks to Him, the universe is dancing
The souls are dancing, overcome with ecstasy
I’ll whisper in your ear where their dance is taking them
all the atoms in the air and in the desert
Know well, they seem insane
Each atom, happy or miserable
Is smitten with the sun
Of which nothing can be said.
Hz. Maulana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (r.a) + Quotes from the movie “Bab Aziz”
In the famous handbook of Sufism by Abu Hafs Omar as-Suhrawardi (d. 1234) we find the following remark:
Music does not give rise, in the heart, to anything, which is not already there. So he, whose inner self is attached to anything else than God is stirred by music to sensual desire, but the one who is inwardly attached to the love of God is moved, by hearing music, to do His will…. The common folk listen to music according to nature, and the novices listen with desire and awe, while the listening of the saints brings them a vision of the Divine gifts and graces, and these are the gnostics to whom listening means contemplation. But finally, there is the listening of the spiritually perfect to whom, through music, God reveals Himself unveiled.
None who has read Mevlâna’s poetry—be it only the first eighteen verses of the Mathnavi— can deny that music was a divine force for him. One aspect of his poetry is his clever use of musical imagery. That may sound more or less like a literary problem, but I think that this imagery shows how strong the impact of music as a life – giving force was on him. Did he not feel after the first disappearance of Shams that the breath of the Beloved made him sing as though he were a flute? Every moment, he feels that he is moved, so to speak, by the breath, by the finger of the Beloved, and is nothing but the instrument of a higher power. The story of the ney, the reedflute, at the beginning of the Mathnavi expresses this feeling in perfect form, because the ney is, as all of us know, the instrument closest to the human voice. But the flute can only sing when someone breathes into it. Without the breath of the Beloved—so says Rumi—without the influx of the nafas ar-Rahmân, the “Breath of the Merciful” human beings cannot act, speak, or think, just as the flute cannot reveal its secrets unless the musician breathes into it. This is a recurrent theme in the Divân-i Shams and, to a certain extent, in the Mathnavi as well. The ney is the symbol of man who is separated from his primordial roots, just as the flute is cut off from the reedbed. But—and this has to be kept in mind—only by being cut off is it able to tell the story of eternal longing; for the soul longs for home, longs for the time “when it was as it was before it was” (as Hazrat Junayd r.a. put it)—that is, before the act of creation, in which the Absolute Divine Unity manifested itself through creation, and multiplicity appeared.
Excerpt: The Role of Music in Islamic Mysticism | Professor Anne Marie Schimmel as usual gave her lecture without using manuscript. The following text is a transcription made by Tord Olsson from a tape-recording, edited and corrected by Annemarie Schimmel herself.
I am the servant of the Qur’an as long as I have life.
I am the dust on the path of Muhammad, the Chosen one.
If anyone quotes anything except this from my sayings,
I am quit of him and outraged by these words.
Hz. Maulana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (r.a)
The Sama has 7 parts. I’ll give you a rough sketch.
Part 1: Testifying to tawhid, Divine unity. The Dervish enters, usually a round space, with a black cloak over the white robes. This part begins with a hymn of praise to the prophets (peace be upon them), which symbolizes love for Allah for the gifts of His prophets.
Part 2: Begins with a drum, symbolizing the Divine Voice saying, “Kun!” (Be!) Which is Allah calling being into Being.
Part 3: A taksim with the ney, symbolizing the Divine Breath that is given to everything.
Part 4: The Dervish greet each other and the Sheikh, one soul to another in unity and recognition, moving in a walk that was created by Mevlevi’s son, Sultan Veled. There is a special music for this. At the end of the third repetition of Sultan Veled’s Walk, they shed the black cloak and prepare to Turn.
Part 5: This is the actual Turning part; it has 4 sections, or Salaams. Each Salaam (Peace) has its own music.
- Salaam : 7 minutes. Awakening to truth, complete conception of the Divine as Creator of all things.
- Salaam : 3-4 minutes. Expresses the rapture of humankind witnessing the splendor of creation; this is ecstatic.
- Salaam : 10 minutes. Transformation of ecstasy into love; sacrificing the self to Love, merging into the ocean of Oneness, the disappearance of the Self in the All.
- Salaam : 3 minutes. From disappearing into Allah, we re-turn, dwelling in Allah but present to the world and sustained.
Part 6: Recitation of Sura 2:115 (The Heifer)”To Allah belongs the East and the West. Whichever way you turn, there is the face of Allah. Allah is All-Embracing, and Allah is All-Knowing.”
Part 7: Closing. Prayers of repose for Muhammad (s.a.w.s), his family, the Prophets, Celebi, etc.
One of my favorite translations of ihsan is “doing the beautiful.” Sama is doing the beautiful. May we turn from all that is not Love and return again and again to the Unity that is everywhere, no matter where we Turn.
Come, come whoever you are!
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, come even if you have
broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, come yet again, come!
Inscribed at the tomb of ~ Hazrat Maulana Jalal-ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (r.a)