Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi (1207-1273)

Mevlana was born in 1207 in Balkh, Afghanistan. His father, Bahaeddin Veled, was a distinguished teacher who, because of his great learning, had been honored with the title of Lord of Scholars.

Possibly because of the threat imposed by the approaching Mongolian armies, Bahaeddin decided to take his family away from Balkh. They went to several places and after staying here and there, Bahaeddin felt drawn to Anatolia and came to Karaman in 1221. There they stayed for 7 years and Mevlana was married in 1225.

Alaattin Keykubat, the ruler of Konya, implored him to come to Konya. Bahaeddin finally acceded to the sultan's request in 1228 and he taught in Konya until his death in 1231. Mevlana took his father's place and quickly established a reputation for scholarship. He had an extensive understanding of all aspects of philosophy and was an avid reader of the works of classical authors.

One day in 1244, he met a ragged dervish who asked him a number of searching questions. This was the man known as Shams Tabrizi. Shams and Mevlana quickly became close friends and spent days and weeks closeted together in philosophical discussion. Mevlana left his teaching and appeared rarely in public. This caused jealousy and anger among his students and friends who believed that he had been bewitched by an evil sorcerer. In 1246 Shams disappeared as suddenly and as mysteriously as he had appeared. Mevlana became crazy and wrote poems about the separation of Shams. After long inquiries he finally learned that Shams was in Damascus. He wrote him letters begging him to return. Shams returned and their friendship and discussions resumed. In order to draw him more into his family, Mevlana offered his adopted daughter to Shams in marriage. However, one night in 1247, Shams disappeared for good. He was most probably murdered by his enemies.

Mevlana could not be comforted. He gave himself again to writing poetry about Shams. This time it was Husameddin Celebi who helped him to continue his philosophical speculations. He inspired him to write his greatest work, the "Mesnevi". It was a collection of 25,600 poems in 6 volumes.

In 1273, Mevlana became sick and people around him knew that he was dying and they cried in sorrow. He told his friends that death was union with God and he was longing for this union. Finally he died on December 17, 1273, was buried in Konya, and a tomb was built upon his sarcophagus.

His views

Mevlana was not a man of reason, he was on the contrary a man of love and affection. His aim was unification with God. According to him God could not fit into the universe but fit into the heart. Therefore we have to tend to the heart and not to reason.

Some selected verses from Mevlana:

  • Get united … I came here not to divide but to unify.
  • Come! Come again! Whoever, whatever you may be, come!
  • Heathen, idolatrous or fire worshipper come!
  • Even if you deny your oaths a hundred times come!
  • Our door is the door of hope come! Come like you are!

Mevlana says, that the basis of all creation and believes is love:

  • Our mother is love! Our father is love!
  • We are born from love! We are love!
  • All loves constitute a bridge leading to the divine love.
  • To love human beings means to love GOD.

An example of Mevlana's conception of unity of all believes:

  • Like the spear pierces the shield in a moment, I passed through centuries. This is why all believes and religions are for me One and hundred thousand of years a moment ...

In the miracles showed by the Prophets in order to invite to faith, Mevlana includes himself as followed:

  • From behind a burning bush, I heard a voice calling me: 'Come beloved!’ Am I Moses, Son of Abraham?
  • O Moses, I was a stick! In your hand, I became a dragon.
  • O Messiah! I am the Lazarus of this time. With your breath, I revive in the grave of non-existence and return to the world.
  • O Jesus! I was the bird of mud that you molded. You blew on me and I came to life and flew to the skies.
  • Or am I the tree dragging its roots, coming from the desert by the order of the Prophet?

The call of Mevlana to all human being without discrimination:

  • Come, come over, more over, how long this brigandage? As you are me and I am you. How long this discrimination of you and I ?
  • We are light of GOD! Why this separation among us? Why light escapes from light?
  • We are all from the same yeast, our brains and heads too. But under this bowed sky we see double ...
  • From this five senses, six directions carry all what you possess to the country of Unity. Till when you will continue only to speak of Unity.
  • Come on, deny your Ego. Get united with everybody. So long as you remain in yourself, you are a particle. But if you get united with everybody, you are a mine, an ocean.
  • Believe that all spirits are One! And all bodies are One! Just like almonds in quantity hundred thousands; but there is the same oil in all of them.
  • There are many languages in the world, in meaning all are the same. If you break the cups, water will be unified and will flow together.

Instead of dealing with scholars of the time, Mevlana tended towards simple people like Husameddin Celebi who was regarded as ignorant by others. According to Mevlana, a scholar was like a person carrying a big sack of bread on his shoulder. But, he asked, what was the maximum number of loaves they could eat?

The Mevlevis

The Mevlevi order of whirling dervishes is a mystic group whose members are followers of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, a great Turkish poet and mystic. The brotherhood is based in Konya, where its founder is buried.


Mevlana was never the head of an order, and the brotherhood was not established by himself but by his followers and devoted companions. The order derived its essence, rites, moral code and discipline from the mystical path first shown by Mevlana. It was a synthesis of spiritual love attained by a combination of music and dance which was considered to be the basic requirement for the spiritual ecstasy and devotion.

The Sema

Sema is part of the inspiration of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi (1207- 1273) as well as of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture.

From a scientific viewpoint we witness that contemporary science definitely confirms that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. There is no object, no being which does not revolve and the shared similarity among beings is the revolution of the electrons, protons and neutrons in the atoms, which constitute the structure of each of them. As a consequence of this similarity, everything revolves and man carries on his live, his very existence by means of the revolution in the atoms, structural stones of his body, by the revolution of his blood, by his coming from the earth and return to it, by his revolving with earth itself.

However, all of these are natural, unconscious revolutions. But man is the possessor of a mind and intelligence which distinguishes him from and makes him superior to other beings. Thus the "whirling dervish" or Semazen causes the mind to participate in the shared similarity and revolution of all other beings… Otherwise, the Sema ceremony represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to "Perfect." Turning towards the truth, his growth through love, desert his ego, find the truth and arrive to the "Perfect," then he return from this spiritual journey as a man who reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole of creation, to all creatures without discrimination of believes, races, classes and nations. Sema consists of seven parts.

The first part

The dervish with his headdress (his ego's tombstone), his white skirt (his ego's shroud) is by removing his black cloak spiritually born to the truth, he journeys and advances there.

At the onset and each stop of the Sema, holding his arms crosswise he represent the number one, and testifies to God's unity. While whirling his arms are open, his right hand directed to the skies ready to receive God's beneficence, looking to his left hand turned toward the earth, he turn from right to left around the heart. This is his way of conveying God's spiritual gift to the people upon whom he looks with the eyes of God. Revolving around the heart, from right to left, he embraces all the mankind, all the creation with affection and love… It starts with an eulogy "Nat-I Serif" to the Prophet, who represents love, and all Prophets before him. To praise them is praising God, who created all of them.

The second part

is a drum voice, symbolizing God order to the Creation: "Be."

The third part

is an instrumental improvisation "taksim" with a reed "ney." It represents the first breath which gives life to everything. The Divine Breath.

The fourth part

is the "dervishes" greetings to each other and their thrice repeated circular walk "Devr-i Veled," with the accompaniment of a music called "peshrev." It symbolize the salutation of soul to soul concealed by shapes and bodies.

The fifth part

is the Sema (whirling). It consists of four salutes or "Selam"s. At the end of each as in the onset, the dervish testifies by his appearance to God's unity.

  • The first salute is man's birth to truth by feeling and mind. His complete conception of the existence of God as Creator and his state of creature.
  • The second salute expresses the rapture of man witnessing the splendor of creation, in front of God's greatness and omnipotence.
  • The third salute is the transformation of rapture into love and thereby the sacrifice of mind to love. It is a complete submission, it is annihilation of self with in the loved one, it is unity. This state of ecstasy is the highest grade in Buddhism, defined as "Nirvana" and in Islam "Fenafillah." However, the highest rank in Islam is the rank of the Prophet, he is called God's servant first and his messenger afterwards. The aim of Sema is not unbroken ecstasy and loss of conscious thought. At the termination of this salute, he approves again by his appearance, arms crosswise the Unity of God, consciously and feelingly.
  • The forth salute Just as the Prophet ascends till the "Throne" and then returns to his task on earth, the whirling dervish reaching the state of "Fenafillah," return to his task in creation, to his state of subservience following the termination of his spiritual journey and his ascent. He is a servant of God, of his Books, of his Prophets and all his creation.

At the sixth part

Sema ends with a reading of the Quran and specially of the verse from sura Bakara 2, verse 115, "Unto God belong the East and the West, and whither over ye turn, you are faced with Him. He is All-Embracing, All-Knowing."

The seventh part

is a prayer for the repose of the souls of all Prophets and all believers.

Mevlana Museum

This place has been used as a museum since 1926. Inside the courtyard after the main portal, on both sides the cells of dervishes, kitchens and other buildings are located. The pool on the right is symbolically the Night of Union around which Sema dance performances took place each year on December 17. The ante-room before entering into the main tomb building was used as a place to read from the Koran by dervishes. Today fine examples of famous calligraphy artists are on display.

Inside the building on the right hand side of the hall, which is roofed by three domes, there are 55 graves belonging to Mevlana's male relatives and dignitaries. Right under the center of the green dome lies a sarcophagus of blue marble made for Mevlana and his son Sultan Veled, made as a present by Suleyman the Magnificent. The blue marble sarcophagus is covered with a fine cloth with verses of the Koran embroidered in gold thread, a gift of Sultan Abdulhamit II in 1894.

The semahane is the hall where the Sema dance ceremonies took place. The lodges for men and women and partitions for musicians are also in this section. There is a selection of the instruments used to accompany the Sema dance-the ney, rebab, tef and tambur - and some of Mevlana's garments which have been preserved.

The small mosque section which is entered through a small door, was built during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent. Valuable samples of calligraphy, illuminated manuscripts and book bindings as well as fine examples of Turkish carpets are on display. There is one silk carpet in the collection with 144 knots per square centimeter (924 knots per square inch) which is considered to be the most expensive carpet in the world.