SUFI DANCE AND RUMI
Jalal ad Din Muhammad Rumi was walking along a street in Konya, Turkey (then part of the Persian empire) when he heard the rhythmic beat of a goldsmith’s hammer. Melodic ringing bell like sounds resonated from the gold, inspiring Rumi to whirl in joyful dance. Dizziness overcame him and he fell into a trance of ecstasy and so began the whirling dervish moving meditation honoring Allah.
Born in Baulk, Afghanistan, increasing Mongol incursions when Rumi was around the age of eleven forced his family to leave Afghanistan and travel to Baghdad, Mecca, Damascus, finally settling in Konya, Turkey. Rumi lived there for most of his life and became one of the most beloved poets in the world. Also, a mystic, and dancer; he started the practice of whirling dervish dances. Every December 10th until the 17th there is a nine-day festival to celebrate Sema -the reunion of Rumi with Allah. Sema is celebrated in communities all over the world.
Two powerful quotes from Rumi about life: ‘Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.’ and ‘Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.’
Rumi’s dance started the Melevi sect of Sufism. “The Mevlevi ceremony was cited in the Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, the arm of the United Nations that focuses on education, science, and culture.” Over 800 years old, this dance is a form of physically active meditation. Rumi said there might be several roads that lead to Allah and this dance meditation was one of them. Celebrants meditate and fast before and during the dance; their goal to reach a state of enlightenment. In the 15th century Rumi’s famous sect of Sufi’s, the Mevlevi order had dance participants known as Semazen who codified and sequenced the rituals and the symbolism to maintain the various traditions to be passed on. Other sects of Islam in China, India (the Taj Mahal was built by a Sufi practitioner) and Africa took to his dance, known as the Sema and spread it throughout the Ottoman Empire.
Origins of Sufism itself, are disputed, with some saying it is the inner dimensions of the teachings of Muhammad. Another theory is the birth of Sufism happened between the 8th and 10th centuries in the Islamic golden age when the House of Wisdom in Baghdad was founded and the rulers mandated that scholars, artists, philosophers, and mathematicians convene, trade knowledge, record it and fill books with it for posterity. Mongol invasions ended that with their siege of Baghdad in 1258.
Sufism is a branch of Islam primarily concerned with developing the spirituality, or more precisely the inner character, of a Muslim. They are firm believers in the revelations of the Quran but criticized the mere external legalistic attitude and ritualized practices that were being promoted at the time. Rumi, an influential Sufi mystic was dedicated to waking people up, encouraging people to experience life for themselves, rather than blindly following the scholars of the day.
As the dancers swirl, their skirts lift and look like circular cones. Physics research states that the edges of these skirts experience accelerations “of about four times Earth gravity” and that the skirts “carry cusped wave patterns which seem to defy gravity and common sense. The Coriolis effect takes place where force is perpendicular to the direction of the motion” Another interesting bit is the skirts will spin in different directions in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. These fluttering cones moving around the dancers body are accompanied by music made by a singer, flutist, cymbal player and a kettle drummer. Dancer’s twirl with the left foot going around the right.
The symbolism imbuing each piece of clothing is deeply significant. White long robes with full circular skirts represent a cover for the ego. Sikkes, the tall, conical hat, usually brown, gray, or black, depending on their sect of Sufism represent a tomb for the wearer’s ego. Long dark cloaks signify detachment from worldly pleasures while immersing themselves in the ritual. During the ceremony the cloak is removed and leaving the dancer is just the white robe that represents faultless purity empowering them to do intricate whirls that define the Sema. One last, little-known secret shared by Rana Gorgoni is that a chain is sewn in the hem of the circular skirt. The chain represents how our souls are chained to earth in this present life
- Jemal Guven1, J A Hanna2 and Martin Michael Müller3,4 Published 26 November 2013 • © IOP Publishing and Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft
New Journal of Physics, Volume 15, November 2013
5. Washington Post 4/11/2019