A visit to Konya, the small town in southern Turkey that’s home to the tomb of the glorious mystic and poet Rumi, offered us an insight into the ancient art of sufi whirling.
We stumbled upon this ‘sema’ whirling ceremony in the courtyard of the Mevlana museum where Rumi’s tomb lies one evening, and were pulled into a trance by the divine spinning. This whirling ritual is intended to focus the mind on the God within, and if you look at these men’s faces, you can see that they truly are joining in an ecstatic universal prayer.
I should add that in 1925, as part of his program to create a modern, western-orientated secular state, the new republic leader Kemal Ataturk banned the Sufi orders and closed their meeting halls. So now, as far as the Turkish state are concerned, the Mevlevi are little more than a museum culture.
Still, we can appreciate this clip as a window into a lost period of Sufi history that was all about forgiveness, peace and self-understanding. Watch and you will see that there’s a true stillness in the centre of this whirling, where everything disappears and the whirler is at peace.