Small introduction on the dance of the Mevlevi dervishes

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A very small introduction about the dance of the Mevlevi dervishes, a modality thanks to which the rite of Sama has become even more popular and known in the world

The Sama of Rumi

Before starting to talk about the dance itself, typical of the Mawlawiyya brotherhood, it is necessary to frame it within the Islamic world and its original function, as it is nothing more than a variant of Sama. The latter is a term that means “hearing / listening”, and this is extremely indicative of what it represents, that is, not a simple “remembering”, as in the case of dhikr, but a true and mystical dialogue with God, so much so that Gabriele Mandel Khan in the introduction of the Masnavi defines it like this: “In Sufism it indicates “the ritualized spiritual concert” which can induce states of grace (âḫwâl), ecstasy (wujdud) or lead to spiritual revelations. “

Sama, however, is practiced in extremely varied and disparate ways and forms within the various Sufi orders and it is therefore necessary to be specific when meaning “just this Sama”. It is therefore a rite aimed at inducing the practitioner into an ecstatic state, thus symbolizing the mystical journey from being to God, in which the first comes to dissolve in the second; in this regard, the famous Egyptian Sufi, Dhu al-Nun al-Misri said: ” Before making the journey I believed that mountains were mountains and seas were seas; during the journey I discovered that mountains are not mountains and that seas are not seas; and now that I have arrived I know that mountains are mountains and seas are seas “.

The dance of the Mevlevi dervishes

The Sama of the Mevlevi dervishes takes place in a room divided into two parts with a central line, called Equator, on which only the Qutb (“Pole”), the one who will guide the ceremony, can walk, as only he knows the Way; the right side of the room represents the Kingdom of matter, the left side the Kingdom of the spirit. At one end of the Equator there is a sheepskin dyed red, symbol of the manifestation of God in the human being and seat of the Qutb, while on the opposite side there are the musicians and on one side (or in a circle) are placed the white skins on which the dancers will sit. The scene is initially empty and silent, a symbol of the primordial emptiness in which only God exists, then the musicians arrive, bowing in front of the red sheepskin and then going to their place, starting to sing Mevlevi hymns; sound is vibration and considered a symbol of life. At this point the dancers enter wearing a brown hat and are covered by a black cloak under which they have a white dress, the first symbol of their tombstone, the second of matter, the third of detachment from it; once they arrive they begin the circumambulation of the room in an anti-clockwise direction, then going to sit in their seats.


At this point the Qutb enters and, after greeting everyone, goes to his place, thus giving life to the ceremony; the latter wears a black headdress wrapped in a black or green turban. Forgive me now those who wished to read the entire ritual with precision but, due to the absolute wealth of details and symbolisms with which it is described, I would be forced to quote you word for word the introductory pages to the Masnavi that deal with it.

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