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Twirling in Spiritual Harmony

There are some traditions that are so mesmerizing and meaningful that they stay intact and remembered, despite the passing of several hundred years.

The nature of Sufism is derived from the prophet of Islam and the Quran and supports tolerance, worship of God, community, personal development and, more importantly, a focus on love. A strong fighter and devotee to the focus on love through Sufism, poet Mevlana Jalaleddin Rumi lived some 800 years ago and feverishly studied the religious foundations of Sufism: divine love, austerity, worship, piety, humility, tolerance and conciousness of God. Although Rumi has lain in a tomb in Konya, Turkey, since 1273, his accomplishments in literary works and peace teachings have lived on; he has been deemed one of the greatest mystical poets of Islam.

The Whirling Dervishes of Rumi are a group that practices the Order of the Whirling Dervishes, which is a branch of the Sufi tradition of Islam. Through a unique twirling ceremony, the Whirling Dervishes of Rumi symbolize the spiritual teachings of Mevlana Jalaleddin Rumi and provide one of the great marvels of Turkey. These whirling dervishes are adults, typically between 30 and 45 years old.

Rumi founded the Order of the Whirling Dervishes in the 13th century in what is now Turkey to express his philosophy and spread his religious teachings.

"The ritual ceremony is performed to symbolize providence and love in the hearts and minds of people," says Adam Osuz of the Foundation for Inter-Cultural Dialogue.

The Foundation for Inter-Cultural Dialogue is bringing the Whirling Dervishes of Rumi from Turkey to Tucson as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated 2007 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the birth of Rumi.

Osuz says the dervishes have been celebrating this year with their mystic ritual in Rumi's home town of Konya, Turkey, and that many visitors have flocked to the city to see the dervishes whirl in the place where the ritual was founded.

This dance and musical ritual features followers of the Sufi tradition of the Order of the Whirling Dervishes in long, flowing white robes. While spiritual Sufi music plays, the dervishes spin and twirl around in a rhythmic, seemingly incessant dance symbolic of the traditions of Rumi and Sufism. The dervishes twirl in perfect harmony with the exquisite sounds of flutes, strings and percussion.

Osuz says that the costumes that the dervishes wear symbolize different concepts, just as the twirling motions and classical Turkish music represent different spiritual prayers and rituals.

The ritual dance, which is called a Sema, has four different stages within it, called Selams. These Selams within the Sema are rhythmic devotions to God's power, existence, unity and majesty. The first Selam symbolizes a person's acceptance as a being of God. The second Selam represents the emotions felt by a person witnessing God's creation of a human. The third Selam symbolizes the act of sacrificing one's mind to God. The fourth and final Selam entails a person or dervish realizing that he is a servant to God. The dancing ceremony ends with a prayer and the dervishes retiring to meditate at the conclusion of the ritual.

This group will be traveling to other cities besides Tucson to celebrate the traditions of Sufism and the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birth. The dervishes will share their Turkish rituals and the wisdom of Rumi to Los Angeles; Irvine, Calif.; San Francisco and Reno, Nev., as well.

Osuz says this is the first time the Whirling Dervishes of Rumi will grace Tucson with their seven-century-old performance of spiritual music and dance.

"This ceremony is something unique," he says. "The dance is unique, the music is unique, and on top of that, there is Turkish classical music played as well."

The Whirling Dervishes of Rumi performance takes place at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 7, at the UA's Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. Tickets range from $15 to $45. Call 621-3341 or visit UApresents for information.

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