This is the website of the Swiss Branch of the Mevlevi Order. The main language here is German, however we offer on it also some space for interested persons of other languages. This part of our Website offers some limited information in English. For a complete information please consult the websites of our brothers and sisters in English speaking regions. Their addresses are listed under “Links”. May our doing be of service to all human beings striving for the real purpose of their existence! May we be allowed to do this in the light and under the protection of our Pir Hazreti Mevlana! May Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate protect us!
Peter Hüseyin Cunz, Congress in Konya, 15.12.2016
Bismillahi ar-Rahmani ar-Rahim, assalamo aleikum,
Praise be to our Prophet Muhammad, he who serves as our reference! Peace and Blessings of Allah may accompany him and his relatives!
I express my sincere thanks to the Authorities of Konya and to the organizers for having invited me to this event. And I thank the family Çelebi for being the custodians of Mevlana’s heritage, making it possible for us in Europe and elsewhere in the world to understand the Prophet and his light!
If Islam started in the 7th century, what then does this mean for the science of evolution, for the modern physics and psychology? Or, was Islam since ever?
If Muhammad is the seal of the Prophets, what then does this mean for 1 billion Chinese, 1 billion Christians, 1 billion Hindus and several billions of rationalists? Or, is Allah also to them “closer than the jugular vein”? (ayat 50.16)
Muslims go into war against Muslims, intelligent theologians fight with the tongue against other intelligent theologians because of differences in the interpretation of holy scripts. Muslims build walls instead of reaching hands. What does this mean for today’s Islam who should guide us on a way beyond the boarders of comprehension?
These are questions to which I have to be able to answer in a comprehensive way when I wish to convince Europeans about the universality of Islam.
With the internet the world has become very little: ethical values and rules of society are completely different than in the 7th century on the Arabian Peninsula. Today slavery is rejected as unethical, and today it is not tolerated anymore to have the men ruling over women. I have to consider this if I want to convince Europeans about the universality of Islam.
Dear brothers and sisters, time is relative. Time is bound to gravitation, and it changes according to the condition of matter. Time disappears if we get close to the divine. Saints such as Hz. Mevlana knew this very well. By reducing Islam to its historical context we rob it the universality.
May we have the courage to testify a universal view of Islam! Allah is not only close to Muslims. Let us stop to reduce Allah to the limited comprehension of the medieval theologians! Let us recognise the Light of Muhammad also in the Christian, the Buddhist, the Hindu and the rationalist! Let us reach hands, be it with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus or rationalists! Let us be amazed in gratitude, let us look into the heart of each other, and let us together with the non-Muslims bow in front of the incomprehensible cryptic Ultimate that we Muslims call Allah!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I’m a thankful guest here in Konya, and therefore I wish to close with a verse of my Pir. It is to be found in the first book of his Mesnevi:
You are an idol worshipper when you remain in bondage to forms. Leave the idol’s form and look at the reality.
If you are a man for the Pilgrimage, seek a pilgrim as your companion, whether he be a Hindu or a Turk or an Arab.
Do not look at his figure and colour, look at his purpose and intention.
If he is black, yet he is in accord with you: call him white, for spiritually his complexion is the same as yours.
By Peter Hüseyin Cunz, Toronto and NY State, October 13th – 20th 2015
Good evening dear ladies and gentlemen!
Let me start with the first four verses of the well-known masterpiece of poetry, the Masnawi, containing over 25’000 mystical verses dictated by Celaleddin Rumi and recorded in writing by his pupils in the 13th century. The teaching within our Sufi-Order – the Mevlevi-Order – is based on the messages of this saint and spiritual master. His interpretation of the Koran and of the Islamic tradition is highly humanistic and modern. Also traditional Muslims consider him to be one of the greatest saints in Islam. Today he is also much appreciated and loved by non-Muslims. Books with scientific translations and interpretations as well as with romantically adapted translations of his poems are nowadays much in demand.
Listen to the reed-flute, how it is complaining!
It is telling about separations, saying,
“Ever since I was parted from the reed field,
men and women have lamented in my cries.
I want a heart which is torn, torn from separation,
so that I may unfold the pain of yearning.
Anyone who has remained far from his root,
seeks a return to the time of his union.
What did Rumi express in these verses? Please allow me to give some guidance:
Each spiritual quest starts with the awareness of an inner yearning for the unseen. We begin to listen to the sound of the other world – or, in other words: we listen to the sound of the subtle in the interspaces. The ritual that you will see here, called “Sema”, means, “listening”. Listening stands at the beginning of any spiritual way.
The reed-flute (ney) symbolizes an advanced human being that has lost interest for any unnecessary worldly possession and ambition. Such a person is empty like the reed-flute. Coming from its emptiness all thoughts and acts emanate a catching beauty. We are attracted by the “sound” of this human being, and by listening we learn about the source from where we come from.
By listening to such a being our inner yearning is growing. We search for companions with whom we can unfold this pain. Each spiritual work recommends the gathering with other seekers. If God so wills, the leader of such circle is an advanced person, as symbolized by the reed-flute.
The final aim of our life is to find back to where we come from, back to where we experience absolute peace. Expressed in an old way, this is Paradise, as mentioned in the holy Koran (89:27-30):
But as for you, O tranquil soul.
Return to your Lord, pleased and accepted.
Enter among My servants.
Enter My Paradise.
Yes, we talk about listening, and about the yearning for peace. And what are we experiencing in our daily life? What dynamics are governing our politics, economy, society and personal ambitions? What type of sound is catching us? When reading the daily news I get the impression, that most decisions are based on “Either I win or I lose!” The sound of yearning and the sound of heavenly peace are drowned out by the noise of the legitimate request for shelter, food and health, the longing for safety and stability, the wish for appreciation and the fear of loss and death. Each one of us carries these needs in his or her soul, and thus we tend to strive for power and control, for the increase of wealth, attention and fame. Normal human beings are governed by these urges.
Under such conditions neither justice nor real peace is possible. There are so many international conventions and agreements, which finally prove to be only lip service. World peace cannot be attained with the uppermost aim of economic supremacy or with the haughty opinion of being morally or ethnically superior. Rumi said:
Peace and war of people turn on a fantasy, and their pride and their shame spring from a fantasy.
According to Sufi philosophy, this unwholesome situation is the result of the interaction between human beings who have not yet reached spiritual maturity. The human being was created with a soul (nafs) that surrounds and covers up the esoteric heart where God’s Spirit (rahm) is resting. Our soul wishes to live forever. Therefore, instead of being transparent and supportive for the hidden heart, it creates an identity of its own and the feeling of “I am”. It constantly positions itself in such a way that it feels important and immortal. To loose grip and the loss of the sense of life is most scaring for this soul.
Great Prophets and spiritual Masters have come to this world at various times, to remind us about a realm beyond this world of appearances. They taught us about the rules of the unseen and of that which is beyond our rational comprehension. They taught us on how to overcome the selfish aspects of our soul and how to pacify our urges and fears. Based on the Prophets’ and Masters’ words a multitude of religions and spiritual movements have arisen. Today there is a tremendous wealth of spiritual knowledge and guidance for those who wish more than a good bargain within their life-span. Alone within Islam there is a multitude of different ways of understanding and living the Koranic message. Some of them are assigned to Sufism, one of them being the Mevlevi Order to whom we belong.
Celaleddin Rumi – we call him “Mevlana”, which means “our Master” – describes the course of our life as a journey with one foot in this world and the other in the other world. In order to open the doors to the other world, we need to cleanse our needy soul – in other words: to transform our soul.
Then, though you are dark-bodied like iron,
make a practice of polishing, polishing, polishing,
that your heart may become a mirror full of images.
Although the iron was dark and devoid of light,
polishing cleared away the darkness from it.
If the earth body is gross and dark, polish it,
in order that the forms of the Unseen may appear in it.
(Masnawi 4:2469 ff, shortened)
Polishing the heart is many-fold. A good conduct is as important as the overcoming our individual negativity. Good conduct implies the awareness and the acceptance of others. To serve others in a right way is serving God. The holy Koran says:
To God belong the East and the West. Whichever way you turn, there is God’s presence. (2:115)
It is within the interaction between the inner and the outer, between spirit and form, that transformation takes place. Therefore religious rituals are of utmost importance. They create a vessel attracting spiritual forces from the subtle worlds. These supportive forces will be of a character according to the meaning of the Ritual. The Sema that you will see is full of symbols, which create the necessary support for the single dervish turning around his or her axis. In this ritual you may observe the recurrent mutual bowing. We celebrate the encounter of our hearts, all on the same level and in service for each other. In this uniting of hearts we anchor a sense of justice. In the union of hearts, peace takes place, for justice is the foundation of our action.
In our Sufi Order the spiritual teaching is the responsibility of the senior Teachers (Shaykhs), but their service needs a worldly structure. The head of the Mevlevi Order is the Maqam Celebi, he carries the blood of Celaleddin Rumi. His task is to preserve the tradition and to bring it forth within the existing society. We have the honor that Farouk Celebi Efendi, the 22nd grandson of Rumi and today’s Maqam Celebi is here with us. His sister, Esin Celebi Hanimefendi, is also with us. She will now introduce the Mevlevi tradition and the ritual of the Sema.
Speech of Hüseyin Peter Cunz in Ankara on 15./16.12.2000
Honourable Minister, your Excellencies,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m thankful to be allowed to be among you, and I congratulate the organisers for this well-done event. Please allow me to outline – in other words – a few points from the paper I offered for this occasion. I begin with a verse from T.S.Eliot:
At the still point of the turning world
Neither flesh nor fleshless
Neither from or towards
At the still point, there the dance is
But neither arrest nor movement
Let us acknowledge that everything in this world is subject to change and movement! And it is not alone the environment, politics and social co-operation that are subject to change. Also religion is confronted with the changes of our time. If we accept that Hz Mohammed was the last Prophet and that Islam was revealed for all people for all time, then we may not simultaneously demand that the culturally conditioned forms of religious expression should never change.
Rightly or wrongly: Western man often sees the Islamic codex as rigid 10th Century dogma which can no longer be reconciled with modern times. At least he sees Islam as adherence to modes of thinking and life-styles from the Orient, and he feels that Islam is in opposition to modern life. And still the expression of the Sufi and the teaching of Tawhid attract him.
Yes, in today’s time Mevlana and the Mevlevi tradition are extremely attractive for the Western society. In the USA Mevlana is apparently the most mentioned poet, and there is an immense amount of books and papers about Mevlana out in the US and European market. Also many more or less knowledgeable persons appear with the title of a Shaykh or Pir offering themselves – of course against some sort of remuneration – as teachers for people in search of spiritual experience. Various esoteric workshops include the Mevlevi-turn as one of their practices. Mevlana has become the source of a big market.
All this has its own beauty but it also creates new sorts of conflicts to be looked at. The Mevlevi tradition is strictly based on Islam, which is the predominant religion in the oriental countries. Within the Islamic culture the Mevlevi teaching offers – like other Sufi schools – a platform to deepen ones understanding on Islam and to express this acquired understanding in the outer world of every day – and in doing so, the Mevlevi pupil grows in his spirituality.
And here we have the people of the West with their Christian roots, attracted by the beauty of this Mevlevi expression. But they are hesitant to touch Islamic themes, because their picture about Islam is rather negative and distorted by the news they receive from the TV, newspapers and the churches. Knowing this the editors of books and organisers of esoteric workshops pick out all those sayings of Hz. Mevlana that match with the esoteric desires of modern man, and they leave away the multitude of references from the holy Qur’an and the Hadiths.
In seeing this conflict we could argue that the Mevlevi tradition does not bring to the West what it is originally standing for. We could also argue that the wisdom written in the Mesnevi and other works of Mevlana should only be for Muslims, because Non-Muslims may receive a wrong impression of what Mevlana was standing for. Even more we could argue that it is heretical to feed Non-Muslims with attractive selections of Mevlana’s sayings, because this may lead them more astray into Pantheism.
Let us not polarise unduly! Islam offers more than what we from the West believe to observe. Islam is much more than the observing of some compulsory rules. Islam is religion and philosophy in one. Islam offers an attractive basis of spiritual activity also for modern minded men and women.
If we accept that Allah’s greatness cannot be estimated by human mind, then we have also to accept that Islam surpasses the capacity of human awareness and judgements. Hz. Muhammad was born as Arab, but his function as Prophet had little to do with the Arabs. The Holy Message is universal. It is valid for Africans and for Eskimos, for the Orient and for the Occident. Accepting this I find it wrong to try to overlay oriental customs to other well-established societies. After the French Revolution the Europeans had developed a most advanced democratic thinking and system that so far has not been reached yet in the Orient. And rightly people of the West do not want to turn their back to their society, and our women refuse to be treated with less social rights than men.
I ask: Are we Muslims because we know about the rules of Islam? Are we Musicians because we know about music? Are we Sufis because we perform a traditional Sema in public or because we speak and write about Mevlana? The fact that we come together here in Ankara and later in Konya does not make us Sufis! And yet such conferences are important, and I congratulate the organisers and decision makers for this event.
There are a lot of documents about Mevlana and there is a tradition of first class Mevlevi music and arts in Turkey. But still it is important that the authentic Mevlevi-tradition is kept alive. Searching people in the West are mostly not interested in Turkish folklore. What they want is to be connected with authenticity, with a proven Mevlevi tradition, with the Maqam Çelebi, with Shaykhs that have received the authority from the Maqam Çelebi. People of the West don’t want self-made Shayks and they don’t want to replace the arrogance of the Church by an Islamic self-complacency.
I’m sincerely convinced that Turkey has – through its culture and history – acquired the necessary knowledge to unite Islam with the modern Western social life. And I sincerely wish that Turkey would become a member of the European Community. In history Turkey had always had an important role as bridge between the Occident and the Orient. I’m most happy to be here, and I’m proud to have so many good Turkish friends.
The world turns and continues to change. When the Semazen extends his arms and through turning, comes closer to the still point of his heart with the essence of his being, all differences between traditions and modern times are dissolved for a limited and ecstatic moment. And after that he returns to his work, with greater certainty and in remembrance of Hz. Mevlana’s words: “When you plant an apricot seed in the earth without its shell, nothing grows: however if you plant it with the shell a beautiful tree will grow and bear new fruit.”
There are laws, which are valid forever, and there are habits that should never become law. May Allah grant us the wisdom of discrimination between law and habit, and may Allah give us the necessary strength to act accordingly!
Thank you for your attention.
Speech by H. Nur Artıran at a conference of the Tariqa Alawyyia in Mostaganem, July 2009
Distinguished guests, my friends, firstly I would like to express how happy it makes me to be here amongst you, in your esteemed presence. May I pay my deepest respects to every one of you and pray that this meeting at this time reaches all of its objectives and is instrumental in bringing beneficence to the World.
‘Spirituality and challenges of our time‘ which is perhaps the most important item on our agenda, immediately brings to our memory some couplets from Mevlâna Celaleddin Rumi:
‘You have not come to this World to feed your body which will eventually be prey for the worms in your grave1. You have learned a certain craft or art; you do have a certain profession to nourish your body, to meet its needs. And what have you done about nourishing your soul? Learn the Art of Religion to nourish that.2 Turn to ‘meaning’ (mana) for a change. Do not be attached to the transient delights of the world to live as a ‘free man’ so that you do not become a prisoner of possessions, position, food and drink and suchlike.’ 3
These precious words of Celaleddin Rumi enable us to widen our horizon and look at the notion of freedom from a different angle.
The first clause of the Declaration of Human Rights following the French Revolution of 1789 states that a human being is born free and lives a free life. Although this clause seems to be quite reasonable and acceptable, one believes that certain questions have to be raised regarding this notion of freedom.
How free are we really? Are we free when we are born? Does everyone live a free life? Is having the right to do whatever we want true freedom? Is it freedom to totally abandon all human values, ignore other human beings and above all ignore why we were created or the reason for our being? If living without any limitation or boundaries is freedom then one might suggest that the wild animals in the jungles of Africa are freer than the rest of us. If this is the case, should not the freedom and boundaries of a human being – which is the most sacred of all that is created – be redefined?
It must be accepted that one of the most important problems of the present generation arises from the wrong interpretation of freedom. To chase endless freedom without knowing the true meaning of it has put the present generation to an endless search of pleasure or satisfaction.
We have unknowingly neglected our spirit which is longing for freedom and persuaded ourselves that we can live our freedom guided by our desires and physical and material satisfaction. And because this has not corresponded to the truth, especially the young people in the so-called ‘developed world’ have been exiled to loneliness in a materialistic, luxurious life. The wrong interpretation of freedom has led to the emergence of a generation that believes in nothing, is unhappy and without hope.
In the last century, there has been an enormous increase in psychological disorders. The main reason for this is maintaining a life of material with nothing spiritual in it, with no meaning. For instance, one believes that the threats to modern life like obesity and drug-use can be tied to spiritual dissatisfaction.
Man is created to possess ‘spirit’, ‘ego’ and ‘intellect’. We have to learn to balance the Spirit and the Ego with the use of our Intellect. So long as we are not successful in finding this balance, to speak of our ability to create a ‘Healthy Society’ will remain as Utopia. If all our efforts are spent in pursuit of material benefits, it is only natural that our spirit will be lonely, helpless and unhappy. And this will reflect itself to an entire life span through our thoughts and feelings.
Individual unhappiness, in time will transform into social despair and when this happens even in the so-called developed world where the physical (material) freedom is highest, the people will not feel themselves as totally free and happy.
When one ignores the reason of one’s existence and spiritual responsibility and concentrates only on the satisfaction of that which has come from dust and will return to dust, one will always try to seek his/her freedom and peace and happiness in the outer world.
The wrong interpretation or the wrong ‘search’ will result in distancing one from his/her course hence making the discovery of true freedom – which is hidden in the ‘inner self‘ – and the discovery of peace and lasting happiness, difficult. Because reaching peace and happiness as part of this notion of freedom is possible not through the ability to do ‘anything we want’ but through living our spirituality i.e. spiritual freedom.
If one cannot release oneself from the invisible bonds within one’s inner world and discovers this Spiritual Freedom, no freedom of the physical world will suffice to create happiness and contentment.
As we can see, when one looks at freedom from a Sufi perspective a different picture appears.
The Divine Power has created the ‘physical’ and the ‘spiritual’ (or ‘madde’ and ‘mana’ as we say it in Turkish), has given the final choice to His servants. As we believe, human beings are the only creatures to have been given free will and a freedom of choice.
Freedom in Sufi interpretation is to be released from the bondage of worldly needs and desires and to discover a certain balance between the physical and the spiritual or the ‘outward appearance’ and the ‘inner meaning’.
No matter how free one is, if one pursues a material existence, one’s freedom will be curtailed. On the other hand if one finds a way to get closer to the ‘meanings’ going beyond the material world, Spiritual Freedom will expand.
In Sufism what is important is not the freedom of our organs but the freedom of the Soul that gives life to those organs. The person, who is so liberated, will feel free and happy even in the worst circumstances. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is Philosopher Epictetus who lived 2000 years ago and who had reached such liberation when he was a slave – the slave of another person but obviously not a slave to his desires nor his suffering.
His body was captive but not his soul. The words he uttered whilst he was being whipped by his owner have been a lesson to learn for every generation including the present society. To those who were bragging about their freedom and who were in contempt of him, he submitted that they were the ones who were captive and the true slaves:
‘In reality there are small slaves and big slaves in this world. The small slaves are captives of small ambitions and desires, the big slaves are captives of bigger ambitions and desires. A so-called free person who is captivated by high position or various worldly ambitions is actually more captive than a slave‘.4
To understand whether or not a person is free, stop looking at his worldly position or accolades. It is the reverse. The greater the rewards, the higher the station, the more captive you are. You think of me as a slave. But God has given me my freedom. And I abide by his commands. In this way none can take my freedom away from me. The true happiness comes from true freedom. To be pure, clean, to have patience and determination to obey God’s commands, to be empty of sorrow, worry, fear which are all a result of our desires. This is freedom. You see for this reason I am not a slave but a free man. ‘ 5
It is hard to imagine that the deep meaning of these words of wisdom which are still not properly understood today were understood or accepted two thousand years ago.
Indeed Mevlâna Celaleddin Rumi, who broke loose from all the invisible chains with the force of that mysterious Divine Love upon him; when all worldly desires were made captive and air, water, earth, fire, all the six directions and five senses were deemed irrelevant, liberating himself from all attachments and finding existence in non-existence and total servitude, also expressed a similar view:
I have become a servant, a servant, a servant. Every slave rejoices when liberated. Oh God I am so happy that I am your servant, I am so joyous. Hatred, anger, jealousy, pride, arrogance, lust, and those other habits of hellish nature, are bondage of iron weighing hundreds of kilos. Many persons have been tied down with these invisible ties in such a way that they are not even aware of their captivity. 6 The feelings and thoughts of the Nafs can be so enslaving that it is worse than being tied by an iron chain. 7 One can save oneself from a prison by digging a tunnel,8 an axe can cut an iron chain but no one can cut through these other chains the eye cannot see. 9 Those who are liberated from hatred, anger, violence, wrath and various other negative and harmful feelings, consider them as genuinely free. 10
Mevlâna Celaleddin Rumi, recognized by the whole world as the sultan of Divine Lovers and Epictetus who lived many centuries before him as a slave, were both free men. Both of these men in different centuries have concurred that doing ‘whatever you want’ is not freedom. That true freedom requires a total liberation from all desires and ambitions.
Whether we accept it or not, it is fact that many people in this World are enslaved by something or another in some way. The awareness of this fact will provide a new beginning and help appreciate the importance of Respect. Not only towards the human race but to all the parts that make the whole; the flowers, the insects, the stones, the soil in fact everything that has been created to fulfil their purpose. Within ourselves, we must always try to bring out the feelings of love and friendship for everyone without any discrimination due to race, colour, gender and religion. Try to liberate ourselves in the light of all those values that make a human being, from avarice, ambition, selfishness.
As it is of immense importance, I would like to repeat once again that unless the human race finds true spiritual freedom, it will carry on searching in vain. Unaware of our own ambitions, we shall carry on nourishing on the ambitions of others and will never be able to discover true happiness and peace.
When one cannot reach one’s ambitions, one will revert to deceit, dishonesty and become more and more aggressive, trying every avenue to satisfy one’s own personal aims. Without the freedom of the Soul, we cannot be part of Love, Peace, Friendship, and Brotherhood.
I conclude my talk with my deepest respects to all of you. Thank you for being so gracious as to listen to these humble words.
1.Şefik Can, Mathnawi Vol. 4. 3608
2.Sefik Can, Mathnawi Vol. 2. 2592
3.Sefik Can, Mathnawi Vol. 3. 2260
4. Epictotes Thoughts and Conversations. M.Eğitim pub. 1989 page 118
5. Epictotes Thoughts and Conversations. M.Eğitim pub. 1989 page 124
6. Sefik Can, Mathnawi Vol. 1. 3240
7. Sefik Can, Mathnawi Vol. 1. 1546
8. Sefik Can, Mathnawi Vol. 3. 1661
9. Sefik Can, Mathnawi Vol. 1. 3247
10. Sefik Can, Mathnawi Vol. 2. 1469
Since the creation of Adam and Eve, the value of women in society has always been a long discussed issue for all religions and civilizations. Every prevailing society, notion and civilization has presented various opinions regarding women, and based on these opinions, valued and placed them in the society.
In this context, value of women in society has also been an issue for Muslim nations; however Islam’s true view of women has not been fully understood. It was a common belief that Islam did not grant the value that women deserved and tried to keep women out of social life. Certainly, this is not true, but merely an outcome of a prejudiced perspective.
I believe that if we look at the beginning of Islam and the value of women in numerous societies, then we can better appreciate the value given to women by Islam, by the prophet Mohammed -the supreme announcer of Islam-, and consequently by Mawlana. Therefore, I would like to shortly mention how different societies viewed women.
Women in Indian society did not have any rights in marriage, inheritance, and other formalities. In the holy book of Indians, Veda, woman is pictured as something worse than hurricane, death, poison or snakes. The father of Buddhism, Buddha, did not initially accept woman to his religion because woman was reliant on their emotions. When Buddha’s close friend Amenda asked him:
How should we treat women?
You will never look at them.” he answered.
What if we have to look at them?
Then, you will not talk to them.
What if we have to talk to them
In that case, you better keep away from them” he replied.
Amenda felt sorry for women and tried to protect them. Although Buddha hesitated at first, he finally reluctantly accepted woman to his religion due to Amenda’s insistence, but he also noted that this was very dangerous for the Buddhists. He once said to his dear friend, Amenda, “If we hadn’t accepted women into our religion, Buddhism in its purest form would live for centuries. But since women are around, I don’t think this religion will exist for too long.”
Persian women, during the Sasani period, had no worth, or rights. Moreover, marriage with one’s own sister was legitimate. Women did not have any social or legal rights.
Chinese did not consider women as human. They did not even need to name women. Women were not called by their names, but by numbers like 1,2 and 3. Women were referred to as “pig” in the community.
In ancient Greece and Roman civilizations, which Westerners adore, women did not have any rights. Women were viewed merely as machines that give birth to children. Claiming that woman’s body was less aesthetic than man’s, women were not even considered as worthy of affection. Perverted love among men was very widespread. While women were busy with daily chores at their homes, men would spend all their time with young boys. They would even attend public banquets with these young boys and would never take their wives with them feeling no shame at all.
In England, women were considered to be dirty and were not allowed to touch the Bible. This ended during the period of Henry VII (1509-1547) via the verdict from the parliament, and then women were allowed to read the Bible.
Jewish family life was centered around a system where men had the ultimate authority. Jewish girls were like servants in their fathers’ houses. Fathers were allowed to sell their daughters if they wished to do so. In the Jewish law, women were regarded as damned as they were considered to be deceivers that urged evil.
Christians believed Eve to be the cause of the first sin and therefore blamed her for people’s misfortunes. For this reason, they regarded women as inferior and satanic.
Before the Prophet in the Arabian Peninsula the situation of women was dreadful. Women were not allowed to get married or establish a family. They were devoid of the inheritance law. Prostitution was widespread. Daughters were believed to be an economic burden as well as means of shame for the family. Fathers had boundless rights in the family, and it was acceptable for a father to kill his own daughter by burying her alive. (Şefik Can, Mawlana: His Life, Ideas, Personality p.189).
As summarized above, throughout history women were not given any rights and were viewed as despicable and insignificant. Before Islam, women were not considered as human; they were treated like objects, so they were bought and sold. It was Islam that saved women from this situation and gave them the value they deserved along with the rights to own property. Our Prophet in his Farewell Sermon said the following: “O People! Fear Allah in respect to women. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. It is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you.”
The holy book Quran does not make any discrimination between men and women. Men and women, both, are equally treated and addressed to follow Allah’s orders and refrain from the forbidden.
Our Prophet noted that all human beings are equal just like the teeth of a comb and defined man and woman as the halves of a whole. Therefore, according to Islam, ascendancy can only be achieved by taqwa (piety) i.e. by the awareness of one’s responsibilities to Allah.
In addition to all these, even only the following hadith can also make it possible for us to understand how Islam values women. The Prophet said “There are three things in your world that are made to attract my affection: The first one is woman, the second is pleasant scents, and the third is salat (prayers, namaz) which is the delight of my eyes.” In this very important hadith, our Prophet listed women even before salat, one of the requirements and pillars of Islam for which He says “the delight of my eyes”.
I regret to say that some people are not aware of the essence of these words, which are filled with deep spiritual value. Not only, do these people misunderstand the highest value and divine meaning given to woman, they also cannot see the wisdom (hikma) and divine predestination (takdir) in Prophet’s ploygamy. Such people forget that The Prophet, who is freed of any earthly filth, is far away from humanly faults and thus incorrectly linking His words to sexuality, and they mistakenly think that He uttered these words with a humanly interest in and weakness for women. In addition, the pleasant scents He mentioned secondly were thought to be any pleasant smell such as flowers and perfumes, which is far from the real meaning.
As can be seen, Islam placed great significance on women; therefore, women gained more respect and strength in the society. Thanks to the sincerity of their belief, especially the women close to our Prophet were of great support to Him. Later on, with the hadiths they passed on, these women contributed a great deal to the spread of Islam. Moreover, it is a well-known fact that during the Prophet’s time Muslim women were actively taking part in both daily life and wars.
Sahabas and pioneering figures of Islam, especially Mawlana, who accepted as a principle the Quran’s and the Prophet’s viewpoint on women, have always set an example in granting women the value that they deserve.
Mawlana said “As long as I live, I will be the servant of and slave to Quran and be the soil underneath the Prophet Mohammed’s step.” He followed our Prophet’s divine sayings and gave great importance to the holiness in women. He expressed the high sanctity he saw in women in his Mathnawi:
“Our Prophet said: Women would prevail over the wise and those that see through their hearts. However, the ignorant would prevail over women because they are harsh and tough. Ignorant and rude men have very little kindness, courtesy and love because brutishness reigns in their nature. Love, kindness, compassion are human feelings. Anger and lust are animal feelings, they are brutish. Woman is not just a beloved of Allah. Woman is the divine light (nur) of God (Haq). She is as if not a created, but a creator.” (Şefik Can. Mathnawi Book1:2435) Those who are far from the deep meaning of these verses claim that it is just because women can give birth that Mawlana said “Woman is as if not a created, but a creator” However, those with the true understanding of the essence of this issue believe that as all female animals also can give birth, women cannot be granted this high value only due to their ability of procreation.
With the guidance and light from The Prophet, Mawlana saw the divine mystery and truth in women. He explicitly and precisely valued and exalted women all his life. Mawlana had a monogamous life; he never had a female slave even though having one was traditionally accepted at that time. Mawlana always viewed women as a very significant member of the society and had a number of female students both from aristocratic families and among ordinary people. In one of the most important sources for Mawlawi Order, Menakibu’l-Arifin by Eflaki, we read that Mawlana would go to sema (whirling of dervishes) with his female students, whirl with them and women would sprinkle petals of rose over him. These stories in the same source were generally narrated by Mawlana’s wife Kerra Hatun; the daughters of Sultan Veled, Mutahhara and Seref Hatun; Arif Celebi’s mother and Selahaddin Zerkubi’s daughter Fatima Hatun; Mawlana’s and Arif Celebi’s daughters Melike Hatuns; and many other female students of Mawlana. What we understand from this is; the women from Mawlawi families who love Mawlana would always come together with Mawlawi elders and have discourse.
Eflaki said that our Prophet guided also women. However, since guiding women was considered to be peculiar to the Prophet, none of the saints in any century spent that much of time with women until Mawlana. After our Prophet, Mawlana was the first to show great respect to women and he showed concern for them very openly. Surely enough Mawlana walked on the path of divine love with women; he did not hesitate to assign spiritual tasks to women as well as men.
In reliable sources of Mawlawi history, it is recorded that Seref Hatun, the daughter of Sultan Veled, was a spiritual teacher (murshide) to many disciples (murids). Moreover, Arefe-i Hos-lika Hatun from Konya was the Mawlawi caliph in the city of Tokat and she had numerous male disciples. Mawlana’s grandchildren followed the same path of divine love on which Mawlana walked with both men and women without any discrimination. It is documented in Mawlawi sources that just like his grandfather, Mawlana Ulu Arif Celebi would meet women, talk to them and take them to sema (whirling of dervishes) gatherings.
In 17th Century, Sakib Dede, who was a sheikh in Kutahya Mevlevihane (Mawlawi Tekke-dervish lodge) for forty years, writes the following in his work of Sefine-i Mawlawiyya which is considered to be one of the most important sources of Mawlawi history: In 1600s, after the death of Mehmet Dede, who was a sheikh in Kutahya Mevlevihane for fifty years, one of the chelebis (a title of a leader in Mawlawi order) of Konya, Junior Arif Chelebi’s daughter, Mathnawihan (position in Mawlawi order of one who has been trained and initiated the Mathnawi of Mawlana) Kamile Hanim was sent to Kutahya from Konya to be in charge of the meshiha (line of sheiks) position which was previously held by Mehmet Dede. Kamile Hanim’s daughter, Fatma Hanim served in Kutahya Mevlevihane and tried to meet the needs of all dervishes with great sincerity; therefore, she was called Ummu-l-Fukara (the mother of the needy).
According to Sefine-i Mevleviyye, during early times of Mawlawi Order there was no distinction between men and women. Women were granted caliphate. Thus, women had a more respectable position than many men who joined the order. Considering Mawlawi men and women as equals lasted until 17th century. After Shah Mehmet Chelebi, who is the grandson of Divane Mehmet Chelebi and the son of Hizirsah Chelebi, his daughter Destina Hatun was assigned to be the trustee of Afyon Karahisar Tekke; and she wore hirka (dervish’s cloak) and sikke (Mawlawi dervish’sconical headdress) just like men did (Sefine1: pp.252-3). After Destina Hatun, Junior Mehmet Chelebi, who is a descent of Divane Mehmet Celebi was the sheikh, and after his death his daughter, Gunes Han became the sheikha and the caliph. Gunes Han, who was widely respected, spent time on the education of dervishes and used to wear the sikke with turban (destar) on her head, and the Mawlawi hirka as she conducted Mawlawi Muqabele. Sources note that after Gunes Han, Gunes Hatun-i Sugra was the caliph in Afyon Dergah (dervish lodge). [Sefine 1.pgs.253.255] [Golpinarli, Mevlana’dan sonar Mevlevilik pgs.279-280] [Sezai Kucuk. Mevleviligin Son Yuz Yili pgs. 177-179] [Huseyin Top. Mevlevi Adap ve Erkani pg. 162].
In 16th. and 17th centuries Mawlawi women performed many important services such as postnishin (takka’s sheihk) and Mathnawihan. Women led the way for Mawlawis to be truly understood and to be spread even in the small villages of Anatolia. In his Mathnawi, Mawlana says,
“When woman and man become one in unity, that one is you. When the thousands that make the rituals and traditions disappear, the only one remaining is again you.” You created “I” and “we” to prove the unity and the manifestation oneness in various beings [Mathnawi 1:1786].
Mawlana does not see one as two and attributes women the highest value. We understand from these statements taken from reliable sources that in early times of Mawlawis, women were never excluded from the society. Particularly in those days, Mawlawis were spread to even the most remote villages founding Mawlawi villages and never considered women inferior to men. However, in time, responsibilities given to women diminished and today these responsibilities have almost disappeared. Mawlawi women today are stuck between questions such as “Can a woman be postnishin?” and “Can a woman be a whirling dervish?” and they are in search of an identity.
Abdulbaki Golpinarli, a very important researcher of our century on the topics of Mawlana and Mawlawis, says the following in his work called Mevlana’dan Sonra Mevlevilik (Mawlawis After Mawlana, p. 281):
“Based on the research I have done on Mawlana up until now, I believe that women also attended, especially in earlier times, the sema (whirling of dervishes) gatherings even in villages. However, due to handing Mawlawi takkes over to foundations which depend on the government and the government compromising with sheikhs, Mawlawis moved from villages to towns and then to cities, and in time Mawlawis only belonged to a group of people versus to public. All this resulted in limitations to the value and freedom given to women. Unfortunately, just like we do not come across any village mawlawihanes or Mawlawi villages since17th century, we do not come across any female Mawlawi caliphs. The Arife-i Hos-lika and Gunes Han in 17th century and female caliph that have the post (sheikh of takke) are only in the books now, and from that time on we do not encounter any female caliphs.”
This is how Abdulbaki Golpinarli explains how actively serving Mawlawi women have become passive due to various reasons.
Abdulbaki Golpinarli spent all his life studying Mawlana and his works. His life was not long enough to see it, but a short while ago, one of the older Mawlawis, Sertarik Mathnawihan Sefik Can, who does not seek any self-interest and who did great significant work on this subject appointed a woman as his succeeding caliph. This is the first since 17th century. After four hundred years, for the first time, a Mawlawi woman is designated to active service.
Especially during the last times of the Ottomans, Mawlawi women who felt as if they were kept outside the door, put their feelings to words, tried to express their love and affection in poetry. Hence, in 1800s there were Mawlawi female poets that had their own Divan (collection of poems). Amongst these poets, one of the most important one is certainly Leyla Hanim, who is the niece of Kececizade Izzet Molla. Sultan Mahmut II composed one of Leyla Hanim’s poems that she wrote under the influence of Sheikh Galib. Her Divan was published several times during both the Ottoman times and after the Turkish republic was established. Leyla Hanim passed away in 1847 and is buried in Galata Mawlawihane, which is also the resting place for Sheikh Galib, whom she valued a great deal. Her words she uttered in tears when she was not let in the door of the same Mawlawihane to whirl among men made their way to present time. Those words that are integral to Leyla Hanim may surprise even today’s people.
Another very well known poem from those times is Seref Hanim. Seref Hanim, who lived between 1809 and 1861, also had her own Divan. In her divan, she not only expressed her affection to Mawlana but she also wrote several poems regarding her loved Hadrat Rufa-i. After she passed away, for the love of Hadrat Pir she is buried inYenikapi Mawlawihane.
Another Mawlawi female poet from the same century is Hatice Nakiye Hanim. Nakiye Hanim lived between the years of 1845 and 1899. She was the niece of Seref Hanim. Nakiye Hanim was a Persian language and history teacher. She would speak elegantly and was a very well educated lady. Due to her many excellent works, she was awarded with the ‘Medal of Compassion’ by Sultan Abdulhamid II. Like her aunt, she is also buried in Yenikapi Mawlawihane.
Another Mawlawi female poet is the daughter of Sadrazam Dervis Pasa, Munire Hanim. Munire Hanim lived between the years 1825-1903. She took Persian and Arabic classes. Munire Hanim was a very intellectual lady of her time, and she was the student of Osman Selahaddin Dede, one of the sheikhs at Yenikapi Mawlawihae. Her poems are mostly on tasawwuf. She is buried in Karaca Ahmet cemetery.
In 1800s Ottoman Mawlawi women reach us today through their poems. Then after the Turkish republic was founded we came across some Mawlawi women from aristocrat families in Istanbul. After 1960s, we came across academician Mawlawi women with university degree. Ottoman women expressed their love in their poems and served Mawlawis with their divans, In 1900s the Turkish Republic’s women continued contributing. Some wrote books, articles, papers and translated others’ works and others served fullheartedly esteemed Mawlawi sheikhs.
With the papers, books, articles they wrote and the translations they did, the following women contributed to the Konya Mawlana Ihtifal (Commemoration) ceremonies that started in 1950s and continued to expand in 1960s: Samiha Ayverdi, Nezihe Araz, Meliha Ülker Anbarcıoğlu, Ayten Lermioğlu, Safiye Erol, Meşkûre Sargut, Mehpare Taner, Meliha Tarikahya. Also, Seniha Bedri Göknil and Munevver Ayaşlı contributed by devoting their own houses to the service of Mawlawis.
In 1900s Mawlawi movement shifted from east to west, and continued expanding in the whole world, as well as in the United States. The interest towards Mawlawis in the west is partly due to the research carried out by western women who are fond of Mawlana. In 1970s, in the international conventions in Konya the following women presented their papers, research, studies and translations: Prof. Dr. Annemarie Schimmel (Germany), Eva de Vitray Meyerovitch (France), and Prof. Dr. Anna Masala (Italy). We will always remember these valuable Mawlana researchers with their great work.
As you will all agree, the first name to mention amongst these very valuable women is Annemarie Schimmel with more than eighty books she wrote in addition to the numerous articles she put in writing and the lectures she offered in various universities throughout the world. In the near history, she is considered to be the most productive academician on Tasawwuf. She started by learning Arabic when she was fifteen. She speaks nineteen languages, holds two doctorate degrees and seven honorary doctorate degrees. For many years, she taught philosophy and theology in Harvard University, as well as in many other universities throughout the world including Turkey. With the extraordinary research she conducted, along with the translations and the work she has put in writing, she contributed greatly to Mawlawis to make it widespread across the world.
From 1980s until today, both from Turkey and other countries, many Mawlana lover academician ladies caught our attention with their papers, books and articles they presented at the Konya Ihtifal ceremonies. The female admirers of Mawlana that presented at Konya Mawlana Ihtifal ceremonies and who are almost all academicians are below:
Dr. Müjgan Cumbur
Prof. Dr.İnci Enginün
Prof. Dr. Hasibe Mazıoğlu
Prof .Dr. Saime İnal Savi
Assoc. Prof. Nilgün Açık
Prof. Dr. Gönül Ayan
Prof. Dr. H.Örcün Barışta
Assoc. Prof. A.Necla Pekolcay
Esin Çelebi Bayru
Dr. Nilgün Çelebi
Prof. Dr.Çiçek Derman
Prof. Dr. Emine Yeniterzi
Assoc. Prof. Emine Karpuz
Assoc Prof. Hülya Küçük
In addition to these female academicians that we know through their various scholarly works, we want to mention A. Ülker Erke who has been working to reflect Mawlana through her miniatures since 1960 and also Cemalnur Sargut who we know through her studies on tasawwuf. We also want to mention Timsal Karabekir who opened Kazim Karabekir Cultural Center into service for the lectures of Şefik Can, the last masthnawihan of our time. We remember all these women with great respect and appreciation.
Due to the endless universal love of Mawlana that affected the whole world, there has been a significant increase in the number of women that contribute in the international arena within the last years.
There are women who follow the footsteps of Prof. Dr. Annemarie Schimmel, Eva de Meyerovitch and Prof. Dr. Anna Masala. These women entered the friendship and love circle of Mawlana, with their various works done in different parts of the world, with the books they have written, translations and presentations they have done. These very valuable women are:
Michaela Mihriban Ozelsel
Prof. Dr. Erika Glasen
Prof. Dr. Natalya Prigarina
Prof. Dr. Anna Suvorova
Assoc. Prof. Silvia Tellenbach
Camile Adams Helminski
Anne Regard Cunz
Jenab-i Haqq says: “Under my sky there are such saints that noone knows about, but me.” Therefore, under the sky we live, who knows how many quiet lovers have led a life filled with service for centuries without anyone noticing! Many valuable women whose names we couldn’t mention here live amongst us while many others have passed away. The ones that we remembered and mentioned here today are just a few that we are aware of. We attempted to mention their invaluable service, which cannot be expressed by words. Within the limited pages and minutes we want to remember the names we couldn’t mention here with great appreciation, respect and the ones that passed away we remember with Allah’s mercy and gratitude.
Speech by Peter Hüseyin Cunz
10th Commemoration of Honourable Şefik Can Dede
Konya, 23rd and 24th of January 2015
Dear Chair-Lady, dear Maqam Çelebi, dear Ms President of Şefik Can International Mevlânâ Education and Cultural Association, dear Governor of Konya, dear Mayor of Konya, honourable Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for inviting me to this event and allowing me to address a few words in remembrance of Şefik Can Efendi. It means a lot to me for the simple reason that I learned a lot from this remarkable man. I met him first in 1996 and many other times in Istanbul and in Switzerland. I thank Allah for these opportunities.
Next to Şefik Can Efendi I always felt a balance of authority and gentleness. With the time I understood that these qualities originated from his authenticity and not from being bound with his nafs. Şefik Can Efendi went through an academic and military career, and until his old age he had clear opinions on political, social and cultural questions. But it was certainly through his engagement with Hz. Mevlana’s messages that his opinions ceased to be an expression of his nafs. In his argumentation I recognized an immense knowledge with free and clear reasoning.
From time to time we invited Şefik Can Efendi to visit us in Switzerland. His sohbets were always heart-warming and elevating, and we were left with a treasure of remembrance and knowledge. Once we celebrated Sema, and of course I asked him to be Postnişin by using my destar. And we had to smile because the destar was too big for him, and we had to find a way of fixing it on his head. Şefik Can Efendi had a great sense of humour also about himself. Vanity was non-existent.
And he kept his sense of humour through his old age when he felt that the passing to the other world was getting near. After his neighbour died he told us that ‘Izra’il, the angel of death, wanted to pick him up, but the angel was somehow confused and knocked at the wrong door. And very honestly he added: “I know that there will be bliss and joy in the other world, but still I’m afraid!” Is this not a beautiful expression of his modesty? May Allah be pleased with his soul.
Please allow me to speak now about myself – auzu billahi mina shaytani rajim.
My own spiritual path within Islam and tasawwuf was always challenged by the cultural differences between oriental and occidental societies. I’m a person rooted in the European culture, and I always longed to see und understand Islam in harmony and not in confrontation with the European heritage and culture. The adoption of oriental thinking and behaviour under the label “Islam” was never acceptable to me. For such questions I sometimes consulted Şefik Can Efendi, and he helped me a lot, often by using verses from Hz. Mevlana.
Dear friends, I would not be here talking to you without the existence of my Shaykh. From my Shaykh Hüseyin Top Efendi I learned about the value of being rooted in a long-lasting and proven tradition. He allowed me to take root in his garden, and he allowed me to drive my roots deep into the ground. Without Hüseyin Top Efendi I would not be able to say with certainty what I want to convey to you. And it is thanks to him that I’m able to see the beauty in traditional Islamic behaviour as it is the practice in Turkey and as it was in the monasteries of the Mevlevi Order (tariqah).
Now, what did I learn from Şefik Can Efendi? Generally I can say that I found support to widen my occidental way of understanding and to open my eyes for the universality of Islam. Let me list four subjects:
- Şefik Can Efendi reminded me that our Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings for him!) is the seal of the prophets. Therefore Islam is universal and valid for the entire creation, and it has meaning all over the world, independent of customs and culture of the different societies. We may find it difficult to express Islamic principles in non-Islamic cultures, but certainly it is wrong to pretend that Islam is bound to oriental habits and customs.
- I learned from Şefik Can Efendi how Hz. Mevlana’s message can be a door for seekers in non-Islamic cultures to understand the principles of Islam. Hz. Mevlana’s messages are witness of the universality of Islam, valid for all human beings. That’s why Hz. Mevlana is also seen as one of the greatest humanists. To be touched by his verses is a step into Islam, independent of prevailing religious conventions, culture and traditions. I tend to respect anyone that is touched by the messages of Hz. Mevlana, and I don’t mind if this person is Sunni, Shiite, Alevi, Wahhabi, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic or an atheist.
- Şefik Can Efendi always pointed out that we are here to serve humanity with whatever capacity we are gifted. To do so we have to respect the law, customs and culture of the society we are living in. Conventions and formalities are important in this world, for the time we live. We have to live with an attitude of respect and conform to ethical values. Belief and faith (iman) are to be our guide, and we should strive for a strengthening of our virtuousness (ihsan). Hz. Mevlana was living according to Sunni belief, as it was expected from a scholar in the area he lived. Now he continues to live in our hearts, and thus he is neither a Turk nor an Iranian nor an Afghani nor a Sunni nor any of the belief-systems. His message serves the entire humanity.
- For Şefik Can Efendi it was self-evident that the message of Hz. Mevlana should strive us to become Dervishes. What is a Dervish? A Dervish is detached from any worldly urge or aspiration. Titles and functions are of no interest to a Dervish. To carry the blood of Hz. Mevlana or to be honoured with the destar or the title of a Dede, a Hafiz or an Imam might be necessary to keep order in a society, but it gives no indication about the qualities of a person. Şefik Can Efendi taught me to kiss the hand of those whose hearts express the qualities of Dervishes and not to be blinded by titles, functions and worldly power.
Dear ladies and gentlemen, before closing I’d like to remind us of how our Prophet Isa (Peace and Blessings for him!) described himself. He said: “I’m in this world but not from this world.” This describes precisely the qualities of a Dervish. Or in the words from Abu ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali Kharaqani who died as martyr in the year 1033 and who is buried in Kars:
There is no dervish in this world; and if there be a dervish, that dervish is non-existent.
(see Mesnevi 3:3669)
Thank you for your listening and attention!
|Datum:||Sunday, 1. April 2018|
|Zeit:||14:00 Uhr Introduction to the Ritual
14:30 Uhr Dhikr and Sema-Ritual
15:30 Uhr Encounter with tea and cake
|Ort:||City-Church ‘Open St. Jakob’ in Zürich
(at the tram-stop “Stauffacher”)
|Datum:||Sunday, 1. July 2018|
|Zeit:||14:00 Uhr Introduction to the Ritual
14:30 Uhr Dhikr and Sema-Ritual
15:30 Uhr Encounter with tea and cake
|Ort:||City-Church ‘Open St. Jakob’ in Zürich
(at the tram-stop “Stauffacher”)
|Datum:||Sunday, 23. September 2018|
|Zeit:||14:00 Uhr Introduction to the Ritual
14:30 Uhr Dhikr and Sema-Ritual
15:30 Uhr Encounter with tea and cake
|Ort:||City-Church ‘Open St. Jakob’ in Zürich
(at the tram-stop “Stauffacher”)
Your Eminence, Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen.
Since Turkey is a part of Anatolia we know that we are also former citizens of the Great Roman Empire. We are aware that, Tutte le strade portano a Roma. Tonight, as the 23rd generation descendant of Jelaleddin Rumi and a representative of the 800 year old tradition, I am glad to be with the distinguished and honoured members of your great society.
In his book On Heaven and Earth, His Holiness Pope Francis underlined the importance of dialogue and said: “In order to establish dialogue it is necessary to know how to lower the defences, open the doors of the house, and offer human warmth.” First of all, we have come here to build a better dialogue between East and West. Rumi says “I am neither of the East nor of the West; no boundaries exist in my heart.”
I am proud to belong to a Sufi path which has taught the real message of Islam to the Western World throughout the centuries. Tonight, we would like to invite all of humankind to the highest level of virtue, moral values, and noble customs. So far in my life, during my spiritual journey, I have had the privilege to become acquainted with many people around the world who have dedicated their lives to Celaleddin Rumi and his teachings. In each of them I have discovered an inner beauty. We come from different parts of the world with different backgrounds. However we all try to constitute a lifestyle based on patience, tolerance, simplicity and love. In our friendship, there are no borders, no discrimination for physical appearance, race, or religion. We do not need to speak the same language. However, we are able to communicate with our emotions. This is what we are:
Sometimes hidden, sometimes seen.
Sometimes of the faithful, a Jewish or Christian,
able to fit into any heart,
taking on a new face every day
We don’t look at your form, whether ugly or beautiful.
We look at love and at the aim of your quest.
You, whose lips are parched, keep looking for water.
Those parched lips are proof that eventually you will reach the source.”
Aren’t we and you all here tonight to find a remedy for our spiritual thirst? We all know that:
“Your life is like a purse of gold; Day and night are like money changers.
Continually Time counts out that gold, until your purse is empty and death is here.
If you dig away at a mountain and don’t replace anything of what you’ve taken
a desolate land is left behind.
So, for every breath you breathe out, put, another in its place.
Fall in worship and draw near, so you may reach your aim.
Aren’t we and you all here tonight to find a remedy for our spiritual thirst? We all know that:
Your life is like a purse of gold; Day and night are like money changers.
Continually Time counts out that gold, until your purse is empty and death is here.
If you dig away at a mountain and don’t replace anything of what you’ve taken
a desolate land is left behind.
So, for every breath you breathe out, put, another in its place.
Fall in worship and draw near, so you may reach your aim.
It is my desire that tonight our Whirling Dervish Ceremony and our music will help in building a bridge from our heart to your heart, so that we can share the eternal love of Rumi. For more than seven centuries, our Spiritual path, the Mevlevi Order, keeps enlightening the world with the message of friendship and respect for those who wish to develop their humanity to the highest level. As Kenan Rifai, a renowned Shaikh of our order said, “From our window Sufism is a discipline of not hurting someone and not being hurt.”
Allow me also to mention that our Dervishes did not only cultivate spiritual attainment but cultural and artistic excellence as well. We have always been progressive and liberal in spirit while at the same time conserving the best of tradition. The sky is the dome of a sanctuary where mosques, minarets, churches, synagogues and other shrines belonging to other religions rise out. In many different ways, sanctuaries, religions, languages, people with different skin colour pray to one unique Creator. They beg for help. He is such a powerful and mighty God that He understands every language, and what everybody wants and desires in his or her heart. As stated in the Masnavi, ‘The Sultan of the Souls watches over you. Men or women, He knows the desires in their hearts, what they are working for, He constantly watches.”
Last but not least: 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” Let’s break the cups of our ego, remove misunderstandings and flow together in harmony. This is really all we need in our age.
Symposium in Kars on 16-18 December 2014
By Peter Hüseyin Cunz
The idealization of the noble behaviour of the knights who formed the chivalry in the European Middle-Age of the 13th to the 16th century was shaped by historical events such as the power game of the Church, the crusades to the Middle East and wars among European rulers. The knights were soldiers of the aristocracy. They had to follow certain rules of obedience and bravery. For the aristocrats it was essential that their subordinates remained loyal also in difficult times. Therefore they developed and propagated an idealistic view on serving as knights. The idealisation of the noble behaviour of knights polished the reputation of the aristocrats who then were named “The Nobles”. The cult around nobility and chivalry helped the persons in power and wealth to safeguard their position. Knights were “knighted” with a sword, a ritual of initiation to a higher level (maqam). Even a king had to be knighted before he was accepted as a king. This cultural element was reflected in poetry and music. Values from Christian monasteries, such as service, chastity and asceticism also found their places in this culture.
In modern times, after the aristocracy had lost their status and gave way to the bourgeoisie, the noble virtues of chivalry remained as an ideal in movements such as the scouts, the freemasonry and various secret orders. The Christian virtue of compassionate service as described in the story of the good Samaritan told by Hz. Jesus (see Luke 10:25-37) remains as a religious duty until today. Cowboy-films and video games incorporate heroes that are powerful and represent values of chivalry. “The strong shall protect and care for the weak, and the powerful shall live an exemplary life”.
Let me list the main virtues stemming from the idealisation of Christian chivalry:
- Dignity (P)
- Moderation and reasonability (P)
- Steadiness and firmness (P)
- Good manners (P)
- Politeness (S)
- Kindness (S)
- Generosity (S)
- Humility, humbleness (S)
- Bravery (S)
- Loyalty (S)
If we study this list, we can make the distinction between virtues of personal importance and those of social importance (“S” and “P”). And we can easily compare them with the rules of good conduct in Sufi Orders such as the Mevleviye, generally referred to with the expression “Adab”. However, all virtues and deeds that appear good carry the potential for abuse. They may easily serve the egoistic tendency of the soul (nafs). Even the virtues of very noble character can be nourishment for the shadow of our soul. When Hz. Jesus was spiritually on the highest point, Satan stood next to him immediately and tried to seduce him. And Hz. Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only (auzu billahi minna shaytani rajiim).“ In this World of Appearances (dunya) every light produces shadow. As Dervishes we have to be aware of and observe our shadows. They mostly operate as hidden motivation for our acts. Satan is clever and his influence can be very subtle.
I would like now to analyse some of the virtues and illustrate the education of Dervishes in today’s time. Of the mentioned virtues there are four that are of personal importance, namely dignity, moderation, steadiness and good manners. These four virtues can be seen as cardinal criteria for the shaping of our soul. If we develop these virtues, the risk of falling into Satan’s traps is lowered. Let me now comment on each of these virtues:
The Christian Church recognizes dignity in man because he was created “in the image of God”. In Islam we could say that we all possess dignity because we were created as custodians of this world. Today the international view on human rights gives to each human being a right to dignity. The humiliation through all sorts of exploitation of a human being is generally seen as a violation of man’s dignity. We exploit human beings by allowing poverty, unequal rights of women, mobbing, all sorts of slavery and torture.
What creates in us the feeling of dignity? First it is our awareness of being a creation of God and our awareness of responsibility for this world. Dignity demands dignified acts. This includes of course a noble conduct towards others, but it also includes a respect for oneself. Self-respect is a precondition for balanced behaviour. Self-respect makes us free, and it prevents us from appearing in need of recognition.
Moderation and reasonability:
This virtue underlines the necessity of remaining in balance and of refraining from all sorts of extremes. Extremes always attract the opposite; there is no peace in extremes. Extremes are challenging. Why do we want to go for challenges? Why are mountain climbers, sportsmen and sportswomen looking to break new records? Why do people undertake risky acts, just to be mentioned in the book of records?
We all have a soul (nafs), and this soul is constantly in fear of death. So it wishes only one thing: to remain alive for ever. This urge to remain alive is expressed in our wish to exist. The feeling to exist is essential for our soul. If we are not able to create this feeling by ourselves, we seek situations where our existence is confirmed, we seek situations where we are in the centre of attention. We do this by any means, be it with political power, ostentatious displays of wealth, provocative art and scandals, just to name the most obvious.
To be moderate and reasonable means to be capable of seeing the richness in ourselves and to feel alive without the confirmation of others.
Steadiness and firmness:
In our Dervish-education we seek to master our urges, and we learn that it doesn’t work to try to eliminate them. If we repress our wishes and urges we create considerable psychic stress that later has to be cured again. So we try to transform these natural forces in us and lift them to a higher level (maqam). Instead of repression we choose confrontation. We try to identify what happens in us and describe it in the light of the Greater. Thus we allow our urges to exist albeit in a controlled way, or at least in an observed way.
The control of our urges requires lots of willpower, and willpower is not easily developed. And probably we feel uncomfortable or even depressed if our willpower is not enough to control an urge that has appeared in a certain situation. How can we ease this struggle? We learn to accept our weaknesses in the light of God’s all-embracing Compassion. Thus we can give less importance to our weaknesses and still remain in self-respect as described before. All the shadows of our own Self and Being will eventually die and disappear.
This is about our behaviour towards others in daily circumstances. It is a personal virtue insofar as it is the way we wish to express ourselves towards others. Each social class has its own code of conduct. Aristocrats have a certain way to speak and behave among themselves, but the same behaviour may appear arrogant in a non-aristocratic environment. Good manners become socially supportive if we adapt them to those of others. If we do so we are seen as polite. Politeness is a virtue of social importance.
In the Mevlevi Tradition we teach the Mevlevi Adab, which consists of a multitude of rules for daily life. They reflect our deep respect for the entire creation that surrounds us. We don’t turn our back to others, and we sit upright without crossing the legs in front of another person. We kiss the floor when sitting down on the floor, and we do the same when we get up. We kiss an object before we hand it over to someone else, and the receiver kisses it too. When we enter or leave a room we don’t step on the threshold; we do this in respect of the value that represents the room we are entering or leaving.
Now, all these rules of good conduct are very helpful and useful in a society that appreciates these manners. However, some of the Mevlevi Adab is not understood in Europe, and therefore we have to adapt our behaviour to the codes of conduct that prevail in Europe. But to be able to do so we have to understand the purpose of each of our rules. When I hand over a document to my boss I better don’t kiss it, as he would find this very strange. But I can be still in an inner attitude of respect, as if I had kissed the object.
The four above mentioned virtues dignity, moderation, steadiness and good manners help to shape our soul and personality, and they help us to feel an inner peace. If we now turn our attention to the virtues of social importance, we can recognize that they bear in them a socially relevant risk of abuse. They are relevant for others, and they provoke a reaction by others. The virtues of social importance support us to be seen as people of good character and noble status. And exactly this is what the shadow-side of our soul, the Ego, wants to produce. Why is it so?
The soul is that part of us that gives us a feeling of Self, a feeling of being someone as an individual. We need this feeling to be able to live in this World of Appearances (dunya). We need this feeling of individual Self to be able to survive and to act in distinction and competition to other living beings. With this in mind we may now have a look at two of the virtues with social importance:
Kindness and generosity:
True knights were soldiers with a kind of Dervish-character. They had to fight, but the moment they gained superiority over the enemy they were asked to be kind and generous. On the battlefield they had to keep certain rules of respect for the enemies. Today we don’t see much of this when we think of what presently happens in some areas of the Middle East and Africa: mass killing with drones guided by a joystick on the computer, torture of individuals to extort money, mass killing of innocent people in the name of religion. It is horrifying what we hear every day from the media. Our society has technically advanced, but on a human level we have probably lost more than gained. In my view a Dervish nowadays should be a member of Amnesty International or any other NGO that fights for justice.
After whatever sort of battle, kindness and generosity should be expressed without any need of revenge. I believe that Hz. Imam Ali was a great example for this. Also in politics we see verbal attacks and battles where we can observe the violation of Futuwwah. Those who suppress different opinions by force are violating the principles of Futuwwah. Differences in politics, philosophy and religious sciences have to be settled with the virtues of Futuwwah in mind.
Our Dervish-education should help us to be aware of the subtle abuse of virtues. Kindness and generosity are good ways of attracting fame and approval that our Nafs enjoy so much. It is important to be very much aware of any hidden egoistic urge that drives us to be kind and generous.
Humility and humbleness:
Traditionally the Dervish-education includes 1001 days to learn to serve humbly. The aim is to shape our soul (nafs) to become less egoistic. But similarly to kindness and generosity we may gain attention by showing humbleness. Humbleness in expectation of thanks and attention has the taste of trading. Such a possible deviation from the right path has to be constantly observed.
Let us ask ourselves: Are we able to humbly serve without hoping for at least some thanks in return? How do we feel if we have done a service to someone and there is no sign of thanks in return? Are we at the level where this does not matter at all? Dervishes have to learn to be indifferent to any recognition of whatever sort. This requirement has to accompany all exercises and prayers.
Let me conclude by reminding that our soul has been designed with a constant yearning for individuality and existence. The way to overcome the self-assertion of the soul is by awareness and confrontation. To grow as a Dervish requires to observe one’s urges and to get away from focusing on oneself. A Dervish has to become a servant without expectation of any reward. The struggle on the path of a Dervish may hurt, but the pain is a possible sign of transformation. We are burning in the heat created through the polishing of our heart. In his Mesnevi, Hz. Mevlana compares the soul (nafs) with a black piece of iron. Let me end this speech with his words:
Then, though you are dark-bodied like iron, make a practice of polishing, polishing, polishing,
That your heart may become a mirror full of images, mirroring beauty from all sides.
Although the iron was dark and devoid of light, polishing cleared away the darkness of it.
The iron suffered the polishing and made its face fair, so that images could be seen therein.
If the earth body is gross and dark, polish it – for it is receptive for the polishing instrument –
In order that the forms of the Unseen may appear in it, and that the reflexion of houri and angel may dart into it.
God had given you the polishing instrument: Reason; to the end that thereby the surface of the heart may be made resplendent.
(Mesnevi, 4:2469 ff)
Workshop in Konya, 16 December 2010
Peter Hüseyin Cunz,
1. Our organization and purpose
We are acting as the official Mevlevi Order (tarîqah) in Switzerland, following its tradition and purpose under the auspices of the International Mevlânâ Foundation. The members meet every Thursday evening in Zurich for ritual prayer (salâh, nâmâz), the remembrance of God (Dhikr Allâh), the whirling (Semâ) and teaching (sohbet). 4 times per year a full Semâ is celebrated in a church with access to friends and newcomers who wish to celebrate with us. In spring we organize a 3-days workshop together with members of the Mevlevi Order from Germany and the Netherlands. In summer we organize a hike in the mountains for our families and children.
2. Assertion of challenges and experiences
We are embedded in a European cultural environment with its strong and advanced academia in theology, philosophy, orientalistic and social science, and – as contrast – a public with limited knowledge on Islam. Animated by populist parties Europe faces political debates on social problems with immigration also from Islamic countries, leading to strong and negative emotions about Islam. These debates give prominence to the European values of secularization, democracy, the right for free expression, citizenship and laic ethical values with equal rights for men and women. Any claim contradicting such values are rejected, and therefore concepts of Islamic Law (sharî’ah, Sunnî schools of law) contradicting to these values are heavily criticized.
To lead a Mevlevi Tarîqah in such an environment creates obvious challenges of which I want to mention four in particular:
- We have to accept that the world is continuously changing. The Mevlevi tradition has to move along in our time, all in line with the truth expressed by Islam and the teaching of Hz. Mevlânâ. This requires the courage for interpretation (ijtihâd) and the upbringing of a strong standing against claims from orthodox Muslims who would not accept the deviation from traditional theology.
- In Europe religion is seen as a private matter. But the freedom of religious choice requires the ability to discuss theology in a rational way, all in knowing that spiritual experiences happen beyond the limits of rational thinking. As a consequence many seekers for religious fulfilment jump from one spiritual offer to the other in search of clarity, security and certainty. Therefore we do not expect from a newcomer to first become a Muslim before he or she is accepted in our circle. Rather we are – in small steps – showing to them the beauty and universality of Islam and its living according to the message of Hz. Mevlânâ.
- Our Tarîqah consists of approximately half Muslims and half from other and different religious backgrounds. To us this balance is a strong sign of being on the golden middle path between tradition and the new world. While the challenge of non-Muslims is the embracing of Islamic teaching, the challenge of the Muslims is to overcome the fear of interpreting the Koranic message (ijtihâd). With this balanced mix of attendees there is a great mutual learning.
- Interestingly the Muslim communities and organizations show little interest in other religions. Yes, their priority is to fight for their integration in Europe, but the conviction that Islam is of higher value than Christianity and other religions hinders them to fully respect other religious values. Our Tariqâh is not of direct interest to them, and their religious values clash with our open way of addressing Islam.
Besides individuals also some churches and related organisations have understood and accepted the relevance and rightness of other religions, and they are keen to learn about them. Beside Buddhism it is Sufism that attracts most interest, and in particular the Mevlevi Tradition. Hz. Mevlânâ’s verses, and stories from the Sufi tradition touch the hearts of Christians, agnostics and atheists; and multimedia on “Whirling Dervishes” increases the curiosity for the mysterious practices of the Sufis. This is surely one reason why – as head of the Swiss Tarîqah – I’m frequently asked to give speeches and seminars about Sufism and to be available for TV and radio broadcasting. This gives me the opportunity to explain about the universality of Islam, and that Sufism is one of many faces of Islam.
3. Suggestions for improvement
Spreading a message happens only if there are sufficient recipients. Therefore, the first question to ask is: “What do people yearn and search for, and what do they need to hear?” Unfortunately today this question is not sufficiently asked. Musicians with Semazen performing Semâ on stage may offer a certain taste of a mysterious Sufi-practice, but after such a show the spectators mostly are left with the disillusion of having merely seen some Turkish folklore without spiritual content. Europeans want to hear of the deep and touching message and teaching of Hz. Mevlânâ. Only qualified and respected teachers can transmit this. Fortunately, in Switzerland I’m sometimes asked to give an introduction before the start of a Semâ performed by a Turkish group, which helps the audience to understand the inner meaning of the ritual.
The authenticity of the Mevlevi activities should be safeguarded. The spiritual practice of the Mevlevi has to be separated from folkloric performances for tourists. According to the tradition the Maqam Çelebi with the certified Shaykhs are in charge to overlook the Mevlevi teaching, while the Turkish Authorities should continue to maintain and foster the cultural heritage and the respective academia. People on a spiritual quest – even if they are tourists – should be offered an official address where they may find the spiritual and humanistic content of the Mevlevi tradition.
The Mevlevi Tarîqah should publish basic rules under which a person or an organisation can candidate to be a member of the Mevlevi Tarîqah. The leadership should be clarified with rules for the congregation and the election of the Maqam Çelebi, the Sertarik, the Shaykhs and the Dedes. All rules should be in agreement with modern ethical values including equal rights for women to exercise the function of Shaykh or Dede, and all rules should be published and in agreement with the laws and customs of the countries where the Tariqâh is active. Under such conditions the Turkish cultural heritage would become more meaningful for today’s time and – at least for Europeans – gain in value.