The Mevlevi Order

About the Mevlevi Order

(Taken from the sister-website Dar al Masnavi, and partly simplified for easy reading.)


The Mevlevi Order is a traditional Islamic Sufi Way (Tariqat) that has preserved the spiritual teachings of Mevlana Celaluddin Rumi, his descendants, successors, and followers for over 700 years.


Because Sufi organizations are still illegal in Turkey, it is not called the “Mevlevi Order” or “Mevlevi Tarikat” there, and other Sufi terms related to organized Sufi activity (such as “Shaykh”) tend to be avoided as well. At present, the hereditary leader (Makam-i Çelebi) of the Mevlevis and direct descendent of Hz. Mevlana, Faruk Hemdem Çelebi, is President of an organization in Istanbul and Konya called the International Mevlana Foundation, a cultural and educational foundation.


The Mevlevi order was first organized by Mevlana’s son, Sultan Veled, in Konya. It began to expand with leaders appointed to other towns and regions under the leadership of Mevlana’s grandson, Ulu Arif Çelebi. Eventually, there were 114 Tekkes (monastery-like buildings or building complexes) established throughout the Ottoman Empire, including ones in Belgrade, Athens, Cairo, Mecca, Baghdad, Damascus, and Tabriz. After the collapse of the empire, following defeat in World War I, the new Turkish government of Atatürk declared all Sufi organizations in Turkey illegal in 1925. All surviving Mevlevi Tekkes were closed down. Some were made into mosques and a few into museums, such as the main Tekke (or Mevlevihane) in Konya (where Mevlana Rumi is buried) and the Galata Tekke in Istanbul. Another Mevlevihane in Istanbul, called the Yenikapi Tekke, that burned down in 1961, has been completely rebuilt. Although the Turkish government decided to use the main building for use by a university, the rebuilt Sema hall (Semahane), which is a separate building, now has regular Sema performances (celebration with whirling Dervishes’). It is to be said that this sacred whirling prayer ritual of the Mevlevis has been largely taken over by the Turkish Government for the purpose of promoting tourism. Since 1925, Mevlevi activity has been very restricted and private in Turkey. There have been many obstacles, so that the provision of Mevlevi Dervish training to each generation has been limited.


For more than 700 years the highest authority for all Mevlevi centres has been a direct descendant of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, called “Maqam- i Çelebi” (the exalted rank of the Çelebi) or “Çelebi Efendi”. These are also descendants of Mevlana’s grandson, Ulu Arif Çelebi. This centralized authority remained intact over the centuries and over distance, whether a Mevlevi centre was in Turkey, Egypt, Bosnia, Greece or Arabia. The word “çelebi” is a Turkish word that has been long used to mean a well-bred, educated, and refined gentleman. Because it also refers to the Çelebi family who are the direct descendants of Mevlana; it also means “the leader of the Mevlevis.”


Traditionally, the Maqam-i Çelebi inherited the right to be the chief Shaykh of the main Mevlevi centre, (or Mevlevihane) in Konya, where Mevlana Rumi is buried. It is not necessary that the Maqam-i Çelebi be gifted with spiritual advancement and exceptional spiritual wisdom. That is needed for the number two leader of the Mevlevis: the Spiritual Director of the Mevlevi Tariqat, the chief spiritual guide (Murshid) of all Mevlevi Shaykhs (heads of monasteries and spiritual groups) and followers who is called the “Sertarik”, who is appointed by the Maqam-i Çelebi. Instead, the Maqam-i Çelebi has primarily an administrative authority to make important decisions to protect the welfare of the Mevlevi organization and the Mevlevi tradition and to further its growth, decisions that also involve Divine guidance.


The present hereditary leader of all Mevlevis, the Maqam-i Çelebi is Faruk Hemdem Çelebi, the son and successor of his father Celaleddin M. Baqir Çelebi, who died in 1996 (see the Çelebi Family Website at Faruk Hemdem Çelebi is the 22nd generation great-grandson of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, and the 33rd Maqam-i Çelebi.


Only the current Maqam-i Çelebi has the authority to authorize and appoint new Mevlevi Shaykhs.