AP PHOTOS: Dervishes on mystic Rumi’s path whirl for God

To prepare for the ritual ahead, Omer Kilik and his 14-year-old son dress in white robes with black cloths over them and cone-shaped hats called “sikke”.

The tenor robes represent funeral shrouds, the robes a tomb and the hats a tombstone — costumes that are part of a centuries-old tradition performed by Turkey’s whirling dervishes.

Dervishes, a Sufi order of Islam rooted in mysticism, are primarily known for the ritual of “Sama,” in which they recite prayers and verses from the Quran in unison.

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Kilic has belonged to the order for 23 years. Now a tenured tailor, he teaches his craft to his apprentice and son, Toprak Efe Kilic.

Kilic says the religious path first appeared to him in a dream. He decided to start training as a dervish after a few days.

Each year in the Turkish city of Konya, members of the Mevlevi order demonstrate their apparent devotion, where thousands of people attend week-long events and celebrations commemorating the death of the 13th-century Islamic poet, scholar and Sufi mystic. Jalaluddin Rumi.

Rumi, known as Mevlana in Turkey, was born in 1207 in the city of Balkh, part of Afghanistan. He settled in Konya in central Turkey, where he died on December 17, 1273. He is considered one of the most important Sufi philosophers and members of the Mevlevi sect follow his teachings.

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Rather than mourning his death, the celebrations in Konya celebrate his followers’ belief in Rumi’s union with God. A central feature of the “Sheb-i Arus” or “Night of the Union” is the custom of whirling dervishes symbolically turning their right hands toward God and their left hands toward the earth.

Ahmet Sami Kukuk, head of dervishes in Konya, describes whirling as “the end” and a state that can be achieved after years of training and discipline.

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In 2005, the UN Cultural Organization declared the practice an example of the “Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.

The structure that houses Rumi’s tomb in Konya is a museum and place of pilgrimage. A pilgrim, Mohammed Mobeen Darvesh, a Kashmiri living in the United Kingdom, said all lovers of God come to the site to pay homage to Rumi.

Two years after the strict lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism official Abdulsetter Yarar said the site attracted more than 3.1 million visitors this year, 10% of them from abroad.

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Mehmet Guzel in Konya and Robert Badendieck in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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