The Shrine Of The Mevlana
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
Every time I read Rumi, I am filled with regret that I cannot read it in the original Persian, for I know how much is lost in the translation of vernacular poetry into English. Still, the effect is profound and moving, and the sheer simplicity, stunning.
Mevlana Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī was a 13th century Anatolian mystic better known around the world as Rumi (meaning from Rome!). Born in a small town in Afghanistan he spent most of his life in Konya, capital of the Selcuk Sultanate of Rum (possibly named after Rome) and is buried there, alongside his father. It was fitting that our visit to Konya in 2007, coincided with the United Nations sponsored ‘Year of Rumi’ celebrations.
“The wound is the place where
the light enters you.”
Above the main door, is the inscription ‘Ya Hazrat Maulana’, with the following verse in Persian:
Kaaba al Ushaaq Ba-en Shud Muqaam ,
Har Ke Naaqis Anja Shud Tamaam
(This is the Ka’aba (mecca) of all Lovers,
It converts an unpure one into a pure one)
The shrine was once the headquarters of the Mevlevi brotherhood until it was banned by the secular government, when Turkey became a republic. It was converted into a museum in 1927 and contains the tombs of Rumi’s successors and their families, apart from his own. Each distinctly recognisable by the turbans placed over the headstones. Women’s graves had none, while the Mevlana’s and his father’s had the largest. Photography was unfortunately not permitted.
“You think because you understand ‘one’
you must also understand ‘two’,
because one and one make two.
But, you must also understand ‘and’.”
While their properties were confiscated, members of the Mevlevi Brotherhood continued their religious practices in secret, until their ecstatic whirling dance was acknowledged as a cultural heritage of the country, and the ban lifted in 1953.
“Do not be satisfied with the stories
that come before you.
Unfold your own myth.”
Mevlana preached tolerance, reasoning, charity and most of all love. His acceptance of all other faiths as equal, prompted Pope John XXIII to make this statement: “In the name of the Catholic World, I bow with respect before the memory of Rumi.”
“I want to sing like the birds sing,
not worrying about who hears
or what they think.”
Based on the belief that all matter in the universe revolves, that man’s existence depends on the revolving atoms in his body, the whirling dance of the Sufi’s or the ‘Whirling Dervishes’, represents a spiritual ascent, through focus and love, to connect with the divine truth.
“Raise your words, not voice.
It is rain that grows flowers,
The setting of the Sema we attended in a Caravanserai was amazing, but the performance was patently touristy. With camera flashes going off despite the request to not photograph the proceedings until the end, when a lone dancer came out just for that purpose.
I wished again that I could comprehend the lyrics of the mournful chant. Without that connection, this can be a slow, boring affair and R swore he wouldn’t sit through another one. I was, of course, utterly fascinated.
Below is a video clip of a Sema with more contemporary music. You can find a description of the seven steps comprising the ceremony, and the slower, traditional version here.
“Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian,
stone, ground, mountain, river,
each has a secret way of being with the mystery,
unique and not to be judged”
And the most relevant of all, I dedicate to that traveler I met on the Nile. A girl after my own heart, and the first person I think of when I read Rumi.
“Travel brings power
and love back into your life.”