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MEVLEVI. This Turkish/Ottoman Sufi order, known also by its Arabic name Mawlawiyah, takes its name from the epithet of its founder Muhammad Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273). He was the son of the famed scholar Baha’ al-Din Valad, and migrated as a child with his father from Balkh (in modern Afghanistan) to Konya in Rfim (modern Anatolia). Rum was the capital of the Seljuk Empire, whose officials welcomed Baha’ al-Din and gave him the post of professor (muderris) in an institution of Islamic learning. In his early twenties Jalal al-Din succeeded his father as teacher. The title “Mevlana” (Ar., mawland, “our master”) by which Rumi became known to later generations is a token of his brilliance not only in emulating his father but in surpassing him in the exposition of the spiritual and esoteric teachings of Islam. In contrast with the legalistic Islamic thinkers of his time, Rumi was able through his poetic treatment of mysticism to attract a wider and more permanent audience. He also laid the foundations for an Islamic humanism that endured until the secularization of learning in twentieth-century Turkey. Mmi’s elaboration of the mystical “path of love” has attracted a number of Muslims in modern Turkey and Iran and has also stirred interest in his thoughts in the West. This has resulted in translations from the original Persian into Turkish and Western European languages of his works, including the Divan, the Masnavi, and the Fihi and fthi.

The disciples of Mevlana became organized at the time of Rumi’s son Sultan Valad (d. 1312). The order, known as that of the Mevlevi dervishes, spread through Anatolia and other parts of the Ottoman Empire. All Mevlevi lodges (tekke) were responsible to a celebi who resided in Konya and was chosen from among Mevlana’s descendants. The influence of the order grew in spite of the `ulama’s interdiction of the teaching of Persian-the language of M mi’s poetry-in madrasahs, the centers of Islamic instruction. The Mevlevis’ influence attracted the attention of the Ottoman government, which was suspicious of potential rivals to the state. Only with the government’s control of the pious foundations that provided the income of the order was the situation stabilized.

Another aspect of the Mevlevis’ political role was their attempt to achieve influence in palace circles beginning in the seventeenth century. They finally seem to have secured this role during the nineteenth century, when they figured as “girders of the sword” at the enthronements of the of Ottoman sultans. In these years they received the support of Sultan Abdulmecid (r. 1839-1861) and (with some caution) of Sultan Abdulhamid II (r. 1876-1909) and Sultan Mehmed V (r. 1909-1918). Mevlevi lodges acted as cultural centers in Ottoman cities and were a key influence in the development of Ottoman upper-class culture. Some Mevlevi leaders are known to have been sympathetic to the Young Turks. Along with all other religious orders, they were disbanded in Turkey in 1925.

The Mevlevis became well known to Europeans through their unorthodox use of music and dance, a feature they shared with the Bektashi order, thus acquiring the name “whirling dervishes.” Although the lodges were closed after 1925, their ceremonial practices were allowed again after 1950, and a yearly Mevlevi celebration now takes place in Konya. The attendance of a much wider audience at these tourist-oriented performances may not lower the quality of Mevlevi ceremonies, but it certainly detracts from its original mystical substance.

[For additional information on the order, see Mawlawiyah. ]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Berkes, Niyazi. Tiirkiye’de cagdaslasma (Modernization in Turkey). Istanbul, 1978.

Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Love. Albany, N.Y., 1983. Friedlander, Shems. The Whirling Dervishes. 2d ed. Albany, N.Y., 1991.

Golpmarli, Abdulbaki. Mevldnd’dan Sonra Mevlevilik (The Mevlevi Order after the Time of Rumi). 2d ed. Istanbul, 1983.

Inalcik, Halil. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1500-1600. London,1973.

Pakalm, Mehmet Zeki. Osmanli Tarih Deyimleri ve Terimleri Sozlugu (Dictionary of the Expressions and Terminology of Ottoman History). 3 vols. 2d ed. Istanbul, 1971.

SERIF MARDIN

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/mevlevi/
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  • writerPosted On: August 13, 2014
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