Insight Newsletter Feature: Tribute

Sharing the Treasure of Hazreti Pir Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi

By Karim Payton, Ser Tariq (Servant of the Order),
Mevlevi Order of America, Fakir ul Mevlevi

When the Sufi tekkes (local Sufi meeting centers) had been made illegal in Turkey, Suleyman Hayati Dede accepted the assignment, or wazifa, of Sheikh of Konya and to care for the mother tekke, the Dergah of Hazreti Pir Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi.  He took up this work at significant risk of imprisonment.  Sometime in the late sixties he received the inspiration to introduce the Mevlevi tarikat (Sufi brotherhood) to the West, saying, “they deserve it.”  With the support of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”), he traveled extensively in North America and Europe, as he said, “planting seeds.”

Haji Murshıd Suleyman Hayatı Dede

On December 15, 1978, he sent his son and successor Jelaleddin Dede to America to “care for the seeds I planted.”  In 1981 Suleyman Dede and his son Jelaleddin founded the Mevlevi Order of America.  Jelaleddin Dede lived among us for over 40 years, sharing with us the Mevlevi path, tirelessly seeking out ways to make it possible for the unique way, thought, and lifestyle of Mevlana to thrive in our very different culture.  On December 12, 2019, Jelaleddin Dede began his journey in the next world leaving us the task of continuing the work he so lovingly carried for 41 years.

Makampostenshın Jelaleddın Dede

Mevlevi Order of America now has centers in the U.S. in California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Virginia, and Insha’allah a new zawiya (center) being formed in Connecticut.  The Mevlevi Order of America also has centers outside the U.S., including in Germany and Israel.  Makampostneshin Jelaleddin Dede initiated several postneshin over those years.  Currently there are ten postneshin active in Mevlevi Order of America.  Jelaleddin Dede’s son and successor Suleyman Loras is in training to assume the role of the leader of the Order (Makampostneshin).

Jelaleddın Dede and His Son Suleyman

Haji Murshid Suleyman Hayati Dede and Jelaleddin Dede have given us a treasure of great beauty at a time when the message of Pir Mevlana is so much needed in the world.  They showed, through their example, what is possible for human beings — a life of service, respect, and love. They connected us with the baraka (spiritual blessing or power) of the Mevlevi silsila (spiritual chain of transmission) and trained us in the core practices of sema, and adab, and they revealed the root of Islam, the endless Mercy of Allah, and the opportunity we have to become true human beings, to “die before death” in this life.

With God’s grace we have been given a great creative opportunity to find a way to live the essence of the way of Mevlana in our often materialistic and conflicted culture.  Our motivation is simple. When given a great treasure, there is joy in sharing it with others. The Mevlevi way is unique in many ways.  It is known for the “whirling dervish” practice of the sema ceremony, which is the principal zikhr of the Mevlevi. Many who attend the sema ceremony are awakened through their experience.  They are struck by its beauty and the transformative atmosphere that is created. Some come away saying that it was the first truly spiritual experience of their lives. This is a great privilege, to have a way to awaken spiritual yearning in our fellow human beings.  As Suleyman Dede said:

“If you are quiet and in a state of prayer when you Turn, offering everything of yourself to God, then, when your body is spinning, there is a completely still point in the center….The heavens respond, and all the invisible kingdoms join in the dance.  We turn around in the way we do so that the Light of God may descend upon the earth.  As you act as the conduit in the Turn, the light comes through the right hand and the left hand brings it into this world….We turn for God and for the world, and it is the most beautiful thing you can imagine.”

For 40 years, we practiced the sema with our beloved Jelaleddin Dede, and now through the teaching of our dear music master Timucin Çevikoğlu, we are learning more about the deep process, the way the sema music works in us on this path.  Ashk, divine love, is aroused in us through the music and poetry and sohbet (spiritual dialogue) of the Mevlevi way. As we experience this love, an ecstasy, cesbe, takes hold of us.  This is the ecstasy of being drawn toward the Creator. As we are drawn upward and inward, we may experience vajt, renunciation.  In vajt, we are gently released from our attachment to the physical world, sensual pleasures, the domination of our nafs (egoism).  Over time, with repeated experience of this transformative force, the rust on the mirror of our hearts is polished away. The thorns in our hearts are removed, the wounds healed, and as we die to our egoism, we may one day enter into İstiğrâk, into union, which is the ultimate goal of Tawhid, the Sufi way.

During these years of Covid seclusion, which were a kind of global halvet, retreat, we had to give up in-person meetings as did so many others.  But in this time, we discovered the blessing of remote meetings. We discovered that the unity we seek is not limited by space and time.  We discovered that we do not need to be in the same room to experience unity. We have found ways to deepen our sohbet, so that we can continue our learning with each other.

In our tradition, this way of transformation–learning together–is called mesking.  In mesk, we face each other, we help each other.  We seek to see and encourage that which is the highest in each other. And Insha’allah, in this mesking, we experience the little miracles of true seeing, of recognizing the qualities of the true human beings, the Sifat of Allah, shining through each other.  We discover that it is possible to let go of our negativity, our attachments, our separation, in the joy of the possibility of becoming a true human being.

Ultimately this work is all about adab, learning the postures, attitudes, and gestures, the way of living that cleans up our inner house, so that ultimately our Divine Creator may one day come to live in our hearts.

As Jelaleddin Dede said:

“God never leaves us, but He likes a clean house and heart.”

And the last words should come from Rasullullah (Peace and blessings upon him):

“My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him.  When I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks.  Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it.  I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.”  Hadith 20, 40 Hadith Qudsi. It was related by al-Bukhari.