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Mevleviyeh: Emine Nas provides whirling performance and whirling dervish reflections in ceramics.





Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi (1), who summarised his life saying "I was raw, cooked and then burnt", is one of the eminent characters in Turkish culture and Sufism history with his humanistic philosophy disseminated to the world since the 13th century. With his unlimited, eternal, sine die and universal identity, he is known as a scholar, thinker, Sufi, educator and poet, all over world.

It can be argued that his thinking came into being as a mixture of rationalism and intuition. In Rumi's world view, the human being is regarded not only as an entity to be respected, but as the masterpiece of Allah and even a part of Allah. According to him, the human being is both a lover of Allah and beloved of Allah. (2)

Mevleviyeh, (3) which Rumi established as a cult by systematising his father's ideas, is a philosophy based on losing heart to the Creator with love and tolerance and loving all creatures because of the Creator. In the Mevleviyeh philosophy, sema (Whirling Dervishes' performance) deeply affects all human beings and is regarded by many to be the oldest ritual. It means one's whirling upon being overwhelmed with musical tunes. Sema symbolises the creation of the universe, resurrection of man in the universe and his stirring with love of Great Creator and losing himself to gospel and turning back to slavery to Allah as a perfect human being. (4)

Sema, which is a Mevleviyeh ritual in which dervishes mention Allah's names many times, is moved to music. (5) The semazen (whirling dervish) whirls while listening to musical tones Whirling Dervishes whirl around in circles. Sema is a circling around the world in the presence of Allah who is the Sun of the all universe. (6) This is what sema succinctly means in Mevleviyeh philosophy. This whirling is not dancing of a group of people to a tempo. Each movement has a deep meaning.

According to Rumi, the main aim of these movements is to transfer every reality, beauty and light a human being explores to other people through movement. With dancing, sema brings pure beauty, that is, the Beauty of Allah to light. It is a process that brings the human being to the beauty that is Allah. (7) In this way, sema has an unlimited energy and enormous Divine source. The Mevleviyeh sema ritual carries many symbolic aspects, from music to clothing. The hat Mevleviyeh dervish wears (who is scraped of self) is called sikke and symbolises the grave stone. The tennure, the dervish's outfit, symbolises his cerement, and the cardigan he wears symbolises his tomb. The Whirling place is the universe, the right side is the observable and material world and the left side is the spiritual world. (8) During sema, the right hand points up and the left hand points down. This posture means that they try to transmit what they received from Allah to people without appropriating too vague a term themselves and by doing so they imply that "we are non-existent and we have nothing other than a figure that exists in the appearance and that mediates". (9)




The humanistic idea of Rumi and Mevleviyeh has been a source of light in a wide geography worldwide for eight centuries. (10) UNESCO celebrated 2007 as "The Year of Rumi" to mark the 800th year of Rumi's birth. Craftsmen tried to reflect and interpret the philosophy of Rumi, who set an example for the world with his ideas, lifestyle, love, tolerance and Love in Allah with ceramic works on soil, which is the symbol of purity. Using the simplicity and plainness of soil rooted in Sufism, craftsmen aimed to make people reflect by combining the concept of a perfect human being who is filled with Allah's love and tolerance.

All the designs by craftsmen who consider themselves only as mediators of Rumi's philosophy has come into being spontaneously and with the reflection of Rumi's enlightening philosophy both on the paper in the process of design and on the soil in the production process. Secil Nebioglu stated that she created her works on Rumi by meditating that the entire universe whirls live dervishes, mystical meaning of coming from Him and turning back to Him, the philosophy of receiving from Allah and giving to people and rationale behind infinite tolerance. The craftswoman based her works on Rumi's saying "After I die, do not look for me in the soil but in the hearts of my lovers ..." reflects the Rumi in her heart and her desire to share Him with others who feel him in their hearts in her statues and boards.

Anasir-i Erbaa (a philosophical term) includes fire, water, air and soil which are regarded to be the origin of objects in the world. Rumi explained these four elements in his Masnavi as follows: "Our fight is in fact not ours, nor is our peace. All our moods are between two fingers of Allah. Fight between elements in terms of nature, work and saying is awesome. But this world preserves its existence with that fight. Have a look at elements and understand. Four elements are four strong pillars. The ceiling of the world is kept even with them. Each pillar demolishes another. Water pillar demolishes fire pillar." (11) In this work, the four parts of tennure symbolise a human being who has been nailed to the world with four elements since the creation of the universe and keeping the soul alive. It is stated that the world came into being as a mixture, combination or decomposition of these four elements. These phenomena mentioned emphasise the intersection of journeys starting from the tennure of the whirling dervish (Fig 1).


Craftsman Ercan Dural in the works that he prepared upon being influenced from Rumi's personality, life and philosophy and dance, clothes, music and sema performances of whirling dervishes, entreats dervishes liberated from the captivity of the material world. The craftsman adopted Rumi's saying "either seem as you are, or be as you seem" as a principle.

In Sufism, patience means stopping complaining from sorrow, bother and troubles. Patience is the backbone of Sufism. The work by Dural provides an example of the story of a dervish who scraped off of himself, burnt and cooked spiritually and who completed g He (a period of spiritual training of dervishes) to finish the self-knowledge period and reach to enlightenment. The craftsman arrayed sikkes (coins) in circle and designed them from darkness to light and emphasised the movement of tennure, which is a dervish outfit, during sema performance (Figure 2).



In many parts of the Masnavi, Rumi tells about a great dynamism that is seen in the continuous search of the human being in his real life with a soul's turning to its basic. As it is known, in Islamic Sufism, search and change in the spiritual world is called 'journey of spirit' as spirit is in continuous change. Accordingly, with spiritual activities one does in this world, his/her spirit changes as well. (12)

In this work, a Sufi is depicted as reaching an ultimate union with God and is with Him. What is meant by Divine Love is reaching to Allah by scraping off his own self and burning. I am not sure what burning out means here with love in the depths of peace, trust and hope (Figure 3).

Inebriation is one of the symbols that represents Divine Love best. The tulip is likened to a chalice. In a pantheist approach that regards Allah and the universe as unified and following from the fact that lale (the Turkish word for tulip) is composed of the letters L, A, L, H, that is two Ls, one A and one H, Sufis sanctify the tulip. (13) In this work, the tulip figure in the centre is likened to the head of a whirling dervish and the phenomenon of receiving prosperity from Allah to give away to people. The 14 different figures of whirling dervishes on both sides come into existence in the sema of soil and fire which embraces all creatures with love by turning around heart from right to left (Figure 4).

As death means the human turning to his/her or as death comes from a spiritual source, Rumi, who defined death as turning back to Allah, the quintessence of existence, pointed out in Masnavi that "Death of body with asceticism is liveliness; discomforting this body is reaching to eternalness". (14) In this work, in the context of the spirit-body relationship, whirling dervishes in the form of gravestones represent a journey from separation to union that is the spiritual profoundness of reaching ultimate reunion (Figure 5).


In his ceramics, remoulded with Rumi's language and far from chaos and pretension of life stranded between soil and sema, the craftsman, Serdar Mutlu, turned teachings of Rumi into peaceful works using simple shapes and colours. Mutlu, who expresses his inspiration from Rumi by saying "I put my soul's ear on the window of heart. I did not see any lips but I heard what is talked", defines his works as a journey from concrete whirling dervish ceremonies to symbolic ceramics with an aim to put a figure symbolising Mevleviyeh in every space.

In sema the whirling dervishes cross their arms to signify the number one and with this posture they testify to the unity of Allah. Sema is composed of four sections and each is called selam (salute) and is directed by the head whirling dervish. In selam two dervishes who come eye to eye lean forward simultaneously and bend their heads. Thus, every dervish salutes each other, which is called 'coming face to face'. This work entreats the salute of secret soul to soul as whirling dervishes starts sema (Figure 6).

Purification, which is one of the main principles in Mevleviyeh philosophy, is one's distancing of himself and anything other than Allah to reach to the door of truth. In this work, it is emphasised that the only way to liberate one from being slave to the material world is Divine Love and purification (Figure 7).

A dervish completes all the phases in the path to reach truth and prepares his birth. The second birth of dervish in sema is symbolised with the red colour similar to the colour that the sun turns as it rises. This colour is known as "the colour of ultimate union" and espoused as reaching Allah by Rumi. In this work, the spiritual birth of the dervish is studied (Figure 8).

It is accepted that more people today try to understand Mevleviyeh philosophy more deeply. Rumi's sense of art which paved the way for modern art philosophers with ideas about making a sense of abstraction, purification, imitation and absolute, is an integral part of Turkish-Islam aesthetic and art understanding. (15) In this context, ceramics entreating Mevleviyeh and Rumi symbolise a journey in the deep sea of Sufism and continue to fill in a spiritual gap in the material world with love and meaning.


(1.) Celebi, Asaf, Halet, Mevlana ve Mevlevilik, Istanbul, 1957. s 45.

(2.) Odyakmaz, Nevzat, Bektasilik, Mevlevilik, Masonluk, Inkilap Kitap Evi, Istanbul, 1998. s 40-41.

(3.) Meyerovitch, Eva De Vitray, Konya Tarihi ve Hz. Mevlana, (Translated: Melek Oksuz), Konya, 2000. s 113.

(4.) Celebi, Celaleddin. 1997. Hz. Mevlana'da Ilim, Konya Valiligi Il Kultur Mudurlugu, Konya. s 83-85

(5.) Gblpinarli, Abdulbaki, Mevlana'dan Sonra Mevlevilik, Inkilap Kitapevi, Istanbul, 1953. s 351-352.

(6.) Onder, Mevlana ve Mevlevilik, Aksoy Yayincilik, Istanbul, 1998, s.392.

(7.) Araz, Nezih, "Cagdas Kavramlar I[section]iginda Sema", 1. Milletlerarasi Mevlana Kongresi, Konya, 1988. 237.

(8.) Top, H. Huseyin, Mevlevi Usul ve Adabi, Otuken Yayinlari, Michigan Universitesi, 2001. s 90-95.

(9.) Can, Sefik, Mevlana Mesnevi Tercumesi, Cilt: 6/1440, Istanbul, 1999.

(10.) Bal, Asker, Ali, "Plastik Sanatlarda Mevlana ve Mevlevilik Anlayisinin Izleri", Turk Kultur ve Sanatinda Mevlana ve Mevlevilik Bildirileri, 2007. s 530.

(11.) Can, Sefik, Mevlana Mesnevi Tercumesi, Cilt: 4/45, Istanbul, 1999.

(12.) Yazoglu, Ruhattin, Imamoglu, Tuncay, "Mevlana Dusuncesinde Bir Olumsuzluk Tecrubesi Olarak Iradi ve Dogal Olum", Ataturk Universitesi Turkiyat Arastirmalari Enstitusu Dergisi, Sayi:34, Erzurum, 2007. s 11.

(13.) Cebecioglu, Ethem, Tasavvuf Terimleri ve Deyimleri Sbzlugu, Agaq Kitabevi Yayinlari, Istanbul, 2009. s 164.

(14.) Sefik Can, Konularina Gbre Mesnevi Tercumesi, Cilt: III, b 3365-3366, 3395-3398,Otuken Yayinlari, Istanbul, 2001.

(15.) Yakit, Ismail, "Mevlana'da Sanat", X. Milli Mevlana Kongresi, 2-3 Mayis 2002, Selcuk Universitesi, Konya, 2002. s 59.

Emine Nas, born in 1974 in Konya, Turkey, holds a BSc (1996) in Department of Handicrafts Education, an MSc (1998) in Department of Decorative Arts and Education and PhD (2005) in Art History from Selcuk University. She was a research assistant at Selcuk University, from 1996-2005 and an Assistant Professor between 2005-2011. She was awarded a research scholarship (2008-2009) to work at Northern Clay Center, Minnesota, US. In 2010-2011 Nas was head of the Ceramics Department in Selcuk University. Nas has been published with more than 25 national and international papers and participated in many exhibitions. She lectures on Ceramics Techniques, Design and Production Techniques, Reproduction Work in Decorative Arts, Traditional Head-Dress Design and Application in undergraduate and graduate level.
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Author:Nas, Emine
Publication:Ceramics Technical
Date:Nov 1, 2012
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