Sufi Order of Mawlawīyah Is Established Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Like other Sufi, or Islamic mystic, orders, the Mawlawīyah focuses on spiritual realization through renunciation of material goods, simplicity, and moving one’s daily focus away from ritual and toward the seeking of spiritual truth. The Mawlawīyah also use dancing and music to achieve spiritual goals, a practice that has earned its members the name “whirling dervishes.”

Summary of Event

Sufism is the word used to describe Islamic mysticism. It derives from the Arabic term suf, or wool, the material from which the robes of the early mystics were made and which symbolized their avoidance of luxury. Broadly speaking, Sufism represents attempts to expand the frontiers of religion beyond ritual and to search for spiritual truth. It is a tradition based on the lives of the Prophet Muḥammad and the first generation of Muslims that emphasizes an ascetic lifestyle and embraces simplicity. The Sufi renounce the material world for the spiritual world; emphasize celibacy; and eschew material possessions, especially those beyond one’s daily needs, and money not earned by one’s own labor. All these emphases reflect Sufism’s reactions against the dominant cultural model of the time, a model celebrating wealth, high social position, and sexuality. Thus, Sufism can be interpreted as a form of dissent and resistance to the government and orthodox religion of the period. [kw]Sufi Order of Mawlawīyah Is Established (1273) [kw]Mawlawīyah Is Established, Sufi Order of (1273) Mawlawīyah[Mawlawiyah] Sufism Turkey;1273: Sufi Order of Mawlawīyah Is Established[2500] Religion;1273: Sufi Order of Mawlawīyah Is Established[2500] Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī Shams al-Dīn SulṬān Walad

Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī is considered by many to have been the most important Sufi of all time. Rūmī was born to a family of Persian origin in Balkh (Afghanistan). When Rūmī was still a young boy, he and his father left Balkh following a disagreement with local rulers. Rūmī’s father was a respected religious scholar, and the Seljuk sultan of Rum invited him to bring his family and settle in Konya in modern Turkey. Konya was known as Rum (Rome) because of the area’s Byzantine (Eastern Roman) past. It is because of his association with this city that Jalāl al-Dīn is known as Rūmī.

In 1244, Rūmī met the man who would be the most profound and powerful influence in his life, Shams al-Dīn Shams al-Dīn , an extremely well-known religious figure. Rūmī became his disciple. Most of Rūmī’s writings are dedicated to Shams, whom he called, among other things, “the absolute light of the sun and the ray of the lights of Divine Truth.” Rūmī’s best known work, the Mathnawī-i ma ՙnawī (The Mathnawi Mathnawi, The (Rūmī) , 1926-1934), was one outcome of his association with his mentor, a man who appears in much of Rūmī’s verse as well. Often sung as well as read, The Mathnawi is still considered one of the literary and religious treasures of the Persian-speaking world. Yet the inspiration Shams provided to Rūmī and the effect he had on Rūmī’s spiritual development and work were not appreciated by all; Shams was eventually murdered by unidentified persons apparently unhappy with the amount of influence he had on Rūmī.

After Rūmī died in 1273, his son, SulṬān Walad Sulṭān Walad , continued his work and his leadership of the order. The order was named the Mawlawīyah (Arabic) and also called the Mevleviye (Turkish) after Maulānā (our master) Rūmī. It was under SulṬān Walad’s leadership that the order adopted the practice that would give its members their name, the whirling dervishes Dervish order , though Rūmī himself began the ritual. The dancing session (sama) that typifies the spiritual exercise of the order is rich in symbolism, difficult to master, and an integral part of Mawlawīyah spiritual activity. The dance includes individuals turning in circles, and the overall dance proceeds in a semicircle, symbolizing movement away from God, followed by movement back to God at the end of the arc, when the dancers come near the Sufi master, or pir. Thus, the circular movement is symbolic of the cycle of creation.

The dance also symbolizes the soul’s encounter with and awakening to reality. Each sees his own face reflected in the faces of the others, which makes individuality unreal and the other oneself. The dance is accompanied by music, including drums, flutes, and chants. The playing of the reed flute, or ney, is especially symbolic, as the sound of it represents the cry of the reed as it is taken from its growing point. More generally, the sound symbolizes the cry of longing to return to one’s origins. Music;Mawlawīyah

During the Ottoman Empire Ottomans , the Mawlawīyah order aided conversions to Islam in urban Anatolia by providing charity and aid, a focus for communal activities, and a focus for religious and devotional activities. As an order that was primarily urban and middle to upper class, and as one that did not differ with orthodox Islam in an extreme fashion, the Mawlawīyah was not seen as a particular threat to the established governmental or religious structure. In fact, the order was held in high esteem by some Ottoman sultans, including Mehmed II (r. 1451-1481), Selim III (r. 1789-1807), and Süleyman I (r. 1520-1566). The Mawlawīyah, with its inherent emphasis on dance, music, and visual art, all of which were opposed by the religious orthodoxy, also contributed greatly to the development of these art forms in Ottoman culture.

However, the popularity of the various Sufi orders was a cause for some concern on the part of the Ottoman leadership, particularly after Sufi tribal rebellions in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. In order to gain the support of the Sufi orders and undercut their popularity as a focus for resistance to the regime, the Ottomans attempted to co-opt the orders by giving them a symbolic role in government. Thus, the Bektashi order was incorporated into the regime as the patron order of the janissary corps; the Mawlawīyah were given a ceremonial role in the government by girding each new sultan with a holy sword, beginning in 1648. This approach worked well for the Ottomans; the Sufi orders began to be seen as protectors of the state, a state that altered their previous mass appeal as protectors of the people against the abuses of the state.

Despite its loss of political influence, the order has been spiritually, culturally, and socially influential, particularly in India, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Persia, and Turkey. Although the Mawlawīyah order was banned in Turkey in 1928 (along with all Sufi orders), it has still seen a resurgence. The Mawlawīyah today exist in many countries, including Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and other former Ottoman lands, with the most active branches in Konya and Istanbul.


Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī is arguably the most influential Sufi in history. Through his teachings, sayings, writings, and poetry, Rūmī presented a view of the human and the divine that speaks to people of all nations and all ages, helping Sufism persist through the ages. Scholar Andrew Harvey explained his impact in the following terms: “Rūmī combined the intellect of a Plato, the vision and enlightened soul-force of a Buddha or a Christ, and the extravagant literary gifts of a Shakespeare.”

The broader significance of the order can be interpreted in a number of ways. In embodying an alternative view of religion, it provided potential converts with a view of Islam that stressed the spiritual, rather than the legalistic, version of the faith. Its importance in the Ottoman period can be found in its contribution to conversion, to the arts and culture, and to the ceremonial support of the state.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barks, Coleman. The Essential Rūmī. San Francisco: Harper, 1997. This popular book contains modern English translations of some of Rūmī’s most captivating verses, with introductions to each section written by the translator.
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    xlink:type="simple">Friedlander, Shems. The Whirling Dervishes: Being an Account of the Sufi Order Known as the Mevlevis and Its Founder the Poet and Mystic Mevlana Jalāluddin Rūmī. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. This very accessible book contains basic information about the order and a wealth of photographs. Part of the SUNY series in Islam. Bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Harvey, Andrew. Teachings of Rūmī. Boston: Shambhala, 1999. This book contains a brief introduction to Rūmī and his works. The remainder of the book is divided into four sections, each of which contains verses and extracts from Rūmī’s writings.
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    xlink:type="simple">Kahn, Masood Ali, and S. Ram, eds. Encyclopaedia of Sufism. 12 vols. New Delhi: Anmol, 2003. A collection introducing Sufism and its basics in Islam, and Sufism’s tenets, doctrines, literature, saints, and philosophy. Bibliography, index.
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    xlink:type="simple">Karamustafa, Ahmet T. God’s Unruly Friends: Dervish Groups in the Islamic Later Middle Period, 1200-1550. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994. This academic work discusses Sufism and its role in historical context. Illustrations, bibliography, index.
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    xlink:type="simple">Karpat, Kemal. The Politicization of Islam: Reconstructing Identity, State, Faith, and Community in the Late Ottoman State. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Discusses the role of religion in identity in the Ottoman Empire, including some discussion of the Mawlawīyah order.
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    xlink:type="simple">Lewisohn, Leonard, and David Morgan, eds. The Heritage of Sufism. Boston: Oneworld, 1999. Explores Sufism from its beginnings, through the Middle Ages, and up to the mid-eighteenth century. Illustrations, bibliography, index.
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    xlink:type="simple">Lings, Martin. What Is Sufism? 1975. Reprint. Cambridge, England: Islamic Texts Society, 1999. A useful general survey of the principles of mysticism and the various representatives of nonconformist religious practice and thinking in Islam. Bibliography, index.
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    xlink:type="simple">Moyne, John A. Rūmī and the Sufi Tradition: Essays on the Mowlavi Order and Mysticism. Binghamton, N.Y.: Global, 1998. A very brief look at the order in the tradition of Sufism. Illustrations, bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rūmī, Jalāl al-Dīn. The Mathnawí of Jalālu՚ddin Rūmī. Translated and edited by Reynold A. Nicholson. 1926-1934. Reprint. London: Luzac, 1972. A complete scholarly verse translation of Rūmī’s most important poetic work. Bibliography.
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    xlink:type="simple">Vitray-Meyerovitch, Eva de. Rūmī and Sufism. Translated by Simone Fattal. Sausalito, Calif.: Post-Apollo Press, 1987. This book provides biographical information about Rūmī as well as discussion of Sufism, its beliefs and practices, and its role in Islamic societies.

Categories: History