The Whirling Dervishes

18 Mar

Listen to the tale of the reed flute
Complaining of the pain of separation:
“Since they tore me from the reed-bed,
My laments move man and woman to tears
O, for a bosom torn like mine with the wound of
That I may tell it of the pain of longing!
He who is far from his place of origin
Longs for the Day of the Return
In every company I tell my wailing song.
I have consorted with the unhappy and the joyous;
Each one becomes my friend for his own sake;
None asks the secrets of my heart.
My secret is not far from my plaint,
But eye and ear lack light to discern.”
Body from Soul and Soul from body are not veiled,
Yet to none is it given to see the Soul.
A fire is this noise of the reed-flute!
May whoso has no fire be nought.
The fire of Love has caught the reed;
The ferment of Love has changed the wine.
The reed is comrade to him who has lost his Friend,
It strains rend the veil from our hearts….
It tells of the mystic path of blood,
I recounts the love of Manjun for Layla.
In our woe life’s days are grown untimely;
My days move hand in hand with anguish.
Though they pass away thus, let them go!
Thou remainest, Incomparable Purity….
Yet he who is raw cannot understand ripeness,
Therefore my words must be brief:
Arise, oh my son, burst thy bonds and be free!
How long wilt though be fettered with gold and

Jalal al-Din Rumi:  Rumi (died 1273), the theologian of Persian poetry , came of an East Persian family which emigrated to Konya, the Saljuq capital of Muslim Anatolia (Rum), shortly before the Mongol invasions devastated Persia and Iraq.


But Rumi’s greatest work is the Mathnavi  “The Qur’an of the Persian Language,’ a vast poem containing fables, allegories and reflections on Sufi thought.  While it has little artistic unity, being apparently written in periods of inspiration over a long space of time.

Rumi also founded the Mawlawi or Mevlevi brotherhood, the “Whirling Dervishes,” whose mystical dance in the sama’, to recall the order of the heavenly spheres, is a sedate gyrating.  Sections of the  Mathnavi or theDiwan such as the superb opening “Song of the Reed Flute.” from theMathnavi, which plaintively tells of the soul’s longing for God, the Source of its existence, were chanted at these sessions.

John Alden Williams Ed., Great Religions of Modern Man, Islam (George Braziller, New York,1962 p. 162-163)

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