Photographer's Note

The Mevlevi (followers of Mevl‚na Jelaleddin RumÓ), or Whirling Dervishes, are alive and well in Turkey.
Their spellbinding worship service, the Mevlevi sema, has dervishes in long white dresses whirling ecstatically for a quarter hour at a time to the drone of ancient Islamic hymns.
The sema (seh-MAH) is derived from RumÓ's habit of occasionally whirling in ecstatic joy in the streets of Konya, capital of the Seljuk Turkish Sultanate of Rum, and his home for the greater part of his life. It is perhaps the most familiar aspect of Sufism (Islamic mysticism).
After the death of RumÓ in 1273, the Mevlevi (mehv-leh-VEE) order spread throughout the Seljuk and Ottoman empires. Though all dervish orders were closed shortly after the foundation of the Turkish Republic, the Mevlevi were soon allowed to reform as a "cultural organization," perhaps because they were not overtly political and reactionary as were some other orders.
The Mevlevi have always been ecumenical in outlook, welcoming non-Muslims to the sema in the belief that all people are equal in the sight of God.
RumÓ's most famous writing is his invitation to the sema:
Whoever you may be, come
Even though you may be
An infidel, a pagan, or a fire-worshipper, come
Our brotherhood is not one of despair
Though you have broken
Your vows of repentance a hundred times, come

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