Last Wednesday night was one of the most incredible and memorable nights in my life. I’ll tell you why.
So, last Wednesday night was the first time that I’ve ever watched the whirling dervishes dance or in Turkish, it is called as Sema. This Sema dance performance, along with other events such as reading of the Rumi’s poems and musical performance is held to commemorate 741 years anniversary of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi al-Balkhi’s death, or in short it is called in Turkish as Şeb-i-Arûs Töreni. In English, it means the night of wedding. Well, don’t take it literally as a ‘wedding’, because what it actually means- in Sufistic term- the night when Maulana Rumi was died, it was the night when Maulana Rumi come back and reunited again to his Originator, to his Primal Love after a long journey of worldly life, and in an esoteric sense, it can be called like a ‘wedding’ to God (again, don’t take this literally!).
For your information, this event was widely celebrated in several cities in Turkey and the World, and this event was coordinated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Turkey, along with its partners. The main place of this event is of course in Konya, the place where Maulana Rumi was died.
So, what makes this celebration seems so special to me? Is it the art performances? Is it the speeches delivered during the celebration? Yes, these two reasons- the art performances and speeches are true -but there is one thing that happened during the Şeb-i-Arûs that really touched me, made me believe in the power of Maulana Rumi’s message, and simply made me couldn’t forget this event for the rest of my life. Maybe I am a bit exaggerating, I don’t know what will you think after you read my story, but here the story goes:
So, that Wednesday night (17th of December), I just came back from Turkish preparatory clash in Osmangazi Üniversitesi. Since Tuesday, my class was changed to afternoon because my level was upgraded to another level, from A1 to A2 (Turkish language education standard is following the European language education system).
Okay, enough for the chit-chat. From the campus, I hurrily walk to the Osmangazi Üniversitesi tram station to wait for the next tram which goes to SSK direction, and along the way, I will be stopping at Anadolu Üniversitesi tram station. So, as usual, it takes around 20 minutes for one journey. But, around 2 station before my destination, that is in the İsmet İnönü tram station, the tram goes slower… and slower. I wonder why, but around 30 seconds later I started to listen some shouts… and finally I saw some crowds in front of the Kanatlı Shopping Centre. They brought with them some posters and banners, and yes, it was a demonstration. Actually I was a bit annoyed at that time with the demonstration because I want to get to my dorm which is located inside of the Anadolu Üniversity compound. I also wonder why they did this demonstration at night, but I was reminded by one of my friends’ story that it is normal for several Turks to held demonstrations at any time they want, even during the midnight (!), at least this is according to her experience.
Some minutes later, I reached the AÜ tram station, and I was running to the dorm to get some dinner before I went the Atatürk Kültür ve Sanat Merkezi or AKM. Why was I hurrying? Well, basically from my experience, all of the cultural programmes in Turkey (which are free) usually starts on time and there are of course many people who want to watch this event. Therefore, I have to come there earlier to get some comfortable seat for me.
Okay, so then I was having dinner in the dormitory’s dining hall as usual, but this time I was eating together with my Macedonian friend, Loran. I asked him in Turkish whether he knew about Şeb-i-Arûs show tonight in AKM. He said that he didn’t know, but he’d join me to that event. So, after we finished our food and talk for awhile, we decided to go right away to the show. At that time, we still got some 15 minutes before 7.00 pm, the time when the event is supposed to starts.
When we arrived at the AKM, the event is not yet started. There are some people still waiting for the entrance to be opened by Security, because at that time the entrance is only limited to several elders who were the invited ones. To wait the gate to be opened, Loran and me are looking at the art collection exhibiton which also held inside AKM. Several artworks were being presented, such as ebru, calligraphy and paintings. Most of the artworks are inspired from Sufism teaching, mainly from Maulana Rumi and Yunus Emre.
Balkondaki koltuk, ücretsiz!
After waiting for around 30-40 minutes, finally the entrance to the Hall was opened to the public. There were already around 100 people who came to the AKM and pushing their way to enter the Hall to get a good place to watch the show. Unfortunately, not all of the people got seats, and this is because several seats are reserved for the invited ones and several officials. But, instead of going out, several peoples are seating in the stairs and aisle. I, myself, with Loran went to balcony and found ourselves some nice seats, before a protocol came with elders who are among the invited ones and eventually we were sitting below the seats, but in the end it is not a big problem as long as I can seat.
The show took some time to start because it waits for several government officials and several more invited persons to come to the AKM. Finally, Governor of Eskişehir along with his wife and accompanying officials came and the event was started some minutes later.
At first, the event was opened in a normal manner, with the MC quoting several words about Maulana Rumi. Firstly, the Director of Rumi Educational and Cultural Association gave her opening speech. After that, the Governor of Eskişehir also gave his opening speech.
It was a normal routinity of an event, until a moment just before the main event was about to start, something happened…
The Hall during the protest
Suddenly, I heard flocks of people shouting in a monotonous manner outside the Hall, and over 30 seconds, the shouts becoming louder… and finally these people was entering the hall with their banner. I can’t see them clearly from the balcony because the entrance is not visible from the point where I sit. They were shouting something about.. AKP (which is the governing party of Turkey) and the governor.. and something about Ali İsmail.
And at that moment, instantly I was reminded of something that I have ever seen in a documentary. So, some weeks ago, I watched a documentary on 2013 demonstration in Turkey. One of the thing that I found in that documentaryi is that an investigative journalist was investigating the responsibility of several government agencies in the killing of Ali İsmail which happened in Eskişehir. Ali İsmail was a 19 year old student in Eskişehir who happened to join the 2013 protest.. and was beaten to death by some police, at least some media said.
Some people are saying that the Governorate of Eskişehir might be responsible for this killing, and also should be tried.
I try to explain this case briefly in order that you can understand why these people, who are claiming to be the friends of Ali İsmail Korkmaz, were coming to AKM to ‘meet’ the Governor of Eskişehir, and they ask the governor to leave the AKM and Anadolu Üniversitesi Campus because according to the protestors, he is responsible for the killing (partially because he is also from AKP) and should be held accountable for that case.
The audiences which is in the auditorium are of course not really happy with this ‘surprise’ protest. Some of them were very angry that they shouted to the protestors, and some others were just complaining.. “Why these kids are doing their protest here?”.. and so so.
The hall was very crowdy until a women stood up and took the microphone. She said to the protestors, “Beloved friends, listen. We believe in you. But please, for the love of God and Maulana Rumi, this is not a place for politics.”
And then several exchange of words between the protestors and women began.. but what astonished me until now is a response coming from the women:
“What makes you came here is because Rumi invites you here, it is the love of Rumi that invites you here. Come on, if you want to be with us together, come! Let us forget and put aside our differences outside and together sit here in a unity. Together we will discover a path which has been opened by Maulana Rumi and his friend, Yunus Emre”
She also quoted one of the remarkable poem by Maulana Rumi:
Gel, gel, ne olursan ol yine gel,
İster kafir, ister mecusi,
İster puta tapan ol yine gel, ,
Bizim dergahımız, ümitsizlik dergahı değildir,
Yüz kere tövbeni bozmuş olsan da yine gel…
Şu toprağa sevgiden başka bir tohum ekmeyiz, Şu tertemiz tarlaya sevgiden başka bir tohum ekmeyiz biz…
Beri gel, beri ! Daha da beri !
Come, come! Wherever you are, come! Wanderers, worshippers, lover of leaving; it doesn’t matter! Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows thousand times. Come, yet again, come.
..and the whole audiences were clapping and whistling in response to the remarkable answer by this wonderful women.
I stood in awe, eventhough I can only understood some words, it was a very remarkable moment to saw. How much love can calm the fire of hatred and vengeance..
Soon after, the protestors replied that they won’t attend the celebration because they didn’t want to sit together with the responsible party who allegedly killed Ali İsmail, their best friends. But before they left the Hall, they said “Thank You” for the kind invitation.
Wonderful. And everybody is clapping again.
Poem reading accompanied by musical performance. Harika!
After that, the main event was started after 30 minutes of delay. At first, there were some kind of Rumi’s poem reading, accompanied by musical performance. Some are energetic, some are so slow that I am about to sleep during the show. After the poem reading, there was a speech from a lady which deliver. some message about youthfulness. She told a story of Usamah bin Zaid, who was the youngest commander of Islam in the age of 18. One of the remarkable quote she said:
Ne kadar genç güclü, ne kadar millet güçlüdür
The strength of a nation is accounted from the strength of the youths
Next event after the speech is from a choir singing some Sufistic song which I didn’t know the meaning, but somehow I enjoy it and at the end, I almost felt ecstatic with the music.
During the event, I kept wondering when will I see the whirling dervishes. And at 22:45, I finally saw it.
Slowly, one by one, the dervishes came to the stage. And then after 13 of them came, their leader showed up in the stage and they bow in respect of their leader.
Afterwards, they sat for some minutes, then the music plays, and 5 minutes later they were prostating and finally standing up to prepare for the dance.
The dance, to me, is rather slow and somewhat boring, but somehow also mystical, dynamic, powerful and deep of meaning. Their dance movement is circular, symbolizing the movement of every living creature in the universe which follow circular path. The dervishes whirl for like 10-15 minutes, and I wonder what kept them strong to whirl in those minutes. I thought that the power came from love to God, Prophet and Rumi, and also through the dhikr they recite during the dance.
I want to watch it until the end but the clock in my mobile shows that it is already pass the dorm’s curfew, 23:25. I finally decided to go to the dorm which is only 5 mins. walking away without knowing the end of Sema, but somehow I will know about it!
And that’s it! Bu kadar! That’s all of my story, and you know why I called it as one of the most incredible night of my life!