When we speak of Sufism, we are talking about the mystical branch of Islam, which professes an initiatory access to the divine reality.
Sufis seek union with God, seeking the hidden reality of the Qur’an through the surrender of a material life. They are called dervishes or wandering dervishes.
Sufism leads an ascetic life. They are also credited with various powers such as reading the future or curing certain ailments.
It is one of the many religious currents that were created in succession to the Prophet Muhammad. History finds traces of the first groups of Sufis only in Kufa and Basra, from the eighth century of the Christian era, then in Baghdad in the ninth century. From the twelfth century, Sufi groups are organized and structured into different brotherhoods.
Sufi brotherhoods have often appeared blasphemous in the eyes of other currents (often Sunni or Wahhabi), and even today, Iranian Sufis are frowned upon by the government.
They think that every man is veiled to himself: the passionate, agitated soul is somehow taken behind a curtain that filters the spiritual light of the heart. When the soul is spiritualized by prayer and inner sincerity, it gradually becomes transparent: and the previously opaque soul becomes a stained glass window of spiritual light.
For the Sufis, the spiritual approach is comparable to crossing a succession of veils, allowing to reach the Divinity hidden behind the veils of the worlds and the multiple states of the soul.
Each stage of the ascent to God is a veil that must be crossed in order to reach a higher state, which will in turn be the veil of a higher state, and this until the supreme spiritual union, which abolishes all veils and all dualities between Man and God.
The Sama ceremony reflects all these stages of the quest for God.
The dervishes initially move slowly and circle the track three times. This displacement is the symbol of wandering souls, after the third round, the master takes his place on his mat and the dancers wait.
While the singers sing and stop, the dervishes go with a triumphal gesture, drop their black coat, in order to reveal their white clothing.
The fall of the mantle gives way to an illusion. While the black mantle representing the carnal envelope is abandoned, it is the resurrection.
It is necessary to have arms crossed over the chest, hands on shoulders, begin to turn slowly, on themselves and then spread the arms, the right hand turned towards the sky to reap the grace of God and the left hand turned towards the ground to dispense it towards men.
At the same time as they turn on themselves, they turn around the room. This double turn is reminiscent of the law of the universe: man revolves around his center, his heart, and the stars gravitate around the sun. This double cosmic symbolism is the true meaning of Samâ: all creation revolves around a center.
During the Sama sessions, the poems of the Divan and those of the Mathnavi were constantly celebrated and sung. This dance, which symbolizes the swirling of atoms around their center, that is, planets around the sun, does not only have a cosmic meaning. Beyond the limits of time and space, it symbolizes Man’s search for his true “I”, the Divine Sun.
Many Sufi poets play on this theme: what we see, what we hide, what we discover, what we perceive…
Unlike whirling dervishes, the Sufi music and dance of Iran live the hal without going through a ritualized and scenographed ceremony. The poet Sohravardi in the twelfth century said that “It is dance that is the product of the inner state of the soul; It is not the inner state that is the product of dance. In addition, the visible becomes invisible and vice versa.
Originally from the city of Balkh, in present-day Afghanistan, Rumi is part of Sufism, he is the son of a renowned theologian and Sufi master, nicknamed “sultan of scholars” (Sultan al-‘Ulama).
Before being a mystic he was above all a theologian, a fine connoisseur of the Koran and the Sunnah he taught. It is his meeting with Shams of Tabriz that will make him a poet…
Rumi, in his poetry and dance, expresses the themes dear to Sufism which are the fulfillment of the being in union with God through the abandonment of the ego, the search for truth behind appearances and mystical intoxication.
The 7 movements of Sama, symbol of divine love and ecstasy:
The 7 movements, or symbols, also refer to the 7 celestial bodies “wandering” among the stars. These 7 celestial bodies are: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
We also find the 4 elements of the earth and a fifth which is the void, symbolized by the towers.