SEMA (WHIRLING)

Dr. Jalaluddin B. Chalabi

When “Sama” is mentioned, we, Turks, consider three things in our minds. Sama; whirling, Sama: Sky and Sama: hearing. When giving a detailed thinking, we remind that these three different words are integrated, combined in any Mawlawi ceremony. As we shall see together at the end of this article, Samazen (whirling Dervish) whirls by listening to music and lyrics and by obtaining holy sentiments reaches up to (symbolically sky) and gets matured spiritually.
According to Pisagor (Pitagor), the great philosopher & mathematician and in accordance with those ancient adopting such opinion after him, music consists of voice occurring as a result of turn of skies and the harmony of such a voice. Out of twelve horoscopes, twelve main musical modes were found, in music, seven sounds correspond to seven stars, twenty four branches correspond to twenty four hours of night and day and forty eight composition correspond to forty eight weeks.
The word of Sama is generally mentioned as hearing in Mathnawi, in Di-wan-I Kebir, it is expressed with the meaning stated in Mawlawi Ceremony. In an example that we shall give from Mathnawi in this regard, we witness that Rumi claims antithesis against the thesis of Pitagor:
Crying of Zurna (shrill pipe) and fear created by Drum is slightly similar to the voice of Sur ( a holy pipe)
In fact we, people of Wisdom, say that we took such musical modes from the whirling action of sky.
The Melodies played by the people by their classical lute and sung by their voice is the voice of the whirling action of sky.
Believers say that all voices become nice as a result of spiritual influence of the heaven.
We were all parts of Adam; we heard and listened to those beautiful voices in the heaven.
Though, water and soil caused us some suspicion but we slightly remind such melodies.
That is to say, listening to beautiful voice and music is the food of lovers, m such a listening there is dream of meeting and gathering.
The dreams in one’s heart develops by beautiful voice, even such dreams get some forms due to such beautiful voice.
... Also Love fever is sparkled and simplified by means of such beautiful voices. (1)
Some other examples may be given from Mathnawi regarding such topic as well; however, in all of them it is stated that the voice and music shall be a tool of developing our aesthetical and spiritual sentiments through Sama, that is to say hearing and listening.
Before starting to explain the execution method of Sama in Mawlawi ceremonies, let us investigate some examples from Diwan-i Kebir:
“What does “Sama’ mean? A salutation from the secret heroes in the heart. Lonely heart gets some rest and finds some peace when their news has come.
The branches, knots of intelligence are opened and scattered by means of such a wind; thus body extends, gets some peace and rest...
A strange and uncommon pleasantness appears within the body, a sugar taste comes to tongue and palate from Ney (reed flute), lips of instrumentalist.
Our spirit has been resuscitated by means of secret stating “I blew a soul to him from my soul”
The body having drunk such legitimate wine, the heart having become happy by such wine are roasted, cooked, matured by fever of separation and then they go away. (2)
Another example is as follows:
"When you are involved in Sama, you get out of both worlds simultaneously. The realm of Sama is outside of both worlds.
The roof of seventh sky is a noble one but the ladder of Sama also exceeds such a roof and goes up; it is nobler than such roof. Sama is your commodity and property and you are its commodity
What am I supposed to when the Love embraces and hugs me with its arms? Thus I hug it while whirling and welcome with my open arms.
When embraces of atoms are filled by light of sun, all are involved in the game without the scream of Sama and start to play it. ”
Third example:
“O love, welcome to your own home!” Let you enter inside, you are welcome and bring some enjoyment, let you enter from the gate of heart and walk till the soul’s deity!
Each atom of my body is lover of your sun, please take care and look, the atoms have a long work to do with the sum.
Let you look at the atoms in front of window, how well they play on the air, who takes the sun as his Kıble(the direction of Mecca), his namaz(ritual worship) shall be like this.
Those atoms whirl like sophists in the light of sun, however none knows by which melody and which beat and which instrument they whirl!
There is a different melody and beat in each heart; the players are apparent but the instrumentalist is hidden like a secret.
Our internal Sama is superior to all of them; all atoms of ours continue to play in light of Him through miscellaneous coyness.” (4)

Sama and Its Meaning
Sama is part of the inspiration of Rumi as well as of Turkish custom, history, beliefs and culture. We witness that some believers and many creatures in the Nature use the same as a thanking prayer or expression of joy.
From a scientific viewpoint we witness that contemporary science definitely confirms that the fundamental condition of our existence is to “revolve”. There is no object, no being which does not revolve and the shared similarity among beings is the revolution of the electrons, protons and neutrons in the atoms, which constitute the structure of each of them. As a consequence of this similarity which is a common one, everything revolves and man carries on his live, his very existence by means of the revolution in the atoms, structural stones of his body, by the revolution of his blood, by his coming from the earth and return to it, by his revolving with earth itself.
However, all of these are natural and unconscious revolutions. But man is the possessor of a “mind and intelligence” which distinguishes him from and makes him superior to other beings. Thus the "whirling dervish" or revolving Samazen causes the mind through Love and his Sama to participate in the shared similarity and revolution of all other beings... However, such participation, contrary to the popular belief, as we shall see collectively, is not for fully losing consciousness in ecstasy. Through such a participation by revolving in harmony with all things in nature — with the smallest cells and with the stars in the firmament — the Samazen testifies to the existence and the majesty of the Creator, thinks of Him, gives thanks to Him, and prays to Him. In so doing, the Samazen confirms the words of the Qur'an (64:1): Te-ğabun, for words in same meaning let you look at Nur 24/41, Cuma 62/1)
Whatever is in the skies or on earth invokes God (Yusebbihu lillahi, ma fi-Samavati vema fi'l ard…)

Those explained in Sama
The Sama ceremony represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent. Turning towards the truth, his growth through love, desert his ego, find the truth and arrive to the "Perfect," then he return from this spiritual journey as a man who reached maturity and a greater perfection. The Samazen's camel's hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt represents the ego's shroud. By removing his cloak, he is spiritually reborn to the truth. He starts his way and advances. At the beginning of the Sama, by holding his arms crosswise, the Samazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God's oneness. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God's beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The Samazen conveys God's spiritual gift to those who are considered people of God. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the Samazen embraces all humanity (of 72 people) with love.
In accordance with our belief, the human being has been created with love in order to love. Mawlana says, "All loves are a bridge to Divine love!"

Parts of Sama
THE SAMA RITUAL consists of five parts:
The First Part
It is Naat-i Sherif which is a eulogy to our Prophet. To praise him is to praise God Who created him and to praise all of the prophets who preceded him.
Second Part
Such eulogy is followed by a Taksim, an improvisation on the reed flute (the ney). This expresses (Nefha-yi ilahi) the Divine breath, which gives life to everything.
Third Part
It is the Sultan Veled Walk, accompanied by the peshrev music, is the circular procession three times around the turning space. The greetings of the Samazens during the procession represent the salutation of soul to soul concealed by shapes and bodies
Fourth Part
It is Sama Ceremony consisting of four salutes (selams):
The First Selam (salute) represents the human being's birth to truth through feeling and mind. It represents his complete acceptance of his condition as a creature created by God and his servanthood.
The second salute expresses the rapture of man witnessing the splendor of creation, in front of God's greatness and omnipotence.
The third salute is the transformation of rapture into love and thereby the sacrifice of mind to love. It is a complete submission, it is annihilation of self with in the loved one, and it is oneness. This state of ecstasy is the highest grade in Buddhism, defined as "Nirvana" and in Islam "Fenafillah". However, the highest rank in Islam is the rank of servanthood, our prophet is called God's servant first and his messenger afterwards. Just as the Prophet ascends till the "Throne" and then returns to his task on earth, after reaching the state of "Fenafillah", whirling dervish returns to his task in creation, to his state of subservience following the termination of his spiritual journey and his ascent. Indeed in this salute, whirling dervishes may enter in ecstasy; they only get out of such a state only after its end. I kindly presented you that the purpose of Sama is not continuous ecstasy and losing one’s self control totally. If it had been so, there would have been no Salute and stops in between.
In the Fourth Selam, just as the Prophet ascends to the spiritual "Throne" and then returns to his task on earth, the whirling dervish, after the ascent of his spiritual journey, returns to his task, to his servanthood. He is a servant of God, of His Books, of His Prophets of His whole creation. “Amene Resulu bima unzile ileyhi m/n Rabbihi vel mu’mi-nun, kullun amene Billahi ve Me-la’iketihi ve Kutubihi ve Rusulihi, la nuferriku beyne ahaddin min Rusulihi (The prophet believed in those ascended by his God to him, Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Prophets and so did all believers.
We don’t distinguish the prophets from one another: the Qur'an Surah Baqara 2/285. Whirling Dervish by obeying the order stating “let you die before you actually die” has bridled his ego and he is now in joy and merriment of Qur'an as stated by it in Fecr, 89/28-28 expressing that “ Ya eyyetuhe’n nef-sun mutmainnetu, irci’i ila Rabbike radiyeten, mardiyeten.. (0 the Flesh which is safe and satisfied, let you return to your God while you are happy”!)
Fifth Part
Afterwards follows a recitation from the Qur'an, especially the verse:
To God belong the East and the West, and wherever you turn is the face of God.
He is the All-Embracing, the All-Knowing.
Surah Baqara 2:775
(“Ve lillahi’l maşriku ve’l mağribu fe eynema tuve/lu fe-semme Vechullah. Inna’ilahe Va-si’un Alim)
The ceremony ends with a prayer for the peace of the souls of all prophets and believers and wellness of our army, people, and our state.
Another property of this seven-century ceremony is the fact that three main elements of the human creation were melted in a pot: INTELLIGENCE (knowledge and thinking), LOVE (emotions, poem, music) and SPIRIT (life, move, Sama). You cannot find such three elements in any other thought system where they are integrated in such style and incorporated in terms of opinion, meaning, theory and application.


Dr. Jalaluddin B. Chalabi