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Rumi’s message of tolerance calls thousands to Konya centuries on

More than seven centuries after his death, Mawlana Jalal-ud-din Rumi’s message draws visitors from different religions, nationalities and races to his shrine in central Anatolia.

KONYA, Turkey — “Come,” Mawlana Jalal-ud-din Rumi says in his famous verse. “Come, even if you broke your penitence a hundred times/ Ours is the portal of hope/ Come as you are.” This invitation from the 13th century continues to lure millions of Turks and foreigners to Rumi’s shrine in Konya, a city in central Anatolia.

The mausoleum with its famous Green Dome covering the Sufi philosopher’s sarcophagus remains one of Turkey’s most-visited museums, with Chinese and Taiwanese visitors leading the list. In 2018, the number of visitors to the shrine jumped 13.5% from the year before, breaking its record by welcoming more than 2.8 million visitors, according to the Anatolia News Agency.

“Of the entire global population, without making a distinction by religion and race, those who have reached [Rumi’s] level of consciousness in the end come to Konya and Mawlana,” Uzeyir Ozyurt, a dervish of the Mevlevi Order, told Al-Monitor. “When they come to Konya and see the shared faith, they find that the life they have longed for and sought is this."

Ozyurt said that visitors, including CEOs and renowned healers from China, Iran, Taiwan, the United States, South Korea and other parts of the world as well as from all over Turkey, merely adhere to Rumi’s call to love. Some visit the city of the whirling dervishes after hearing the poet’s whispers in their dreams or after reading his monumental literary heritage, “Masnavi Ma’navi” ("The Spiritual Couplets").

“People have always sought [love, oneness and peace] outside. Now that they have started feeling that within, they have begun to perform the Sama," Ozyurt said, adding that this draw them to the shrine of Mawlana. “Konya is the Kaaba for lovers.”

The Sama is the Sufi dance ceremony with whirling dervishes of various ages tirelessly spinning to experience holy love, wearing white robes. The Kaaba is the sacred Muslim shrine, a square stone structure in the Great Mosque at Mecca.

A mystical, introspective branch of Islam, Sufism, or Tasawwuf, is a lifelong ascetic path that shuns materialism and cherishes the journey within. By taking on certain ritualized tasks and challenges, the disciples of the Mevlevi Order take both physical and spiritual steps to leave their egos behind and experience “heaven before death” by falling in godly love. The door to this trying path, Sufis say, is open to every human being, without distinction, as identity is removed outside the dargah, a place of worship for Sufis. There, one enters love.

“The love I found through yoga is a similar love I find in Rumi’s teachings,” Dmitri Kuznesov, a yoga instructor from Ukraine, told Al-Monitor, stretching on the floor inside the dargah’s main lounge, where guests eat, converse, occassionally make music, recite poems and perform the Sama together. “There are many ways, and the Mevlevi is Rumi’s path. But the Sama is something else. … It is special. It is relaxing, meditative, and good for the mind and the soul,” Kuznesov added.

The Sama ceremony depicts that every object in the universe rotates, as electrons around atoms, the Earth around the sun and the solar system around the Milky Way. As the dervish spins, he feels like an instrument of God. During the Sama, heaven is believed to enter the dervish through his right palm that faces upward and is released from the downward-facing left palm.

To become a dervish, disciples have to go through various stages, such as “the suffering” that lasts for 1,001 days, and the “halwat” (seclusion) where the individual sits in a small space for 40 consecutive days, without speaking and minimal food intake, not allowed to sleep lying down and instead sitting the entire time.

Besides his spirituality, Rumi’s intelligence as a Muslim scholar attracted Hossein Soori, an Iranian inventor and poet now residing in Istanbul, to Sufism. Sitting on the floor of the main lounge in the local dargah, where he has been staying for two weeks for Seb-i Arus, Soori said modern science and technology continue to prove Rumi’s cosmic wisdom was way ahead of his and even our time.

In awe of Rumi’s vision and expertise as a man of science, literature and spirituality, Soori took out his phone to show pictures of galaxies and close-up shots of the human eye. “This is what [Rumi’s] poem means: ‘I see an eye inside every galaxy.’ He says that he sees. ‘And inside every eye, I see a galaxy.’ Just this verse is enough,” he said, noting the telescope was not yet invented at the time.

Still, there are many more examples depicting Rumi’s advanced cosmic awareness in his works, with theories of quantum, cosmos and consciousness lying parallel to the heart of his teachings on subjects such as unity and resonance.

Both Soori and Ozyurt agreed that Rumi’s teachings have the potential to heal and prevent some of the biggest global conflicts such as war, animosity and inequality, mostly because the sense of oneness would reappear and install tranquility.

“Whatever religions there are, it is like this. They speak to come close to Allah. But there are some people who politically change things in their favor, in their own interest,” Soori said. “Mawlana said to forget about them, that this path is very easy. Through the heart, you can find Allah.”

Although he plans on coming back to the dargah and the shrine, Soori said his way to communicate with the divine was just to sit in silence and wait patiently for the meeting. When the beloved responds, he said, he just knows. “Proof” is not that important of a word inside the dargah; no word really is.

“There is a voice that doesn’t use words,” one famous Rumi verse goes. “Listen.”

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