Whirling with the Dervishes p1

Whirling with the Dervishes p1

In the Islamic faith (according to some authorities) there is a night when Allah decides upon the fates of human-kind. The night is called Shab e Baraat in tongues from my heritage. It’s meaning using these words is Night of innocence. The day before the night (night follows day) I got to hear of a sufi gathering some miles from where I live and so on impulse I decided to attend the evening/night-time event.

I have over the last few months been gently maneuvered into looking into Sufism again. As this set of posts from way back when (well, actually 3 years ago) illustrates this is by no means the first time that Sufism has positioned itself in my life. This particular set of events may have a start point here (Rumi and Valentines) but I doubt it.

The name of the night is rather interesting because it actually is a night of seeking innocence or indeed seeking forgiveness from Allah. It is also said that on this night, Allah allots (or decrees) the events and circumstances that are to fall upon hums kind (from an individual point of view that is). So, basically get down on bended knee to ensure your coming year is blessed. Don’t ask…Religions confuse me too.

Female Whirling Dervish

Female Whirling Dervish

Upon arriving, the thought of how these guys took the nights meaning crossed my mind. Would it be a religious fest or something more exotic. Since on previous occasions it had been a fabulous (because it was aligned with my view) experience, I was willing to give it a go.

I arrived late, these events are too long for my blood. I’m almost always the last to arrive and the first to leave. They (about nine of them) were sat in a circle and discussing what the night was about and how they should fulfill its promise. It struck me that there were never any women at such events. I am sure that some where there was a woman’s gathering having a similar conversation, but because of the (semi) Islamic roots the gatherings are sexually divided. Pity.

My arrival caused some consternation as I am a bit of an itinerant guest with these guys. An unofficial member or as one worthy described me, a “blemish in the perfection” I liked that description and attempted to live up to the name as often as possible. I sat and listened to the way the discussion was blowing. It seemed that the consensus was that this was a night of purification, of cleansing, of preparation. I liked the sound of that and asked, for what was one preparing? They gave me that stare…”For Ramadan and the fasting” Of course, I muttered apologetically.

As I entered into the discussion I began to really like where they were going to take the evening. It wasn’t about asking forgiveness and sins. But more about…

  • Cleansing our souls (Energetic Cleansing as I translated it)
  • Connecting with our God (Opening the Crown Chakra)
  • Being in Love (Opening the Heart Chakra)

Of course, those are loose translations on both sides. It would require a book (or even several) to give the meaning its due justice. It works for this post though so that is what it was.

The event was in one of the guys houses so it took some time for all of us to cleanse in the physical sense. It’s called Wudu or Ghusl (see link for more details) again, perhaps it is due to my heritage but I like the idea of cleansing with water. Water has some amazing properties and equally amazing magical qualities too. One may very well be due to the other. After we had prepared physically we gathered in the room. Ten of us and began with some gentle Zikr (google it!).

Isn’t the web amazing! I was able to find exactly what I was looking for on youtube. Here is a video of the kind of Zikr we started with. It was exactly the same as this, the only difference was that we were sat on the floor in a circle. Note, the hand on the Heart and the head motion. Actually looking closely at the video there was another difference…Whereas in the video they kind of do the left and then the right. We had it differently. What we did was always start on the right and swing in (to the heart) on the left. So it was “Al” which began the swing from the right. And “lah” which ended the swing on the left.

Where we emptying the soul, cleansing it, connecting it…All of them at once if you ask me. I recall one of the gathering describing it as striking the ice around the heart with the name of Allah. works for me. It maybe perhaps worth noting that of course we were chanting the word “Allah”. Does it matter what we were chanting? I think so. But I will leave discussion on that matter for part 2 of this post…intrigued?

Sacred Chanting! I love it. The process was thus…we would start out by chanting out loud (as per video) then we would soften it to a murmur. So we essentially were murmuring what we were chanting. Then after some time we would move to silent chanting, so we would be saying the same word(s) but in our thoughts. Then we would just be movement.

Each session (or word change) lasted about 15 minutes so that meant about 3 minutes in each stage for each word. We did this for about a couple of hours. I am telling you. You lose your[self] to it. Particularly if you have a good maestro (the chap in the middle) and we had a superb one who knew just when to change the tempo of the chant. That’s another feature of this kind of Zikr. The words, tempo, movement are all in a gentle flux throughout.

Every once in a while there was a break for water and what I felt was a time to ground. Many of us just lay belly down on the ground and let the vibrations settle. Me included. Like the after-resonance of a bell. The effects of the Zikr continued well past the time we stopped chanting.

Some five hours of this passed (yeah five hours!) and we ready for a serious break. I was knackered and was considering going home (first to leave, remember) when the leader announced a change of venue. Now things were getting exciting!

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