The Mevlevi Order or the Mevleviye are a Sufi order founded by the followers of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi in 1273 in Konya (in present-day Turkey). They are also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of Allah). Dervish is a common term for an initiate of the Sufi Path.
The ceremony has seven parts symbolizing the whirling dervish's love of God, humankind and all creation:
1. Natt-i Serif: praise for God the Creator, for the Prophet Muhammed, and for the prophets preceding him (Musa/Moses and Isa/Jesus, etc.)
2. Kudum: the beating of a small kettledrum symbolizes the command of God which created the universe: "Be!"
3. Ney: The soulful, breathy music of the ney, the open-ended
reed flute of the Mevlevi, symbolizes the breathing of life into all
4. Greeting: the dervishes greet each other three times, a symbol of the soul being greeted by its secret soul.
5. Whirling: the dervishes drop their black cloaks to reveal
white costumes fitted to the torso, but with long, flowing skirts. The
dropping of the cloak symbolizes the casting off of falsehood and the
revelation of truth. Each dervish places his arms on his chest to
symbolize his belief in the Oneness of God, "the One." Bowing, he
kisses the hand of the Sheikh Efendi (spiritual leader) and seeks
permission to enter the sema.
As he enters, each dervish slowly unfurls his arms, his right hand
reaching up to heaven to receive its blessings, the left hand down to
communicate them to earth. He whirls counter-clockwise
(anti-clockwise), right to left, with his heart at the axis of the turn.
The dervishes complete four whirling sessions of approximately 15
minutes each, resting briefly between sessions. The Sheikh Efendi joins
in the final session, turning slowly.
6. Prayer: prayers are recited from the Kur'an in praise of God.
7. Fatiha: recitation of the Fatiha, or first chapter of the
Kur'an, in memory of all prophets, martyrs and believers, followed by a
prayer for the welfare of the nation and its leaders.
Non-dervishes, Muslim and non-Muslim, have always been welcome to witness the sema, a spiritual gift to all creation.