About Visiting the Tomb of Hz. Mevlana Rumi (7/19)

The blessing that one may receive from visiting Hz. Mevlânâ's tomb is one part of the Mevlevi way. Since 1925, there has been full public access to the tomb in Konya, Turkey. Prior to that, access to non-Mevlevis was restricted. For centuries, there was a "tomb-keeper" [tûrba-dâr, türbedar] assigned to various duties concerning the upkeep of Hz. Mevlânâ's tomb, including the authority to give permission for anyone to come near to the tomb.

Among Sufi paths is the way of "passing away" or "annihilation" of the self-centered ego-mind in the spiritual presence of a mystic sheikh. This involves total spiritual love for the sheikh plus immersion in the spiritual presence of the sheikh, leading to states of ecstasy during which the ordinary mind stops working, awareness of one's separate ego is gone, and there is only awareness of the sheikh's presence and attributes. This is called, in Arabic, "fanâ fî 'sh-shaykh." This is the stage attained by Hz. Mevlânâ, during the years that he participated in ecstatic gatherings involving mystical poetry and music [samâ'], and when he composed thousands of ghazal poems and quatrains in which he ecstatically "saw" the beautiful attributes of his sheikh (Shams-i Tabrîzî) reflected everywhere and in all beautiful things.

This stage leads to "passing away" or "annihilation" of the self-centered ego-mind in the presence of God alone. This is called "fanâ fî 'llâh," in which awareness of one's separate ego is gone, and there is only awareness of the Presence of God, whose Attributes are reflected in all things: "There is no divinity except the (One) God" [lâ 'ilâha 'illâ 'llâh --Q.47:19], "He is God, the One" [hû allâhu 'ahad --Q.112:1]. This is the stage attained by Hz. Mevlânâ during his later years when he composed the six books of the Masnavi (and only mentioned the name of his sheikh four times).

Some Sufi masters have taught that "annihilation in the sheikh" leads to "annihilation" in the founder, or "Pîr" of the particular Sufi order (and some have also taught that there is a further intermediate stage of "annihilation" in the Prophet Muhammad -- peace be upon him-- in between annihilation in the Pîr and annihilation in God. In the Mevlevi Sufi order, the founder or "Pîr" is, of course Hz. Mevlânâ.

"The one who passes by (my) tomb will become (spiritually) drunk.
And (if) he stops (there), he will become drunk forever.
(If) he goes to the ocean, the ocean and [ships'] masts will become drunk.
(And if) he goes into the earth, (his) grave and burial niche will become drunk."
[bar gôr-e man ân k-ô goZar-ad, mast shaw-ad
w-ar îst kon-ad, tâ ba abad mast shaw-ad
dar baHr raw-ad, baHr-o 'amad mast shaw-ad
dar khâk raw-ad, gôr-o laHad mast shaw-ad
-- Hz. Mevlânâ's Dîwân, rubâ'î 791, translated by Gamard and Farhadi, The Quatrains of Rumi, p. 39

Only some people are able to feel the holy presence in front of them while standing before the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ. Among those people who do not feel it are some who have the ability to experience it but do not know it because, either they have not paid sufficient attention or concentration to the invisible presence in front of them or perhaps they have been distracted by the sheer physical beauty of this part of the mausoleum. These are advised to try the following exercise: (1) make an effort to believe that there really is a powerful spiritual presence of Hz. Mevlânâ in front of you; (2) visualize wires or filaments or tendrils extending from your heart to the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ (keeping in mind that his grave is in the ground beneath the decorated sarcophagus); (3) make an effort to feel love toward the spirit of Hz. Mevlânâ, while maintaining the visualization of connection; (4) make an effort to feel the holy presence in front of you while concentrating and visualizing for at least twenty minutes; (5) if you do not feel anything significant, rest and then repeat the exercise for another twenty minutes, and so on.

Advice for Sufis who visit the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ: Maintain pious awe [taqwâ] toward God Most High (in that you worship God alone [illâ hû --Q.2:255], Who has no partner and Whom none resemble [wa lam yakûn la-hû kufuw-an ahad --Q.112:4]. Maintain proper courtesy [adab] toward the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad (in that you acknowledge him as the "Seal of the Prophets" (Q.33:40) or the final prophet sent by God with the final divine revelation [wahî] of the Holy Qur'ân). And maintain proper courtesy toward the spirit of Hz. Mevlânâ (in that you acknowledge him as a Muhammadan saint [walî], Jalâluddîn Muhammad, who was given divine inspiration [ilhâm] that is in accord with the revelation of the Holy Qur'ân; and that you address the spirit of Hz. Mevlânâ for his intercession [wasîlat] with God Most High (Who may or may not grant it). Maintain proper respect toward the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ by praying, at the beginning, the short prayer the Fâtihâ (Q.1:1-7) and by not turning your back toward the tomb when near it (or, at least, taking a few steps backwards before turning and stepping away). When entering the mausoleum entrance, step with the right foot first saying the basmallâh silently [b-ismi 'llâhi 'r-rahmâni 'r-rahîm --In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate], as you enter the antechamber with beautiful calligraphies on the walls. Keep in mind that in former times the Holy Qur'ân was recited here every day for centuries. As you are approaching the silver doors, glance at the Persian calligraphy above the doorway and be mindful of its meaning: "This place is the Ka'ba of the lovers (of God): whoever arrived here incomplete and deficient became complete and whole" [ka'batu 'l-'ushshâq bâsh-ad în maqâm/ har ke nâqis âmad în-jâ shod tamâm --verse by 'Abdurrahmân Jâmî, d. 1492]. Then step right foot first into the mausoleum. The tomb of Chelebi Husâmuddîn (Hz. Mevlânâ's first successor, and the disciple who wrote down the verses of the Masnavi as Hz. Mevlânâ composed them) will be just ahead on the right. After you walk to the other end of the mausoleum, the Whirling Prayer Ceremony room [Semahane] will be to your left and the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ will be to your right. There are actually two sarcophagi next to each other: the one in front is above the grave of Hz. Mevlânâ, and the one behind is above the grave of Hz. Mevlânâ's son, Sultân Veled; each has a tall white hat affixed above and both sarcophagi are underneath a single richly embroidered covering.

There are two good places to stand at length while leaning: in one of the two niches in the moulding between the tombs of the "Helpers from Khorasan" and the entrance to the Semahane, opposite the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ; in the left corner facing the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ, behind the tombs of his grandsons, near the diagram of the main tombs in the mausoleum. For sitting after standing, the best place is the long marbled strip in front of the tombs of the "Helpers from Khorasan," opposite a beautiful prayer-niche [mihrâb] and with the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ visible in front to the left. There are benches in the Semahane with views of the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ. In addition, you can sit and rest on the floor of the ritual prayer rooms for men and for women. The Museum guards usually allow very devotional visitors to sit on the floor in or next to the niches, and sometimes directly in front of the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ (that is behind the boundary rope in front of the Silver Gate and the Silver Steps) --for a time, as long as the crowds of visitors are not too large.

Advice for Mevlevis who visit the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ: also pray Fâtihâ while facing in the direction of the tombs of other early Mevlevi leaders: Bahâ'uddîn Veled, Salâhuddîn Zarkûbî, Chelebi Husâmuddîn, Karîmuddîn Bektamur, Sultân Veled, and Ulû 'Ârif Chelebi. When first standing in front of the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ, recite any of the short prayers that you can remember from the book of Mevlevi prayers (Evrad-i Sherif).

Pay attention to any visitors near you who show great devotion, such as by standing in front of the tomb of Hz. Mevlânâ for a long time, have tears in their eyes, or are weeping as they pray. Pray that their prayers to God (direct, or indirect through the intercession of Hz. Mevlânâ) may be accepted. When they turn to leave, smile if they look at you. Greet them by saying, "Peace!" ["Selam," if they are Turkish; "Salaam," if they are Persian; "Salam," if they are Arab]. And say, "May God accept you (and your prayers)!" ["Allah kabül etsin" or "Allah râz olsun" if they are Turkish; "Khudaa qabooletaan" if they are Persian; "taqabool Allâh if they are Arab]. If they are Westerners and look like they may be "lovers of Mevlânâ," look at them and greet them open-heartedly as they look at you open-heartedly. Most Europeans who come there have some knowledge of English, if not fluency.

If you spend a lot of time immersed in the holy presence there, you may experience it as more than the tomb of a great saint: perhaps as a Fountain of God's infinite Mercy and Compassion, showering grace and blessing to all who come sincerely in need; or perhaps as an open Gate to everlasting divine Light amd Love. After many visits and years of joyous immersion in a state of "no-self" and pure love of God, you may be told by others in the mausoleum that your face and eyes are full of light [noor]. Some may ask for your prayer [du'â] -- that is, for you to pray for them or a family member, in the hope that your prayer may be accepted. You can ask their first names, raise your hands, pray a silent Fâtihâ, and say, "Amen" [aameen] and "God willing!" [inshaa'llaah].

"If the window or house becomes full of light,
do not regard (anything as) luminous except the Sun."
[gar shaw-ad por nûr rôzan yâ sarâ
tô ma-dân rôshân magar khworshêd-râ]
--Hz. Mevlânâ Rumi's Masnavi 1:3262

"God is the Light of the heavens and the earth"
[allâhu nûru 's-samâwâti wa 'l-arD --Q.24:1].

If people continue to comment about the light shining from your face, take care not to become proud about it -- knowing that the self-centered ego [nafs] tends to ruin all good things, unless prevented (with the help of God). First, the state is temporary and will fade within a few weeks after you leave Konya; second, the state is not "yours," but is a blessing and gift from God; third, the light is is not an attribute of your ego, personality, or body. Rather, it is an attribute of the essence [zaat, dhaat] or spirit [rûh] within you. What is manifesting through you is something that is potential in everyone; if God were to fill the essence of others with spiritual light, their faces would also shine with spiritual light and beauty.

Below are photographs of such a person (click to enlarge). His name was Mehmet Arisoy Dede. He attended school in Ankara, where he achieved proficiency in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and French. He completed the 1,001 day seclusion [chille] in the Konya lodge [dergah] in the year 1900, at the age of twenty-five and subsequently lived in the Konya lodge as a senior dervish [Dede]. He was trained in learning the Mesnevi. the Sema, and the reed-flute [ney]. Prior to the closure of the lodge in 1925, he had a dream in which Hz. Mevlânâ handed him a broom and told him to sweep. Subsequently, he asked to continue living in his cell while working as a janitor in what was soon re-opened as the Mevlânâ Museum. His request was granted. In 1934, he was terminated and had collected his belongings, when the Deputy Minister of Education had a dream in which Hz. Mevlânâ indicated that he would be upset if his dervish was sent away. Subsequently, Mehmet Dede was allowed to stay until his death in 1957. Every day, visitors to the Mevlânâ Museum went to see him and would kiss his hand (out of respect and in hope of receiving a blessing). He would recite a prayer that began, "Be nothing, my children" [Yok ol evlâdIm] and which advised people to be selfless, to purify the self, and to avoid the troubles and defilements of the world. Mehmet Dede was buried in the Mevlevi section near the front gate of the Üchler Cemetery, across the street from Hz. Mevlânâ's tomb. His grave is next to the grave of the last Mesnevi reciter/teacher [Mesnevihan/Masnavî-khwân] of the Konya Mevlevi lodge: Filibeli Sitke Dede, who died in 1933.