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The whirling Dervishes, an introduction to Sufi music

Updated on July 9, 2011

Sufi music has so many variations and differ according to the country, culture and path. The whirling dervish are an example, the Egyptian Sufi music is another example, Qawali, Dhikr, etc all are different forms of sufi music and ritual and devotional acts..

The whirling dervishes (also known as the Mevlevi order) are a group of Sufi Muslims who use dancing (whirling, spinning) as a way to meditate and to reach some sort of a spiritual mood. This ritual is very common and famous among Sufi's around the world, being very common in Turkey as the origin of the Mevlevi order, they are the followers of a man called Mevlana Jalal Al-Din Al Rumi, a famous Sufi scholar and a "friar" and a Dervish himself.

A dervish is some one following the Sufi path (an ascetic Muslim order) known for their ausetirity and spirituality, they are similar to the christian friars.

The Whirling dance:

Dervishes think of this dance as a way of meditation and remembering God. They think it helps to reach perfection and get rid of "ego" with surrender and love to God. The dancer is reborn as he takes his black cloack off.

Whirling/spinning is how they challenge "matter" represented by gravity and focus on spirituality as their long hat represents the tombstone of their ego and through spinning and listining to God and music, the Dervish reaches to this state of mind.

Modern Sufi music by Mercan Dede

Sufi music, the ney

The traditional old Sufi music band consists of 3-4 players only. They use drums (daf, tombak, etc) and the Ney (simply, the ney is a wood/reed flute but with a very deep and emotional sound) and may be Oud (lute) and a violin.

Now, the modern Sufi music is played with almost any musical instrument, but the Ney remains the cornerstone in all Sufi music as well as other wind instruments. Some has tried to mix it with flamenco or even made "trance Sufi music" and so. If you have never seen a ney, it looks like a native American flute but the sound is different, if you have never heard the ney music before, use !.

Sufi music helps you to meditate and feel quit and peaceful. In some Sufi songs, the rhythm gets faster and faster, as well as the dancing, and the singer reaches high musical tones helping the audience and the dancers to feel a "climax" or a great feeling of ecstasy.

Note that turkish, syrian and Egytpian music each has it's own taste and mode in playing. They all share the use of the ney, dancers, a singer alone or with a chorus.

The Singer : Poems, "madih" and improvisation!

In Turkish Sufi music, the music can be played without singing. But Egyptian Sufi music depends on the singer in the first place. The singer "monshisd" is considered the most important person in the band as his singing influences the audience in many ways.

The singer should be someone with powerful vocal abilities and someone who is able to sing the different arabian music scales and tones. Some traditional sufi singers don't prepare so many poems or songs and mainly depend on improvisation on stage in singing invocations and chants, saying the names of God, praising God according his own taste in words and tones. The band have to keep up with him and follow him! Dancing completes the picture.

The lyrics are manily poems about the love of God, praising God, praising prophet Muhammed and other chants.

The video below is just a nice video by someone who used Sufi music, this is not the typical Sufi dance, the real dance is in the video at the end of this hub.

Remember that Sufism is not Islam. Not all Muslims are Sufis. God didn't tell Muslims to dance/whirl or use music to meditate or get closer to God. The Sufi muslims has created these rituals and practices by themselves as a way to worship God. Some Muslims dislike the Sufi path and others just don't.

The use of music and dancing isn't considered a devotional act or "worshipping/praying" by many Muslims specially the Sunni Muslims. Some Muslims, however listen to Sufi music just as another music genre without any religious importance.

The use of beautiful and powerful voices is important in Islam in many other things such as Quran recitation, Athan (call for prayer) and the art of "Nasheed" and chants which is purely vocal songs without music at all, mostly religious.


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    • Mezo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Egypt

      sen.sush23: yes, I like listening to Sufi music too sometimes, I even learned to play the ney. Thanks a lot for the vote :)

      registerdomains: thanks for stopping by :)

    • registerdomains profile image


      8 years ago from India

      Very good hub. Thanks. Sufi music is unique and beautiful. Some form of it is popular in India.

    • sen.sush23 profile image


      8 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Mezo, you have said you are not a sufi. Nor am I. But Sufi music is a living musical form in India, and Pakistan surely. You can listen to Sufi music in the Dargaas across the country, particularly very beautiful recitals at the time of Chisti's birth celebration at his Darga (burial tomb). Your article is so precise, complete and yet beautiful to convey as much as possible to someone is a stranger to this musical form. Voted up useful, interesting and beautiful.

    • Mezo profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Egypt

      Thnx a lot for your comment, there are different places in each country, and I'm not Sufi, so I guess you can search within your area...

      Thanks for the comment and sorry that i can't provide you with info about this.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      i would like to attend it. Can you recommend of any places where i can attend and be a part of it.

    • Mezo profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Egypt

      thnx a lot hafeezrm

    • hafeezrm profile image


      11 years ago from Pakistan

      Very impressive hub with lot of information.

    • Mezo profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Egypt

      thanks Brian...they practice well

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      11 years ago from Laroque des Alberes, France

      Amazing how they can whirl for so long and not career over off balance. They actually seem to speed up at the end as well.

    • Mezo profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Egypt

      thanks for you comments guys :)

    • syuryadi helpi profile image

      syuryadi helpi 

      11 years ago

      I agree with you that sufism is not islam. Neither the Qur'an nor the example of the Prophet tell muslims to dance/whirl or use music to meditate or get closer to God.Thank you for sharing.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I have never before seen dervishes whirling. It reminds me, in a way, of the rocking in prayer that certain Hebrew congregations perform; my pretestant congregation performs this at times as well. Thank you for showing us this whirling.


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