Skip to comments.Iran's Sufi beat lures dervishes and uptown girls
Posted on 09/20/2005 4:11:07 PM PDT by F14 Pilot
Venerable white-bearded dervishes and high-heeled girls with garish lipstick found rare common ground before dawn on Tuesday, celebrating an Iranian holiday with the mystical chants of the Sufis.
Sufi Muslim spirituality is largely tolerated under Irans strict Islamic laws, although senior religious figures occasionally call for a clampdown on its rites. Under an almost full moon, several hundred Iranians came to celebrate the birthday of the Mahdi at the Zahir-od-dowleh cemetery in northern Tehran, a dervish hub where many writers and artists are buried.
The Mahdi is a key figure of Shiite Islam, a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad whose messianic return is eagerly awaited after his disappearance in the ninth century.
Some visitors to the graveyard lost themselves in the chanted mystical verses of classical Persian poets such as Rumi and Hafez and nodded along with the plaintive melody of flutes and dull drumbeat of giant daf tambourines.
Others had come for free pastries and to gossip.
This is the music that brings people and God together, said daf player Mohammad. Our music has saved invalids from the brink of death after their doctors had written them off.
However, the Sufis mystical path to God through dance and music does not go down well with some of the most senior religious figures in the country.
The deviant Sufi sect is a danger for Islam, Ayatollah Hossein Nouri-Hamedani was quoted as saying in the official Iran newspaper on Monday, calling for a crackdown on dervish groups in the central province of Qom.
The Mahdis birthday party was also failing to please some seasoned aficionados of the Sufi circuit.
Zahir-od-dowleh has developed a reputation as a hangout for affluent north Tehran hippies attracted by the tomb of Forough Farrokhzadeh, an iconic poetess killed in a car crash in 1967 when she was only 32.
These are not real dervishes, said one grey-bearded man leaning against a car, fingering his prayer beads.
His companion, Aliakbar Narian, complained there was not even room for the entranced dance of the whirling dervishes, made famous in the Turkish city of Konya.
Long-distance truck driver Narian flipped open the photo gallery on his mobile phone and showed off snapshots of some Sufi masters he had visited recently elsewhere in Tehran.
These are real Sufis, men with beards down to their midriffs, he said.
This is Mahboub Ali Shah who has walked seven times to Kerbala, he said, referring to Shiite holy city in Iraq.
This is Hassan Esmaili, a great dervish but also an Iranian Kung Fu champion, he added.
It is unclear whether Sufism is picking up more followers, because Iranians are usually secretive about unorthodox religious practices.
Even increasingly popular reading groups for the Sufi poet Rumi can be tight-lipped about activities which could be seen as being at odds with the established religious order.
I've attended churches where this happens, too.
I guess the main point in Iran today is that young people are getting away from the harsh version of Islam and that is what we want! It is good to hear!
Sufi Muslims are pretty neat people, especially in their part of the world. They certainly like dancing, humor, and poetry, which puts them way ahead of certain others we could name.:)
Yep, that's how you can spot them. One of those hangs out outside the city library trying to get spare change for the bus every day. He never goes in the library, just takes the bus from his hovel to the library and begs change so he can get back home.
I agree, but wonder where it will go? I know from your posts that you're more familiar with the situation in Iran than I am, but already political dissidents are arrested and disappear.
When Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are fed up with the liberal attitudes of the youth and start smashing skulls how will it shake out?
That is why we need to support them more than we do now
I suppose they'd fit in OK at the next Shriners/K of C dance.
I am Part of the Load
I am part of the load
Not rightly balanced
I drop off in the grass,
like the old Cave-sleepers, to browse
wherever I fall.
For hundreds of thousands of years I have been dust-grains
floating and flying in the will of the air,
often forgetting ever being
in that state, but in sleep
I migrate back. I spring loose
from the four-branched, time -and-space cross,
this waiting room.
I walk into a huge pasture
I nurse the milk of millennia
Everyone does this in different ways.
Knowing that conscious decisions
and personal memory
are much too small a place to live,
every human being streams at night
into the loving nowhere, or during the day,
in some absorbing work.