Mevlevi shaykhs from a number of Western countries who are affiliated with the International Mevlana Foundation (Istanbul) were invited to participate in a symposium to take place at the Mevlana Cultural Center in Konya on December 16, 2010 (the day before the annual Whirling Prayer Ceremony comemmorating Mawlana Rumi's death in 1273). The symposium was organized by the International Mevlana Foundation, funded by the Directorate of Culture and Tourism of Konya Province, and titled "Reflections of Rumi in the World" with the purpose of hearing about the activities of various associations in other countries affiliated with the Foundation. The speeches were in English and had been previously translated into Turkish; during each speech, the Turkish translations were read and heard by any in the audience who wished to wear headsets. In addition to the speeches by shaykhs, there were speeches by the Chairman of the International Mevlana Foundation (Faruk Hemdem Çelebi) and the Vice-Chairperson (Esin Çelebi Bayru).
First, is to thank the International Mevlana Foundation for inviting this fakir to the workshop in Konya.
Dar Al-Masnavi of the Mevlevi Order is an organization based in northern California. Its main activities are through the website dar-al-masnavi.org, which began in 2001 and now has about 1,300 visits per month, many of which are return visits. The purpose of the website is educational: to provide accurate information in the English language about the life and poetic works of Hz. Mevlana, as well as about Mevlevi tradition.
The core of the website consists of about 140 selections from all six books of Masnavi. These are literal translations done by fakir directly from Persian, which include explanations based on the commentaries of Nicholson and Ankaravi, as well as transliterations of the Persian text for the benefit of the reader who knows Persian and so that the general reader may see Hz. Mevlana's rhymes. Translations and summaries from Ankaravi's famous "Sharh-i Kebir," written in Ottoman Turkish, were translated by fakir from a Persian translation (of 15 volumes). This website is one of the few places where commentary on verses of Masnavi can be found.
Next are translations from Divan-i Kebir done by fakir of 25 ghazals [gazeler], together with commentary, transliterations of the Persian text, and identification of which poetic meter each ghazal follows (out of 23 poetic meters). There are only a few translations of quatrains on the website. This is because all of the (nearly 2,000) quatrains [rubailer] attributed to Hz. Mevlana have been translated by fakir, with the help of Dr. Ravan Farhadi, an Afghan scholar whose native language is Persian, in a book recently published in 2008, "The Quatrains of Rumi." This book, which took 22 years to complete, is about 750 pages long, contains commentary, the Persian text of each quatrain, a glossary of terms, an appendix of previous translations and versions of quatrains in English, plus an appendix of over a hundred quatrains in Divan-i Kebir that were not composed by Hz. Mevlana but by poets before his time.
The website includes a full list of Internet links to other websites with information about Masnavi, Divan-i Kebir, etc. And there is a Dar Al-Masnavi discussion group linked to the website, with 91 current members, some of whom ask good questions about Hz. Mevlana's teachings.
The other major part of the website is the Mevlevi section. This consists of introductory information about Sema, complete translations and transliterations of the Persian and Arabic verses in thirteen Mevlevi musical compositions [ayinler] plus the Na't-i Sherif, as well as details of the Sema ritual translated by fakir from a Persian translation of Golpinarli's book, "The Mevlevis after Mevlana" [Mevlâna'dan sonra Mevlevilik]. This section contains introductory information about Mevlevi tradition plus about 30 articles, including a new translation into English, with transliterations, done by fakir from Arabic of the Mevlevi Evrad-i Sherif, a glossary of Mevlevi terms [terimler] which emphasizes the origin of many Mevlevi terms in the terminology of Persian Sufism, an article about Mevlevi adab that includes most of the cases where Hz. Mevlana used this term in Masnavi, an explanation about Sheb-i 'Arus that includes translations from Persian of Eflaki's "Menakib-ul-'Arifin" about what Hz. Mevlana said and the poetry he recited before he died, plus articles explaining major ways in which Hz. Mevlana's life and poetry have been misunderstood in the West due to the enormous impact of popularized "Rumi books" that contain numerous distortions of Hz. Mevlana's words and teachings, made, in most cases, out of an excess of enthusiasm for views of a "Rumi" who is different in important ways from the authentic Hz. Mevlana.
One of the most important articles about Mevlevi tradition on the website is entitled "The Leader of all Mevlevis," an article that is revised and improved from time to time in accordance with the suggestions, corrections, and approvals of Faruk Çelebi Efendi. It was written out of a strong belief that one of the best ways to protect Mevlevi tradition is for all Mevlevis to return to the traditional respect and obedience to the authority of the Makam-i Çelebi. This is also necessary in order to protect Sema: only Hazret-i Çelebi Efendi should have the authority to give destar for being a postneshin. How can the Mevlevi tradition survive if Mevlevi groups continue to be so independent? The article appeals to members of overly independent Mevlevi groups to accept the importance of offering respect and obedience to the Çelebi Efendi for the sake of unifying and preserving Mevlevi tradition.
As for Mevlevi practice, this fakir was a semazen for many years and has led or co-led Sema classes in past years together with Mevlevi friends in northern California: sometimes he led the Mevlevi zikr ["Allah, Allah"] or namaz, or sang ghazals in Persian after his translations were read, or led a discussion about Hz. Mevlana's poetry, and sometimes he played Mevlevi music on his ney for the whirling practice or taught devir-i Veledi and the four selams together with Sema music played on a CD. All these efforts led to little results: Americans, like many Europeans and Turks, lead such busy lives that they have little time for commitment to spiritual practice. There were rarely more than four or five students in these classes; some of them loved the whirling the most, others the poetry or the discussions or the zikr. But they seldom stayed for long in the classes. The students who stayed the longest were the ones who wanted to learn from the semazen teachers how to whirl [döndürmek] well. But after these had learned to whirl well, most were satisfied and rarely returned; they were interested in having the experience of spiritual whirling--not learning Mevlevi tradition.
Presently, fakir finds that his website and his published books and articles are reaching a great many people. As for students, he prefers to work with individuals who are practicing Muslims with experience with previous Sufi teachers and groups. Most of those who visit him at his home are fine people and true seekers, but live far away. E-mail contact is insufficient because the teaching of Mevlevi tradition on the Sufi [tasavvuf] level requires regular personal contact together. This fakir hopes that a time may come when he may be given the opportunity to serve a regular group of seekers who are sincerely committed to being Mevlevis who will help to continue Mevlevi practice as a living Sufi tradition for future generations, inshallâh.
In spite of the problems that result from the popularized "Rumi movement" in the United States, he is glad for a number of reasons--especially because as more people are attracted to the poetry of Hz. Mevlana, there will be more of that minority of people who seek to learn about Hz. Mevlana's teachings on a deeper level, inshallâh.