Celebrating his 800th anniversary, Mevlana Celaleddin Rumî and his values are getting more important every day. In honor of Mevlana’s 800th birthday, UNESCO has declared 2007 to be the Year of Mevlana – a year of love and understanding.
In the 13th century, Mevlana (known as Rumî outside Turkey) affected the world with his philosophy. To learn more about the fascinating and inspiring ideas of Mevlana – today, when the world needs them more than ever – we interviewed the granddaughter of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumî.
Esin Çelebi Bayru is Mevlana’s granddaughter from the 22nd generation. What makes her and her siblings different from all the other grandchildren of Mevlana is that they’re descendants of Sultan Veled and Ulu Arif Çelebi – the real formers of Mevlevi Order, after their father Mevlana.
Esin Han?m was just like you would expect the granddaughter of Mevlana to be – full of peace and love. She answered our questions patiently, in her cosy home.
How did the idea of declaring 2007 the Year of Mevlana come up
Every year on the 17th of December, Mevlana’s death is remembered by the ?eb-i Aruz ceremonies. Because these are done in cold winter conditions, we started to hold ceremonies on the 30th of September as well. This day is his birthday and when we found out that 2007 was going to be Mevlana’s 800th birthday, this project came up. We, as the International Mevlana Foundation, proposed the project, first to the Ministry of Culture, then to UNESCO, and the year 2007 was declared as the Year of Mevlana.
What is being done both domestically and abroad in order to celebrate the Year of Mevlana?
After the declaration of 2007 as the Year of Mevlana, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called our foundation to their meetings. We talked about what we could do in order to celebrate the year. Holding symposiums, putting on Sema performances, all the while, telling and helping people to understand what they represent, in order to familiarize Mevlana and his teachings. There are also writing and photography contests, fashion shows, plays, movies… Many things are being done; everyone is describing Mevlana as they see him.
Are people interested in these activities? We know that Mevlana is revered in Turkey, but what about abroad?
Mostly, curious people are interested and involved in these activities. Coming and gaining something new, without knowing anything about the subject is even better. The importance of this year is that we are trying to make the previously planted seeds grow, while sowing new ones.
Is Mevlana’s philosophy understood correctly in our times? Do you think that it was successfully passed on?
I think Mevlana himself should answer this: “Everyone was friends with me but there was no one who wanted to share my secret.” Of course, everyone is taking his philosophy into their own mould and shaping it in their own mind.
Yes, we know that Mevlana is also loved and is a subject of interest in other countries too – as Rumî. What does the name “Rumî” signify?
Mevlana was born in the city of Belh, which is now in the borders of Afghanistan. That’s why the Afghans and Iranians call him Belhî. By calling himself Rumî, he wants to state that he is a Turk and from Anatolia (“Rumî” means “from Anatolia”). His parents actually named him “Mehmet Celaleddin”. Mevlana is a name that is given to him later; it means our master, the revered one. In a way, we can call him “our revered master Celaleddin who lived in Anatolia”.
What does Mevlevi Order mean today? In our day, what does it mean to be a Mevlevî?
Mevlevi Order continues as a culture in our day. Hz. Mevlana wrote the Mesnevi so that it would lead us, and show us a route to follow. In order to do so, he wrote everything in its simplest form. The least we can do today is to try and interpret what Mevlana told us and practice them in our lives. We’re living in a time that does not allow us to practice Mevlevi Order like it used to be. It should be seen and embraced as only a culture from now on.
Sometimes they ask me: “How do you become a Mevlevi?” I tell them: “You don’t become a Mevlevi, you are born a Mevlevi.” Every single person has these feelings inside them, but they need to be revealed. People are trying to find themselves. It is all about the balance really. It is all about balancing material life with the moral life.
We want to ask you about the Sema ceremonies. How did they start? According to some, Hz. Mevlana, hearing the clinking of a mallet, heard it as “Allah, Allah”, entered a trance and started to spin with joy. Is this the correct version of the story?
Spinning is a natural action of man. A child walks two steps and then starts to turn. We turn when we are joyful. We hug each other and start spinning. Turning is a statement of joy. You can also see it in other spiritual rituals; Native Americans, for example, turn both around themselves and a totem. The story, which is found in Menak?b- el Arifin, the book of Eflaki, is correct. Apparently, the owner of the jeweler, seeing Hz. Mevlana’s joy, tells the worker to continue. Hz. Mevlana was actually a very jolly person, unlike the way most people imagine him – people just love to fit things into certain moulds.
After rotating for a long time, how come the Semazens don’t get dizzy?
This is a quality gained by training. First, the trainers make the Semazens turn 180o, with their arms closed. Each time, they make them turn a little more, until they get used to the feeling. Also, while turning, the Semazens are supposed to look at their left thumb, tilting their head 35o to the right (this is an old custom that is being lost as well). I had read a medical article which stated that in diseases causing vertigo, tilting the head a little to the right has proved to help get rid of the dizziness; so I’m sure that tilting the head helps as well.
Mevlevi Order is a sect, a cult that is connected with Islam. What exactly is their relationship and how would you compare these two belief systems?
Mevlevi Order can not be thought separately with Islam. In Mevlevi Order, things are much more simplified. But in the end, they tell the same. I think that a difference is that in Mevlevi Order, there is more of love. It seems to me that while Islam says: “I’ll love you if you do this”, Mevlevi Order says: “I’ll love you even if you don’t”.
It can be said that the Mesnevi is an interpretation of the Kuran; it is only simpler.
Why do you think people have been, and still are so interested in Mevlevi Order? What does it mean to people, especially today?
At the peak of the material world, people are insatiable. They are continuously in search of happiness. Their souls are hungry. They can fill this hunger with Mevlevi Order. I believe that there is something about Mevlevi Order that gives hope to people. For one thing, you are encouraged to love yourself; to look inside yourself. You are stimulated to find your inner beauty. When you love yourself, you love others, and this love surrounds the whole world.
What is it like to be the granddaughter of Mevlana?
It is something that requires lots of responsibility. When a child gets born, a jewel is given to him or her. I find this similar to that. You need to look after this jewel that you’re given. You should not brake or lose it, nor should you get it dirty. On the other hand, carrying this jewel is a big pleasure, and certainly a great honor.
Mevlana, Mevlevi Order... for as long as I can remember, these have always been the subjects of conversation in our house. So, unavoidably, I heard and knew about them. Now, I want to share what I know. I can’t say that I know everything; I just tell them in my own way.
We thank Esin Han?m for sharing her vast knowledge with us so sincerely.
Frankly, before talking to her, we thought that she would be sad that Mevlana and Mevlevi Order are not given the attention they deserve; but after talking with her, we see now that that’s not the situation. There is interest, especially from abroad.
The government is also interested, she says, But everyone’s in a hurry to tell the foreigners about Mevlana. We should first tell our own people about him. We must know about it ourselves, in order to pass it on to others.
Esin Çelebi thinks that the best part of declaring this year as the Year of Mevlana is that teenagers are learning more about him.
Our wish is that every single person in the world knows about Mevlana and embraces his ideas...
Lale Teki?alp & Alp Özçelik