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There is nothing quite like seeing the world from the back of
Mevlâna Celaleddin-i Rumî and the Mevlevi Order
The followers of Mevlâna Celaleddin-i Rumî, belonging a variety of creeds, sects and classes, acknowledged him as their spiritual leader; but during his lifetime ,they had no tekkes nor any fixed rules. It was Mevlâna's son Sultan Veled (1226-1312) who after his father's death in 1273 strengthened and consolidated the order and established a ritual with precise rules which laid great stress on dancing (semâ).
The Seljuk Emir Alamüddin Keyser (d. 1284) built a Türbe (tomb) for Mevlâna, so that his adherents had a meeting place and pilgrimage centre, and Sultan Veled provided for the maintenance of the türbe by pious donations. From Konya he sent khalifs to Kırşehir and Erzincan to establish zaviyes and thus bring the believers together in small local centres dependent on the main centre. In later centuries tekkes of the Mevlevi order were directed by çelebi (noblemen) descended from Mevlâna. The order took its final form during the first half of the century. The çelebi frequently played a part in political affairs, a circumstance which on occasion led to differences of view about the use of the community's funds.
The Mevlevi doctrine was based on music, dancing and poetry. With its stress on the value of love and ecstasy, it was considered superior to other schools on account of the aesthetic pleasures it afforded. The order acquired adherents among the mass of the people and in the villages, but after the 16th century its main support was among the upper classes in the towns. The emirs, high dignitaries and the Sultans themselves belonged to the order, together with the more prosperous members of society, who in the end made up the whole of its membership. There were four grades in the order - mühib, dede, sheikh and khalif (caliph).
The Mevlevi order had a very considerable influence on Turkish literature, music and art, as well as on everyday life. With a membership recruited mainly among the urban middle and upper classes - in contrast to the Batinite order - it played a large part in maintaining the existing social and political structure.
The Gülseniye order was strongly influenced by Mevlevi doctrines. Its founder, Hüsamüddin Çelebi of Konya, was the son of a Turkish Ahi.
Mevlâna Celaleddin-i Rumî was the first great mystical thinker, scientist and artist of 13th century Seljuk Anatolia. He was born on 30th September 1207 at Balkh, the first capital of the ancient Turkish territory of Khorasan. His father, Bahaeddin Veled bin Hüseyin Hatibî, known as Sultanül Ulema ("sultan of the men of learning"), was descended from a cultivated family of Balkh. According to some of the written sources Bahaeddin's mother was a sister of Sultan Harezmashah Alaüddin Muhammed.
mevlana2_s.jpg (9102 bytes)He was much concerned with religion and mysticism: in the morning he taught theology in the medrese, in the afternoon he discoursed on the truths and mysteries of life, and on Fridays he devoted his whole time to sermons. It is recorded that he openly propagated his ideas and conceptions, which were mainly of a mystical cast. Ahmed Eflaki, author of the Menakibül Arifin ("Legends of the Sages"), tells us that Bahaeddin Veled was in disagreement with Fahreddin Razi (d. 1209), master of Muhammed Harezmashah and one of the leading philosophers of the day.
Bahaeddin Veled later fell into disfavour and was obliged to leave Balkh in 1212-13, when Celaleddin Muhammed was only five years old: this at any rate is what we are told in Bahaeddin's work Maarif. In fact the reason for his move was the Mongol invasion; for during a visit to Baghdad in 1217 he learned that the Mongols had laid siege to Balkh. According to a traditional story the father and son conversed with Sheikh Feridüddin Attar (d. 1221), who presented the young Mevlâna with his poem, the Asrarnâme.
Bahaeddin Veled thereupon made his way from the Hejaz to Anatolia by way of Damascus. We do not know in what towns he first stayed, but it is known that before settling at Konya he spent seven years at Laranda (now Karaman). It was there that Mevlâna married Gevher Hatun, daughter of Sheikh Semerkandi, and that his son Sultan Veled was born in 1226.
In the same year Bahaeddin went to Konya on the invitation of Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I. Here he enjoyed great renown, the emirs and the Sultan himself coming to listen to his sermons. The Sultan's preceptor Badruddin Gavhartash Dizdar built the Hüdavendigar Medrese for him: a clear indication of the status and admiration he enjoyed among his contemporaries. His only writings were the Maarif, a four-volume work on Koranic mysticism.
When Mevlâna Celaleddin was born in 1207 his father was sixty years old. Bahaeddin was a great mystic who had attained the highest degree in the spontaneous and sincere union of the soul with the essence of its being, had arrived at a direct understanding of the soul and the absolute Being, and had found immortality in the existence of God. Mevlâna's philosophy thus derives from the thinking of his father, for whom he felt respect, love and boundless trust. Eflaki tells us that he reread the Maarif several times in order to find the solution to his own problems. We also learn from Mevlâna's own prose work, the Fihi ma Fih, that in his discussions he was accustomed to repeat his father's words. Indeed on one occasion Şems-i Tebrizî urged him not to read the Maarif, which he maintained was influencing his thinking too strongly.
The Maarif teaches that mysticism is the achievement of knowledge, ecstasy and love, and not a purely imaginary union. Unlike other mystics, Mevlâna laid stress on love and fervour. In him, as in his father, we observe a transition from spiritual union to the union of humanity, so that the sentiment of divine love gives rise to feelings of tolerance and love for all mankind.
Soon after his father's death, in 1231, Mevlâna made the acquaintance of Burhaneddin Termizî and remained for nine years a disciple of this spiritual guide, who was also a great scholar familiar with all the learning of his day. Seyyid Burhaneddin Termizî discoursed to him of the "inward" or "spiritual" state of his father Sultanül Ulema and urged him to attain it. He taught that without this inward being life had no meaning: this alone was the truth of the human heart. Immortality and the perfection of the soul were two quite different things; to attain the immortality of the soul it was necessary to achieve this inward completeness. Burhaneddin Termizî also spoke of the "aesthetic state" which he himself had learned from Sultanül Ulema; and although he explained that this state was not attainable through mere learning but must be sought by giving up the whole soul to the pursuit, Mevlâna nevertheless set out for Aleppo and Damascus to perfect his knowledge of the sciences. It is recorded that at Damascus he made the acquaintance of İbn Arabi; and this seems on the face of it quite likely, for we know that İbn Arabi had left Konya and gone to Damascus, where he lived until his death in 1236, and Mevlâna's stay in Damascus in 1232 would fall within this period. It must be said, however, that there is no mention of this stay in the Velednâme of Sultan Veled, Mevlâna's son. Eflaki tells us that Mevlâna studied jurisprudence and the learning of the sects with the great scholar and poet Kemaleddin Adem, director of the Halaviyye University in Damascus. We also learn from Eflaki that, after his period of association with Mevlâna, Seyyid Burhaneddin Termizî went to Kayseri, where he died in 1240. After his death Mevlâna spent five years teaching jurisprudence and Koranic science at the university; but the mystical truths which he had acquired during his nine years with Burhaneddin had prepared him for a great spiritual adventure. In 1244- he met Şems-i Tebrizî at Konya and fell in love with him, in the mystical sense of the term. This love inspired powerful poetic and mystical impulses which led him to give up his duties as a preacher, a mufti arid a teacher of the sciences, to abandon asceticism and abstinence - to give up, indeed, the whole of his life-in order to acquire a new personality, the personality of a lover in ecstasy.
What manner of man was Şems-i Tebrizî, who was able to change so quickly and so easily a man of such strong personality as Mevlâna? This has been the subject of much discussion, and a variety of very different views have been put forward, both in earlier and in more recent times. Mevlâna himself went so far as to divinise his master, in the mystical sense of the term, using the form of address "My Şems, my God". Sultan Veled, Mevlâna's son, who knew Şems-i Tebrizî well, explained the relationship between the two men in the following way, in an attempt to enlighten those who might seek to judge the matter on the basis of appearances: "As soon as he saw Şems's face the mysteries were revealed to him like the light of day. He saw what no man had ever imagined. He fell in love and was lost: greatness and baseness were alike indifferent to him."
The following words throw a revealing light on the character and personality of Şems-i Tebrizî: "There is a world above the world of saints (evliya): the world of the ‘adored ones' (makam-ı maşuk). Before Şems-i Tebrizî we knew nothing of this. And so Şems is one of those who in the eyes of ordinary people are even more secret and incomprehensible than the mystics: that is, the lovers. It was he who showed the way to Mevlâna; and Mevlâna said that he needed to re-learn everything after meeting Şems." Eflaki tells us in his Menakibül Arifin that during this period of his life, on the suggestion of Şems, Mevlâna began to practise and teach the Semâ.
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