The Semâ

Semâ means to whirl round, to dance, to attain ecstasy by means of music. Many mystics, according the needs of their soul, practised the Semâ as a source of ecstasy. Mevlâna regarded it as a kind of prayer, a form of worship, comparing a man who sang during the Semâ to the imam officiating at the namaz (prayer). In his poems he calls the Semâ the nourishment of lovers' souls; it was an activity permitted to lovers and mystics but forbidden to bigots.
ın 1245 Şems fled to Damascus to escape the jealousy Mevlâna's disciples, but on the urgent plea of Mevlâna, who could not endure this separation, he returned to Konya, accompanied by Sultan Veled, and married Mevlâna's adopted daughter Kimya Hatun. Thereupon a group of Mevlâna's disciples, including his second son Alaeddin Çelebi, again began to conspire against Şems, of whom they were jealous; and this was followed by the mysterious disappearance of Şems in 1247. Mevlâna fell into the deepest despair and made two journeys to Damascus in search of Şems. Sultan Veled tells us that the words and actions of his father made a strange impression on the people of Damascus, although Eflaki declares that he acquired many followers there.

After the final disappearance of Şems Mevlâna alternated between hope and despair, and gave himself up to the Semâ with such passion that his son Sultan Veled, although devoted to his father, felt bound to make a courteous protest. He danced everywhere - in the streets, in the convent, in the medrese. Finally, after long questing, Mevlâna found Şems again within himself: that is, like certain mystics and like his own father, he began to be dominated by the idea and the state of identification with the adored being. In other words Mevlâna had a wholehearted faith in the uniqueness of God and, having lost the absolute love which he had found in Şems, found it again after a long period of seeking – first within himself, and then everywhere and in all things. He was able at last, as he himself expressed it, to free himself from "colours and images" and to attain the world of a single colour: that is, the union of the soul and the spirit.

The influence of Şems also explains Mevlâna's passion for the Semâ, for music and poetry. In his own poems - the Divan-ı Şemsu'l Hakayik, devoted to immortalising Şems - he achieves the loftiest expression of pantheism, under the impulse of fervent love and a sublime and divine inspiration. At the same time they are a record of his feelings, his inner conflicts and his mystical flights.

In order to trace the full extent of the spiritual influence wich Şems exerted on Mevlâna, however, it is necessary to compare Mevlâna's writings with the Makalât, which contains the teachings of Şems. There are passages in Mevlâna's Mesnevi, indeed, which are explicitily borrowed from the Makalât.

In 1257 Mevlâna met another man who took Şems's place in his heart. This was Salahüddin, a jeweller of Konya: a handsome, simple-minded, prudent and devout man, who was able by his persuasiveness and shrewdness to calm Mevlâna and give him back peace of mind. Mevlâna appointed him as his khalif and married his son Sultan Veled to Salahüddin's daughter Fatma Hatun so that they should be joined by the bonds of kinship. Salahüddin himself had a profound respect for Mevlâna's master Burhaneddin and also for Şems-i Tebrizî.

Mevlâna's jealous disciples now threatened Salahüddin with death; but Salahüddin met them with these words: "How can you put an end to my life, which is in God's hands? Do not be angry that Mevlâna has chosen me as his companion, for I am merely the mirror. Mevlâna sees himself in me: how, then, should he not choose himself? What he loves in me is his own beauty."

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