Sufi mystics, Istanbul / by Christopher Wilton-Steer

“Come, come again, whoever you are, come! 
Heathen, fire worshipper or idolatrous, come! 
Come even if you broke your penitence a hundred times, 
Ours is the portal of hope, come as you are.” - Rumi.

On the outskirts of Istanbul lies one of the few remaining Sufi monasteries in Turkey. Here, the local community gather to watch a performance of ‘whirling dervishes’ - a practice which originated from the teachings of the 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic theologian and Sufi mystic, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi.

Whirling, the dervishes turn towards truth, grow through love, desert their egos and arrive at the ‘perfect’. They then return from this spiritual journey better able to love and be of service to the whole of creation. The tall hats represent the tombstone of the dervish’s ego’s and the white cloak, his ego’s shroud.

This is one of the only Sufi orders that has permitted women to become dervishes.