A Dervish or Darvesh is someone treading a
Sufi Muslim ascetic path or “Tariqah”, known for their extreme poverty and austerity. In this respect, Dervishes are most similar
to mendicant friars in Christianity or HinduJain sadhus. Etymology The Persian word darvīsh is of ancient origin
and descends from a Proto-Iranian word that appears in Avestan as drigu-, “needy, mendicant”,
via Middle Persian driyosh The Iranian word is probably a cognate with the Vedic Sanskrit
word adhrigu-, an epithet of uncertain meaning applied to several deities. The Vedic word is probably to be analysed
as a-dhrigu-, that is “not dhrigu-,” perhaps “not poor”, i.e. “rich.” The existence of this Vedic cognate suggests
that the institution of the holy mendicant was as prominent among the ancient Indo-Iranian
people as it has been historically in later Iran in the form of dervish brotherhoods and
also in India in the form of the various schools of sannyasis. However, because the etymology of the word
is not apparent from the point of view of the modern Persian language, there have been
attempts to make the parts of the word interpretable in terms of contemporary words and with reference
to Sufic mystical concepts. Dar in Persian means “a door”; “dervish” has
been interpreted as “one who goes from door to door”. The Persian word also gives terms for “ascetic”
in some languages, as in the Urdu phrase darveshaneh tabi’at, “an unflappable or ascetic temperament”. Religious practice Many Dervishes are mendicant ascetics who
have taken a vow of poverty, unlike mullahs. The main reason they beg is to learn humility,
but Dervishes are prohibited to beg for their own good. They have to give the collected money to other
poor people. Others work in common professions; Egyptian
Qadiriyya – known in Turkey as Kadiri – are fishermen, for example. Some classical writers indicate that the poverty
of the Dervish is not merely economic. Saadi, for instance, who himself travelled
widely as a dervish, and wrote extensively about them, says in his Gulistan: Of what avail is frock, or rosary,
Or clouted garment? Keep thyself but freeFrom evil deeds, it will
not need for theeTo wear the cap of felt: a darwesh beIn heart, and wear the cap of
Tartary. Rumi writes in Book 1 of his Masnavi: Water that’s poured inside will sink the boat
While water underneath keeps it afloat.Driving wealth from his heart to keep it pureKing
Solomon preferred the title ‘Poor’:That sealed jar in the stormy sea out thereFloats on the
waves because it’s full of air,When you’ve the air of dervishood insideYou’ll float above
the world and there abide… Whirling dervishes The whirling dance or Sufi whirling that is
proverbially associated with dervishes is best known in the West by the practices of
the Mevlevi order in Turkey, and is part of a formal ceremony known as the Sema. It is, however, also practiced by other orders. The Sema is only one of the many Sufi ceremonies
performed to try to reach religious ecstasy. The name Mevlevi comes from the Persian poet,
Rumi, who was a dervish himself. This practice, though not intended as entertainment,
has become a tourist attraction in Turkey. Orders There are various orders of Dervishes, almost
all of which trace their origins from various Muslim saints and teachers, especially Imam
Ali. Various orders and suborders have appeared
and disappeared over the centuries. Dervishes spread into North Africa, Turkey,
the Balkans, the Caucasus, Iran, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Other groups include the Bektashis, who are
connected to the janissaries, and the Senussi, who are rather orthodox in their beliefs. Other fraternities and subgroups chant verses
of the Qur’an, play drums or whirl in groups, all according to their specific traditions. They practice meditation, as is the case with
most of the Sufi orders in South Asia, many of whom owe allegiance to, or were influenced
by, the Chishti order. Each fraternity uses its own garb and methods
of acceptance and initiation, some of which may be rather severe. Dervish State The Dervish State was an early 20th-century
Somali Sunni Islamic state that was established by Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, a religious leader
who gathered Somali soldiers from across the Horn of Africa and united them into a loyal
army known as the Dervishes. This Dervish army enabled Hassan to carve
out a powerful state through conquest of lands claimed by the Somali Sultans, the Ethiopians
and the European powers. The Dervish State acquired renown in the Islamic
and Western worlds due to its resistance against Britain and Italy. The Dervish State successfully repulsed British
forces four times and forced them to retreat to the coastal region. The polity also maintained relations with
other authorities, receiving support from the Ottoman and German empires. The Turks also named Hassan Emir of the Somali
nation, and the Germans promised to officially recognize any territories the Dervishes were
to acquire. Other historical uses
Mahdists Various western historical writers have sometimes
used the term dervish rather loosely, linking it to, among other things, the Mahdist uprising
in Sudan and other rebellions against colonial powers. In such cases, the term “Dervishes” may have
been used as a generic term for the opposing Islamic entity and all members of its military,
political and religious institutions, including persons who would not be considered “Dervishes”
in the strict sense. For example, a contemporary British drawing
of the fighting in Sudan was entitled “The defeat of the Dervishes at Toski”#British
response). Gallery See also Derviş, a variant of the spelling
Fakir The Journey of the Sufi / The Dervish
Qalandar Warsangeli Daraawiish
The Tale of the Four Dervishes Qissa Chahar Dervish
References External links
Bektashi Order of Dervishes Rifai Dervish Order Rifai Dervishes
A photo essay on the Sufis and Sufi dervishes of Pakistan
Videos of Dervish music and dances of Rumi

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