Come, come, come again whoever you are,
An unbeliever, a fire-worshipper, come,
Our convent is not of desperation,
Even if you have broken your vows hundred times,
Come, come, come again
On December 17th, 1273 AD, a universal genius, one of the greatest servants of humanity, founder of the Mevlevi Sufi Brotherhood poet Mevlana Jalal al-din Rumi died at Konya. He was a philosopher and mystic of Islam, but not a Muslim of the orthodox type. His doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness and charity, awareness through love. To him and to his disciples all religions are more or less good, as all are roads leading to the truth. Looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian a like, his peaceful and tolerant teaching has reached men of all sects and creeds. Rumi was laid to rest beside his father and over his remains a splendid shrine was erected. The 13th century Mevlana mausoleum with its mosque, dance hall, dervish living quarters and school, and tombs of various leading adherents of the Mevlevi order continue to this day to draw pilgrims from all parts of the Muslim world as well as from the non-Muslim world.
The Mevlana annual festival is held every year in Konya starting at the beginning of December. It lasts two weeks and its culminating point is the 17th December called Sheb-i Arus meaning 'Nuptial Night'. The night of his death is called thus, because of the union of Mevlana with God. In other words, the opening quotation above is a wedding invitation to all. This festival attracts vast crowds of every race, colour and creed, from all around the world. This annual festival is very different from many other periodic commemorations of venerated saints, since it provides a unique opportunity for outsiders as well as natives to see this esoteric rite, a visual manifestation of Sufi mysticism in its own setting, and also since the rite is the means of making love to God, drawing man nearer to the almighty, stimulating simultaneously an emotional approach to reality and an emotional attachment to God. It is not an ordinary pilgrimage, as Mevlana's epitaph states.
'When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.'
Before we elucidate further this esoteric rite called 'sema' we must explain the reason why this is per formed uniquely on certain days of December and only, in Konya, and not on other days of the year or in other places. In former times, the followers of the Mevlevi Order (as well as other dervish orders, with some exceptions) held their Ceremony wherever they gathered together, and at all seasons, but under the Turkish law of 1925, such gatherings were forbidden. However since 1953, the Mevlevi ceremony has been permitted to take place once annually in December at Konya.