Islam Comes Alive as Students Visit Turkey
Starr King students at the Eyüp Sultan Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey
“It's one thing to learn about a religion,” says Starr King immersion student Linda Anderson, “but it is another thing to live among people practicing that religion.” Anderson and 15 other SKSM students got the rare chance to do that recently, spending two weeks living among Turkish Muslims as part of the course, “Rumi Immersion in Turkey.”
Among the highlights of the December trip, led by Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé, SKSM Professor of Islamic Studies and Cultural Studies:
- watching a ritual dance performance by the Mevlevi Brotherhood Sufi Order, popularly known as the “Whirling Dervishes.” During the dance, SKSM student Cassie Howe enjoyed the “huge gift of sitting next to the Shayka,” a 22nd granddaughter of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, the great Sufi theologian, mystic and poet of the 13th century.
- participating in the daily practice of Zikr in which names of Allah and sacred phrases are chanted and sung, accompanied by music played on the Turkish ney, a wooden flute. Watch video taken by student Shams Cohen at a Zikr ceremony with the Red Sheikha.
- visiting the cave church of Kilistra, where the apostle St. Paul preached to the earliest Christians. “It was so exciting to see where Paul walked and worked,” writes Michele Salami, “after learning so much about him in our New Testament class.”
- visiting Hagia Sofia, the Church of Holy Wisdom, built in the sixth century and one of the greatest surviving masterpieces of Byzantine architecture. Student Shams Cohen recalls: “I think my favorite part may have been standing on the spot where the Empress would sit when she attended the services, and trying to imagine what that would have been like.”
- attending the Rumi festival in Konya on the anniversary of Rumis death, known as Sheb-i-Arus or “wedding night with Allah.” Immersion student Mike McGirr recalls “sitting on the floor for two hours jammed among hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims. A man next to me recited in the original Farsi the opening verses from Rumi's major poetic work. The expressive sound of his voice so close to me, the beautiful rhythm and rhymes of the poetry and the energy in the space caused me to begin sobbing. The man gently held my hands while I cried, which only added to the emotional experience. What a beautiful memory.”
Scholarship funds for the Rumi Immersion course were made possible by the Unitarian Universalist Funding Panel.
Photo by Cassie Howe. Pictured: Alex Salvador, Perry Pike, and Michele Salami.
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