Sufi Whirling

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Sufi Whirling Mean?

Sufi whirling is a form of dancing worship in Sufism, an Islamic ascetic or mystic tradition that emphasizes the inward search for the divine (similar to yoga and Hinduism). The dance dates to the 12th or 13th century and to the followers of Muslim poet and mystic Rumi.

The Sufis twirl in a continuous motion with both arms outstretched to the sides – one hand pointed toward the ground and the other pointed toward the sky, symbolizing reaching for the divine. Sufi whirling becomes an ecstatic, meditative-like state.


Yogapedia Explains Sufi Whirling

The dancing Sufis are also known as whirling dervishes. A dervish is a Muslim Sufi ascetic, who has taken a vow of extreme poverty and serves as a guide for others who have chosen a similar spiritual path. The dervishes wear long, white skirt-like apparel that visually enhances the whirling.

The precise origins of Sufi whirling are not known, but one popular story says that Rumi became so overwhelmed by the call to prayer that he started moving in a circular, whirling motion. Sufi whirling is still practiced today by the dervishes of the Mevlevi order.

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