KARACHI: Wanderers, worshippers and lovers, all were left entranced by the splendour of the whirling dervishes from Konya and their sacred ritual dance at a fundraiser organised in collaboration with the Consulate General of Turkey and the Akhuwat organisation on Sunday evening.

Held on the premises of the NJV School, the event marked Akhuwat’s struggle for the establishment of a tuition-free university for the underprivileged of the country, and the evening brought together philanthropists to contribute towards their landmark project.

Founded in 2001, Akhuwat’s initial aim was poverty alleviation by providing interest-free micro loans to the poor and now it took up the cause of education for all.

Turkish Consul General Murat Mustafa Onart spoke to Dawn about the religious and cultural significance of the whirling dervishes, from the Anatolian city of Konya where each year millions of people come together to celebrate the life and work of the 13th-century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi.

“Last year Konya was announced as the Islamic capital for the world and that is when this project started. We decided to bring the Sufis to Pakistan and so together with Akhuwat, we are organising six events in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Islamabad.”

He also spoke about the shared vision with Akhuwat for free education for all. “Education is the basis of everything. In Turkey, even if you come from a not so well-off family, you can rise because of your education. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, most of the education is paid so people from poor backgrounds have very little chance to rise.”

It was a night of religious submission with the Sema, a form of remembrance of God, was performed with the dervishes singing and dancing, and a Turkish music ensemble recited poetry and prayers, while playing their instruments. The performance is said to represent the journey of a man’s ascent beyond the tangible, transcending with the help of love for one’s creator.

Akhuwat’s director Dr Amjad Saqib outlined the main ethos behind the organisation.

Formed with the intent to provide interest-free loans, Akhuwat has so far served 1.7 million families with the support of civil society, different organisations, as well as the governments of Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan.

“Another one of our dreams is to provide university education free of cost and for this we have organised this event to raise awareness and are collecting funds. We envision a society where through brotherhood and solidarity, we build a society where everybody has the opportunity to move ahead.”

At present there are two campuses in the pipeline, one in Faisalabad and the other near Lahore. Both will be national residential universities, which will admit 20 per cent students from each province to create harmony and integration.

Dr Saqib also appealed to individual donors to become a part of the fundraising campaign — one brick is worth Rs1,000 which can help build a university as well as the futures of countless individuals.

However, the space provided to the troupe was very restricted and as a result the true essence of the Sema was unable to be felt thoroughly. Care should be taken by organisers to provide more space to the whirling dervishes.

Another lacking was the absence of a narrative to the religious and traditional aspect of the worship service. Many in the audience were unaware of the significance of the dance, how each movement and each whirl represented spiritual maturity, as well as how the headdress represented “the ego’s tombstone, the white tunic and shirt the ego’s shroud”.

Published in Dawn January 23rd, 2017



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