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A video is worth 1000 words.

This is a video of Sufis conducting a worship service. Sufis seek a close personal experience with God and believe they have acquired a special mystical knowledge from Allah. To achieve this mystical state, many adherents dance or twirl to allow the body to become emancipated. Many Sufis define their belief as a “religiosity” rather than a religion because it revolves around personal experience rather than doctrine and involves contemplation, awareness, and a quest for purity.

The mysticism of Sufism is justified by passages from the Qur’an that describe the nearness of God and the way that people can respond and on the mysterious night journey Muhammad made after his death to Jerusalem and Paradise. While mainstream Muslims practice established rituals, Sufis seek Allah on a higher plane of existence. In a sense, they become more spiritual than religious.

Because Muslims will not accept innovation in their beliefs, Sufism is not a widely accepted form of Islam. Islamic fundamentalists such as the Islamic State have been known to attack certain mosques because they allow the practice of Sufism. Salafism is the practice of Islam as performed by Muhammad and his generation. Salafists have repeatedly targeted Sufis, deeming them heretics, and disallowing their acceptance as a legitimate form of worship. Sufis are frequently excommunicated from the religion, making them a target for assassination, bombings, and stoning.

The video that you see is a portion of the traditional form of Sufi worship. The dance is a psychological effort for the participant to “empty” himself of all distractions. Sufis focus on the renunciation of worldly things, purification of the soul, and the mystical contemplation of God. While men have traditionally been the dancers, in Turkey, women are now allowed to participate. In addition to dancing, Sufis observe all the other Muslim traditions, such as the five daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, and giving to ordained charities.

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