Camille Helminski

Camille Helminski

Becoming a Khalifa of God—Lessons conveyed by Hazrati Sultan Weled

Offered by Camille Adams Helminski
Sultan Weled Symposium, December 2011

In the Name of our Infinitely Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful Source

We give thanks for this beautiful tradition and for all the helpers who have come throughout the centuries to convey Spirit and to encourage us also in that conveyance. We are grateful for these moments—of being brought together to witness to those beauties of Being.

Many beauties of Spirit have been conveyed by Sultan Behaeddin Muhammad Weled, both stories of intimate moments with his father, and the unfolding of the secrets conveyed by Shams of Tabriz, as well as his own personal experience. (May many blessings of Peace be with them all.) We reflect here on some of the lessons conveyed by Sultan Weled as to how we might be true khalifas of God, the birthright of every human being. He shares with us examples of standing witness before the Infinite, witnessing to that Infinite Love, and translating it, conveying it more fully into this existence with humility, beauty of character, and loving service.

As it is said, Wherever you turn, there is the Face of God


And as Sultan Weled says in his Ma‘arif:

“God did not create the universe and its forms
for you to occupy yourself with these forms and fall in love with them,
but He created them for you to know Him.” [182]

With that knowledge we are enabled to stand in Truth, witnessing to the Majesty of the Infinite Grace of our Loving Sustainer and turning to serve His/Her creation as a true khalifa, representative of God, guardian of the Trust of Being, breath by breath, from the Ocean of Non-Being conveying pearls to the shore.


Desire Me with All Your Heart [190]

Sultan Weled tells us:

“My father called me to him one day, and kissing me on the cheeks, asked, ‘O Behaeddin, would you like to see God? I can show Him to you.’

“‘That would be an immense blessing,’ I answered.

“‘You will see Him in ten days, if you spend the twenty-four hours of the day and night in the following way: first, for twenty-two hours, according to the stars, you will occupy yourself with the affairs of this world, such as sleeping, eating, and so on. The two other hours will be used in the service of God, and so on, until all twenty hours are used for your devotions and only four hours for the affairs of the world and your companions.

Then, every moment will be used in the service of God, and your attachments to this vanishing world will be severed. After that, contemplate God as long as you are able, and delight in gazing upon the Beloved—then whatever you seek from that One will be fulfilled.’

“Inspired by my father’s pure soul,” Sultan Weled exclaimed, “I followed his instructions. It is as God said to Moses, His representative: ‘If you are My faithful servant and try to please Me, then I, in turn, will be for you as pleases you.’”

Love said to me: Set aside your flirtaciousness,
and desire Me with all your heart—
then, for you, I will be all that you desire.

The Best of Remedies [189]

He relates how Mevlana encouraged him to fast, saying,

The faithful one is like a flute;
his voice is beautiful when his stomach is empty.

Have an empty stomach like the flute and cry out in longing, and like the empty
stomach, speak mysteries, like the pen.”

And as it is said, Spend on others what God has provided for you as sustenance [36:47]. Die to self, be empty, and be filled with that One, sharing That.


When Sultan Weled was about twenty, he yearned to take a forty day retreat. . . Mevlana finally gave his permission. . . .

After visiting periodically, when at the end of forty days, Mevlana and all the Friends opened his cell, Mevlana saw that his son was bathed in light. . . . Sultan Weled fell to his knees when he saw his father and kissed his feet; infinite grace poured from Heaven . . . and the Friends began a sema.

After the sema, when only the intimate Friends remained, Mevlana said, “O Behaeddin, tell me and Shaikh Salahuddin what secrets were revealed to you. . . .”

Sultan Weled bowed and answered, “After thirty days, I saw lights of different colors like high mountains. And I heard a voice that said clearly, ‘Behold, God forgives all sins [39:54].’ As if through the eye of a needle, this voice came to the ear of my intelligence. I fainted at its sound and saw various red, green, and white tablets on which were written the words: All sins will be forgiven you, except for turning away from Me.”

Mevlana cried out and began to whirl, as did the other Friends in an overflowing of joy and ecstasy.

Sultan Weled relates that it was his “grandmother,” the Great Kira of Samarkand, who had encouraged Mevlana in the love of sema, but it was Shams of Tabriz who according to the records of Aflaki taught him to turn in a circle (chark), witnessing the Oneness. Throughout his youth, Sultan Weled witnessed many semas, some lasting a week or even forty days. He, too, was devoted to that way of celebration of Divine Grace, and in later years, he always stood in the defense of this joyful worship of God through music, poetry, and whirling.

[When others objected, he stood firm, saying, “A very great person laid the foundations for this practice and deemed it lawful. It would take one greater than he to change it. . . .”]

In the words of the segah ilahi of Sultan Weled, Sema safa, cana shifa, ruha gidadir. “Sema is a joy, health for the soul, food for the spirit.”


Sultan Weled was intimately familiar with mystical states. He was often present near his father when he was immersed in retreat and deep in ecstasy and worship.

He recounts:

The Depths of Zhikr [255]

One night, my father was saying his prayers and I was seated beside him. My father stood up and said, “Allah! Allah! Allah!” over and over. After a while, I saw that his blessed mouth was open, but his lips were no longer moving. The words, “Allah! Allah!” were now coming from a place deep within his chest.

Palaces of Love [209b]

He says, “My father opened the way to fulfillment for me. . . .”

He reminds us of Mevlana’s reflection: “And God grants sustenance unto whom He wills, beyond all reckoning [3:27]—this refers to those who are the inheritors of the Light of Islam (the Light of Surrender). We have built Pavilions of Love in eternity.”

It was through that Love that Mevlana conveyed Sultan Weled as a student to Shams, and as Mevlana had told him, referring to Hazrati Shams,

“O my son, a faqir might bestow on you only a glance,
but this glance can take you to the Highest Heaven.”8


The Sweetness of Humility Increases the Flow of Grace [518]

Sultan Weled told us:

One day, my Father gave a passionate speech praising our Master Shamsuddin’s dignity and greatness. He spoke of the miracles he could perform, of his advanced station, and his ability to penetrate the most subtle ideas, beyond expression in words. . . . Then he recited:

Shams of Tabriz walks on the heads of the spirits.
Don’t place your feet in his footprints, but rather rest your heads there.

I was overjoyed to hear my shaikh praised in this way in the presence of noble, openhearted men and went running to our Master Shamsuddin’s cell. I bowed, kissed his hands, and rubbed my eyes with them to express my deepest friendship.

Shamsuddin was astonished by my behavior: “O Behaeddin! You do not show affection and respect like this even to the people of the Way.”

I replied, “My father described your magnificence to such an extent that we have all become crazy with love. Even if I were to live a thousand years and were devotedly in your service a hundred times over, this soul would not be able to fulfill its obligation; my father’s words would resonate forever in my heart. . . .”

It was Sultan Weled who was often moving between the worlds, translating, bearing witness to the Mysteries shared by Mevlana and Shams, and soothing those who were jealous of their time together or missing Mevlana when he was immersed in retreat, bridging communication with the Friends.

Speaking with the Beloved [550b]

On one occasion, Shamsuddin had a conversation with Mevlana that lasted six entire months, in the cell of the medresse. They had nothing to eat or drink . . . and only Salahuddin and Sultan Weled were allowed to enter. They ascended to a very high station as indicated by this passage in the Qur’an: God will exalt by many degrees those of you who have attained to faith and above all, such as have been entrusted with true knowledge [58:12].

And God grants sustenance to whom He wills, beyond all reckoning [3:27].
Wa tarzuqu man tashaa’u bi ghayri hisaab.

When Shams disappeared from Konya due to the increasing jealousies within the community, it was Sultan Weled whom Mevlana sent in search of him. When Shams mounted his horse to return to Konya, he invited Sultan Weled to also ride, but Sultan Weled bowed before him, saying, “The King and the slave should not both be riding on the horse.” He accompanied Shams on foot, from Damascus to Konya, out of love and in service to this sovereign.

Shams reflected, “If a mystic gives his heart, he will receive love, like those described in the Qur’an: People whom He loves and who love Him [5:54]. I have seen nothing more beautiful than humility.”

On the long journey back from Damascus with Shams, it is said that Shams shared many mysteries. Through the Grace of Sultan Weled, his children and descendents, the depiction of this journey has become an essential part of the Mevlevi whirling ceremony in the “Devri Weled,” the majestic procession at the beginning of the ceremony, reminding us of the seeker’s journey, and the journey of the soul from the moment of the breath of creation through the states of matter into the embodiment of the human being who has the capacity to develop into the khalifa of God, empty of self and filled with the Beloved. Through the unfolding of the turning, aware of the Threshold between the two worlds of the Manifest and the Unseen, with right hand raised to receive blessing and left hand bestowing that Grace flowing through the heart, each semazen assists in bringing intensified blessing into this world.

Shams once said, “Mevlana is like a diver who throws himself into the Deep Sea, and I am the merchant who buys his pearls.” Sultan Weled assisted in the conveyance of those pearls to us, and with Mevlana and Shams, demonstrates how to become pearl divers ourselves.

When Sultan Weled and Shams returned to Konya, with great joy, Shamsuddin told Mevlana, and all the assembled notables of Konya, of the kindness that Sultan Weled had shown him, of how well he had been served by him, and of their conversations.

And he said, “God has given me the gift of two things: the first is my head (ser) and the second is my secret (sirr). I have sacrificed my head in all sincerity in the Way of Mevlana, and now I give my secret to Behaeddin, and may Mevlana be witness to this. If Behaeddin lives as long as Noah, spending his life in devotion and ascetic practice, I still could not transmit all of my knowledge to him. I hope he receives some of it from you, lives to be very old and becomes a great shaikh, if it pleases God.”

This life Does Not Belong to You [485]

After Shams and Mevlana’s passing, it is related that when the Mongol emperor, Keyghatu Khan, met Sultan Weled he was so impressed with the profundity and elegance of his teaching that with all sincerity of soul he declared himself a disciple, and Sultan Weled put the Mevlevi sikke on his head [and helped to save Konya from his ravages]. They made a pilgrimage to Mevlana’s tomb, and at the time of the noon prayer, Sultan Weled began a sema, saying:

Let go of this world, because it does not belong to you;
the breath you breathe is not according to your will.
If you happen to gather wealth, don’t take pride in it;
and your life—remember it doesn’t belong to you.

Little by little a Way based on the beautiful teachings of Mevlana and Shams evolved. Sultan Weled welcomed others into this Way, a Way of love, humility, and service.

He relates that Mevlana taught him:

The Speech of Paradise [635], echoing the teachings of Shams:

“O Behaeddin,
if you wish to live in Paradise forever, be a friend to everyone.
do not hold resentment in your heart. . . .
When you speak with goodwill about others, you will always be happy,
and this happiness is paradise itself.


When moments do occur in our lives when even with those we most love conflict may arise, Sultan Weled demonstrates how important it can be to be willing to take the first step in reconciliation with love. As his teacher, Shams of Tabriz used to say,

Intellect Ties Us in Knots, but Love Dissolves Those Tangles.”[729]

When a disagreement arose between Sultan Weled and his beloved son, Chelebi ‘Arif, it was Sultan Weled who reached out to him, asking a friend to intercede and invite him to a meal he had prepared. When first they met at his father’s tomb, Sultan Weled embraced ‘Arif for a long while and said:

“Those whose feet are firmly planted,
have rejoined the way of conversation
and haven’t washed their hands of their friends
just because a little dust has fallen.
No one has ever appeared on earth,
without the dust of a fault on his cheek.”

Then, when ‘Arif Celebi was still too embarrassed to eat in front of his father, Sultan Weled withdrew to the balcony, telling them not to pay any attention to him, but, “From time to time, speak so that I can hear and share your joy.” . . . a sema was held until the morning of such intensity that it reminded one of: The Night of Power is better than a thousand months [97:3].

Sultan Weled also reminds us that it is not just in ecstatic worship, or immersion in inner states that we serve our Sustainer, but that our work and service in the world is also important as we stand as khalifas.

[He relates the story of a government employee who came to ask Mevlana’s forgiveness for his previous behavior, and to discuss ways that he might use his time after his retirement.

He tells how Mevlana responded to the man with a story of how in the days of the Caliph Harun ar-Rashid there was a prefect of police who was visited every day by Khidr (Greetings to him), yet when the man repented of his past misdeeds and retired from his work, Khidr stopped visiting him. The poor prefect was very upset:

That night, he heard a voice in a dream: “Your spiritual station was based on that work.”
The prefect immediately went to the Caliph and asked for his job back.
“What is the meaning of this?” asked the Caliph. The prefect told him about his dream, and Harun ar-Rashid agreed to reinstate him.
Khidr again began to visit the prefect, and the prefect asked him to explain the mystery.
Khidr said, “Your elevated spiritual rank comes from your work, where you show respect for the poor and the weak and where you have the opportunity to deliver the oppressed from the grip of tyrants—this is worth more than
thousands of mystical retreats. You must not give up this important and dangerous job, because it has been said: ‘May he who has been blessed with an honorable occupation continue to do it.’”

As a result of hearing this story, the government employee mentioned resumed his work and regained Mevlana’s favor.17]

Sultan Weled relates:

“My father said, ‘O Bahaeddin, when the seed of my teaching has taken root in your heart, you will understand; reflect deeply on my teaching and really try to absorb it, and if you do, felicity will be yours. . . .

“He was absorbed in the mystery described in the Qur’an: Have you not looked within? [51:21].

There is nothing in the world that exists outside yourself;
look into the depths of your being for that for which you are longing.”

Sultan Weled tells us:

“Look for God and love Him because He is necessary to all creatures. Noble messengers came to make God’s abundance known and to encourage human beings to obey, serve, and adore Him. His obedient servants take joy in serving Him and thus progress in the hierarchy of beings. And this is the great truth of the matter.”

The efforts Sultan Weled made, both on the inner and the outer realms have helped to bring to us the gifts of the Unseen, establishing a Way of Love flowing from the inspiration of Mevlana and Shams, and enhanced by his own deep knowing and purity of being, encouraging us to open our inner sight, that the One might be seen through us.

May we also dive into the Sea of Love and bring forth pearls of the heart to the shores of this existence to share, reminding each other of the Infinite Radiance of that Love.

As it is expressed in the tradition:

Rose Prayer

May this moment be blessed. . .
May the hearts of the lovers be opened. . . .
By the breath of our master Mevlana, by the secret of Shams and Weled,
by the generosity of Imam Ali,
and the intercession of Muhammad, the unlettered prophet,
May we say Hu.