The Sheikh of the Dervishes
The Movement Newspaper, May/June 1976
Movement Newspaper: Why have you come to America?
Suleyman Dede: I came here to visit our Mevlevi friends and to visit my friend, Reshad. I am happy to have found love, prayer and Mevlana here. For what purpose do you do this interview?
MN: I am doing this for all the people who can’t be here today to share with us and have this beautiful experience.
Dede: God be with you in all your endeavors, and I hope that you will be able to let everyone hear about this. Then I will be very happy. God will be pleased also.
You are taking many photos, but please don’t take them when I am not in a dignified position.
MN: I have never seen you in a position that was not dignified. (Laughter)
Dede: I like you very much, and I know that you aren’t going to do anything like that; but I have met lots of newspaper and magazine reporters who would do that on purpose.
MN: My work with this newspaper is to bring the things that I find to be valuable in my life, things that would be worth sharing, to the people who read this publication. In one way, I see my interviews as part of my diary, and I am sharing what I do each day with the readers; it’s not that I’m an editor or a writer … just a person.
Dede: I am very happy that you feel this way. I like you very much … and now I am ready to answer your questions! (Laughter)
Reshad: The word, the newspaper, sounds like news, politics . . but this (The Movement) is only taken by those who are trying to find God. The average person on the street doesn’t pick it up. It’s for this movement of people in America who are turning to God.
MN: Do you believe that it is necessary that turning to God actually be done physically, or can one do this turning to God in some other way?
Dede: If they didn’t turn inwardly all the time, they couldn’t turn outwardly. They couldn’t even do it twice; they would be very dizzy. God helps them to turn that way, as a whirling dervish.
MN: Can a person who has “really turned” stop turning?
Dede: Why not? If he wants to and doesn’t feel it anymore. It’s a feeling, and you turn as long as you feel it. If you stop feeling it, then you don’t turn. If you are too old to “turn”, or sick, you can do the “Zikhr” (chanting God’s name), and this will give you the same satisfaction. But you can take it or leave it, it’s all up to you.
MN: How old were you when you first got involved with Mevlana?
Dede: Fifteen. I was going to school, and I started going to the monastery, as I was fascinated with the Mevlevi Dervishes. When I was 18, I entered the monastery and worked in the kitchen. I worked in the kitchen for 23 years.
Usually one works in the kitchen and cooks and does the hard chores for 3 years before he is eligible to become a Dede (Dead-Day). However, that doesn’t mean that after 3 years he becomes a Dede. At that point, his superiors judge whether he’s worthy of ever becoming a Dede. I had no idea that I would become one, I just enjoyed being there.
After being there for 23 years, they gave me the title of Dede, and I received a cell and didn’t work in the kitchen anymore. Now I have other duties, such as teaching Mevlana. I also write poetry and make music. I’m happy that you have asked me this question. No one has ever asked me about this!
MN: If one is having difficulties living in a monastery or ashram or other school structure where he or she has had great inner and outer growth, but no longer wishes to deal with the personality aspects of the other students, what would you suggest?
Dede: I ask and pray that they will stay. Those that stay have fidelity and faith and reach their goal; others don’t. I would ask them to stay and go on if it’s been a place of growth.
There were many times that I would say to myself, “What am I doing here? Why do I go through this? Why don’t I just leave?” But then I heard deeply in my heart that God was talking to me and telling me to have faith and to trust in Him and stay. So I stayed and had trust, but there were many times that I wanted to leave.
Suffering is part of life … we must learn how to suffer without falling to pieces. This is part of our training – to be strong.
MN: I have always looked at the negativity and pain that was being brought to me as that which I placed out to others and that I was being allowed to even the score.
Dede: Only a few chosen see the Light of God, and you saw the Light of God, and you’re there. You’re repenting. Don’t ever think that it was you and your own will power that took you there and showed you the Light; you should stay there and turn toward God and be repentant.
MN: I have a friend that once told me, and I have not forgotten this: that no one said that it was going to be easy but that God loves His own and all will return to His home.
Dede: Eat as much as you want, enjoy as much as you want, never waste. Be very honest; never kill anybody nor bring harm to anyone. God never said to deny anything for yourself or to torture your body – not in all the sacred books. He said, “I gave everything to you so that you may enjoy them, just as long as you don’t abuse anything, waste, or harm your neighbor, or commit any insult or crime.” God never said to deny yourself anything.
MN: If a person is harming another person without being conscious of it, do you suggest interfering with that person’s natural flow? When does one step in? Who decides the punishment?
Dede: You have to warn this person and give him three chances. If he continues to do the harmful action, either consciously or unconsciously, you just let the person go. There isn’t anything else you can do, but you should make him aware of what he’s doing if it’s possible.
MN: How does your wife assist you in your seeking?
Dede: She has been with me all the time. In fact, we were married and she had her first child when I was working in the kitchen. Later my superiors took my entire family into the monastery.
MN: Do you recommend that married couples have children?
Dede: You should get married and have children … a tree without fruit means nothing.
MN: When I asked this question, I received the thought that children are the gifts that God gives to those who love.
Reshad: Ever since Dede has come to my home, we have eaten well … on many levels.
Dede: I eat “well” in my house only when I have guests. If there is much work in my house, which isn’t very large, and someone complains, I remind him that this is God’s gift and not to complain.
MN: I sometimes have the thought that as the world develops technologically, God becomes more difficult to see . . material things get in the way. Is this because God wishes only those that are strong?
Dede: I like your question. In a way, it is a test. God created everything and gave all these beautiful things to man for his enjoyment, but it’s also a test when one is enjoying life fully, not to forget God, but always remember Him. And when one is enjoying, one should never waste, nor forget his brothers.
MN: There seems to be an epidemic of terminal illnesses in this country at present. What can be the best thing that we could do if we are in contact with someone suffering one of these illnesses?
Dede: Moral support is the most important for these people, and be careful to explain the importance of the shortness of this life in relation to reaching God later on – that this life is temporary.
MN: It appears that time is going by faster and faster – Do you have any thoughts about this?
Dede: First, nobody can stop time; we must accept that. The universe turns and the days fall, one after the other, and they turn, too. We don’t feel that there is enough time to accomplish all of the things that we want to accomplish, but we must benefit from all the time that we do have and make that time very valuable … enjoy every moment. Make the most of each moment in each day. If you are happy, if you had a happy and good day, then you lived that day fully. You should always try to be happy, not unhappy. If you sit back and are sad about everything, then you have wasted your time, and you haven’t lived your life fully. You should never complain about anything, no matter how difficult the situations are. Can I ask you something now?
MN: Anything. I don’t know that I’ll have the answer, but you may ask.
Dede: Who showed you the way of Mevlana for the first time?
MN: Actually, the first time was when I was young. I saw through examples – people who were not nice to one another; it was by their negative examples that I first questioned.
Then my wife showed me the right day. While in the middle of a very negative day, I noticed that she was very complacent and centered. I saw that she knew something that I didn’t, and I wanted to find out what it was … anything was better than where I was at!
Dede: I congratulate you for having such a wife. I would like to meet her.
MN: I thank you for her, for the compliment, and I must also congratulate myself for having seen. I say this without ego.
Dede: I congratulate you again; not only because of your wife, but because you were able to see “the right way.” I will listen to you as if listening to music.
You are very, very lucky to have a wife who knows the meaning of patience more than anything else and has the Light in her heart. You should be proud of her and pray to God. Thank God for having such a wife and even do “Sema” saying that, “I have a beautiful God,” because that is also praying.
Reshad: Dede, I’ve been praying for months, and months, and months, and months to God for some indication of what was intended for these people (the ones working with Reshad) to be at the next step – what would be of the most service. It seems now that a Tekkia is intended, and now, Insh’Allah, it will take place.
Dede: Everyone should know that this is not my doing, or Reshad’s doing, or anybody else’s doing. It’s God’s doing. I always wanted to come to the United States and to travel, but there was no way to be able to afford it. But I wished this so strongly – God willed that this should happen. I am very happy to have come here and met everybody, but it is not my doing, or your doing, or anybody else’s doing … it is God’s doing.
Reshad: Well, we had no money to speak of, but someone suggested a rummage sale, and we raised $2500.00 in two days. If that wasn’t Allah I don’t know what is! Money has come in from different centers as Allah has produced all the ways to get Dede here through hard work, not wealthy patrons.
Dede: One should be proud of his poverty. So much evil comes because of money. If you’re poor, but honest, then you are the best type of person possible. Honesty is the main thing in the world.
MN: Is it a rare situation that a rich man can be a holy man?
Dede: A person must never, never forget others; he must never forget doing charity and helping others and constantly sharing. If you are poor, you must never lose your faith in god. God will see to it that you will have enough all of the time. Daud calls me a “King,” and I feel like a king, and we don’t pass away like the other sultans – totally forgotten. If I can bring one little Light to the hearts of people, then I will be remembered forever. No matter what, no matter how difficult life gets, have faith in God and he will see to it that you are not left alone.
Translator: I can’t tell you how I have benefited in the last three days. I mean it! I’m not joking!! (Laughter from all at the common feeling)
Reshad: We know that, but again, God sent you. How else could we have heard the words in this language?
Dede: There’s a good translation of Medlevi (The Mathnawi) by Nicholson. Whenever you feel troubled or unhappy you should read that.
MN: Do you foresee “The Turn” being taught widely here?
Dede: Only God knows.
MN: Is there anything that you would like to share with us?
Dede: Whatever I say, anyway, are not my words. They are Mevlana’s words that were inspired to my heart. This is a beautiful thing that you do – if you can get these things together and let everybody hear about them, very happy about what I have seen around here, and I hope that someday you will be able to put a book together about the people that you have met. I’m ready to die now; I do not have much time left, but I will die peacefully.