~ Offered by Camille Adams Helminski


In 1980, we were graced with a meeting with Suleyman Dede. The moment we met him, we felt received, into the presence of a soul deeply devoted and at one with his Lord. Our two small sons were with us, and as soon as he heard that the younger was named Shams, he stood up, proclaimed, “O, Hazrati Shams!” and turned, arms raised in the air in the traditional manner of the Mevlevi dervish. Always he signed his letters, al-Faqir al-Mevlevi, “devoted poor one of Mevlana.” Whenever we would visit him in his small home in Konya, he would always give us more gifts than we would bring . . . and infinitely rich in soul substance, his presence would always bring us to tears.

The words shared here are edited from transcriptions of talks he gave at The Claymont Society in 1978. God willing, through the words shared here, something of the being of a Mevlevi Dede will be conveyed.

* * *

“In order to become human, we need to always be within the Divine Presence—to be aware of God, to hold Him in our hearts.  When a human being performs zhikr, their spirit—their heart starts to open.  Their intelligence becomes more refined and more expansive.  Their bodies become healthier.  A beautiful condition comes about—similar to the one that is brought about by good music.  The whole being opens up like a flower, and the divine secret—the things you couldn’t understand or know about before—begin to be revealed to you.  This is why it’s necessary to make zhikr.  For human beings, it’s a very good thing.

Of course, there are many types of zhikr, of remembrance.  People can do it standing up.  They can also remember God sitting down, and while they are on a journey.[2]  Every second, in every place, God can be found because Allah always sees us.[3]  This is why we don’t want to be separated from the practice of remembering God and zhikr, and we don’t want it to leave our hearts.  This is why a new type of knowledge—divine knowledge—comes to us, and when you need it, you can understand the essence.  And you are blessed with an intelligence to know where you’re going, what may happen to you, whether something bad may happen or something good.

There are many things that we may be talking about in zhikr that you may not understand.  The important thing is to have God present in front of you as though He were present[4] in front of your eyes, in your mind and in your heart.  All the time to be aware that He’s right next to you, understand that you’re never separate from Him.

Be always ready to see His activity in everything—even within disasters, calamities and accidents.  Then He will keep us safe from accidents and calamities, and we will be in His protective Hand.  If you’re in this condition (of zhikr), your heart will open and your intelligence will become more enlightened and quickened, and there are many things that will be revealed to you that you couldn’t have understood before.

It is necessary to make zhikr, not just for the well being of humanity—your social interaction being a part of the world—but also for yourself.  In order to know God, to remember Him, for thousands of years human beings have been making zhikr.  In their forms of remembrance, people have made different patterns.  They made different movements, and they understood God through their activities.  Long ago, in order to remember God, they took on these forms and customs—sacred dances and different forms of prayer just to be involved in the activity of remembrance.

Why did they do this?  To come into a place of closeness with God in order to find a true path—in order to continue on a direct way to God, so that God might receive them, accept them.  Because they love God, they wanted God to love them. God loves them and they love Him [5:54]. This type of activity (zhikr) is necessary for all of us.  It’s necessary for us to plan our lives with this in mind.

It is necessary for us to know the Divine Being—to always hold Him present.  Since the moment of our creation, we’ve been making zhikr.  We’re doing it for ourselves.  We’re saying, “This is my God, my God!”[5] to increase our knowledge—divine knowledge.  In order to grow in this knowledge, it is necessary to continue making zhikr. To make zhikr, to remember God, is the same as to thank God…

We’ll make a prayer now, and we’ll travel all together in that prayer…

‘Please hear that we are never separated from You, that we are always near You.  Please bring about this condition in us. Please keep us away from harm or harmful actions.  May God increase our knowing.  May God protect us.’”


[1] Excerpt from The Way of Rumi, forthcoming.

[2] And to God belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth; and God has power over all things.
Truly, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the succession of night and day,
there are indeed signs for all who are endowed with insight,
and who remember God standing, and sitting, and when they lie down to sleep,
and contemplate creation—of the heavens and the earth:
“O our Sustainer! You have not created this without meaning and purpose.
Limitless are You in Your subtle glory!” [3:189-91]

[3] See the “Hadith of Gabriel”:  . . . [Abdullah ibn Umar]said, “My father, Umar ibn al-Khattab, told me: ‘One day we were sitting in the company of Allah’s Apostle, [Muhammad] (peace be upon him) when there appeared before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his hair extraordinarily black. There were no signs of travel on him. None amongst us recognized him. At last he sat with the Apostle (peace be upon him) He knelt before him placed his palms on his thighs and said: “Muhammad, inform me about Islam (surrender).”The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Islam is to worship God alone and none else (La illaha il Allah) . . . that you establish regular prayer (salah), offer charity regularly (zakat), observe the fast (of Ramadan), and perform pilgrimage (Hajj) . . . .”
He (the inquirer) said: “You have told the truth.” He (Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: ‘It amazed us that he would put the question and then he would himself verify the truth. He (the inquirer) said: “Inform me about Iman (faith).” He (the Holy Prophet) replied: “That you affirm your faith in God, in His angels, in His Books, in His Apostles, in the Day of Reckoning, and you affirm your faith in the Divine Decree regarding good and evil.”
He (the inquirer) said: “You have told the truth.” He (the inquirer) again said: “Inform me about al-Ihsan (the most beautiful).”
He (the Holy Prophet) said: “That you worship God as if you are seeing Him, for even if you don’t see Him, truly, He sees you.” . . . He (the narrator, Umar ibn al-Khattab) said: ‘Then he (the inquirer) went on his way but I stayed with him (the Holy Prophet) for a long while. He then, said to me: “Umar, do you know who this inquirer was?” I replied: “God and His Apostle knows best.” He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: “He was Gabriel (the angel). He came to you in order to instruct you in matters of religion.”  Excerpted from the Hadith collection (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) of Sahih Muslim: 1.

[4] Remember how it was when He caused inner calm to enfold you, as an assurance from Him,
and sent down over you water from the heavens so that by it He might purify you . . .
and strengthen your hearts and so make your steps firm.
Witness! Your Sustainer inspired the angels to convey His message to the faithful:
“I am with you!” [8:9-12]

[5] Here Dede reminds us of the story of Abraham putting aside all idols in search of that which is truly Divine, continually increasing knowledge of God, inner certainty, and nearness with the One we love who loves us. See Surah al-An‘am, Cattle 6:75-79.
And thus We gave Abraham [his first] insight into [God’s] mighty dominion over the heavens and the earth—and [this] to the end that he might become one of those who are inwardly sure.
Then, when the night overshadowed him with its darkness, he beheld a star; [and] he exclaimed, “This is my Sustainer!”—but when it went down, he said, “I love not the things that set.”
Then, when he beheld the moon rising, he said, “This is my Sustainer!”—but when it went down, he said, “Indeed, if my Sustainer guide me not, I will most certainly become one of the people who go astray!”
Then, when he beheld the sun rising, he said, “This is my Sustainer! This one is the greatest [of all]!”—but when it [too] went down, he exclaimed: “O my people! Behold, far be it from me to ascribe divinity, as you do, to anything beside God!
Behold, unto Him who brought into being the heavens and the earth have I turned my face, having turned away from all that is false; and I am not of those who ascribe divinity to anything beside Him.”
As Shams reminds us in his Maqalat, “It is impossible for the mature ones to fasten their hearts on beauty that will pass away.” Rumi’s Sun, the Teachings of Shams of Tabriz, p. 94.
And as he reflects on p. 349:
And seek God’s bounty [62:10]. This bounty is continually increasing. Seek to become more. Don’t be satisfied with the jurists—say, “I want more!” [Surah at-Taha 20:114, Say,O God, increase me in knowledge”]. More than being a sufi, more than a gnostic (arif)—no matter what comes to you, more than that, more than the heavens. . . . It is said that whatever is in the entire cosmos is in the human being. But where are the seven heavens inside the human being? In which part of the human being are these stars, the sun, the moon?