On July 24, 2010, I boarded a bus to go to Konya from Nevsehir. The bus kept going for about four hours with some brief stops. I became perturbed as I did not see any milestone or direction signs for Konya though it was 221 km away. I asked a nearby passenger, “When we would reach Konya?” There was a sudden silence in an otherwise packed bus. All eyes darted on me. “Never on this bus”, said one then told me politely that it was going in the opposite direction. I got down at the next stop, Sivas, and after two hours wait took a returning bus for Konya. I hate back-tracking, I always try to travel in a loop but sometime it doesn’t happen. After all, there is Murphy’s Law which says “If something can go wrong, it will”.
I remember that at the ticket counter, I distinctly said “Konya”, but the ticket seller heard it as Oyunia and bundled me off on a bus going up-North towards the Black Sea. Expect the most un-expected is the No. 1 guideline for a footloose traveler.
At long last, I reached Konya traveling 14 hours in a row for about 645 km. The Bus Station was far off from “Mevlana Mausoleum” and a taxi driver demanded 30 Turkish Lira ($20). No way, it would simply add insult to injury. I inquired around and found that there was a tram which would drop me near a place from where I could see the green dome of the mausoleum. This suited me and in about 25 minutes, I was able to straighten my back in the Kervan Hotel.
Hotel Kervan was very near to Mevlana Museum and a grand mosque, known as Selimiye Chamii. I could hear the call to prayer emanating from this historic mosque.
At about 2 pm after a full rest, I went to the mosque which portrayed Ottoman Architecture. Though smaller, it was similar to other Ottoman Mosques in Istanbul. Ottoman Sultans had a great respect for Mevlana Order. Sultan Selim II personally supervised construction of a large mosque next to the mausoleum of the great Sufi, which began in 1558 when he was a prince and ended when he took over in 1567 as a King.
MEVLANA MUSEUM & TOMB
After prayer, I headed to the nearby Museum. The entry ticket was about 1.3 dollars. There were a large number of visitors both local and foreign, men and women eager to see the tomb. As I entered the courtyard, the main building was before me with its distinctive green tiled-cylindrical dome. In all mosques it was obligatory to remove the shoes and place them in the racks. In museums like this, visitors were expected to cover the shoes with a thin plastic bag to keep the interior clean.
At the corner, beneath the dome, was the tomb of Rumi himself, covered with velvet cloth and embroidered in gold. Like other devotees, I raised my hands and offered Fatiha.
Below the tomb, there was a silver plated step which was cordoned off and was only opened on the 17th December each year. The occasion is known as the Seb-i Aruz, the night of Rumî’s “wedding night with God.” Thousands thronged the shrine from all over the world to rub their foreheads on the sliver plated steps and place kisses.
I wished I could stay longer before the tomb but I was forced to move forward by the crowd. Next was the tomb of his father, Baha al-Din Valed, whose sarcophagus stood upright. Legend says when Mevlana Rumi was buried, his father’s tomb “rose and bowed in reverence”.
Beyond the tomb, there were two large rooms with glass cases holding exhibit of historical artifacts, personal effects, conical caps, prayer carpets and a hat of Rumi spiritual companion, Hazrat Shams Tabriz. Also show-cased were musical instruments like flutes made of bamboo. All these were said to be seven centuries old.
A unique sight was of the antique prayer carpets, one of silk with four million knots per square inch. Also, there were illuminated Qur’an, Hadith (saying the profit) and prayer beads of enormous size. In the center glass case, there were holy relics of the Great Prophet.
VISIT OF ALLAMA IQBAL
Within the boundaries of the museum, I was surprised to see a stone erected on account of visit by our national poet, Allama Muhammad Iqbal.
The complex was surrounded with gardens studded with water fountains and clusters of shady trees. Lot of people were sitting with their families enjoying ice-cream and boiled corn.
Turks have special love Pakistan because of the centuries old relationship. Often they asked me if was from Syria. When I told them, “No. I am from Pakistan”, they embraced me, some kissed my hands and invariably asked me to share a cup of Kehva (tea) with them. I will ever remember their warmth and love.
MEVLANA JALALUDDIN RUMI
Rumi was born in 1207 in Balkh, Afghanistan, in the house of a brilliant Islamic family. Later his family shifted to Mecca. After the death of his father in 1231, Rumi went to Damascus and later to Konya and started teaching. Meanwhile, he got married and lived with his wife, Gevher Hatun, who bore him two children.
Around 1244, an event changed his life. He was an avid reader and had a stack of book besides him. Incidentally, a wandering dervish (a Muslim ascetic) named Shams Tabriz passed by. He asked Rumi, “What are you doing?” Rumi scoffingly replied, “Something you cannot understand.” On hearing this, Shams threw the stack of books into a nearby pool of water. Rumi hastily rescued the books and to his surprise they were all dry. Rumi then asked Shams, “What is this?” To which Shams replied, “Mevlana, this is what you cannot understand.”
After this incident, both came near to each other. Rumi was spiritually inspired by the dervish to find God in worldly experiences. After about a decade, Shams left Rumi to settle in Khoy, Iran. As the years passed, “Rumi attributed more and more of his own poetry to Shams as a sign of love for his friend”.
Rumi devoted his life to seek the inner truth. One day, walking by the gold beaters’ shop, he became enchanted by the sound of hammers. As he uttered “Allah, Allah”, he heard it echoed back. In a mounting state of ecstasy, Rumi began to turn and whirl.
He was a poet of the first rank. His style was simple and colloquial. His tales possessed diverse qualities: variety and originality, dignity and picturesqueness, learning and charm, depth of feeling and thought.
He wrote not only for Muslims but for all mankind. His poetry has become known all over the world particularly:
Come, come, come again,
Whoever you may be,
Come again, even though
You may be a pagan or fire worshiper,
Our hearth is not the threshold of despair.
Come again, even if you may have
Violated your vows a hundred times,
Come again …
Mevlana Rumi died on the 17th of December 1273 at night. This has become known as his wedding night with Allah as he was taken up the heaven.
Twice a week, dervish-dance was performed in the garden just behind the Mevlana Museum. The entry fee was about 15 dollars. On my last evening in Konya, I witnessed the ceremony.
Dressed in long white gowns and wearing high, cone-shaped hats, the dervish danced for hours at a time. Drums, violins and flutes were pounding out an insistent rhythm. Dervish skirts were swirling horizontally, higher and higher. With their faces rapped, they seemed to free themselves from the gravity. When the skirts spun near their heads, they slowed down to let them fall, symbolizing material sacrifices and surrender. Right arms were raised and left arms lowered down, a gesture of reconciliation between heaven and earth. Across a brief silence, there were cries of “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great!).
I remained in Konya for four days. Like other cities, this was a quite modern place with good transport arrangement including trams. The houses were beautifully constructed and had all gadgets of present day like TV dishes and solar power points.
I love the local food. Every time, I went to a hotel, there was a lot to choose from: sav tava (grilled lamb, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and garlic with rice pilaf). This could be washed down with ayran (a salty yoghurt drink) and finished with a dessert, borek (cheese filled pastry). In particular, I liked slices of roasted lamb in pitta bread.
After staying for five, I returned to Istanbul on 29th of July, 2010