A Dervish or Darvesh[1] (from Persian درویش, Darvīsh[2] via Turkish,[3] Somali: Daraawiish, Arabic: درويش‎, Darwīš) is someone treading a Sufi Muslim ascetic path or "Tariqah", known for their extreme poverty and austerity. In this respect, Dervishes are most similar to mendicant friars in Christianity or Hindu/Buddhist/Jain sadhus.[4]


 [hide] *1 Etymology


[1][2]A Pakistani Dervish at Tulamba(May 2008).

The Persian word darvīsh (درویش) is of ancient origin and descends from a Proto-Iranian word that appears in Avestan as drigu-, "needy, mendicant".[5] The Iranian word is probably further cognate with the Vedic Sanskrit word adhrigu-, an epithet of uncertain meaning applied to several deities. The Vedic word is probably to be analysed as a-dhrigu-, that is "not dhrigu-," perhaps "not poor", i.e. "rich." The existence of this Vedic cognate suggests that the institution of the holy mendicant was as prominent among the ancient Indo-Iranian people as it has been historically in later Iran in the form of dervish brotherhoods and also in India in the form of the various schools of sannyasis.[6]However, because the etymology of the word is not apparent from the point of view of the modern Persian language, there have been attempts to make the parts of the word interpretable in terms of contemporary words and with reference to Sufic mystical concepts. Dar in Persian means "a door"; "dervish" has been interpreted as "one who goes from door to door".[1] . The Persian word also gives terms for "ascetic" in some languages, as in the Urdu phrase darveshaneh tabi'at, "an unflappable or ascetic temperament".

[edit]Religious practiceEdit

[3][4]A dervish.

Many Dervishes are mendicant ascetics who have taken a vow of poverty, unlike mullahs. The main reason they beg is to learn humility, but Dervishes are prohibited to beg for their own good. They have to give the collected money to other poor people. Others work in common professions; Egyptian Qadiriyya – known in Turkey as Kadiri – are fishermen, for example.

Some classical writers indicate that the poverty of the Dervish is not merely economic. Saadi, for instance, who himself travelled widely as a dervish, and wrote extensively about them, says in his Gulistan:

Of what avail is frock, or rosary, Or clouted garment? Keep thyself but free From evil deeds, it will not need for thee To wear the cap of felt: a darwesh be In heart, and wear the cap of Tartary.[7]

Rumi writes in Book 1 of his Masnavi:[8]

Water that's poured inside will sink the boat While water underneath keeps it afloat. Driving wealth from his heart to keep it pure King Solomon preferred the title 'Poor': That sealed jar in the stormy sea out there Floats on the waves because it's full of air, When you've the air of dervishood inside You'll float above the world and there abide...

[edit]Whirling DervishesEdit

Main article: Sufi whirling[5][6]Whirling dervishes, Rumi Fest 2007

The whirling dance or Sufi whirling that is proverbially associated with Dervishes is best known in the West by the practices (performances) of the Mevlevi order in Turkey, and is part of a formal ceremony known as the Sama. It is, however, also practiced by other orders. The Sama is only one of the many Sufi ceremonies performed to try to reach religious ecstasy (majdhb, fana). The name Mevlevi comes from the Persian poet, Rumi who was a Dervish himself. This practice, though not intended as entertainment, has become a tourist attraction in Turkey.[9][10]


[7][8]Dervish puppets (Mevlâna mausoleum, Konya, Turkey)

There are various orders of Dervishes, almost all of which trace their origins from various Muslim saints and teachers, especially Ali andAbu Bakr. Various orders and suborders have appeared and disappeared over the centuries. Rifa'iyyah Dervishes spread into North Africa,Turkey, the Balkans, Iran, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.[clarification needed]

Other groups include the Bektashis, connected to the janissaries, and Senussi, who are rather orthodox in their beliefs. Other fraternities and subgroups chant verses of the Qur'an, play drums or dance vigorously in groups, all according to their specific traditions. Some practice quiet meditation, as is the case with most of the Sufi orders in South Asia, many of whom owe allegiance to, or were influenced by, the Chishti order. Each fraternity uses its own garb and methods of acceptance and initiation, some of which may be rather severe.

[edit]Dervish StateEdit

Main article: Dervish State[9][10]Somali Dervish State soldiers engage their British counterparts at sea.

The Dervish State was an early 20th century Somali Sunni Islamic state that was established by Muhammad Abdullah Hassan ("Mad Mullah"), a religious leader who gathered Somali soldiers from across the Horn of Africa and united them into a loyal army known as the Dervishes. This Dervish army enabled Hassan to carve out a powerful state through conquest of lands claimed by the Somali Sultans, the Ethiopians and the European powers. The Dervish State acquired renown in the Islamic andWestern worlds due to its resistance against Britain and Italy. The Dervish State successfully repulsed British forces four times and forced them to retreat to the coastal region.[11] The polity also maintained relations with other authorities, receiving support from the Ottoman and German empires. The Turks also named Hassan Emir of the Somali nation,[12] and the Germans promised to officially recognize any territories the Dervishes were to acquire.[13]

[edit]Other historical usesEdit


Various western historical writers have sometimes used the term dervish rather loosely, linking it to, among other things, the Mahdist uprising in Sudan and other rebellions against colonial powers. In such cases, the term "Dervishes" may have been used as a generic (and often pejorative) term for the opposing Islamic entity and all members of its military, political and religious institutions, including persons who would not be considered "Dervishes" in the strict sense.

For example, a contemporary British drawing of the fighting in Sudan was entitled "The defeat of the Dervishes at Toski" (see History of Sudan (1884–1898)#British response).



An Ottoman Dervish inIstanbul, 1878


Dervishes photographed by William H. Rau nearDamascus, circa 1903


A Palestinian Dervish in 1913


Muhammad Ahmad, leader of the SudaneseDervishes


Sufi kaskuls were often made from a coco de merwhich ordinary beggars would have difficulty to find

[edit]See alsoEdit

[17] Islam portal


  1. ^ a b "Darvesh - Dictionary of Islam". Retrieved 2012-02-19.
  2. ^ "Dervish - Definition and More from the FreeMerriam - Webster Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-02-19.
  3. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2012-02-19.
  4. ^ Afroukhteh, Youness (2003) [1952]. Memories of Nine Years in 'Akká. Oxford: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-477-8.
  5. ^ "Encyclopædia Iranica | Articles". Retrieved 2012-02-19.
  6. ^ Thompson, George (2002). "Adhrigu and drigu: on the semantics of an old Indo-Iranian word". The Journal of the American Oriental Society.
  7. ^ chapter 2 story 16: "The Gulistān; or, Rose-garden, of Shek̲h̲ Muslihu'd-dīn Sādī of Shīrāz, translated for the first time into prose and verse, with an introductory preface, and a life of the author, from the Ātish Kadah" a story later adapted by La Fontaine for his tale 'Le songe d'un habitant du Mogol'
  8. ^ The Masnavi: Book One, translated by Jawid Mojaddedi, Oxford World's Classics Series, Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-19-955231-3, p63.
  9. ^ B. Ghafurov, "Todjikon", 2 vols., Dushanbe 1983-5
  10. ^ Rumi
  11. ^ Encyclopedia of African history - Page 1406
  12. ^ I.M. Lewis, The modern history of Somaliland: from nation to state, (Weidenfeld & Nicolson: 1965), p. 78
  13. ^ Thomas P. Ofcansky, Historical dictionary of Ethiopia, (The Scarecrow Press, Inc.: 2004), p.405

[edit]External linksEdit

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