The Mevlevi Order of America (2005)

This profile was last updated in 2005

There are two distinct Mevlevi circles in Portland. One is known as the Mevlevi Order of America, the other as the Threshold Society. Both proclaim themselves practitioners of the teachings of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi (d. 1273).

The Mevlevi Order of America

A man named Suleyman Dede (d. 1985), a shaykh in the Mevlevi Order, headquartered in Konya, Turkey, visited the United States a few times during the 1970s under the auspices of UNESCO (United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). He sent his son, Jelaleddin Loras, to study in the United States. While in the United States, Jelaleddin became acquainted with some American Sufi teachers and began teaching Sufism himself in San Francisco in 1978. In 1983 a man who had met Jelaleddin in San Francisco moved to Portland. In Portland he started a Sufi circle founded on the teachings of various Sufi masters he had known. He sponsored Jelaleddin’s visits to Portland, and introduced him to followers of the Sufi Islamic Ruhaniat Society and the Sufi Order of the West. Through these contacts Jelaleddin established a branch of his organization, the Mevlevi Order of America, in Portland.

Activities of the Mevlevi Order of America in Portland

The Mevlevi Order of America does not require its members to be Muslim. There are, however, few Muslims among its members. They do not insist upon adherence to Islam because, according to its members, they have no interest in the “dogmas or politics” of the religion. Instead, they focus more on the immediate steps that they feel bring them spiritual awareness. The Mevlevis have been nicknamed the Whirling Dervishes because of the twirling dance they perform as part of their dhikr (remembrance of divine names) ceremonies. The Mevlevi Order of America focuses its spiritual activities on this act of remembrance of divine names while moving or dancing. They meet every Wednesday evening. According to current members of the group, “the sessions involve whirling, some teachings, and a lot of remembrance and chanting.” Jelaleddin visits Portland a few times a year from his primary residence in Hawaii.

—Miranda Meadow, Student at Reed College, under the direction of Dr. Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, Pluralism Project Affiliate