Sufism : Spirituality, Mysticism, and Arts – Noureddine Khourchid and The Whirling Dervishes of Damascus

Photo Credit: Esplanade

Photo Credit: Esplanade

Here, in the Esplanade Theatre, the lights dimmed, the audience took their places, and the show began.
A man leading a group of 8 walked center stage, greeted us in Arabic and bowed in a form of kind gesture. The spotlight then focused on the 9 men as they set down and begin their act.

Watching the Dervishes, and listening to the Inshads (Sacred songs)  by Noureddine Khourchid and his ensemble of musicians was indeed a sight to behold. It was a very beautiful performance filled with much excitement and mysticism. One needs to experience the show in person to fully appreciate its beauty.

Khourchid’s voice articulated his inshads with clarity and power, wowing the audience. His voice complimented the elegance and sophistication of the Dervishes who were whirling with incomparable grace.

Photo credits: Esplanade

The performance came to a close with Khourchid and his troupe standing up and reciting their final Inshad as the dervishes whirled faster and harder.
The troupe received a standing ovation from the crowd, and the tumultuous applause filled the whole theatre.
It was indeed a great concert to have experienced in person

The concert was part of The Tapestry of Sacred Music – a festival organized by the Esplanade which promotes beautiful and entrancing music from around the world. I highly recommend attending more of such festivals and events which the Esplanade might offer in time to come.


About Sufism:
Sufism is an ancient spiritual tradition whose origins remain shrouded in mystery even today. It is believed by some that the earliest Sufis were blanket wearing nomads who traveled the world in search of spiritual guides who would be able to help them achieve their goals of becoming closer to the divine. After what is believed to be hundreds of years of wandering through the world, the Sufis eventually found their home in Islam, and found their teacher and leader in the Prophet Muhammad. And while Sufism and Islam have been closely linked to each other ever since, the philosophy and mind set of Sufism itself can be practiced with almost any religious tradition, because to be a Sufi simply means to have a great love for God, and an equally great yearning to be reunited with God through the purification of the self and the extinguishing of one’s ego.


Islamic Sufism is usually practiced in groups led by spiritual masters called “Shaykhs“, who usually trace their spiritual lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad himself. The sizes of these groups can vary between being very small with few followers, to having up to millions of followers worldwide.


One of the more famous groups is the Mevlevviyah, who are based in modern day Turkey. The Mevlevviyah, also known as the Mevlevi Order, are famous not for their number of followers though, but for their emphasis on the spiritual practice of Whirling and their affiliation with the great Sufi poet and saint Jalaludin Rumi. Sufi Whirling is a form of meditation and dance where one spins one’s body in repetitive circles in order to enter into a trance like state. The founding of this practice is often attributed to either Rumi or his teacher, Shams Tabrizi. And while Whirling is also done by other Sufi Orders, especially those based in regions surrounding Turkey, it is the Mevlevi who emphasize it the most. It is this emphasis on Whirling that has earned the Mevlevi Sufis the nickname “the Whirling Dervishes”.

Info of Sufism supported by: Kairo Haku Ali

  • Eugene Ang

    Beautiful! I’ve seen the whirling dervishes myself in Konya, Turkey, where the Mevlevi Order is based. It is great to see that the Esplanade hosts such events!