The dervishes, who are followers of Rumi, mark the anniversary of his Dec. 17 passing — known as "Sheb-i Arus" or night of the union — as a celebration of his reunion with the Divine. Rumi himself believed death was a moment for rejoicing in the union with God.
With one hand pointed toward the sky — or heaven and God — and the other toward the ground — or earth — the dervishes perform their dance, known as the Sema. They spin repetitively in prayer, chanting Allah and gaining in speed, as they seek to lose themselves in a spiritual trance that they believe unites them with God.
The most famous poem by Rumi, who preached tolerance and love, reads:
"Come! Come again! Whoever, whatever you may be, come!
"Heathen, idolatrous or fire worshipper, come!
"Even if you deny your oaths a hundred times, come!
"Our door is the door of hope, come! Come as you are!"