Every year in March the members of the Rifai’i order gather in Prizren at their holy shrine, the tekke, to celebrate a very special ceremony. Nevruz is an annual holiday marking the beginning of spring and therefore the first day of the new year. The date also marks the birthday of Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed. In Shiite belief Mohammed has chosen Ali to lead the Muslims and Sufis see Ali as their founder. For Sufis Ali is the origin of a continuous transmission of the spiritual heritage of Allahs Prophet Mohammed. At the climax of this celebration the Sufis will take centuries-old metal skewers and pierce their hips and cheeks.
The collective prayer, dhikr, is very important for all dervishes. Dhikr is a way for Dervishes to make themselves aware of the permanent presence of God. Literally dhikr means remembrance of God, normally by the constantly repeating of God’s name. Every Sufi order has its own way of celebrating a dhikr, there is no strict rule of process.
The piercing of the cheeks and bodies must not be seen as an act of self-mutilation. After the Dervishes have reached a state of trance during their dhikr they feel themselves possible to seperate the soul from the body. Achieving this state they feel able to identify God and his permanent presence. And therefore they don’t feel any pain. Soon after this religious act has been fulfilled the skewers are being removed by the Sheikh. With his fingers Sheikh Adrihusein Sheh closes the wound and nearly no blood seems to be visible.
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