Aziz Abbatiello is a whirling dervish upholding the traditions of the Mevlevi Order of Sufis who follow the great 13th-century Islamic poet and mystic Jellaleddin Rumi. He grew up on the West Coast of the United States where his parents were among the first to take up Sufism from teachers who came there from India and the Middle East. At the age of 17 Aziz began to study fervently the Sufi practices under the guidance of his father so that he could join the ceremonies with his family. Now he spends much of his time in Turkey studying and practising with sheikhs in Istanbul and Konya – a holy city for the whirling dervishes. The rest of his time he spends in San Francisco involved in woodworking and carpentry, while he continues his prayers and remembrance of Allah.
Aziz has been a semazen (whirling dervish) for seven years and a student of Sheikh Sherif Baba Efendi for the past five years.
the Mevlevi Sema Ceremony (UNESCO intangible heritage of humanity)
Sheikh Sherif Baba Efendi
Sherif Baba (Sheikh el-Haj el-Fakir er-Rifa'i Mehmet Sherif Çatalkaya) was born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1944. He began his religious training at the age of 6 in a school where he learned to memorise the Quran, and continued his traditional religious education at the age of 17 at the Fatih Mosque Medresse. He taught Quran studies in various mosques in Istanbul and Bursa before meeting his true teacher on the path of humanity at the age of 33. Sherif Baba received intensive Sufi training in the Rifa’i-Marufi, Halveti, Kadiri, Bektashi, Nakshibendi, and Melami Sufi Orders in Turkey, where he is revered as an eren, one who has attained. He is currently the spiritual head of the Rifa’i-Marufi School of Sufism headquartered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He teaches regularly throughout the United States and Turkey, and has lectured on spirituality and healing at universities and conferences throughout North America. He hosts the annual Rumi Festival in Chapel Hill.
www.rifaimarufi.org (Rifa’i Marufi Order of America)
Sheikh Nail Kesova
Born in Istanbul in 1939, Nail Kesova became acquainted with Islamic mysticism in his early childhood, due partly to his family’s interest. While earning his university degree in economics he became part of the Istanbul Mevlevi Mutrib group – a mystical performance ensemble. In subsequent years he studied music with Ahmet Bican Kasaboglu and was also appointed semazen (whirling dervish). In 1994, after 15 years of continuous training he was declared a sheikh by Celaleddin Celebi, a direct descendant of the great poet and sage Jellaleddin Rumi who founded the Order of the Whirling Dervishes in the 13th century. Nail Kesova continues to live in Istanbul and teaches frequently both in Turkey and abroad.