Kosovo's Howling Dervishes


Every year in March members of the Rifai'i order gather in their holy shrine, the tekke, to celebrate Nevruz, 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 use centuries-old metal skewers to pierce their hips and cheeks.

Sufis are also known as Dervishes. The term dervish derives from the word dari which means door. Literally a Dervish is someone who walks from door to door. In ancient times Dervishes were known to be poor and lived very ascetically. Therefore they were often called faqir which means poor in front of Allah.

The collective prayer, called 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 special dhikr of the Rifai'i order during Nevruz starts with singing and chanting. Dervishes permanent repeat God's name and constantly shake the upper part of the body. 

After hours they have reached a religious state of trance and are ready to start with the ultimate proof of devotion. With centuries-old skewers they pierce their bodies.

No blood and no pain seem to appear. 
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