by Matt Hanson
Multigenerational solidarity is at the heart of this oldest Jerrahi lodge in America, nestled deeply into the Mid-Atlantic countryside. A man in a white dervish cap is a common sight, next to a covered woman. Illumined under the front door lamp astride neatly hewn shrubs, children skip about the festive outdoor lighting. Leafy vines decorate the lodge sheltered in lush green trees all radiating the primary color of Islam. Inside, the decorative tiled walls are styled in the Iznik craft from the Aegean region of Turkey unmistakable in its floral viridescent patterns, commingling arboreal motifs with kernels of symbolic resonance. Calligraphic signatures, particularly of the letter waw to symbolize the sacred oath to Allah, are designed within intricate weavings of ultramarine hues reminiscent of the Turquoise Coast.
As attested by adherents, every last tile is sourced directly from Turkey. The people involved literally traveled halfway around the planet to bear the weight of the fired ceramic soil of the country that raised the founder of the order, Hazreti Pîr Muhammad Nureddin al-Jerrahi. In the years between 1678–1720, al-Jerrahi lived in the last imperial Ottoman capital of Istanbul, where he is buried in the original tekke lodge in his name that remains active in the Old City.
It was by a chance encounter with a woman named Munevver Hanim that Tosun Baba confronted his unforeseen attraction to the Jerrahi path, while traveling from Istanbul by train to Konya in the winter of 1968 to experience the whirling dervish ceremony celebrating Rumi. In those days, the spell of Kemalist reform had convinced Tosun Baba that sheikhs and dervishes were lost to the Turkish culture. Little did he know that the second half of his long life would be defined by that happenstance curiosity, leading ultimately to a deep search that formalized when he became a disciple under Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak Efendi, the man who extended the Jerrahi path to America.
PHOTO MONTAGE © DELIM 60 / BIGSTOCK.COM, RUDI 1976 / BIGSTOCK.COM