Accompanying the dhikr practices of whirling and prayer, the custom of sama serves to further one's "nourishment of the soul" through devotional "hearing" of the "'subtle' sounds of the hidden world or of the cosmos."

In contrast to the use of sama, whirling and devotional prayer in the practice of dhikr, the tariqa orders perform Sufi whirling in addition to playing musical instruments, consuming glowing embers, live scorpions and glass, puncturing body parts with needles and spikes, or practicing clairvoyance and levitation.

The dervish practice can be performed by community residents or lay members, members have typically been those of lower classes. Within Islamic faith, unlike Middle Eastern law, women have equal status to men, allowing women to participate in dhikr as dervishes themselves.

Women were received into a tariqa order by a male sheikh, but traditionally were instructed to practice the dhikr alone or with an established branch of females within a specific order. Sufi whirling, a worship of dhikr, became a gender and class neutral practice throughout the Central Islamic region.

The custom of sama among Sufi orders has a history of controversy within the Islamic faith. In one argument, the use of the term sama is considered to suggest physically "listening" in a spiritual context.

A differing opinion argues that sama is in fact "hearing", as "to hear" can pertain to any sound in addition to any "subtle" sounds of the spiritual realm. Those in support of sama further claim that the term is actually synonymous with "understanding" and therefore recognition and application of the Revelation as well as the act of "attaining higher knowledge.

The spread of sama among Sufi orders began sometime around the mid 3rd /9th  century C.E. in Baghdad, eventually finding acceptance and favor in Persian, Turkish and Indian Islam.

The custom of sama evolved in practice over time as it complimented Sufi dhkir, whirling and among some orders dancing and a meal. Rules of propriety and conditions were adopted upon the widespread concern surrounding the necessity of sama with the dhikr; in order to distinguish between entertainment and valuable spiritual practice, the sama was distinguished as heard from the ego, heart or spirit.

Despite the application of rules, some sheikhs continued to limit or disapprove the practice of sama. While controversy continuously questioned the place of sama in Sufi orders, the music itself was not affected. More recently, the custom of sama is most commonly performed within a dhikr ceremony. Those in support of sama continue to argue that "according to that which it is not sama and dance which induce ecstasy, but ecstasy which arouses dance, or furthermore, that sama is only a revealing instrument and that it only supplies that which is brought to it by the hearer.

In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed the "The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony" of Turkey as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Dervish communities, in the Middle Ages, served a central role in social, religious and political life throughout "central Islamic lands." Dervish orders were at one time much larger in size than they are today, as the government has taken control over most Dervish monasteries throughout this area.

In 1925, Turkey ordered the dissolution of all Sufi fraternities by decree, the Mevlevi managed to survive among small villages throughout the Middle East. In 1954, the Turkish government granted the Mevlevi order a special permission to perform ritual whirling practices for tourists during two weeks each year.

Outside of tourist entertainment, Orthodox theologians have now vocally discounted the Dervish practice resulting in faqirs, or wandering, mendicant dervishes throughout central Islamic regions. Despite strict government control over Dervish practices, the Mevleviyah order continued its existence in Turkey to this day.

While only men have historically been permitted to take part in the ceremony, some communities now allow women to participate.

In Sufi shrines in Pakistan, such as the Lal shrine in Sehwan, Sindh, the practice of Sufi whirling is called Dhamaal and is performed to honor Sufi saints, or qalandars.

Unlike the Turkish practice, Dhamaal may be practiced by any devotee – priests as well as pilgrims. Dhamaal is usually preceded by the beating of a drum (naghara) and ringing of bells, as pilgrims raise their hands, start to skip steps standing at one place and gradually work into a trance as the beats get faster. As the beats get faster, rhythms change and the drum beats are accompanies by the playing of shehnai.

Practitioners associate the dance with Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and with protests following the Battle of Karbala. They regard the rhythm of the drum to evoke the rhythm of the creation of the universe, as illustrated in the concept of Kun Fyakun.

Frankly, I found the performance a bit over rated and I think that our Dhamals at Sufi Shrines to be more enjoyable.

Anyway, our two nights in Istanbul were soon over and we took the Turkish Airline thirteen hour flights on the 7th at noon, to the US.

But more about the flight and Sukhi and Dukhi Ram next week.