Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Huq, Tasneem. Dancing and Poetry: A Study of the Whirling Dervish Dance Through Rumi’s Poetry. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2022.


Copyright Tasneem Huq 2022.


This exploration investigates the influence of Rumi’s book of poetry, Mathnawi, upon the Sufi practice of the Whirling Dervish dances. It argues that Rumi’s Mathnawi underlies the choreography of the Whirling Dervish dances. Each step of the dance expresses, manifests or embodies themes found in Rumi’s poetry: separation from Unity, ascension, annihilation, and a return to Unity. The thesis introduces this argument, and then discusses historical, theological, and linguistic themes related to Rumi, Sufism, and the Whirling Dervish dances. Following this, the thesis provides a framework that begins with the Neoplatonic theory of emanation grounding Rumi’s poetic thought, followed by the influence of Rumi’s poetic thought upon the Whirling Dervish dances. The thesis then uses this framework to explore each step of the Whirling Dervish dance individually as it relates to poems within Mathnawi, examining the relationship between poetry and choreography. Four poems have been selected, correlating with the four steps of the dance. The poems are analytically dissected and evaluated. In conclusion, this thesis demonstrates how Mathnawi choreographically serves as a guide and structure for the Whirling Dervish practice, in addition to broadly demonstrating the influence of Rumi’s poetic thought upon future generations of religious Sufi practice.