By Abbas Djavadi – On February 18, Iranian authorities destroyed a house of worship of Gonabadi dervishes. The house was attached to the tomb of the mystic philosopher and poet Nasser Ali at the historical Takht-e Foulad cemetry near Isfahan. The tomb itself, reportedly a UNESCO-protected cultural site, has not been damaged.
The house was a place for dervishes to gather, pray, meditate, and to read mystic poetry. The Sufi dervishes have been facing increasing persecution in Iran in the last few months. Many worship houses have been destroyed and dervishes have faced detention and mistreatment.
Dervishes are members of Sufi Muslim ascetic religious sects, known as Tariqah. There are hundreds of different Tariqah across Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Turkey, the Balkans, and in Arab countries. Gonabadi is one of the dervish groups in Iran. “Unlike mullahs, dervishes take the vow of poverty” (Wikipedia) and have a more tolerant and open understanding and reading of Islam than the official confessions of Sunna and Shi’a. In the West, Jalaliddin Rumi (Balkhi) (13th century) became the most famous Sufi philosopher and thinker. BBC News has decribed him as “the most popular poet in America.”
Abdolsaleh Loqmani, one of the Gonabadi dervishes of Isfahan told Radio Farda: “The mayor’s administration sent three bulldozers. They arrested those who were gathered there, confiscated their mobile phones, cut off the water and electricity of the house, and then started to destroy the walls. The library was also destroyed. Books including Koran and mystic publications were destroyed. The big prayer hall was also demolished. All belongings such as carpets were confiscated and taken away.” (For the full interview by Radio Farda, click here; a report in English on RFE/RL’s website is here).