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Pilgrimage Moments: A Sufi Experience

Length - 08:56
Published - Mar 2024
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4

This clip comes from the BBC series: Pilgrimage – The Road to Istanbul.

The Pilgrims visit a cultural centre dedicated to Sufism – an ancient mystical form of worship that embraces all forms of Islam. Once banned by Turkish authorities, the centre now warmly welcomes people of all backgrounds, regardless of their religious beliefs.

The Pilgrims enjoy a communal meal featuring dishes from different regions of Turkey. Amar is blind, so Dom describes the various dishes on his plate.

After the meal they join the evening dhikr prayers where participants dress in traditional clothing, play music and chant in devotion to God. Men stand in a circle, and move in unison as they sing, creating an impressive spectacle. The Pilgrims find the experience incredibly moving, describing it as transcendent, extraordinary and profoundly spiritual. Even staunch atheist Dom calls it, “the powerful religious thing I’ve ever seen”.

Watch full episodes on BBC iPlayer.

A Sufi Experience -Pilgrimage S3 Ep 3 - Clip1

S1 00:00:24:22

The other pilgrims are visiting a cultural center dedicated to

Sufism. An ancient mystical form of worship that embraces all

forms of Islam. Local guide. Bushra greets them.

S2 00:00:38:13

Welcome. Hi there. Hello.

S3 00:00:40:21

How are you? Nice to meet you. Here you go.

S1 00:00:44:05

Once banned by Turkish authorities, interest in Sufism has grown

in recent years.

S4 00:00:49:22

You've got everything here like a school and a place to eat. It's

like a center.

S5 00:00:53:19

Yes, exactly. It's like a community center. It's called Khulia. In

Arabic. We have like, a place to eat. We have a library. We have a

place where students go and learn, and we have Jahamey, you

know, the center to pray.

S6 00:01:06:19

And it's for Sufi Muslims?

S5 00:01:09:00

Yeah. Uh, actually, no, it's open to everybody.

S7 00:01:12:22

As long as you believe in God.

Clip: A Sufi Experience -Pilgrimage S3 Ep 3 - Clip1.mp4

2 / 8

S5 00:01:14:19

If you don't believe in God, you can also come in. Everybody is

welcome. Yeah. Everybody is welcome.

S1 00:01:21:05

As guests of honor. The pilgrims are invited to a communal meal

before evening prayers.

S5 00:01:26:24

So we're going to go this place. This is actually the men's dining

room and the women's are over there. But we're going to do it

together this time. Oh that's nice. Normally we are separated

during the meals.

S4 00:01:37:19

And that's not a problem ladies.

S5 00:01:39:14

No because you're the guests.

S6 00:01:40:22

Oh, that looks amazing. Oh, it looks wonderful.

S4 00:01:45:02

Let me just tell you, our things are really looking up. Really?


S5 00:01:49:04

So our dervish ladies have prepared for your traditional Turkish

food from all over the countries, actually, from the east, from, like

the, like sea region, from the middle. So you will see pastry, you

will see like the green, like the leaves and soft. Yeah. Meatballs

and everything. Uh, you have like a special soup.

S8 00:02:10:20

I hope you don't have a rule that says you must eat everything.

Clip: A Sufi Experience -Pilgrimage S3 Ep 3 - Clip1.mp4

3 / 8

S5 00:02:14:09

You have to finish your plate. Turkish mother said this.

S6 00:02:17:03

This is the best meal we've had.

S4 00:02:18:22

It is incredible. The way to your.

S5 00:02:20:17

Heart is from your stomach.

S9 00:02:22:16

Definitely with me. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

S10 00:02:26:01

Come this. This is good. Yes.

S3 00:02:29:24

This is wonderful. It is. This is magic.

UU 00:02:33:05

I don't know.

S4 00:02:37:09

What you got there. Fried pickles.

S3 00:02:38:18

Fried pickles.

S4 00:02:39:14

Think I am a Sufi? I really, genuinely think you were.

S3 00:02:42:01

Born to be.

Clip: A Sufi Experience -Pilgrimage S3 Ep 3 - Clip1.mp4

4 / 8

S4 00:02:43:01

If I enjoy the show.

S3 00:02:44:07

Then I'm in. Then. Then I'm in.

S4 00:02:49:09

See, this is absolutely fabulous. Proper food.

S11 00:02:53:05

Oh my goodness. I don't know what. Sweet. What's not. Is this.

S4 00:02:56:06

Random? Okay, these two are sweet. This is the spicy kofta okay.

That's a sort of chickpea. Okay. That's vine leaves. Yeah. And

these are stuffed peppers. Thank you. Okay.

S12 00:03:08:10

Oh, it's that good?

S4 00:03:09:15

I'm telling you right now that you can tell the Sufi religion has

gone absolutely to the top of the charts. I mean, in the pilgrim


S1 00:03:18:10

Evening prayers are about to begin. Known as the Zika

worshipers dress in traditional clothing, play music, and chant in

devotion to God.

Clip: A Sufi Experience -Pilgrimage S3 Ep 3 - Clip1.mp4

5 / 8

S5 00:03:29:11

So what you're going to watch is this in Quran, God says, repeat

my name hundreds of times, and when you repeat my name, I

will repeat your name. So you watch. You're going to watch is

like a man all in circles, and they're going to chant the names of

Allah loudly with music. And when you repeat it, it's like sending

the armies of Allah to your heart in order to cleanse it from the

evil things. That's nice and get closer to him.

S4 00:03:57:05

And what would we do as visitor? Do we watch? We can't watch.

We don't partake.

S5 00:04:01:05

If you want to participate, you can do. But just try to, uh. Be

careful not to just, um.

S9 00:04:09:14

Get in the way.

S5 00:04:10:05

Right? Yeah, get in a way.

S9 00:04:11:13


S5 00:04:12:22

That be a good imitator?

S8 00:04:14:19


S9 00:04:15:12

Okay, good. Yeah. Okay.

S5 00:04:16:12

So if you want to follow me. Lovely. Upstairs.

Clip: A Sufi Experience -Pilgrimage S3 Ep 3 - Clip1.mp4

6 / 8

S4 00:04:18:18

Thank you so much.

S13 00:04:29:18

Na na na.

S14 00:04:31:20

When you pray.

S3 00:04:33:17

Catholics often pray. You know, what do you do? And Jesus, it's

this. Yeah. Okay. Yeah.

UU 00:04:46:22

I'm quite excited.

S15 00:04:48:18

I am genuinely quite excited. It's literally like. It's like a gig's

about to kick off. I really like this. Here we go. Ready?

S4 00:06:23:04

Now they're really going for it.

S6 00:06:24:10

Really bending down a long way.

S16 00:07:07:02

I can see how somebody partaking in that would leave in a state

of bliss, because it's transcendent when they all move and sing

and chant together. It was just head and shoulders above

anything else that we have experienced.

Clip: A Sufi Experience -Pilgrimage S3 Ep 3 - Clip1.mp4

7 / 8

S6 00:07:28:01

I thought it was an extraordinary, you know, if I live near here, I'd

just come all the time. I just thought it was such a great

spectacle, apart from the the spiritual aspect of it, which I

thought was profound. I mean, I can just imagine the release

and, you know, whatever was on your mind, you know, you just by

going through all that and knowing all that, you just get so much

peace out of it. It was all worth it to see the mask of cynicism

slide from Don Jolies face, as he was absolutely entranced by it.

S4 00:07:57:01

I thought that was the most powerful religious thing I've ever

seen. It was incredible. It was like a heartbeat.

S2 00:08:01:13


S5 00:08:02:00

You coordinated with your heart.

S4 00:08:03:24

I was going, I was like, well, the breath like that.

S2 00:08:06:12

It's like natural.

S4 00:08:07:14

And because they're all wearing the same clothes, it's all in

unison like that. It was amazing. It was just brilliant. We're

probably a bit more cynical than other things. And the fact that

we both love that.

S3 00:08:18:06


S4 00:08:18:20

You've done well.

Clip: A Sufi Experience -Pilgrimage S3 Ep 3 - Clip1.mp4

8 / 8

S10 00:08:20:11

You really have cracked two.

S4 00:08:21:24

You've cracked two hard nuts. That was probably the most

extraordinarily powerful religious thing I've ever been to, but it

kind of didn't make me feel religious. But just as a religious

experience and service, that was absolutely 100% the best thing

I've ever been to, you know? And I've come away thinking

Sufism, you know what? If I had to, probably the one I'd go for.

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