Spiritual but not Religious? New Mevlevis of Contemporary Mevleviye in Turkey

Gur H.

JOURNAL OF EMPIRICAL THEOLOGY, vol.33, no.1, pp.122-148, 2020 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 33 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1163/15709256-12341408
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, IBZ Online, ATLA Religion Database, EBSCO Education Source, Religion and Philosophy Collection
  • Page Numbers: pp.122-148
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Mevleviye as an Islamic religious order is established in Anatolia after the passing of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi in the 13th century. Based on bigger ethnographic research, this paper tries to delve into the distinction between spiritual and religious from the perspective of new Mevlevis of contemporary Mevleviye in Turkey. The authenticity of new Mevlevis' standpoint while defining themselves as spiritual but not religious reflects the effects of modernization and individualization in Turkey as well as Mevleviye's particular approach to spirituality. This reflection seems to reveal the flaws of Western definitions of the spiritual that is often presented as a contrary notion to being religious. Besides offering a discussion on the case of new Mevlevis' understanding of spiritual and religious, this paper also argues that spirituality has to be studied empirically and defined in regards to its context and culture rather than as an essentially contrasting notion to being religious.