Skip to main content

Darwīsh

DARWĪSH

DARWĪSH . The Persian word darwīsh, from the Pahlavi driyosh, is most likely derived from the term darvīza, meaning "poverty," "neediness," "begging," and so forth. The word darwīsh has entered the other Islamic languages, such as Turkish and Urdu, and is even found in classical Arabic sources. It has become an English word in the form of dervish. In all these cases, including the original Persian, it is related primarily to spiritual poverty, equivalent to the possession of "Muhammadan poverty" (al-faqr al-muammadi). Hence the term darwīsh referring to a person who possesses this "poverty" is the same as the Arabic term faqīr used in Sufism in many Islamic languages besides Arabic (including Persian itself) for Muhammadan poverty. Within ūfī circles, these words are used interchangeably, along with mutaawwif, "practitioner" of Sufism.

The term darwīsh appears in Persian literature as early as the tenth century and in such early Persian ūfī texts as the works of Khwājah ʿAbd Allāh Anārī of Herat, where it carries the basic meaning referred to above but encompasses such variations as "ascetic," "hermit," and "wandering ūfī" (qalandar). Later it also became an honorific title bestowed upon certain ūfīs such as Darwīsh Khusraw, the leader of the Nuqawiyah school at the time of Shah ʿAbbās I. Throughout the history of Sufism, the state of being a darwīsh, or darwīshī, has been held in great honor and respect, as seen from the famous ghazal of āfi that begins with the verse

Rawiy-i khuld-i barīn khalwat-i darwīshānast
Māyiy-i mutashimī khidmat-i darwīshanast

The sublime eternal Paradise is the spiritual
retreat of the dervishes;

The essence of grandeur is the service of the dervishes.

There is, however, a secondary meaning associated with darwīsh that carries negative connotations, interpreting simplicity of life, limitation of material needs, reliance upon God for sustenance, and other aspects of Muhammadan poverty or Sufism as laziness, lackadaisicalness, indifference to cleanliness, neglect of duties toward oneself and society, and other injunctions emphasized by the sharīʿah, or Islamic law. This negative aspect of the term increased with the decay of certain ūfī orders during the past two or three centuries and also with the attempt by some people to pass themselves off as darwīsh without any involvement with Sufism at all. Nonetheless, the association with spiritual poverty, self-discipline, and the basic virtues of humility, charity, and veracity remains the primary meaning of the word.

Bibliography

Arberry, A. J. Sufism: An Account of the Mystics of Islam (1950). Reprint, London, 1979.

Birge, John K. The Bektashi Order of Dervishes (1937). Reprint, New York, 1982.

Ernst, Carl W. The Shambala Guide to Sufism. Boston, 1997.

Keddie, Nikki R., ed. Scholars, Saints, and Sufis: Muslim Religious Institutions in the Middle East since 1500. Berkeley, Calif., 1972.

Nicholson, Reynold A. The Mystics of Islam (1914). Reprint, London, 1963.

Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill, N. C., 1975.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1987 and 2005)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Darwīsh." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Darwīsh." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/darwish

"Darwīsh." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/darwish

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.