Tag Archives: sufism

Sufism: Qalander and the Tradition of Jhuley Lal

Context: Some research showed that other sources spell Qalander and Jhuley Lal differently than informant JL, a former federal senator from Pakistan, did. This may be because of translation to the romanized alphabet, but the different spellings are Qalandar and Jhulelal. Regardless, Qalander is a Sufi, likely referring to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, who lived in the 12th century and was buried in Sindh, which JL notes is his former country. Below, JL relays his knowledge of Qalander and his annual tradition of dancing. 

Main Piece: Transcript:

JL: One of the Sufis, his past name is “Qalander”, who is a very popular sufi. He also has an annual event, and his event is also marked by dancing… Even though he is a Muslim Sufi, most of his followers are Hindus because they believe that this Sufi is a reincarnation of a Hindu god… called Jhuley Lal. The word Jhuley means in the local language “the rocking” like dancing… and Lal actually is the red color. He used to wear red dresses always and he always used to dance going around in circles. And that is why people go in his tradition, and they all dance and most of them also wear red clothes. So you have a Muslim Sufi who is a reincarnation of a Hindu god. And there were people in millions even coming from across the border who are Hindus, and of course you also have Muslims. It is also in my former country, it is in the province of Sindh… His shrine is in a city, where you have the annual event where people will go and dance…

JL: So what happens is when the region was locked by terrorists for a time, who were hardcore islamists, they wanted to put a stop to this dancing, as you can understand you have man and woman rocking together at the shrine. Maybe 10 to 15 years back, the terrorists had actually planted a bomb in the shrine… and the bomb exploded and about 150 people died. And they thought that by doing that they would put a stop to all these followers coming to the shrine… And the tradition was that every morning at 4am they would ring the bell. And right after that explosion which probably took place at night, on the dot at 4am the caretaker of the shrine rang the bell and people came back to the courtyards and started dancing and nobody was afraid, so the tradition continued. 

I continued to ask JL about the strength of the belief in Sufism (for more, see Sufism: Festivals). He told me that, for the Sufist’s belief, so long as you were dancing and following the tradition of the Sufi, nothing bad would happen to you. The tradition of Jhuley Lal was so strong that not even a murderous bombing would stop the followers from dressing in red and dancing in the courtyard. 

Thoughts: Sufism is a firm belief system whose followers believe in devoutly in the hope that it will bring them good fortune. Even through death and tragedy, their devotion to Sufism did not waver, and I think that makes Sufism and its festivals powerful traditions. There’s certainly something to be said here about Sufis as role models for a population. The community of Sufists believe in these Sufis because of their positive qualities, and they practice traditions like dancing in red dresses so that they can imitate those positive qualities and find good fortune. 

Shungite Crystal Healing


The informant – LF – is a 20-year-old female from the Seattle, Washington. She currently is a sophomore in the USC Thornton School of Music. Her parents are part of a small sect of Islam, Sufism, and often lead meditation retreats that teach the meditation techniques of George Gurdjieff. Here, I asked LF about some of the spiritual healing methods used by her parents.


LF: She, like, aligns these crystals up in fashions, kind of. And there’s this one specific crystal called a shungite rock, I think, and she makes you hold it in your hand if you, like… I don’t know what it does. But literally when I held it – I’m not even kidding – it felt like my whole body was vibrating. It was whacko.


Me: What context did she tell you to hold it?


LF: I was feeling sick. It’s an energetic thing – it holds really powerful energy I think.


Me: So if you’re feeling sick, your mom would…


LF: Yeah, she’d be like, “Honey, take your crystals…” (Laughter) Yeah, I was vaccinated with crystals, haha.



I couldn’t find much on a relationship between Gurdjieff’s teachings and using crystals in spiritual healing, so I believe that the two could be unrelated. LF seemed to find the methods somewhat humorous, often making jokes about the methods, but also believed in the potential power of the crystals. It’s unclear exactly why LF’s parents use crystals in their healing methods/which, if any, tradition they’re drawing upon, though using crystals in spiritual healing seems to be a fairly common tradition among many different people.

Gurdjieff’s Movements


The informant – LF – is a 20-year-old female from the Seattle, Washington. She currently is a sophomore in the USC Thornton School of Music. Her parents are part of a small sect of Islam, Sufism, and often lead meditation retreats that teach the meditation techniques of George Gurdjieff. The following is from a conversation about the meditation retreats hosted by her parents.


LF: On the retreats, they go out to an isolated place – like a retreat center. And their daily routine is, they wake up for 6am meditation. So you have to get up and be there before that. After breakfast, there’s practical work. For practical work, they do some sort of physical labor, wherever they are. At the retreat center they’ve stayed at, they’ll re-roof a building, or build a deck, for example. It’s not like charity: the work itself is a meditation; you’re getting in your body, and you’re being really physical.

There’s not a lot of talking. There’s this idea throughout the retreat of staying collected, which is, kind of like, maintaining sensation throughout your body. And it’s kind of like meditating – it’s not super talkative or out of your head. You’re supposed to, like, stay really aware. And my parents actually met at a meditation retreat, and these are traditions that have been passed down from this Turkish dude named Gurdjieff… I don’t know, he just has a lot of these philosophies and shit like that.

But after the practical work, they have these things called the Movements, which are these dances, kind of, but they’re like, derived from the whirling dervishes. It’s from this religion they associate with, Sufism. But it’s more derived from the mystics from, like, the Quran.

Me: So what is the purpose of the Movements?

LF: It’s like a meditation, and they’re really hard to do, so they take a lot of concentration and focus and intention.

Me: Do they know the moves beforehand? Did you grow up knowing them?

LF: No, my mom teaches them. She knows all of them, because she’s been doing this shit for hella long. And I don’t know them – I was always too young to participate in the retreats. But then as I got older, I would play the piano to accompany them.

Me: Do the meditations each serve a particular purpose?

LF: Yeah, they’re kind of like overcoming different physical… It’s all about the struggle. That’s the thing, is they’re enduring the struggle, and the struggle is good. And you breathe through it, and you get through it.



Like LF said, it seems that Gurdjieff’s movements and the whirling dervishes, while part of a religious tradition, transcend religion, and are ultimately meditations that allow the participant to reach a transcendent state by persevering through physical and mental struggle while maintaining a meditative mental state. Though the practices are part of the religious tradition of Sufism, the meditations can be used – and are used, evidently, by participants in LF’s parents’ retreats – for anybody wishing to strengthen their mind through meditation.


For more information regarding Gurdjieff’s Movements, see George Adam’s (1998) Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and his Teaching, Nova Religio, 2(1), 161-163.