Within the world of Islam there are many different attitudes toward the arts. For sufis, those Muslims who follow a mystical path, creating art is itself a form of religious practice. The visual and musical traditions taught and performed at the Özbekler Tekke, a religious complex for sufi orders near Istanbul, embody this idea.
Seven generations of masters in ebrû, the art of paper marbling, have been trained at the Özbekler Tekke, founded by the Uzbek religious leader Sheikh Sadik Efendi in the early nineteenth century. From him a continuous teacher-student lineage has passed the tradition.
Music is another sufi art taught and performed at the Özbekler Tekke. Every Friday a group that often includes Turkey’s best musicians meets at the Tekke to sing ilahis, sufi devotional songs. Most often the ilahis are accompanied by the rhythm of tambourines (bender) and kettle drums (kumdum), while the melodic line is echoed and improvised upon by a ney, an end-blown reed flute. The ney has been closely associated with sufism ever since the thirteenth-century mystic poet Rumi used it as a metaphor for humanity.