‘Khalwat’ is an Arabic word that means ‘ isolation, seclusion, living all alone or being in solitude’. ‘ Khalwat’ means solitary retreat, to be freed from every worldly thing, which occupy or will occupy mind, in an isolated place and prefer being there to everywhere else. Another definition of ‘ khalwat’ is , ‘to be completely alone’ or ‘in order to speak silently to one’s inner being secluding oneself from everybody else . Going into seclusion means to stay in a small room, which is called ‘The Khalwat Khana’ - in convents -, to engage in worship, dhikr, consideration and supervision (=muraqbah). Living in seclusion means to stay alone in a place of solitude.
‘Khalwat’ , which lasts 40 days, is publicly called ‘chilla’ , meaning ‘ severe trial ’. The word ‘chilla’ is adopted from the Persian word ‘chihli’ , meaning ‘ forty ’. The term is also used to refer to endurance . ‘The Khalwat Khana’ is called ‘ The Chilla Khana’ , as well.
‘Khalwat ’ as a theosophical term, can be defined as, ‘to speak to God secretly’. In Sufi terminology ‘ khalwat ’ means, by the Shaykh’s order and approval Mureed’s secluding himself in a dark and small room to spend his time in worship, consideration, supervision (=muraqbah), dhikr and reflection (=tafakkur). A forty day khalwat is also called ‘ arbain ’ , which means a period of forty days .
With regard to ‘ khalwat ’ , Hazrat Mehmet Dumlu said ,
‘Khalwat’ is unique and peculiar to itself . In fact the universe itself is the seclusion place, ‘ The Khalwat Khane ’, of God and all the living and unliving things are in seclusion. Whether they are willing to or not, they are instructed in this Khalwat Khana. It is impossible to stay apart from this education. Resigning it and being pleased with it give peace to one. Rejecting it is of no use and it causes weariness. ’
According to historical reports and hearsay, ‘ khalwat ’ is inherited from Hazrat Musa(a.s.). Hazrat Musa passed through several severe trials in Madyan during his stay with Hazrat Shuayb(a.s.). ( Pakalýn,M.Zeki, Osmanlý Deyimleri Sözlüðü , B;1, p;713 )
The origin of ‘ khalwat ’ goes back to the earlier times.
‘Khalwat ’ is a widespread practice among every Sufi Order.
There is only one sultan in the palace of heart and surely it is God.
In one of his gatherings Hazrat Mehmet Dumlu explained ‘Khalwat in Khalwatiyya’ saying that,
‘In the Khalwatiyya Order practice of seclusion occurs with the will of the disciple and with the permission and supervision of a perfect murhid. ’
There are three types of khalwat, which have been practiced for centuries, and they are as follows;
Arbain (= a period of forty day), nýsýf (= half) and urub (= a quarter).
‘Arbain’ is an Arabic word which means forty, and thus the practice of seclusion for forty days is called the practice of ‘arbain’ as well. For centuries the practice of ‘arbain’ has occurred like that ;
Ten days before the Ramadan ‘ khalwat ’ is started and it continues 30 days in Ramadan. During this period, the disciple never goes out except in case of exigency. If he goes out, he gets back as soon as possible. The disciple engages in worship, reflection(=tafakkur) , consideration, deliberation and abstinence. By doing all these the disciple completes forty days of Khalwat period.
The disciple who starts practicing seclusion ten days before Ramadan starts fasting as well. By ten days freely performed and thirty days obligatory fasting, he completes ‘arbain’. On the first morning of Bairam, the brethrens of the way come together and in the presence of the murshid, with a veil on his face and with a traditional ceremony, including hymns and prayers, the disciple leaves ‘ The Khalwat Khana’. A great ecstasy , spiritual joy and pleasure are felt with the participation of the shaykhs and disciples of other orders . A heartfelt and pathetic ritual occurs. (When a Khalwatiyya disciple leaves Khalwat Khana, the members of other orders in that city are invited to the ceremony as well.)
‘Arbain ’ is in this form in the convents but the disciple can go into seclusion in the other months of the year.
The daily meal of the one who practices seclusion is a glass of honey sherbet or any other sherbet and approximately 50 grams of dough in sheets.
The period of other khalwats , ‘ nýsýf ’ and ‘ urub ’, are as follows;
‘Nýsýf Khalwat ’ lasts twenty days and ‘Urub Khalwat’ lasts ten days. They can be practiced in any month of the year.
A perfect murshid can prescribe seclusion to lots of the initiated disciples and he pays all their expenses. Shaykhs meet all the other needs of the convent as well. Another financial source for the expenditure of some convents was the salary , given by the Sultans in the Ottoman period. This salary was called ‘zawiyya’.
For this reason the tradition of the expenditure’s being paid by Shaykhs is maintained in the Khalwati-Shabani Order.
The permission to initiate is never given to the poor ones in case they can’t afford the expenditure of the convent and their financial situation is always quite good. There are some very rich ones as well.