Haji Bektash Veli

Portrait of Haji Bektash
Sculpture of Haji Bektash Veli

Haji Bektash Veli or Ḥājī Baktāsh Walī (Persian: حاجی بکتاش ولی Ḥājī Baktāš Walī; Turkish: Hacı Bektaş Veli) was an Alevi Muslim mystic, Sayyid, humanist and philosopher, who lived from 1209 to 1271.[1] He lived and taught from approximately 1209 to 1271 in Anatolia.[1] He is revered among Alevis for an Islamic understanding that is esoteric (spiritual), rational, progressive and humanistic. Alevi and Bektashi Muslims believe the path of Haji Bektash is the path of ʿAli ibn Abu Talib, since Ali was the source of Bektash's teachings. His original name was "Sayyeed Muhammad ibn Sayyeed Ebrāheem Ātā", was one of the figures who flourished in the Sultanate of Rum and had an important influence on the Turkish nomads of Asia Minor.[2] He is also referred to as the Sultan of Hearts[3] and the Derwish of the Derwishes.[4] Haji Bektash Veli was a descendant of the 7th Shi'a Imam Musa Kazim.

His identity

Not much is known about him, his origins are shrouded in mystery and much of his biography is based on legends.[5][6] It is assumed that he was of Turkish[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] or Persian descent,[1][15][16][17][18][19] and belonged to a group of Iranian migrants in Anatolia who had left their homeland during the Mongol conquests.[20] According to "The history of Āshikpāshāzādah" (Aşıkpaşazade Tarihi), written by one of the grandsons of "Āshik Pāshā" who was the son of "Muhlis Paşa" (Muhlees Pāshā) who was the son of renowned Bābā Eliyās al-Khorāsānī, "Sayyeed Muhammad ibn Sayyeed Ebrāheem Ātā" had come to Sivas, Anatolia from Khorasan with his brother “Menteş” (Mantash) to become affiliated with the tariqat of Bābā Eliyās al-Khorāsānī. On the other hand, the famous reference book of Bāktāsh’īyyah tariqat, Valāyat-Nāma-i Hādjī Baktāsh-ī Wālī, claims that "Hajji Bāktāsh" was the murshid of Bābā Rāss’ūl-Allāh (Bābā Eliyās al-Khorāsānī).[21]

The name attributed to him by his followers can be translated as "The Pilgrim Saint Bektash." The Hajji title implies that he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina to perform Hajj. He is the eponym of the Bektashi Sufi order and is considered as one of the principal teachers of Alevism. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the "center and source of his teachings" was Ali ibn Abu Talib, whom Alevis believe to be the righteous successor of Muhammad while also "acknowledging the twelve Shia Imams" and "holding Jafar as-Sadiq in high esteem".[5] Despite his Shia belief and his unorthodox teachings, he is considered a renowned figure in the history and culture of both, the Ottoman Empire and the modern nation-state Turkey. On the other hand, Ibn Khallikan reports that Shī'ite tendencies belonged not to him but rather to his murids, who took refuge in his tekke at Suluca Kara Oyuk in Kırşehir after the Babai Revolt.[22]


Haji Bektash was born in Nishapur. It is reported in some Bektashi legends that Haji Bektash was a follower and the caliph ("representative") of Khwaja Ahmad Yasavi, a Sufi mystic from Central Asia who had great influence on the Turkic nomads of the steppes. However, there are no signs of Yasavi influence in the original teachings of Haji Bektash[23][24] and this claim is rejected by modern scholars, since Khoja Akhmet Yassawi lived nearly one hundred years before Haji Bektash.[25]

Silsila connecting to Khwaja Ahemad Yassawi

The founder of the Bektashiyyah sufi order Haji Baktash Wali, a murid of Malāmatī-Qalāndārī Sheikh Qutb ad-Dīn Haydar, who introduced the Ahmad Yasavi's doctrine of "Four Doors and Forty Stending" into his tariqah.

Actually, the sisilah of Hadji Baktāsh Wālī reaches to the "Yassaw’īyyah tariqah" through another but a similar tariqah, which is well known as the "Wafā’īyyah tariqah" of Abu’l Wafā al-Khwarazmī, who was a murid of Khoja Ahmad Yasavi and the murshid of Dede Ğarkhen, who was in turn the murshid of Bābā Rasul Eliyās Khorāsānī. Modern research connects him to another important religious movement of that time: to the Qalandariyah movement and to Rāss’ūl-Allāh Bābā Eliyās al-Khorāsānī († 1240), an influential mystic from Eastern Persia, who was the murshid of Aybak Bābā, who was in turn the murshid of one of the leading actors of the Babai Revolt, namely Bābā Ishāq Kafarsudī as well. Eventually, Bābā Eliyās Khorāsānī was held responsible for the Babai Revolt organized by Bābā Ishāq Kafarsudī, and consequently executed by Mūbārez’ūd-Dīn-i Armāğān-Shāh,[26] the supreme commander-in-chief of the armies of the Anatolian Seljuks.

The original Bektashi teachings in many ways resemble the teachings of the Khorasanian Qalandar’īyyah and that of Rāss’ūl-Allāh Bābā Eliyās.[20][27] Hajji Baktāsh Wālī was the murid of "Lokhmānn Bābā" (Lokhmānn Sarakhsī) who was one of the four most famous murids of Bābā Rāsūl (Eliyās al-Khorāsānī), as well. "Lokhmānn Bābā," on the other hand, was also a murid of the renowned Qalandariyah Sufi Qutb ad-Dīn Haydar who was the murid of Khwaja Ahmad Yasavī. For these reasons, his silsila gets connected to Ahmad-i Yasavī through two different channels, one by means of "The Wafā’iyyah tariqah" of Abu’l Wafā al-Khwarazmī, and the other through the Qalandar’īyyah Sufi Qutb ad-Dīn Haydar. He was highly respected by the Sultanate of Rum due to his amicable attitude during the Babai Revolt, and his Khanqah in Suluca Kara Oyuk was permitted to remain open during and after the Babai Revolt thereby saving the most of the lives of the piteous Alevi survivors of this ominous rebellion.

His genealogy

The paternal line of Haji Bektash Veli:[28]

Fatimah Zahra(wife of Imam Ali daughter of prophet Mohammed saw)

From the Vilayetname

From the Vilayetname (or: The Saintly Exploits of Haci Bektas Veli):[4]

After Lokman Perende had returned from the hajj, the erenler (saints) of Khorasan came to offer him their respects. When they saw a spring flowing from the middle of the mekteb, they said, "We have been here before many times and had never seen such spring." Lokman Perende replied, "This is by the blessings of Hunkar Haji Bektash." The erenler asked, "Who is this Hunkar Haji Bektash?" Lokman Perende said, "Haji Bektash Hunkar is this beloved one," and he then pointed to the young Bektash. The erenler said, "That one is still a child. How on earth could he become a haji?" Lokman Perende then described to the gathering the all of the miracles of Haji Bektash one by one and then said, "While I was performing my prayer at the Kaabah, Bektash was always there praying next to me. When we completed our prayer, he would vanished." The erenler said, "Where could this boy have found this extraordinary capability?" Then Hunkar Haji Bektash opened his blessed mouth and said, "I am the secret of the exalted Imam Ali, who is the dispenser of the River Kawthar and who is the Lion of Allah, the Emperor of Sainthood and the Commander of the Faithful. My origin and family line is from him. These many miracles are my inheritance which is granted by Allah. It should not be surprising to anyone that miracles like these appear from me, for this is the Power of God."

The erenler of Khorasan said, "If, in reality, you are the secret of the Shah, he has marks. Show these marks to us and we shall believe." Now the sign of Hazreti Ali was this; in the middle of his blessed hand he had a beautiful mole of emerald tone. So Hazreti Hunkar Haji Bektash Veli opened his sanctified hand and showed his palm. They all saw that there, in the middle his palm, was a beautiful emerald mole. The erenler said, "The Commander of the Faithful also had a beautiful emerald mole on his blessed forehead." Hunkar Haji Bektash Veli removed the skull cap from his blessed head and all saw a divinely illuminated mole of emerald tint between his brow. All of the erenler begged for forgiveness, saying, "O Dervish of the Dervishes, we have been sorely mistaken." They surrendered to him asserting, "These are indeed miracles."

Spread of the Bektashi order

Bektashism spread from Anatolia through the Ottomans primarily into the Balkans, where its leaders (known as dedes or babas) helped convert many to Islam. The Bektashi Sufi order became the official order of the elite Janissary corps after their establishment. The Bektashi Order remained very popular among Albanians, and Bektashi tekkes can be found throughout Albania, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia to this day. During the Ottoman period Bektashi tekkes were set up in Egypt and Iraq, but the order did not take root in these countries. There is also a Bektashi tekke in Michigan, founded by Baba Rexheb, who was a Bektashi baba and a writer in Islamic mysticism and Bektashism.

Different orders within Alevism

It is believed by Alevi's that Hadji Baktāsh Wālī was a teacher of Alevism and that he never started a 'different' Bektashi order. Instead, the Bektashi order was started by Balim Sultan after the passing away of Haji Bektash. The Bektashi order was most popular among rural segments of Anatolia and in the southern Balkans (as well as the military men), in contrast to the Mevlevis, who generally attracted artisans, or the Naqshbandi or Khalwati orders, who attracted theologians and government officials. The Mevlevi Order is named after Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, also known as 'Mevlana' in Turkey, a Sufi mystic who lived in the same time as Haji Bektash Veli. The Mevlevi-order was started by the son of Mevlana. It was also during the Ottoman period that many Alevi in Turkey attached themselves to the veneration of Hajji Bektash, a move which may have further polarized the tension between Alevism and the mainstream Sunni Muslim ideology of the Ottoman empire.

The biggest difference between all of these Sufi-orders is that in the Bektashi and Mevlevi-order everyone can become a 'dede' or 'pir' (religious spiritual leader / preacher), while in the mainstream Alevi belief only a sayyid, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through the Twelve Imams can become a dede.

19th century and thereafter

When the Janissary corps were abolished in 1826 by Sultan Mahmud II the Bektashis suffered the same fate. The babas of the tekkes and their dervishes were banished to staunchly Sunni villages and towns, and their tekkes were closed or handed over to Sunni Sufi orders (mostly Naqshbandi; for example, the Goztepe Tekke in Istanbul was given to the Naqshbandis during this period).

Although the Bektashi order regained many of its lost tekkes during the Tanzimat period, they, along with all other Sufi orders, were banned in Turkey in 1925 as a result of the country's secularization policies and all Bektashi tekkes were closed once more along with all others. As a result, the headquarters of the order were moved to Tirana in Albania.

The main Bektashi tekke is in the town of Hacıbektaş in Central Anatolia, known as Hajibektash complex. It is currently open as a museum and his resting place is still visited by both Sunni and Alevi Muslims. Large festivals are held there every August. Also the Göztepe and Shahkulu tekkes in Istanbul are now used as meeting places for Alevis. The biggest Bektashi tekke is said to be in Albania. There is also a Bektashi tekke in Taylor, Michigan, United States, founded by Baba Rexheb, who was a famous Bektashi writer on Islamic Mysticism and Bektashism.[29]

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 C. Olsen: Celibacy and Religious Traditions. Oxford University Press. 1st Ed. 2007. Pg. 143–144
  2. Alexēs G. K. Savvidēs, Byzantium in the Near East: Its Relations with the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in Asia Minor, The Armenians of Cilicia and The Mongols, A.D. c. 1192-1237, Kentron Vyzantinōn Ereunōn, 1981, p. 116.
  3. http://teqeamerica.com/articles/article1/
  4. 1 2 http://bektashiorder.com/from-the-vilayetname
  5. 1 2 Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. ed. Gibb, Kramers, Schacht. Vol. I, A-B. Brill, Leiden, 1986. Pg. 1162, "Bektāshiyya"
  6. Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. ed. Gibb, Kramers, Schacht. Vol. I, A-B. Brill, Leiden, 1986. Pg. 1162, "Bektāshiyya"
  7. Brian Glyn Williams: Mystics, Nomads and Heretics: A History of the Diffusion of Muslim Syncretism from Central Asia to the Thirteenth-Century Turco-Byzantine Dobruca — International journal of Turkish studies, 2001 - University of Wisconsin (p. 7)
  8. Richard Robert Madden, The Turkish Empire:In its relations with Christianity and civilization., Vol.1, 335; "...he sent them to Haji Bektash, a Turkish saint...".
  9. Indries Shah, The Way of the Sufi, 294; "..Bektash of the Turks...".
  10. Mark Soileau, Humanist Mystics:Nationalism and the commemoration of saints in Turkey, 375; "Haji Bektash was a Turk.".
  11. Tord Olsson; Elisabeth Ozdalga; Catharina Raudvere. [Alevi Identity: Cultural, Religious and Social Perspectives "Alevi Identity: Cultural, Religious and Social Perspectives"] Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  12. University of Georgia, Islam and Islamic Studies Resources, Islamic Studies, Islam, Arabic, and Religion page of Dr. Godlas., "..Haji Bektash Veli is one of the most significant Anatolian (Turkish) Sufi saints..", http://islam.uga.edu/sufismorders.html#Bektashi.
  13. Futuwwa Traditions in the Ottoman Empire Akhis, Bektashi Dervishes, and Craftsmen,G. G. Arnakis, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 12, No. 4, Oct., 1953. --"...we see at once a man that made a lasting impression on his fellow Turks."
  14. Jestice, Phyllis (2004). Holy people of the world: a cross-cultural encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-57607-355-1.
  15. M. Kia: Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire. Greenwood Pub Group Inc. 2011. Pg. 169: "The Bektashis traced the origins of their order to the Persian Sufi master Hadji Baktāsh Wālī [...]"
  16. http://www.geocities.ws/spiritofalbania/tirana.html
  17. R. Khanam, Encyclopaedic ethnography of Middle-East and Central Asia, Global Vision Publishing Ho, 2005 (p. 142)
  18. The Harvard Theological Review, Cambridge University Press, Vol. 2, No. 3, Jul., 1909, (p. 343)
  19. Algar, Hamid. "BEKTĀŠ, ḤĀJĪ". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  20. 1 2 Algar, Hamid. "BEKTĀŠ, ḤĀJĪ". Encyclopedia Iranica. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  21. Balcıoğlu, Tahir Harimi, Mezhep cereyanları - Madh'hab movements, p. 184, Ahmed Said tab’ı, Hilmi Ziya neşriyâtı, 1940.
  22. Ibn Khallikan, Shakāyik.
  23. H. Algar, "Khorāsanian Sufī Hāji Bektāŝ", Encyclopædia Iranica, v, p. 117, Online Edition 2006, (LINK)
  24. Mehmet Fuat Köprülü, Türk Edebiyatında İlk Mutasavvıflar, Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, p. 49.
  25. J. Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam, Clarendon Press, 1971, p. 81.
  26. Ibn-i Bibī, Al-Avāmer’ûl-‘ālā’īyyah, pages 498-499.
  27. Mehmed Fuad Köprülü, citing Ibn Bibi in his book "Anadolu'da İslamiyet" (Islam in Anatolia) (1922), identifies Bābā Rāss’ūl-Allāh with Baba Ishak who led The Bābā Ishāq Rebellion; this is contradicted by other scholars, such as David Cook in his book Martyrdom in Islam (2007; p. 84), citing historical references, such as the Manākib ul-Qudsiyya (14th century)
  28. http://bektashiorder.com/genealogy-and-spiritual-lineage
  29. http://bektashiorder.com/excerpts-from-babas-book
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