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"Bektashiyya"

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J. Spencer TRIMINGHAM

(05.08.2001)

(This is quoted from - TRIMINGHAM, J. Spencer : THE SUFI ORDERS IN ISLAM, Oxford University Press, 1971, p. 80-83. )

...Whilst the Khalwatiyya was characterized by fissiparous tendencies, the headship of each ta’ifa becoming hereditary, the Bektashiyya maintained a strong central organization, with affiliated village groups, and was limited to Anatolia and its European provinces. The Bektashiyya claimed to be a Sunni order, though in fact very unorthodox and having so strong a reverence for the House of ‘Ali that it might well be called a Shi’i order. Tha practical recognition of the order as Sunni seems to be due to the fact that when, after the early association of Turkish Sufis with the ghazi and akhi movements which assisted the Ottoman surge to conquest, when the Ottoman authority came more and more under the influence of orthodox Hanafis, the early ghazi association was not repudiated but found new vigour and a powerful organization in the Bektashiyya.

This organization was associated with the name of a semi-legendary Turkish Sufi called Hajji Bektash of Khurasan, who emigrated to Anatolia (1) after the Mongols had destroyed the Seljuq state and the remains of the Caliphate. He probably died about 738/1337, for Taqi ad-din al-Wasitî (1275-1343) mentions the Khirqa Bektash (deriving from Ahmad al-Yasavi, al-Ghujdawani, etc.) without adding radi Allah ‘anhu after his name, so he was still alive about 1320 and known in Iraq. (2) However, the organization of the Bektashiyya did not develop until the fifteenth century and the Janissary corps, instituted by Murad I, was associated with it from the end of the sixteenth century. One consequence of this association with the Janissaries and so with Ottoman authority was that the Bektashis were rarely attacked on grounds of doctrine or innovations. Ottoman authorities sometimes took severe measures against leaders, but that was through their involvement in the numerous Janissary revolts, not on account of their beliefs and practices. But immediately the Janissary corps was abolished in 1826 the Bektashis fell with them. The orthodox ‘ulama’ then castigated them as heretics, (3) Some were killed, their tekkes destroyed, and their properties handed over to Naqshabandis. However, because they were not a military order but had deep roots in the life of the people, they survived underground, some groups within other orders, and when circumstances became more propitious they began once more to expand.

The heretical and Shi’i doctrines and ritual of the Bektashiyya do not derive from Hajji Bektash, though there is no need to assume that he was any more orthodox than other babas. His name is simply a term to provide a point of identity. The order grew out of saint-veneration and the system of convents into a syncretistic unity, combining elements from many sources, vulgar, heterodox, and esoteric; ranging from the popular cults of central Asia and Anatolia, both Turkish and Christian Rumi, to the doctrines of the Hurufis. When the inspirer of the Hurufi movement, Fadl Allah ibn ‘Ali Astarabad, was executed by Miran Shah in 796/1394 (or 804/1401) his khalifas dispersed widely. One of these, the great Turkish poet Nesimi, went from Tabriz to Aleppo, where he made numerous converts, but the ‘ulama’ denounced him to the Mamluk sultan, Mu’ayyad, who had him executed in 820/1417. (4) It has been suggested that another khalifa, al-‘Ali al-A’la (executed in Anatolia 822/1419), went on Anatolia and there fostered certain Hurufi doctrines upon a a local saint buried in central Anatolia called Hajji Bektash. (5) But he was only one among many, for the propaganda of the Hurufis spread widely, even though they were persecuted, especially under Bayezid II. Bektashis themselves do not refer Hurufi ideas back to Bektash, but this organization, tolerated by the authorities, became their depository and assured their perpetuation. The actual role of the Ahl-i Haqq during the Bektashi formative period is unknown. At any rate, during this fifteenth century when the Bektashiyya was developing into a comprehensive organization, it incorporated other beliefs besides Hurufi from the new environment and beyond some were Christian in origin and others came from such sources as the qizilbash (red heads) (6) of eastern Asia Minor and Kurdistan. Many of these were the later affiliated nomadic and village groups (alevis, takhtajis, etc.) initiated into allegiance to Hajji Bektash as the spiritual factor in communal life. (7) The Bektashis proper are those who were fully initiated into a lodge. Probably the first leader of any true Bektashi organization was Balim Sultan (d. 922/1516), whose title of Pir Sani, the Second Patron Saint, implies that he is the founder. (8) According to tradition he was appointed to the headship of the Pir Evi, the mother tekke at Hajji Bektash Koy (near Qirshehir) in 907/1501. A rival head was the chelebi, whose authority was recognized by many of the village groups. Claiming descent from Hajji Bektash, he is first heard of in connection with a rising of Kalenderoglu, supported by various dervishes and Turkmans, which began in A.D. 1526. (9) This office became hereditary (at least from 1750), whereas the Dede, the head deriving from Balim Sultan, was an apostolic head chosen by a special council.

This confusion of origins and complexity of groupings supports the supposition that various groups which would have been regarded as schismatic and liable to be persecuted in the type of Sunni state towards which that of the Ottopmans was moving, (10) gained the right of asylum under the all-embracing and tolerant umbrella of the Bektashi organization. From Balim Sultan derives the organized Bektashi inititory system, with initiates living in tekkes situated near, but not within, towns, and to be distinguished from the village groups. Yet the whole organization composed of such diverse elements blended in time to express loyalty to a common ideal and purpose. Similarly, the unification of the basic ritual and symbolism, together with the custom of celibacy practised by a class of their dervishes, are ascribed to Balim Sultan... 

Notes:

(In his book Trimingham, notes given in every pages starting from number 1, but we give numbers continiously for all pages. And also we give this part in the "The Formation of Tâ'ifas" of his book, "Bektasiyya"  Dr. Ali Yaman)

(1) For legens of his investiture by one Luqman, disciple of Ahman Yasavi, and his migration see Evliya Chelebi (A.D. 1611-79), Narrative, ii. 19-21. He appeared in Anatolia after Jalal-ad-din Rumi was well established (d. A.D. 1273) and was recognized by a group there who called him the khalifa of one Baba Rasul Allah. This it seems was the Ishaq Baba who led his dervishes against the Seljuq sultan, Ghiyath ad-din Kay-Khusrau II in 1240 (see J. K. Birge, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes, 1937, pp. 32, 43-4). He does not need to be a direct khalifa. Aflaki says of Bektashi that he was ‘un mystique au coeur eclaire, mais il ne s’astreignait pas a suivre la loi apportee par le prophete’ (tr. C. Huart, Les Saints des dervishes tourneurs, i. 296).

(2)Al-Wasitî (d. 1343), Tiryaq al-muhibbin, p. 47.

(3) See Assad-Efendi Mohammed, Precis historique de la destruction du corps des Janissaires par le Sultan Mahmoud, en 1826, tr. A. P. Caussin Perceval, Paris, 1833, pp. 298-329.

(4) On Nesimi, whose full name is Nesim ad-din Tabrizî, see E. J. W. Gibb, History of Ottoman Poetry, i. 343 ff.

(5) An important, though hostile, account is Ishaq Efendi’s Kashif al-Asrar, published in 1291/1874-5. This relates how, after the execution of Fadl Allah, ‘his Khalifas (vicars or lieutenants) agreed to disperse themselves through the lands of the Muslims, and devoted themselves to corrupting and misleading the people of Islam. He of those Khalifas who bore the title of al-Ali al-A’la (‘the High, the Supreme’) came to the monastery of Hajji Bektash in Anatolia and there lived in seclusion, secretly teaching the Jawidan to the inmates of the monastery, with the assurance that it represented the doctrine of Hajji Bektash the saint (wali). The inmates of the monastery, being ignorant and foolish, accepted the Jawidan, ... named it “the secret”; and enjoined the utmost reticence concerning it, to such a degree that if anyone enters their order and afterwards reveals “the secret”, they consider his life as forfeit (tr. E. G. Browne, Literary History of Persia, iii. 371-2; cf. 449-52). The Jawidan-name mentioned was written by Fadl Allah after his revelation of 788/1386.

(6) The Turks applied the term qizilbash to fuqara, chiefly Turkish at first, who wore red turbans. Later, after Shaikh Haidar of the Safawiyya was divinely instructed in a dream to adopt a scarlet cap distinguished by twelve gores, the term especially designated his followers.

(7) The tekke of Hajji Bektash was at one time supported by the revenues of 362 villages whose inhabitants were inhabitants were affiliated to the order; see F. W. Hasluck, Christianity and Islam under the Sultans, 1929, ii. 503.

(8) See J. K. Birge, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes, 1937, pp. 56-58.

(9) J. von Hammer, Histoire de l’Empire Ottoman, ed. J. J. Hellert, 1844, i. 489.

(10) The decisive date after which these organizations in the Ottoman dominions had to profess a surface Sunni allegiance was Sultan Salim’s victory at Caldiran over Shah Ismail in A. D. 1514.

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