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Haji Bektashi Veli Ve Bektashism 2*

As a result, we can say that Haji Bektash is one of the great people who laid the spiritual foundations of the powerful Ottoman Empire. While Mevlana became the source of enlightenment for intellectuals and craftsmen on one hand, Haji Bektash guided veterans, guided the heroes as a leader; generated enthusiasm and excitement, paved the way for the development of countries and continents on the other hand, as we see in the case of Yunus Emre, he was involved with the community, directly served for the enlightenment of the people, and also indirectly contributed to the Turkish language and literature, and has lived in the hearts of millions for centuries.

Translations in other Languages

Prof. Dr. M. Es’ad Cosan
(May Allah have mercy on him)
Kırşehir and its provinces, which was established in a marshy and charming valley of the Central Anatolian plateau, was one of the most important centers of Turkish culture especially during XIII-XIV centuries with the fall of Anatolian Seljuk Empire and reign of Ilhanli. The great poets and Sufis that left marks in history such as Gülşehrî and Âşık Pasha, sage of futuwwa Ahî Evran, the conqueror of Izmir Çağa Bey, and Sheikh Edebali, the father-in-law of Osman Gazi were raised in Kırşehir which was also the center of the establishment of “Ahilik” and Futuwwa, that were also extremely important in the establishment of the Ottoman Empire. Babaism, which was involved in significant political events of the Seljuk period also spread in Kirsehir. Haji Bektash Veli, father of the Janissaries lived in this region, and the seeds of Bektashism which has continued for centuries and reached the present, were sown here.

In particular, topics regarding Haji Bektash and Bektashism still arouse widespread interest both in Turkey and abroad.1 It is possible to observe vibrant examples of this devotion in various provinces of the country in Alevi-Bektashi gatherings held at different intervals with singing and musical instruments; also in the news, in articles and interviews in newspapers and journals, and in the commemoration ceremonies held in the Hacıbektaş town of the Nevşehir province between August 16-18 every year. Some politicians, high ranking commanders, academics and other intellectuals participate particularly in the commemoration ceremonies. Folk poets, Ottoman military band (mehter) and folklore teams perform; hundreds of animals are sacrificed at the Pîrevi where thousands of visitors gather.

So how did this prominent sect that is closely involved with Turkish political history as well as religious, social and cultural affairs develop historically; who was Haji Bektash and what were his views?

The life of Haji Bektash

As in the case of all great saints, legends full of extraordinary events and miracles surrounding Haji Bektash have emerged, however, it is somewhat difficult to clarify the historical facts among these due to the lack of conclusive records.

In addition to menakıbnames written regarding people mentioned in Bektashi traditions such as Hacim Sultan, Sarı Saltuk, Seyyid Ali Sultan, Abdal Musa, that also mentions Haji Bektashi, a Vilayetname was compiled by Musa b. Ali also known as “Sufi Dervish” in 844/1440 by gathering oral narratives from among Bektashis. This work, also known as “Menakıbname-i Haji Bektash-ı Veli”, was rewritten in verse by Firdawsi Tawil Rûmî from Bursa at the end of the XV century and was published several times both in Europe and Turkey.2

According to this Menakıbname, Haji Bektash was a descendent of Musa al-Kazım, the seventh Imam of Imam Ali’s (pbuh) linage. He was born in Nişapur, grew up in Khorasan and on the order of the famous Ahmet Yesevi he visited the holy cities of Mecca, Medina, Najaf, Damascus, Jerusalem and Aleppo. He then came to Anatolia and settled in Suluca Karahöyük, located 40km south of Kırşehir; he met with the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad, Mevlana Celaleddin, Osman Gazi, Ahi Evran, Taptuk Emre and Sarı Saltuk; he trained many Sufis and sent 360 of his caliphs to various countries as guides.

In reference to historical facts, as it is clear from waqf records that he died at the end of the XIII Century we can confirm Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı’s discovery in three handwritten manuscripts stating that he lived between 606-669/ 1209-1270.3

The epithet “Al-Khorasani(from Khorasan)” was also included after his name. We come across hundreds of figures who were cited with the same epithet during that period in Anatolia. For example, Asik Pasha's grandfather Baba Ilyas al-Khorasani, Haji Ismail al-Khorasani who was the guide of Yunus Emre. This was used instead of “Iraqi” in Sufism as a sign of modesty; to express their affiliation to the Khorasan Malamatiyya that adopted the path of love and ecstasy to reach God.4  Indeed, the conceptions in Haji Bektash’s works are the conceptions of this path of love and ecstasy in Sufism. Considering that he was born in Nişapur, the cradle of Malamatiyya, this can be classified as normal.

The abundance of “Khorasan Erenleri” (Saints of Khorasan) in Anatolia indicates that Haji Bektash was not alone, and that he had many fellow compatriots and idealists. In fact, the Manaqib al-Arifin of Aflaki (article 1318) records him as the special caliph of Baba Ishak (d.1240), the Babai leader who was also known as “Baba Resul.”5

Determining the nature of Babaiism and members of the Babai order is essential to understand the character and ideas of Haji Bektash. This political struggle, which continued with intervals starting from 637/1239 under the leadership of the Babai sheikhs and caliphs of the Great Turkmen masses until the foundation of the Karamanoğlu Principality, is classified as a resistance of Turkish nationalism against the increasing anti-national influences, oppression and persecutions.6 For example, although the grandfather of Asik Pasha was a Babai leader, his Sunni, ascetic beliefs lead us to deliberate on believing and suggesting the struggle originated from the beliefs of a Shi’a- Batini group.7

Works of Haji Bektash

Some of Haji Bektash's works have survived to the present day. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate the Tafsir of Surah al-Fātiha claimed to be found in Tire.8

Although we encounter 9 some poems bearing the pseudonym of Haji Bektash in some poetry and poetry journals, it is clear from their language characteristics that they belong to another Haji Bektash who lived much later.

One of Haji Bektashi's shathiyya (idiosyncratic works), was enriched with poetry in 1091/1680 by an author named Enveri who was Naqshbandi and Hurufi, and explained in the form of a 135 page book titled Tuhfatul sâlikîn. 10

As we see-apart from the information above –Makalat is the only remaining work from which we can learn Haji Bektash's ideas.

The essay was written in Arabic and later translated into Turkish. It is small in volume (around 30 pages). We discovered the original handwritten Arabic manuscript that has never been discovered until the present which also mentions the forty maqams.

There are many handwritten copies of the translated prose. It was printed twice in old letters (Ottoman-Arabic) in Istanbul (one undated, the other dated 1288/1871) and once in the new alphabet. 11

It is not clear who translated the manuscript. Although it is generally believed that it belonged to Said Emre, this is probably incorrect as the translator refers to him as a third person in the text. The translated prose was re-versed in 812/1409 by Taceddin Hatiboglu, a hadith professor in Iznik and presented to reputed Halil Bey II of Çandar whose grandfathers were members of the “Ahi” order. 12

The ideas of Haji Baktash

The most prominent sources for understanding Haji Bektash's ideas and character are undoubtedly his works. Makalat provides us with valuable knowledge on this subject.

In Makalat, Haji Bektash appears before us with a matured Sufi identity. The eight chapters of the work are:

  1. Four groups of people, their desires, methods of worship,
  2. Ten maqams in sharia (laws of religion),
  3. Ten maqams in tariqah (mystical orders),
  4. Ten maqams of Marifah (knowledge of Allah),
  5. Ten maqaams of Haqiqat (truth),
  6. Nature, condition of the heart,
  7. The evil deeds of the satan and his accomplices,
  8. The process of the creation, value of mankind.

Haji Bektash categorizes Muslims into four groups:

  1. Abids, people of Sharia;
  2. Zahids, people of the tariqah
  3. Arifs, people of Marifah (knowing God) and
  4. Muhibs, the lovers of Haqiqat (truth).

Sharia is a sublime gate because it informs us of the pure-impure, lawful and unlawful things. We must practice that which Allah the Almighty commands and abstain from that which He forbids in the Qur'an. However, simply acquiring knowledge of the Sharia is insufficient.

People of the tariqah constantly perform dhikr (remembrance of Allah), prepare for the hereafter but can never mature if they boast or display conceit regarding their good deeds.

Arifs, people of Marifah (knowledge of Allah) are like water: They are both pure and purifying. They are loved by Allah because they desire Allah alone and comply with adab ((Islamic morals) with no consideration of their own personal interests in this world and the hereafter.

As for the Muhibs, the people of the truth, these are the most exalted and most mature in the level of humans. They are devoted, humble, compliant individuals who reach Allah by eliminating their selfness. They have reached constant supplication and contemplation; they have become lovers of Allah, blessed individuals.

In order to reach this final level one has to pass the successive “four doors”: Sharia, Tariqah, Marifah and Haqiqat; each includes ten maqams (stations) which is “forty maqams” in total. A servant can never reach Allah without passing all forty maqams one by one. For instance, if a man professes belief with his tongue but not in his heart, or if he doesn’t give alms or sins after performing hajj, if he rejects one of commands of Allah; if he doesn’t believe in Muhammad (pbuh) or one of his companions then all his deeds would have been in vain.” (p. 58)

The spiritual and evil elements within us are in a constant state of conflict. The sultan on the spiritual front is reason, the ruler is faith and the commanders are favorable deeds such as knowledge, generosity, modesty, patience, avoiding sins, fearing Allah and morals. Each of these has hundreds of thousands of soldiers. On the evil front; the devil is the sultan, desires are the ruler and commanders are evil habits such as arrogance, envy, greed, miserliness, anger, gossip, foolishness and laughing loudly, and each of these also has hundreds of thousands soldiers.

It is not easy to defeat the evil front without recognizing the positive and negative characteristics of the enemy. In view of this, Haji Bektash insists that a person should become familiar with himself by looking into his inner world, and that he who is not familiar with himself cannot recognize Almighty Allah, because Allah is closer to man than his jugular vein. As he places great importance on this subject, in one section of his book he focuses on the human body, and refers to the innumerable similarities between the body- outer world and the universe.

Hypocrisy and contradictions in actions disturb Haji Bektash the most.

“O thou piteous! Faith in you is in a state of confusion. He says “I believe in God” but he does not uphold the commands, he says “I believe in your angels” but he commits the sins he is ashamed to commit in public when he is alone, when there are 360 angels in his body. He says “I believe in the Holy Qur’an” but he harbors various kinds of evil in his heart. Which book tells you to do this? Saints of God fast for one day and eat the other, worship day and night; yet they still cannot be certain about their situation. Do you believe you will not be confronted with your actions?

If you have evil feelings inside, cleaning the outside will be of no avail. Indeed, if you put alcohol into a bottle and secure it, then wash the outside of it thousands of times every day for a decade it will still be the same drink, impure. In fact, even if a tiny drop of alcohol drips into a well, then they empty the well and grass grows in the places that the water was poured then a sheep eats that grass, the meat of that sheep is classified as haram(unlawful) according to those of piety. As alcohol is one of the evil tools of the satan. In that case;

“Shame on you! Who has arrogance, envy, greed, miserliness, anger; he who gossips, laughs loudly and acts foolishly! How can you be purified with water while you harbor various acts of evilness inside you?”13

The paragraph above is quite interesting in terms of the contrast between the classical Bektashi order and the leniency on alcohol in the following centuries. As we understand from this, Haji Bektash, like the other sharia scholars, is also strongly against alcohol which allows humans to perform evil actions and puts them into an uncontrolled state.14

At this point, it would be appropriate to correct a mistake that repeatedly emerges when explaining Haji Bektash’s views:

Based on some verses in the General Directorate of Security’s copy of the Makalat translation Fuat Köprülü says: “Haji Bektash is inclined to the Ithnā'ashariyyah (Twelver, a branch of the Shi’a order) because he acknowledges the twelve Imams (leader) and advises “tawalla and tabarra” (love for the Ahl al-bayt and dissociating with those who do not love them).” These verses were not included in the earlier and complete version of the work, they were added later and more importantly they were not included in the original work but in the preface of the translator Hatiboğlu which deems the claims baseless.

The fact that the original work was written in Arabic in compliance with the customs of the scholars of that period indicates the conservativeness of Haji Bektash.

Influence of Haji Bektash

Aflaki (761/1360), a companion of Arif Çelebi, the grandson of Mevlana said that Haji Bektash is an enlightened intellectual and that he sent some of his dervishes and a caliph named Sheikh Ishak as an envoy to Mevlana. This indicates that Haji Bektash, one of the fathers of the Babai, was interested in the spiritual training of those who were around him; that he had many devoted dervishes and that the writings in the Vilayetnames on this subject- even if they were exaggerated - were not totally lacking essence. In which case, we cannot agree with the claims that he was “meczub-ı Ilahi” (deranged with the love of God) that appeared in ancient history16 and in contemporary studies17 simply because he was a sheikh and dervish. This claim also contradicts that Haji Bektash wrote a book on Sufism, tariqat and dervishes.

The ideas of Haji Bektash which we summarized in the previous section are also found in the poems, and in the Risalet al-Nushiyya of the great Turkish poet Yunus Emre (d. 1320). He also mentioned forty maqams, four doors, the levels of prayer (munajat) and contemplation (mushada); the struggle of the spiritual and satanic forces within us, the sultans, commanders and soldiers of both fronts, good and evil actions and so on 18, and all this proves that Haji Bektashi and Yunus Emre had a strong- either direct or indirect- connection although 19 there were some who presented adverse opinions because they believed Haji Bektash was Shi’a and had distorted beliefs. In addition, in the works of Asik Pasha (1272-1333) and the poems of Said Emre who lived during the same period, we see that these theories, terms and ideas were addressed, and in the latter Haji Bektash was mentioned with respect.20

Unfortunately, we are unable to determine who assumed his position after him. However, we do know that the tariqat was connected with the Ahis and the futuwwa organizations in the early period. In fact, the Malamatiyya in Khorasan was involved with the people of futuwwa since it emerged, and many Sufis followed both of these paths. The similarities mentioned previously, details regarding the introduction ritual, kissing the doorframe, belt girding ritual while drinking sherbet from a cup, translations read in the ceremony and clothing were all the result of citations from Ahiism.21

A majority of the first Haji Bektash muhibs(lovers) followed the Turkmen masses as Ahis and alperens (Warrior dervishes) and spread to the west of Anatolia. They participated in the early Ottoman conquests, established new settlement centers in Rumelia and the Balkans, and introduced Turkish life there. This is why the Bektashi Tariqat is influential in the Princes’ Islands, Rumelia, Albania and so on.

However, due to the lack of sound religious literature and the establishment of a central organization, this spread led to division in opinion and practices. In time, these groups that were influenced by the Haydari, Qalandari, Hurufi and similar groups; the influence of other religions and cultures, and other groups from the roots and divisions of this pure and popular tariqat; the dense Iranian propaganda that came from the east since the XVI century gave rise to a cosmopolitan Bektashi order under the same roof including a vast variety of individuals ranging from followers of the sharia to heretics.

Researchers emphasize the significant difference between the enthusiastic, constructive, pure and beneficial dervishes of the early period and the groups that later lost this functionality, and become alienated to the fundamental goals and ideals. 22

As a result, we can say that Haji Bektash is one of the great people who laid the spiritual foundations of the powerful Ottoman Empire. While Mevlana became the source of enlightenment for intellectuals and craftsmen on one hand, Haji Bektash guided veterans, guided the heroes as a leader; generated enthusiasm and excitement, paved the way for the development of countries and continents on the other hand, as we see in the case of Yunus Emre, he was involved with the community, directly served for the enlightenment of the people, and also indirectly contributed to the Turkish language and literature, and has lived in the hearts of millions for centuries.


* Academic Articles, İstanbul: Server Publishing, 2017, p. 167, 176.

1. According to a statement of a living Bektashi father, there are still 450,000 Bektashi followers in our country. See Sertoğlu, Bektashism p.304. Apart from these, Alevi villagers, which constitute separate large groups and who are connected to the Bektashi traditions, organizations and rituals, also display love and devotion for Haji Bektash.

2. Gross, Das Vilayetname des Haggi Bektash, Leipzig 1927; Gölpınarlı, Menakıb-i Hünkâr Hacı Bektâş-ı Veli “Vilâyetnâme”, Istanbul 1958. In 1301/1884, Ali Nihânî b. el-Hâc Mehmed Tevfîk el-Yozgâdî who considered the manuscript language outdated rewrote the manuscript. For manuscript see Ankara Public Library, Classic Section No. 1750.

3. See. Gölpınarlı, Vilayetnâme, pp.19-20; Birge, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes, pp. 40-41. This work, the doctoral thesis of the author, was prepared with rare manuscripts and all the sources written in the East and the West until that time. In addition, a detailed bibliography was also provided in this work. The information contained in this work is now partially worn. The work was republished in 1965.

4. Gölpınarlı, 100 Soruda Tasavvuf, p. 123.

5. For Turkish translation see Ahmed Eflâkî, Ariflerin Menkıbeleri, I, 411-414.

6. See Köymen, “Türk Tarihinde Kültür Mücadelesi”, Türk Kültürü, IV (1996), p. 48, pp. 118-126.

7. See. Köprülü, ”Âşık Paşa”, Islâmic Encyclopedia, I, 701-706; Gölpınarlı, Yûnus Emre ve Tasavvuf, pp. 295-346.

8. See Köprülü, Les Origines du Bektachisme, offprint, Paris 1926. (Translation: Turks Homeland, II. no. 8 May 1341.) According to the conclusion reached by Abdulbaki Gölpınarlı, the Persian work titiled Fawaid and its copy kept in the Istanbul University Library (Persian manuscripts, no 55), and Makâlât-ı ğaybiye, Kelimât-ı ayniye, whereabouts are unknown, could be fabricated works written by the same person and attributed to Haji Bektash.

9. See: Rieu, Catalogue of the Turkish Manuscripts in the British Museum, p. 261.

10. “Bektâş, Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî”, Türk Ansiklopedisi, VI, 32-34; Gölpınarlı, Yûnus Emre Hayatı, p. 302. (In this work, although the author stated that he had a Forty Hadith Commentary belonging to Haji Bektash in his own private library, this information was not repeated.)

11. Sefer Aytekin, Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî Makâlât, Ankara 1954.

12. The most recent information about Makâlât and its translations are from our unpublished doctoral thesis (pp. 3-29) named Hatiboğlu Muhammed ve Eserleri, which we submitted to the Ankara University Theology Faculty in 1965.

13. For Makâlât manuscript dated 1424 see Manisa Library, no. 336

14. Note: Sefer Aytekin intentionally changed the word “drink” to “filth” in Makâlât.

15. See Köprülüzâde, “Anadolu’da İslâmiyet”, Istanbul University Faculty of Literature joJrnal, issue. 4-6 (1922), p. 87.

16. Âşıkpaşazâde, Tevârîh-i Âl-i Osmân, pp. 204-206.

17. See Köprülü, Türk Edebiyatında İlk Mutasavvıflar, pp. 94-95.

18. Cf. Gölpınarlı, Yûnus Emre ve Tasavvuf, pp. 121-126, 171.

19. See Tekindağ, “Büyük Türk Mutasavvıfı Yûnus Emre Hakkında Araştırmalar”, TTK Belleten, XXX (January 1966), no. 117, p. 59-90.

20. Gölpınarlı, Yûnus Emre ve Tasavvuf, pp. 280-294.

21. See Gölpınarlı, “İslâm-Türk İllerinde Fütüvvet Teşkilatı ve Kaynakları”, Istanbul University Faculty of Economics Journal, XI, p. 6-354; Çağatay, “Fütüvvet-Ahî Müessesesinin Menşei Meselesi”, Ankara University Faculty of Theology Magazine, issue 1 (Istanbul 1952), pp. 59-68; issue 2 (Ankara 1952), pp. 61-84.

22. See Barkan, “İstila Devirlerinin Kolonizatör Türk Dervişleri ve Zaviyeler”, Vakıflar Dergisi, II (1942), pp. 279-386. (In this very important article, the Prime Minister's Archive documents were widely used.)

Article “Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî ve Bektâşîlik 2” Prof. Dr. M. Es'ad Coşan (Rh.a.)