Traditional Institutions - Dervish Orders

Khorasan holy men, including Haji Bektashi Veli, united the Christian residents of Anatolia and Turkoman migrants with their educational and developmental activities and played an important role in the formation of cultural unity and central authority in Anatolia. Some holy men migrated in to Anatolia, settled on mountains and empty crossroads and opened dervish lodges there. These institutions settled on empty land gradually became centers for culture, development and religious thought. In this manner, religious congregations spread everywhere, rules of morals, good breeding, attitudes and beliefs reached a high standard, knowledge and science were both produced and spread in these centers. The administration encouraged such holy men to settle in villages, and their educational activities gave them some privileges. As a result, even in the most desolate places in Anatolia, dervish lodges emerged, and with the effect of the education they provided, a common cultural structure began to form.

Haji Bektashi Veli was one of those figures who came to Anatolia from Khorasan with this purpose in mind. He was born in Nishabur, Khorasan in 1248, spent his childhood in Khorasan, and was trained in philosophy and social and positive sciences at Hodja Ahmed Yesevi’s school. After traveling to Iran, Iraq and Arabia, Haji Bektash settled in Sulucukarahoyuk in 1275/80.

At that time, Anatolia was under Mongol occupation, there was a severe social and economic crisis and fighting for political power. In that difficult climate, Haji Bektashi Veli settled in Sulucakarahoyuk, developed his philosophy and began to teach his students. His tolerance and human love based philosophy reached many people, and were taken up by them in the important center of Christianity of Cappadocia.

• Any road that doesn’t follow science, ends in darkness,

• Give education to women,

• Control on your tongue, hands and waist,

• The greatest book to read is man himself,

• Honesty is the door of a friend,

• Being a teacher is to give, not to take,

• The universe is for man, and man for the universe,

• Science illuminates the paths of truth,

• We travel in the way of science, comprehension and human love,

• Clean where you’ve settled and deserve the money you’ve made,

• Let’s be one, be big and energetic,

• Don’t hurt anyone, even though you’ve been hurt,

• Don’t ask anyone for anything that would be difficult for you to do,

• Don’t blame any nation or individual,

• Blessed are those who illuminate the darkness of thought,

• Keep on searching, and you’ll find,

• The beauty of the face consists of the words you speak,

• Don’t forget that even your enemy is human,

• The biggest God-given miracle is work,

• In the language of friendly conversation, you can’t discriminate between man and woman,

• Everything God has created is in order,

• To us, there’s no difference between man and woman,

• If you think there is, you’re mistaken.

His thoughts are based on human love and human existence. This vision is similar to the 1948 Charter on Human Rights. His thoughts were also shared by M. Kemal Atatürk 600 years later, and the Turkish Republic was built on the principles of secularism, democracy and respect for human rights. His thoughts are still alive and still lighten the way for many people. It’s not the trivet but the fire gives the heat, The miracle is not in the crown but in the khirkah (woolen garment worn by a dervish) Whatever you’re searching for, search in yourself, It’s neither in Jerusalem, Mecca nor in the Hadj.

“ There is no need to discriminate between religions. Religions cause disputes among people. In fact, all religions aim to provide peace and brotherhood on earth” says Bektashi Veli in his opus “Velayetname”. Bektashism, which originates from Haji Bektashi Veli’s ideas, aims to comprehend the unity of “Universe,God and Man” based on human love. Man is ornamented with divine characteristics. The first step to success is to know yourself and love yourself because man harbours divine qualities within himself, and the man who loves himself also loves God. This quatrain explains Bektashism’s understanding of

 love in the clearest way:

Students hew stone,
They hew and present it to their master,
In every inch of the stone,
They call God to mind.

Man is independent. His duty is to behave modestly and to feed, refine, mature and fill his spirit with love of God. Bodies are only tools for the main purpose. So discriminating between men and women or classifying people according to their social status or race is a huge mistake. Man or woman, all of mankind are equal. Haji Bektashi Veli’s views are still alive today and celebrated with excitement every year on the 15-17th August in the Haji Bektash region of the province of Nevsehir.

Another institution that contributes to Anatolian culture unity is ahilik. (rules, manners, attitudes of people sharing same profession) Ahi, who came to Anatolia with the Yesevi dervishes, preferred cities to rural areas because they had professions. Ahilik (being an Ahi), is not only a professional organization but also a sacred institution with its own rules, traditions, conformities and secrets. Ahi Evran Veli was a holy man from Khorasan, like Haji Bektashi Veli, who united Anatolian Ahis and made them an organized force. Ahi Evran’s wife, Sister Fatima (known as Woman Mother) set up the first woman’s organization in the world, “Baciyan-i Rum”. Ahis gathered in Ankara and Kirsehir under the sheik of Evran in the 13th century and spread to all Seljuk cities. Ahis played an important role in the formation of the Ottoman state, and to some researchers they even counted Osman Gazi, who founded the Ottoman state, his son Orhan Gazi and Sultan Murad and among their followers.

Equality between members is the first Ahi rule. All members are brothers. On the other hand, the institution has many internal rules, and beginners have a great respect for their elders. To become a member, one must be invited by an Ahi, and people with bad reputations or who have dubious jobs would never being accepted. For example, murderers, people who kill animals (butchers) or people who have committed adultery are not allowed to be members. As with Bektashism, becoming a member is celebrated with a special ritual. In this ritual, the Ahi candidate wears a special belt (Sed) and members instruct him, to treat everyone equally and honestly. Absolute affiliation and eternal obedience is expected from all members. Atheists and religious fanatics are not allowed to join. As with Bektashism, the Ahi goes through many stages in which he learns patience, purification of the soul, loyalty, friendship and tolerance.

In addition to these qualifications mentioned above, there are six important principles:

1. Open your hand (be generous to everyone),
2. Share your food,
3. Open the door of your house when somebody needs shelter,
4. Close your eyes (don’t be led astray by the artificial beauties of the world),
5. Control your waist (Don’t be a victim of your sexual impulses),
6. Control your tongue.

He who comes with patience and God,
Stands by our side.
He who works with morality and wisdom and passes us,
And stands our side.

There are many degrees in Ahism. In these, the student learns professional skills, sufism and religion, reading and writing, Turkish, Arabic, Persian, music, mathematics and the Constitution of Ahi “Futuvvetname”
The nine degrees of the Ahi are:

• Young fellow
• Assistant
• Apprentice
• Experienced Apprentice
• Master
• Ahi
• Caliph
• Sheik
• Grand Sheik

Although the Ahi institution has now weakend, it is still officially celebrated every year on the second Monday in October.
Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi is another Anatolian holy man who gave hope and inspiration to humanity. Mevlana was born in 1207 in Khorasan, and died in 1273 in Konya. He took his first lessons from his father Bahaeddin Veled, who was known as “sultan of scholars”. While he was studying Sufism he met Ahi Sems Tebrizi, and after this meeting his own ideas began to emerge. It is his poems about Sufism, however, for which he is chiefly remembered, respected and admired today.

The branch of love comes from ancient times, and its root from immortality,
That greatness is too much for this mind and morals,
Fade away, pass through your existence. Your existence is murder.
Love is nothing other than finding the truth.

According to Mevlana, love is the only thing necessary to attain God. A plant or an animal may also love, but it is only man who has the capacity to love with his body, mind, thoughts and memory. Mevlana exalts the state of being in love with a woman because if someone loves someone else, he also loves himself, humanity, the universe and God. The most beautiful love, “Love of Truth,” begins when someone reaches this level of wisdom. Followers of Mevlana (Mevlevi) spin around and around in a ritual called “sema.” This ritual symbolizes a world united in love and keeping step with the world’s universal rotation. While one of their hands points to the sky, the other hand points to the ground meaning “ Love from God spreads to the earth”. The spirit bursts forth from God and is immortal. The sound of the nay (a reed flute) tells of man’s longing to return to his initial source.

He means that the universe is an endless place within the existence of God, and as a small part of the whole, man keeps that divine essence inside him by saying, “You who search for God, it’s you that you’re searching for....”

Come, no matter what you are,
Whether atheist or sun worshipper.
Whether you’ve backslid a thousand times,
Come, no matter what you are.

As we see, all mankind are brothers, and differences between religions do not square well with the divine presence. Mevlana attaches great importance to women and maintains that men and women are equal, saying, “The more you insist women should cover themselves up, the more you incite people’s desire to see them.

Like a man, if a woman’s heart is good, she will chose the path of goodness independent of your prohibitory actions. If her heart is bad, you can’t influence whatever you do.” Mevlana’s students were called Kitap-el Esrar (Clerks of the Secret). There were Muslims, Christians, Jews, Iranians, Armenians, Rums and Turks among them. His students from different cultures and religions collected his poems and gave them as a gift to later generations.