Islam / Orientations / Sufism /
Sufi order (tariqa), classified as part of Shi'i Islam.
Bektashi headquarters, Tirana, Albania.
Bektashi is mainly present in Turkey, and also in Albania. Bektashi is in Turkey closely linked to Alevism where the two traditions today often are considered as one orientation. In Albania, Bektashism has developed into a distinct orientation, without links to Alevism or any other Muslim branch.
The head of the Turkish branch of Bektashism is Mustafa Eke Dedebaba
The Bektashis claim that the teachings of 13th century Hajj Bektash Wali represent the foundation for their belief and cult system. According to few historical data available, he himself was just a follower of the Sufi shaykh, Ahmad Yasawi and sent to Turkey to spread the Yasawi version of Sufism. Bektashi legends teach that he was a man of unique, almost divine qualities.
The actual form of their order was set down much later, in the 16th century, but there is no reason to doubt its historical background with Hajj Bektash Wali.
Bektashi poets from the Ottoman era have become among the most popular in Turkish language, including Yunus Emre.
The veneration of Ali is central to Bektashism. They rank him into a trinity with God and Muhammad, known as wahdat al-wujud, the "Unity of Being".
Bektashi teach about the 4 gates to higher knowledge, the lowest being Sharia, the highest named Haqiqa.
There is also the belief that the Koran may be read, or understood, at two levels. The first is the literal meaning of the Koran, the second is the inner, the mystical meaning, the meaning containing the ultimate truth.
There is no written doctrine in Bektashi, what is known is taught from one teacher to another. There may be great differences in the understanding of rules and rituals within Bektashi.
Their rituals traditionally follow patterns very different from mainstream Islam, and dancing and drinking of wine have been central, with women participating at the same level as men. Even some Christian rituals, like the sharing of bread, muhabbet, and confession of sins, magfirat-i zunub have become part of their system.
The Bektashi gathered in ceremonial centres known in Turkey as tekke. In modern Turkey they have all been closed or converted into mosques, then serving the Alevis.
The Hacibektas tekke was originally the main tekke of the Bektashi, but serves now as a museum. But still it is the centre of a large festival, staged every August.
There are a number of other festivals or rituals with the Bektashi. Ashura is celebrated marking the Battle of Karbala. Noruz, the old Persian new year celebration, has been turned into a celebration of Ali's birthday.
For individuals working on passing the stages, or gates, of Bektashi Sufism, there are also rituals. A member on the first level is called asik; anyone accepting Bektashi personally becomes an asik. There is no initiation before entering the second level, when the member becomes a mühip. The third level member is called dervish, which one becomes after taking vows. The fourth level is the highest, and is for local leaders known as baba. Still, among the baba a higher level is found: the 12 leaders of the Bektashi, known as halife-baba or dede. The single leader of the Bektashi is called dedebaba.
13th century: Hajj Bektash Wali is sent by Ahmad Yasawi, leader of the Yasawi Sufis, to teach their ideas of Islam in Anatolia.
Early 15th century: Ali al-Ala, leader of the Hurufi sect, flees to the Ottoman Empire, and comes to exercise much influence on the Bektashi theology.
15th century: Becomes the favoured religious community with the Janissary corps.
16th century: Balim Sultan sets down the principles of Bektashi theology and rituals.
1826: The Janissaries are dissolved, reducing the strong position of the Bektashi, but far from removing it from the Ottoman society. Still, their tekkes were closed and many of their leaders were forced into exile.
1925: All Sufi orders are dissolved in the new republic of Turkey, and the Bektashi leadership moves to Albania in Europe.
1967: Religions are banned in Albania, destroying the central leadership. Bektashism continues with communities both in Turkey, Albania and Western countries.