Anatolian Enlightenment: Haji Bektash Veli and Yunus Emre
The miracle sparkles from the head not the crown
The glow sparkles from the flame not the plate
Look inside to find whatever you look for
Not in Jerusalem, Mekka or Hadj
Haji Bektash Veli (1209–1271) was born in Nishapur in Khorasan. The dates of his birth and death differ between sources. Some references state he was born in 1248, lived in Anatolia from 1270 to 1280, and died in 1337. Others declare his birth was in 1248 and his death in 1271. Haji Bektash Veli was a follower of Ahmad Yassawi’s teachings. Afterhis arrival in Anatolia, he contributed to the foundation of the Ottoman State, building on solid fundamentals with the help of the Ahi community on religious, economic, military, and social aspects. After leaving Nishapur, he came to Nevsehir, where he set up a lodge and continued to educate and enlighten the public.
His philosophy was based on love for God, love for humanity, tolerance, sharing, social peace, and honesty. Haji Bektash Veli continuously emphasized the importance of knowledge, wisdom, honesty, tolerance, brotherhood, unity, friendship, and morality. He approached religious and Sufi issues clearly in his book Makalat, which was written based on “four gates” and “forty authorities.” The four gates represent Sharia, Tariqa, Marifa, and Haqiqa, and the forty authorities represent the understanding accepted and followed by Turkish Sufis.The Sufism movement, which started with Ahmed Yesevi in Turkistan, inspired Haji Bektash Veli, Rumi, and Yunus Emre in Anatolia. These three people, being more advanced than their contemporaries, laid the foundations of Anatolian tolerance and understanding.
Those who attended Haji Bektash Veli’s lessons and conversations and followed his path were called Bektashi. Bektashism is an Alevi Sufi order that represents Haji Bektash Veli, and this order has been accepted in the Balkans, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Hungary, and Azerbaijan. Bektashism is a teaching that focuses on “the human.” Its aim is to reach a level of competence and perfect human status known as Insan-I Kamil, and a training process is essential to reaching this level. The system can be summarized by saying, “Be the master of your hand, waist, and tongue.” It requires free minds that are always thinking. Their philosophy is far from fanatical, and it requires a loving approach toward God. The collaboration of both men and women is highly crucial in this philosophy.
Haji Bektash Veli combined Islamic beliefs with Turkish culture. His wisdom based on tolerance reached many people in a short period. He contributed to Islam in both a simple and universal understanding, and he simplified how to live the spirit of Islam. His method was based on human love, and he taught that the path that will lead humanity to the light and survival was “divine love.” Sufism aims to understand God and reach God’s existence. Bektashi philosophy is based on Sufism and worldly secular thinking. “Ashik” sees the beauty of God everywhere. Humanity is also a part of God and carries God’s light. God gave his own light and beauty to humans when he created them.
Bektashi philosophy also mentions transmigration of the soul: “The ones on that path never die, but they change their image.” The soul tries to reach its own essence: “The body is like a cage, and the soul is like a bird in it” and “Death is not a separation but a path full of light that leads to the beloved and a new birth in a new universe.” Death is like changing the cover of the soul. Bektashism advises us to control our desires rather than kill them totally. It does not prefer to stay passive while the universe is continuously changing. The main characteristic of Bektashi and Mewlevi traditions is the continuous transformation and progress. According to Bektashism, humanity is the masterpiece of God and a part of God. It is the mirror that reflects God’s beauty. The one who seeks something will find it within.
Let’s end with some of Haji Bektash Veli’s sayings:
Only the flesh dies, not the soul.
Women should know how to read and write.
You cannot proceed if you look forwards but with the heart backwards.
Never hurt anyone, even if they hurt you.
Thanks to the ones who shine light on the darkness of thoughts.
Morality is the first step on the path of wisdom.
Whatever you seek, seek within.
I have three good friends. When I leave this world, one of them stays at home, one of them stays on the path, and one of them comes with me. The one at home is my possessions. The one on the path is my acquaintances, and the one who comes with me is my kindness.
I did not come to life for war,
My duty is only love,
Heart is the home of the beloved,
I came to build hearts.
Yunus Emre was a Turkish philosopher and Sufi poet who lived in Anatolia between 1240 and 1321. The second half of the 13th century was a period when the inner meanings began to spread. Yunus Emre expressed his love for God and his thoughts about love and morality in a manner that everyone could understand, despite the dogmatic approaches of society at the time. This was a glittering period for Anatolian Sufism when Rumi, Haji Bektash Veli, and Yunus Emre shone their light. Yunus Emre emphasized that the bonds of unity between people should be more powerful. He also benefited from the enlightenment started by Rumi and Haji Bektash Veli, and he was a man of duty. He said,
Flesh is mortal, the soul does not die,
The ones pass by,
Only the flesh dies,
I read all four holy books, when I found the Love, I saw it was a long word.
Whatever you think you are,
The opposite is also you,
The meaning of the four books
Is that, if any
According to Turkish author Tamer Ayan, “The love for God is not a mystic belief for Yunus Emre. For him the beloved one is the unity of God–Humanity–Cosmos. Tolerance is a must because of that unity.” Yunus said, “I love the created for the sake of the Creator.” Love was the spirit of life for him, and he believed that God was not interested in the envelope but rather the spirit. Yunus said, “The dervish is not a jacket and a crown. If your heart is the dervish, there’s no need for the crown.”
Tamer Ayan also commented, “Being a dervish is not always about praying and becoming detached from life. This is only a distortion. We need to combat fanaticism and implicit faith.” Yunus Emre also said, “The hodjas who represent the prophets brought trouble for the public,” and continued with, “Get out of the way, so the Creator can come in.”
The themes in his poems are divine love, religion, nature, death, and mortality. He was aware of the importance of knowledge and self-knowledge. The purpose of knowledge is to know yourself.
Knowledge of science is to know science.
Knowledge of science is self-knowledge.
If you fail to attain self-knowledge,
What good is there in your studies?
The masters of Sufism perceive Yunus Emre as a poet who emphasized love for humanity, equality for all nations, and the importance of pleasing others. For him, loving Allah, loving humanity, and loving the universe combined with deeply meditating on nature’s events was enough for salvation.
Yunus represents tolerance, and his tolerance depends on love, respect, and peace. According to him, the heart is the throne of Allah. He believes the heart is the only place where God will look. For him, the wise man never looks down on others, but he always loves, cares, shares, and helps when needed. The task of humanity is to produce and spread light and happiness to others.
All is straight, if you are straight.
Straightness cannot be found, if you are wrong.
Divine love is what he sought, as well as to reach the unity at the end of that long journey. He was one of the representatives of love in Anatolia. He was beyond his time.
“Bektaşilik, Mevlevilik, Masonluk” A. Nevzad Odyakmaz Özne Yayınları