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by Latif Bolat and Jennifer Ferraro

(taken from their book "Quarreling with God")

Turkey's long tradition of mystical and lyrical poetry and folk songs remains vibrant and evident in everyday life. To foreigners from the West, it frequently seems that everyone in Turkey can sing and play music. Often at gatherings someone— perhaps a rug salesperson or a student—will spontaneously pick up a saz (a lute-like instrument) and sing while others join in on bendir , darabuka , spoons, or voice so harmoniously that the music sounds rehearsed. Typically Turks, even youngsters wearing rock n' roll tshirts, know a repertoire of folk songs and can sing lyrics of poems by Yunus Emre, Turkey's most beloved ancient mystical folk poet.

Such mystical folk songs are called ilahi's, hymns to the Divine, or nefes'es, literally meaning “breaths.” The poems of Turkey's unique mystical traditions have been arranged for music over hundreds of years in the haunting musical scales called maqams. The folk traditions in Turkey often overlap with the mystic or Sufi dervish traditions since many of the songs derive from poet troubadours ( ashiks ) who traveled the Sufi path to Truth.

Poetry is often the preferred genre for mystical wisdom across spiritual traditions, and the poetry of Sufism may well attain the pinnacle of poetry's potential as a force for human awakening.

Sufism is the mystical or gnostic path within Islam, which, like any mystical tradition, is concerned with the inner experience of religion rather than with its external forms and dogma. The Sufi path, in essence, is the soul's journey from separation back to union with God, the Beloved. In orthodox Islam, the human being is entirely submissive to God, who remains unknowable, all-powerful and distant (similar to orthodox Christianity or Judaism). In Sufism, the Divine Being (God) is not separate from the human being but rather exists in the human heart. This is expressed beautifully in a hadith qudsi (extra-Qur'anic Prophetic tradition) that is very important to Sufism: “Heaven and Earth do not contain me, but the heart of my faithful servant contains me.”

The Sufi seeks to remember the Divine Being, the Beloved, in every moment and to dispel the illusion of separateness. The relationship with God is that of lover and Beloved. While the lover begins the journey in the pain of separation, and through many stages reaches the bliss of union, the Beloved was ever present within the heart through every stage of the journey. The idea that the heart must be broken or emptied, and the ego ( nafs ) purified so that the Beloved can reside there, is also found in the Qur'an: “Wherever there is a ruin, there is hope for a treasure—/ why do you not seek the treasure of God in the wasted heart?” (Sura 18). This process of emptying and breaking the ego and heart often opens the way for the experience of all-embracing unity from which the poet's ecstatic utterance is born. It is in moments of such all-embracing unity that the Sufi realizes the ultimate oneness of Love, the lover (the human being) and the Beloved (God/Allah).

Sufi poetry addresses the Divine Being using the language of love in romantic expressions that can seem shocking due to their passion and playfulness. For the mystic in Sufism, desire is seen not as negative in itself but rather as pointing the way to the desired oneness with the Beloved, our source and destiny. In fact, our longing for the Beloved is the proof of the infinite longing of the Beloved for us. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we leave the reflection of the moon in the pool we have been content with and seek the moon itself—Absolute Reality.

Hazrat Inayat Khan, who was one of the first Sufi masters to bring Sufism to the United States from India in the early twentieth century, says of the human-divine relationship: “The divine is human perfection; the human is divine limitation.” Due to this essential unity, Sufis do not turn away from the world as do followers of other spiritual paths; instead, they aim to be “in the world but not of it.” The term “dervish” refers to one in a state of spiritual poverty— and while the first dervishes were in fact wandering ascetics who chose poverty, the term's deeper meaning refers to a nature that is “empty of desires.” Dervishes, the “lovers” of God, seek to remember God in each moment, to polish the mirror of the heart so that it may reflect more and more of the light of the Beloved.

Through “dying before death,” purifying and transforming the limited ego, the “lover” leaves himself and finds the Beloved in his own heart and in everything he sees. It is a paradoxical process of surrender and opening of the heart—the “throne” of the Beloved—so that it can include all beings and states of being in unity. The idea that the Divine Being experiences itself through the mirror of human beings runs throughout much Sufi poetry.

Thus, Sufism is the “Path of Love.” It is love which burns through the mind's objections and veils and opens the heart to receive the intoxicating vision of Divine Reality.

This book "Quarreling with God", is the natural outgrowth of musical performances of the traditional Turkish Sufi songs and poems we have given throughout the United States and elsewhere. After our performances, audience members often ask how to find translations of the songs, many of which are now translated here for the first time.

These requests, as well as the great popularity of the mystic Sufi poetry of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, suggested that it was time to introduce these beloved Sufi poets of Turkey to Western readers. The verses of only one of these poets, Yunus Emre, have been previously translated in book form and available in America. Yunus Emre, a contemporary of Rumi, is Turkey's best-known mystic folk poet. Like Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, Yunus Emre was influenced by the culture and vast landscape of Anatolia. Rumi's poetry, however, reflects urban life in Konya in the thirteenth-century and the poetic styles of the Turkish Selçuk court. It was composed primarily in Persian. The poetry in this volume, in contrast, reflects the rientation of rural village life. It uses simple fresh imagery. Furthermore, it was written in Turkish, which was not considered a refined language during the Selçuk and Ottoman times. Although the poems in this book may not have the linguistic intricacy of Rumi's more classical Sufi poems, they have a candor, simplicity, and vigor due to their grounding in the real physical world of the poet. Like some of the other poets, Yunus Emre is thought to have been illiterate ( ummi ). The poems spoke to the uneducated as well as to the educated.

The power in these dervish poems comes in large part from the fact that they were meant to be sung . They were composed to swiftly and easily penetrate the hearts of the common people, illiterate or literate. Their mystical teachings were meant to liberate and illuminate humanity and to guide sincere seekers on the path to Truth.

Further, the poems in this volume transmit powerful messages about the social, political, and religious conditions in Turkey during the Seljuk era and the Ottoman Empire. Many of the dervishes— followers of the Sufi path who proclaimed the unity of the human being and the Divine Being—were persecuted, exiled or even killed by the religious authorities of their day (see Nesimi, Pir Sultan Abdal, Niyaz-i-Misri). Despite such fates (or perhaps because of them), they became popular voices in the folk poetry of Turkey. Religious orthodoxy, hypocrisy, and intolerance were their targets; uncompromising devotion to truth and mystical love were their aims. These dervishes did not accept the notion of a distant God who judges human beings. Instead, they “quarreled” with God, expressing an intimacy and knowledge that was scandalous at the time. This poetry, full of mystical love and yet crying out against injustice, offers a valuable perspective for our contemporary world polarized by religious intolerance and zealotry. These poems demonstrate an uncompromising devotion to the faith that comes from the inner experience of religion. They robustly sing of how Love dissolves barriers and overcomes social and religious conventions of all kinds.

As translators, we strove to balance faithfulness to the original meaning of the poems with the rhythmic lyricism and playfulness characteristic of the genre. We hope that these lovers of truth will reach across the centuries to awaken today's spiritual travelers with the fragrance of their mystical intimacy.

The Bektashi Dervish Poets of Turkey

Most of the poets in this collection are considered part of the Alevi-Bektashi lineage of Sufi dervishes, which holds a unique place in Turkish mysticism and society. Among Sufi orders, the Bektashis are viewed as both the most unorthodox yet most Turkish of the Sufi orders. One can find elements of pre-Islamic shamanistic beliefs in their teachings and practices. Like most other Shiite dervish orders, they trace their lineage to Ali, Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law. This linkage is central in understanding the content and imagery of their poems. The Sufi aims to become the perfect human being, a mirror of the Divine Being. Ali reflects the essence of the Divine Being in humanity. He is considered by the Bektashis to be equal to Muhammad in importance, forming a trinity of Allah-Muhammad-Ali. Human beings cannot attain the prophethood of Muhammad, but they can aspire to become like Ali, a perfect human being ( insan-i-kamil ) and a servant of the Divine Truth.

The Bektashi Order of Dervishes was founded in the thirteenth century by Haji Bektash Veli, its patron saint, and during the Ottoman Empire grew to become one of the largest Sufi brotherhoods in Anatolia and the Balkans. The order has always been closely linked with Turkish village life and customs. The Bektashi had strong ties with the Janissaries, a powerful military order in Turkey until 1826, when they were wiped out by Sultan Mahmud II. The Janissaries were essential in the expansion of the Ottoman Empire at its beginning, due to their extraordinary fighting abilities and devotion to the faith. However, due to Sunni domination of the empire in later years and the increasing drive toward modernization, the relationship between the sultans and the Janissaries deteriorated. The Bektashi Order was effectively wiped out in 1826, with most of its leaders being killed or sent into exile and the administration of their lodges given over to Sunni Naqshbandi sheikhs. It was at this time that the “secretiveness” that is a characteristic of the order came into effect, as Bektashis were forced underground. While by the late 1800s there was a resurfacing of the order and some Bektashi books were published in Turkey, the abolishment of all dervish orders in 1925 made Bektashism an invisible, though palpable, presence in Turkey.

Despite the secrecy of the Bektashis' practices, the poems themselves have been sung in Turkey for centuries. Their endurance and popularity attests to the deep impact the dervish orders and their mystical beliefs have had on the Turkish psyche. Further, the poems represent a controversial and often suppressed tradition of Sufism. Perhaps because Bektashism has always been outside the establishment, and has no unified doctrinal system but incorporates a diverse tapestry of radical and heterodox beliefs, it has continued as a subtle and irrepressible presence in Turkey and the Balkans to this day.

The Alevi-Bektashi poets passed down their verses in the form of devotional folk songs called nefes'es which were sung in dervish ceremonies in the tekkes (dervish lodges) and have since been preserved in the folk music of Turkey. Some also published their work in written form in divans (collections), some of which surviveto this day. Often poets of the Bektashi Order were folk heroes with extensive influence in the political and religious life of the times (see Pir Sultan Abdal, Shah Hatayi, Niyaz-i-Misri). The order's doctrines and rituals were frequently shrouded in mystery and concealed from Sunni religious authorities. Its dervishes (avowed adherents of the Sufi path) were often passionately committed to revealing truths that challenged injustice, hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, and intolerance. As a result, some dervishes were exiled, some were persecuted, and some were killed because of the perceived threat they posed to the interests of the Sunni-dominated Ottoman Empire. Because the dervish orders played such a significant role in Turkish society, a dervish could win the allegiance of the Turkish people and muster popular support. This base of power threatened the authorities. Fifteenth-century dervish Shah Hatayi even rose to become the ruler of Iran during the Safavid dynasty. Other dervishes, such as Yunus Emre, lived a humble existence characterized by devotion to the sheikh, or murshid , and purificatory and spiritual practices undertaken at the tekke , or dervish lodge.

Dervish orders flourished in Turkey until 1925, when they were banned by the founding father of modern Turkey, Ataturk, whose sweeping reforms made the nation a secular state.

A Social, Political and Spiritual Challenge

One important characteristic of the Bektashis of special interest to Westerners is the inclusion of women in Bektashi ceremonies. This and the occasional use of wine (forbidden in Islam) in their rituals, made them unique and led the religious establishment and even more conservative Sufi orders to suspect them of heresy.

Scholars such as John Kingsley Birge1 have pointed out that not all Bektashi groups permitted the use of alcohol. Several poems included here, however, take issue with the religious doctrine that prohibits intoxicating substances. It is well known that most Sufi poetry refers to wine metaphorically—as in the “wine of Love,” referring to intoxication with the Divine Being. Certain poems, though, seem to “push the envelope” about what is considered lawful or permissible in spiritual life. Nesimi wrote in the fifteenthcentury, for instance, “Sometimes I study life's meaning in the holy books, / Sometimes I go to the tavern and get drunk.” The tavern and drunkenness may be standard symbols for the Sufi's divine intoxication rather than literal drunkenness; Edip Harabi's “Hey pious one,/Show some reverence to wine!” in the nineteenthcentury is less certainly symbolic.

Annemarie Schimmel reminds us that for most Sufi mystics, rather than rejecting Islamic law ( sharia ) proclaimed in the Qur'an and perfected by the Prophet, they interiorized it, going beyond but not necessarily bypassing the requirements of ritual prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage. The profound understanding of the Qur'an and Islamic law was the ground out of which Sufi mystics grew. While behavior and interpretation may have varied among the more heterodox Sufi mystics, most can be assumed to have had thorough knowledge of the Qur'an, to have loved and exalted the Prophet Muhammad, and to have engaged in prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage intensively as part of the spiritual path.

The most contentious aspect of these Sufis even today, however, is their willingness to proclaim the unity of the human being and the Divine Being. Repeatedly their poems reveal striking examples of the non-dual realization of mystical union. As the sixteenthcentury poet Muhittin Abdal writes:

Muhittin proclaims the Truth a spectator.

God is simply everywhere if you're willing to see.

What is the hidden, what is the apparent—

What a human being is, now I know.

Similarly, in the eighteenth-century Agahi Dede writes:

Agahi and the Divine Light shine the same

For the candle's flame

and the moth who plunges in it are the same.

In addition to expressing the unity of the human being and the Divine Being, many poems are adamant about the unified trinity of Allah-Muhammad-Ali. Since each individual is capable of becoming a perfect human being, each of us is implicitly included in that trinity. Ali is considered to be the way and goal, and is addressed as the Beloved in some poems. With Ali as intermediary, the distance between humans and God is bridged, an idea expressed in a popular nefes by Hilmi Dede Baba:

I held the mirror to my face—Ali appeared before my eyes;

When I gazed into my deepest being—Ali appeared before my eyes.

Yet a human who seeks the truth must still commit to following the path—being a faithful student of a master ( murshid ) or sheikh who has attained the truth, becoming purified in the “fires of love;” surrendering the false ego ( nafs ), learning humility and poverty, and practicing spiritual friendship. The most provocative characteristic of the mystic dervish poets in this collection is their tendency to challenge, or quarrel with, traditional religious beliefs and conventions. They quarrel with God, and in doing so, criticize the emphasis on outer piety instead of the faith that comes from direct spiritual realization. All of these poets were devoted to Prophet Muhammad and his family and knew the Qur'an intimately, but their interpretations of Qur'anic scripture and Islam differed from those of the Sunni establishment, and even from the more conservative Sufi dervish orders. For example, the sixteenth-century poet Azmi humorously challenges Allah with the words:

You deal death to every living creature;

Are you a wheeler-dealer?

In actuality, the poet is taking issue with the limited conceptions of Allah and drawing out their absurdity. He is intimate enough with his Beloved to address Him like this. These poets quarrel with orthodox believers who express dualistic notions of sin and piety. Nesimi writes:

The wine of this love is a sin, the orthodox think—

The sin is mine. I fill my glass and drink.

What of it?

They quarrel with other seekers, beseeching them not to stray from the path of truth in response to criticism, persecution, or illusion. Pir Sultan Abdal counsels:

O dear lover, the testing and challenges on the Way—

You couldn't take it.

Didn't I tell you?

Above all, these poets challenge us , the listeners and readers, to reach the state of awareness beyond dualities, to attain the intoxication with the Divine Being that comes from surrendering the self entirely.

The Bektashi dervish poets of Turkey present a provocative and challenging synthesis of mysticism with social and political engagement and resistance. They renounced materialism and worldly preoccupation. Turkish scholars call some of these mystic poets “men of action.” They were not cloistered away from society but immersed in everyday life with jobs and families. Some, such as Shah Hatayi and Pir Sultan Abdal, were even political leaders.

Some poets followed the path of the legendary Sufi martyr Mansur al-Hallaj, who affirmed in the tenth-century “An-al-Haqq” (“I am Truth /God”) and was executed for heresy. Nesimi refused to retract his mystical statements and was skinned alive as punishment. In their lives as in their poems, profound insights into the nature of Truth were accompanied by action. Their poems' persistent and often humorous rebellion against traditional interpretations of religious law and scripture enriches our understanding of mystical thought and practice within the Islamic world. Their poems beg us to re-examine not only what is essential to the spiritual path but also what is the relationship between religious forms and inmost mystical realization.

Ritual and prayer are aspects of Muslim spiritual life shared my mystics and non-mystics alike.  But the distinctive worship of the Sufi is the Zikr, the remembrance of the Friend.  Zikr is the first step in the way of love; when somebody loves, one repeats the Friend's name in order to constantly remember this essence in one's heart, and consequently sees the Friend in all living beings.
Turkish zikr music is the primary intermediary to create and sustain such a mood in which participants can experience the unity between themselves and the Truth in a trance atmosphere. "Ilahis", one of the best known Turkish musical and poetic forms, are hymns based on poems written by Sufi saints. By inspiration, they are created to bring those present closer to God. In the Alevi-Bektashi tradition, these songs are called "Nefes". The vast majority of these Turkish zikr songs are based on Yunus Emre's lyrics. His down-to-earth folk style and devotion provides the perfect material for devotional chanting.

The Zenith of Turkish Folk Mysticsm:

Humanism is an abiding tradition in Turkish culture. Before adopting Islam and settling in Anatolia, the Turks had already acquired highly humanistic attitudes as a result of the difficulties they experienced in long periods of  exodus and during relatively brief sojourns in Asia. The humanistic mysticism of Anatolia in the late 13th century, with its concern for peace, brotherhood and man's intrinsic significance, was the culmination-better still, the perfection-of the incipient humanism which the Turks had brought with them from Asia.

The tradition of Turkish humanism is best represented by Yunus Emre (death 1320). He was the most significant literary figure of Turkish Anatolia to assimilate the teachings of Islam and to forge a synthesis of Islam's primary values and mystic folk poetry.  His verse stressed the importance of the human worth and viewed Islam not in terms of rigid formulas but in terms of freedom of the conscience and fundamental ethos. Yunus Emre, the first great Turkish humanist, stood strongly against Moslem dogmatists in expressing the primary importance of human existence:

I see my moon right here on earth,
What would I do with all the skies?
Rains of mercy pour down on me
From this ground where I fix my gaze.

Seven centuries ago, Yunus Emre attained to the zenith of the intellectual and aesthetic tradition of Turkish humanism. He gave eloquent specimens of humanitarianism and universalism. He made a poetic plea for peace and the brotherhood of mankind-a call for humanism which is still supremely relevant in today's world convulsing with conflict and war:

Come, let us be friends for once,
Let us make life easy on us,
Let us be lovers and loved ones,
The earth shall be left to no one.

The 13 th Century: A Master Saint Arises:

Hadji Bektash-i Veli

Just what was it about the 13 th century? Why was it able to produce some of the greatest mystics in a short span of time and relatively small geographic region? Amazingly, Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, Yunus Emre, and Haji Bektash Veli all arose out of the social and religious conditions of 13 th century Anatolia . While no comprehensive or scholarly discussion is intended here, a brief introduction to the times and the spiritual figure who established the Bektashi lineage of dervishes in Turkey is in order.

John Kingsley Birge, the eminent scholar on Bektashis whose groundbreaking book remains the most in-depth study of the order, describes the conditions that helped to create the mystical and secret religious fraternities in Turkey . Ordinary people in Anatolia during the Seljuk era endured constant warfare, constantly changing political alignments, and waves of immigration, particularly from Central Asia . This instability created the overall climate in which mystical teachings flourished. Due to the Crusades, Christianity and Islam had been in close contact for over a hundred years. In fact, on the frontiers and among the common people, Christian, Islamic, Greek and shamanistic pagan elements blended with Islam to create a uniquely Turkish synthesis of beliefs and customs.

Many of the rural folk and peasantry were isolated and alienated from the central government and “high” culture that developed around the capital cities. The elite and educated learned Persian, the language of literature and arts, and Arabic, the language of Islam. In the cities the tendency toward orthodoxy increased. Among the masses though, religious expression was growing less orthodox and more heretical as the disillusionment with the central government grew. A tendency toward Shiism grew more pronounced.

Following the Mongolian invasions, Turkmen “Babas” (spiritual fathers) started immigrating into Anatolia from Central Asia . These wandering dervishes and mystics were especially influential among the frontier peoples. They spoke Turkish, not Persian or Arabic. Furthermore, their teachings incorporated and preserved many of the old pre-Islamic shamanistic customs. Followers of the great 12 th century Turkish mystic Ahmet Yesevi, their philosophy was anti-materialist and socially and politically active in character. Birge suggests that their philosophy may have appealed to the masses for several reasons. On the one hand, the lack of political security in the 13 th century may have led to a widespread sense of insecurity and a conviction that life was unsettlingly transitory. Leaders desired conquest, especially in the name of religion, and desired plunder from the conquered. In these bloodthirsty times, people sought meaning and a more spiritual outlook on life. In response two spiritual orders were formed in Turkey which would have a great influence over the entire Ottoman era. The Mevlevis (founded by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, were an urban dervish order closely tied to spiritual literature written in Persian. On the other hand the Bektashis were closely related to Turkish village life and the military. The literature of the Bektashis was in the Turkish vernacular of the common people. The founder of the Bektashis, and the order's patron saint, was a wandering Turkmen Baba named Haji Bektash Veli.

Much about the life of Haji Bektash Veli is unknown or shrouded in legend. We know that he came from Khorasan, like many mystics who settled in Anatolia . Khorasan, which is in the region of what is today Eastern Iran and Western Afganistan , was the home of many mystics. Located on the ancient Silk Road , it was at the crossroads of Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Zoroastrian traditions. Haji Bektash was believed to be descended from Ali, and was in the spiritual lineage of Ahmet Yesevi of Turkestan . After journeying for a period of years to Mecca , Damascus and Baghdad , Haji Bektash eventually settled in Turkey . In a century of uncertainty and foment, Haji Bektash Veli gained popularity among the rural and uneducated peoples and gained a reputation, among both Christians and Muslims, of having miraculous powers. The stories of his miracles and feats, as told in the Vilayetname of Haji Bektash (Book of Sainthood) continue as familiar folklore and are a matter of accepted belief to the faithful.

To understand the differences between Haji Bektash Veli and Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi in the Turkish psyche, visiting the tomb of each is instructive. Mevlana's tomb in Konya is one of the highlights of a trip to Turkey for many Westerners. The entire complex around the tomb daily fills with tourists from all over the world. Devout Muslims journey there. So do spiritual seekers of diverse religious backgrounds, impassioned by the intoxicating mystical poetry. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is serious and reverential. Religious artifacts are under glass, museum-like, and the visitor is moved through the rooms in a sea of humanity. The experience is replete with picture taking and loud conversations.

The Haji Bektash Tekke in the Cappadochia region of Turkey , in sharp contrast, feels almost deserted. Stillness pervades the area. On our visit to the tekke, an elderly woman was devoutly praying, sitting on the floor right next to the tomb. Before she left she kissed the tomb and the door frame many times and appeared to be in a state of heightened emotion. If Rumi is an exalted and revered master to most Turks, Haji Bektash is more like a beloved uncle—he's one of the people, an approachable saint. The devoted can show him love and bring their requests and prayers to him. There is no need for formality or ceremoniousness. Devotion to Bektash is simple, straightforward and heartfelt. The Principles of the Bektashi Path, as set forth by Haji Bektash Veli, reflect the same simplicity and love:

Principles of the Bektashi Path

•  Seek and find.

•  Whatever you do, do it for the Truth.

•  There exists in you a “there is” to replace every “there isn't.”

•  He who walks the Path never tires.

•  There is no rank or station higher than the Friend's heart.

•  The one who is wise but doesn't share his wisdom is ignorant.

•  To the ignorant, abandoning what is no longer needed is death; to the wise it is birth.

•  There is no repentance of repentance.

•  Let your heart, your hand, and your table be open to others.

•  Look for the key to all within your deepest being.

•  Whatever you seek, look within.

•  Do not forget your enemy is also a human being.

•  The beauty of human beings is the beauty of their words.

•  If the path appears dark, know that the veil is in your own eyes.

•  All blessings upon the one who overlooks another's shortcomings.

•  All blessings upon the one who makes a secret of secrets.

•  The Word is Truth.

•  Do not hurt others, even if you are hurt.

•  Hand-in-hand, hand in Truth.

•  One hour of meditation is better than seventy years of piety.

Other sayings attributed to Haji Bektash Veli include: “The best book of all is the human being,” and “Educate your women—a nation that doesn't educate its women cannot progress.” If one visits the small Turkish village of Haçibekta s in August, one will witness the annual international commemoration ceremonies for Haji Bektash Veli and get a sense of the order's living presence and traditions.

Quarelling with God (by Jennifer Ferraro and Latif Bolat): While not all of the dervish poets in this collection are Bektashis, all were influenced by the legacy of this spiritual order. The subject matters, styles and attitudes prevalent in their mystic hymns show the debts owed to Haji Bektash. All the poets here were involved, to some degree, with the Sufi dervish orders that have been on Turkish soil and in the Turkish psyche since the 13 th century. Like branches of the same tree, the beliefs of these dervishes vary slightly. The core spiritual tenets and orientation, and the mystic realization behind those beliefs, however, is the same. There is a remarkable continuity of expression throughout the poems. In the section of this book entitled A Key to the Sacred Universe of the Poems , we discuss some of the common philosophical, Qur'anic, and doctrinal concepts that aid in understanding the poetry's Sufism in general and Bektashism in particular. It is only fitting that we start the journey through eight centuries of Turkish mystic folk wisdom with the root of the tree where it all started, with the father of the “breaths” of centuries, Haji Bektash Veli.

Haji Bektash Veli (13 th c.)


My riches, properties and assets all stayed behind.

My son, my daughter, my relatives, all stayed behind.

But there was one friend who never left my side—

Whatever I did for the Beloved, stayed with me .


Knowledge is the true Master that illuminates the darkness;

Ignorance and heedlessness darken human beings.

The sun of happiness that shines out of the soul

doesn't rise from East or West.

It rises out of pure faith.


I saw the Friend in my dream and I asked,

“Which path will lead me to you?”

He declared, “You'll find me when you

abandon you.”

O You, you're always repenting something.

Tell me, when will you repent of your repenting?


•  Annemarie Schimmel: Mystical Dimensions of Islam, The University of NC Press, 1975

•  John Kingsley Birge: The Bektashi Order of Dervishes, Luzac Oriental, 1994

•  Neil Douglas-Clotz: The Sufi Book of Life, Penguin Compass Books, 2005

•  Talat Sait Halman: Yunus Emre and his mystical poetry, Indiana University , 1981

•  James Winston Morris: Orientations, Archetype Press, 2004

•  Llwellyn Vaughan-Lee: Traveling the Path of Love, Golden Sufi Center , 1995

•  Coleman Barks: The Essential Rumi, poetry translations, Harper Collins, 1995

•  Hazrat Inayat Khan: The Mysticism of Sound and Music, Shambala, 1996

•  Geoffrey Parrinder: Mysticism in the World's Religions, Oneworld, 1995

•  Idris Shah: The Pleasantries of Mulla Nasruddin, Penguin Arkana, 1968

•  Kathleen Burrill: The Quatrains of Nesimi, Mouton & Co. Press, 1972

•  Karen Armstrong: Islam, Modern Library Chronicles Publishers, 2000

•  Annemarie Schimmel: And Muhammed is His Messenger, Chapel Hill , 1985

•  Franklin Lewis: Rumi, Past and Present, East and West, Oneworld, 2000

•  Margaret Smith: Studies in Early Mysticism in the Near and the Middle East , Oneworld, 1995

•  Hazrat Inayat Khan: The Heart of Sufism, Shambala, 1999

•  Annemarie Schimmel: The Triumphal Sun: The Study of the Works of Rumi, SUNY, 1993

•  Fuad Koprulu: Islam in Anatolia after the Turkish Invasion, U. of Utah Press, 1993

. Ahmet Yasar Ocak: Kalenderilik (in Turkish)

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