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Bektashi Order

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Order of Bektashi dervishes
Bektashi Order[1]
Kryegjyshata Botërore Bektashiane.svg
TypeDervish Order
Baba Mondi
Key people

The Bektashi Order (Albanian: Tarikati Bektashi; Turkish: Bektaşi Tarîkatı) is a Sufi Shī‘ah Imāmī Alevī Ṭarīqah[1][6][7] founded by Balım Sultan.[8] Bektashis believe in the Twelve Imams, Fourteen Innocents and the modern-day Dedebabas.[9] Bektashis claim the heritage of Haji Bektash Veli, after whom the order is named.[10] Adherents of Bektashi Islam are called Bektashi Muslims or simply Bektashis. The community is currently led by Baba Mondi, the eighth Bektashi Dedababa. The headquarters of the community, called Kryegjyshata in Albanian, are in Tirana, Albania.

In addition to the spiritual teachings of Haji Bektash Veli, the Bektashi order was later significantly influenced during its formative period by the Hurufis (in the early 15th century), the Qalandariyya stream of Sufism, and to varying degrees the Shia beliefs circulating in Anatolia during the 14th to 16th centuries. The mystical practices and rituals of the Bektashi order were systematized and structured by Balım Sultan in the 16th century after which many of the order's distinct practices and beliefs took shape.

According to a 2005 estimate made by Baba Reshat, there are over seven million Bektashis worldwide.[11] Albania is the country with the most Bektashis, where they make up 20% of the Muslim population,[10] and 2.5% of the country's population.[12] Bektashis are mainly founded throughout Anatolia and the Balkans, and has been particularly strong in Albania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and among Ottoman era Greek Muslims from the regions of Epirus, Crete and Macedonia.


Bektashi Islam is named after Haji Bektash Veli.[8] Collectively, adherents of Bektashi Islam, are called Bektashi Muslims or simply Bektashis.

World headquarter of the Bektashis
World headquarter of the Bektashis


Bektashi Islam was founded in Anatolia in the 15th century by Balım Sultan.[13] It was originally founded as a Sufi movement.[14] The branch became widespread in the Ottoman Empire, their lodges scattered throughout Anatolia as well as in the Balkans and also in the imperial city of Constantinople. The order had close ties with the Janissary corps, the elite infantry corp of the Ottoman Army, and therefore also became mainly associated with Anatolian and Balkan Muslims of Eastern Orthodox convert origin, mainly Albanians and northern Greeks (although most leading Bektashi babas were of southern Albanian origin).[15] With the abolition of Janissaries, the Bektashi order was banned throughout the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826. This decision was supported by the Sunni religious elite as well as the leaders of other, more orthodox, Sufi orders. Bektashi tekkes were closed and their dervishes were exiled. Bektashis slowly regained freedom with the coming of the Tanzimat era. After the foundation of republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk banned all Sufi orders and shut down the lodges in 1925. Consequently, the Bektashi leadership moved to Albania and established their headquarters in the city of Tirana. Among the most famous followers of Bektashi in the 19th century Balkans were Ali Pasha[16][17][18][19][20][21] and Naim Frashëri.

Despite the negative effect of this ban on Bektashi culture, most Bektashis in Turkey have been generally supportive of secularism to this day, since these reforms have relatively relaxed the religious intolerance that had historically been shown against them by the official Sunni establishment.

In the Balkans the Bektashi order had a considerable impact on the Islamization of many areas, primarily Albania and Bulgaria, as well as parts of Macedonia, particularly among Ottoman-era Greek Muslims from western Greek Macedonia such as the Vallahades. By the 18th century Bektashism began to gain a considerable hold over the population of southern Albania and northwestern Greece (Epirus and western Greek Macedonia). Following the ban on Sufi orders in the Republic of Turkey, the Bektashi community's headquarters was moved from Hacıbektaş in central Anatolia, to Tirana, Albania. In Albania, the Bektashi community declared its separation from the Sunni community and they were perceived ever after as a distinct Islamic sect rather than a branch of Sunni Islam. Bektashism continued to flourish until the Second World War. After the communists took power in 1945, several babas and dervishes were executed and a gradual constriction of Bektashi influence began. Ultimately, in 1967 all tekkes were shut down when Enver Hoxha banned all religious practice. When this ban was rescinded in 1990 the Bektashism reestablished itself, although there were few left with any real knowledge of the spiritual path. Nevertheless, many "tekkes" (lodges) operate today in Albania. The most recent head of the order in Albania was Hajji Reshat Bardhi Dedebaba (1935–2011) and the main tekke has been reopened in Tirana. In June 2011 Baba Edmond Brahimaj was chosen as the head of the Bektashi order by a council of Albanian babas. Today sympathy for the order is generally widespread in Albania where approximately 20% of Muslims identify themselves as having some connection to Bektashism.

There are also important Bektashi communities among the Albanian communities of Macedonia and Kosovo, the most important being the Harabati Baba Tekke in the city of Tetovo, which was until recently under the guidance of Baba Tahir Emini (1941–2006). Following the death of Baba Tahir Emini, the dedelik of Tirana appointed Baba Edmond Brahimaj (Baba Mondi), formerly head of the Turan Tekke of Korçë, to oversee the Harabati baba tekke. A splinter branch of the order has recently sprung up in the town of Kičevo which has ties to the Turkish Bektashi community under Haydar Ercan Dede rather than Tirana. A smaller Bektashi tekke, the Dikmen Baba Tekkesi, is in operation in the Turkish-speaking town of Kanatlarci, Macedonia that also has stronger ties with Turkey's Bektashis. In Kosovo, the relatively small Bektashi community has a tekke in the town of Gjakovë and is under the leadership of Baba Mumin Lama and it recognizes the leadership of Tirana.

In Bulgaria, the türbes of Kıdlemi Baba, Ak Yazılı Baba, Demir Baba and Otman Baba function as heterodox Islamic pilgrimage sites and before 1842 were the centers of Bektashi tekkes.[22]

Bektashis continue to be active in Turkey and their semi-clandestine organizations can be found in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. There are currently two rival claimants to the dedebaba in Turkey: Mustafa Eke and Haydar Ercan.

A large functioning Bektashi tekke was also established in the United States in 1954 by Baba Rexheb. This tekke is found in the Detroit suburb of Taylor and the tomb (türbe) of Baba Rexheb continues to draw pilgrims of all faiths.

Arabati Baba Teḱe controversy

In 2002, a group of armed members of the Islamic Religious Community of Macedonia (ICM), a Sunni group that is the legally recognized organisation which claims to represent all Muslims in North Macedonia, invaded the Shiʻi Bektashi Order's Arabati Baba Teḱe in an attempt to reclaim this tekke as a mosque although the facility has never functioned as such. Subsequently, the Bektashi Order of North Macedonia sued the government for failing to restore the tekke to the Bektashis, pursuant to a law passed in the early 1990s returning properties previously nationalized under the Yugoslav government. The law, however, deals with restitution to private citizens, rather than religious communities.[23]

Diagram showing Bektashi as well as other Sufi orders.
Diagram showing Bektashi as well as other Sufi orders.

The ICM claim to the tekke is based upon their contention to represent all Muslims in the Republic of Macedonia; and indeed, they are one of two Muslim organizations recognized by the government, both Sunni. The Bektashi community filed for recognition as a separate religious community with the Macedonian government in 1993, but the Macedonian government has refused to recognize them.[23]


Just like other Muslims, Bektashi Muslims believe in One God (Allah) and follow all the prophets.[10] Bektashis claim the heritage of Haji Bektash Veli, who was a descended of Ali, Husayn, Zayn and other Imams.[10][24] Therefore, Bektashis follow the teachings of Haji Bektash, who preached about the Twelve Imams. Bektashis differ from other Muslims by also following the Fourteen Innocents, who were either died in infancy or were martyred with Husayn.[25] Abbas ibn Ali is also an important figure in Bektashi Islam, and Bektashi Muslims visit Mount Tomorr to honor him during an annual pilgrimage to the Abbas Ali Türbe on August 20–25.[26]

In addition to the Muslim daily five prayers, Bektashi Muslims have two specific prayers, one at dawn and one at dusk for the welfare of all humanity.[10] Bektashi Islam places much emphasis on the concept of Wahdat-ul-Wujood (Arabic: وحدة الوجود‎, romanizedUnity of Being) that was formulated by Ibn Arabi.

Malakat is an important text of Bektashi Islam, written by Haji Bektash.[27] Bektashis also follow the Quran and Hadith. Bektashis hold that the Quran has two levels of meaning: an outer (Arabic: ظاهر‎, romanizedZahir) and an inner (Arabic: باطن‎, romanizedBatin).[28]

Bektashis follow the modern-day Bektashi Dedebabate, currently headed by Hajji Mondi. Bektashis consider the dedebaba as their leader overseeing the entire branch.

Bektashism is also heavily permeated with Shiite concepts, such as the marked reverence of Ali, The Twelve Imams, and the ritual commemoration of Ashura marking the Battle of Karbala. The old Persian holiday of Nowruz is celebrated by Bektashis as Imam Ali's birthday (see also; Nevruz in Albania).

The Bektashi Order is a Sufi order and shares much in common with other Islamic mystical movements, such as the need for an experienced spiritual guide—called a baba in Bektashi parlance — as well as the doctrine of "the four gates that must be traversed": the "Sharia" (religious law), "Tariqah" (the spiritual path), "Marifa" (true knowledge), "Haqiqah" (truth).

There are many other practices and ceremonies that share similarities with other faiths, such as a ritual meal (muhabbet) and yearly confession of sins to a baba (magfirat-i zunub مغفرة الذنوب). Bektashis base their practices and rituals on their non-orthodox and mystical interpretation and understanding of the Quran and the prophetic practice (Sunnah). They have no written doctrine specific to them, thus rules and rituals may differ depending on under whose influence one has been taught. Bektashis generally revere Sufi mystics outside of their own order, such as Ibn Arabi, Al-Ghazali and Jelalludin Rumi who are close in spirit to them despite many of being from more mainstream Islamic backgrounds.

Bektashis hold that the Quran has two levels of meaning: an outer (zahir ظاهر) and an inner (batin باطن). They hold the latter to be superior and eternal and this is reflected in their understanding of both the universe and humanity (This view can also be found in Ismailism—see Batiniyya).

Poetry and literature

Poetry plays an important role in the transmission of Bektashi spirituality. Several important Ottoman-era poets were Bektashis, and Yunus Emre, the most acclaimed poet of the Turkish language, is generally recognized as a subscriber to the Bektashi order.

Like many Sufis, the Bektashis were quite lax in observing daily Muslim laws, and women as well as men took part in ritual wine drinking and dancing during devotional ceremonies. The Bektashis in the Balkans adapted such Christian practices as the ritual sharing of bread and the confession of sins. Bektashi mystical writings made a rich contribution to Sufi poetry.[29]

A poem from Bektashi poet Balım Sultan (died c. 1517/1519):

İstivayı özler gözüm, (My eye seeks out repose,)
Seb'al-mesânîdir yüzüm, (my face is the 'oft repeated seven (i.e. the Sura Al-Fatiha),)
Ene'l-Hakk'ı söyler sözüm, (My words proclaim "I am the Truth",)
Miracımız dardır bizim, (Our ascension is (by means of) the scaffold,)
Haber aldık muhkemattan, (We have become aware through the "firm letters",)
Geçmeyiz zâttan sıfattan, (We will not abandon essence or attributes,)
Balım nihan söyler Hakk'tan, (Balım speaks arcanely of God)
İrşâdımız sırdır bizim. (Our teaching is a mystery.[30])


The telling of jokes and humorous tales is an important part of Bektashi culture and teaching. Frequently these poke fun at conventional religious views by counterpoising the Bektashi dervish as an iconoclastic figure. For example:

A Bektashi was praying in the mosque. While those around him were praying "May God grant me faith," he muttered "May God grant me plenty of wine." The imam heard him and asked angrily why instead of asking for faith like everyone else, he was asking God for something sinful. The Bektashi replied, "Well, everyone asks for what they don't have."

A Bektashi was a passenger in a rowing boat travelling from Eminönü to Üsküdar in Istanbul. When a storm blew up, the boatman tried to reassure him by saying "Fear not—God is great!" the Bektashi replied, "Yes, God is great, but the boat is small."

An imam was preaching about the evils of alcohol and asked "If you put a pail of water and a pail of rakı in front of a donkey, which one will he drink from?" A Bektashi in the congregation immediately answered. "The water!" "Indeed," said the imam, "and why is that?" "Because he's an ass."

Community hierarchy

Like most other Sufi orders, Bektashism is initiatic, and members must traverse various levels or ranks as they progress along the spiritual path to the Reality. The Turkish names are given below, followed by their Arabic and Albanian equivalents.[31]

  1. First-level members are called aşıks عاشق (Albanian: ashik). They are those who, while not having taken initiation into the order, are nevertheless drawn to it.
  2. Following initiation (called nasip), one becomes a mühip محب (Albanian: muhib).
  3. After some time as a mühip, one can take further vows and become a dervish.
  4. The next level above dervish is that of baba. The baba (lit. father) (Albanian: atë) is considered to be the head of a tekke and qualified to give spiritual guidance (irshad إرشاد).
  5. Above the baba (Albanian: gjysh) is the rank of halife-baba (or dede, grandfather).
  6. The dedebaba (Albanian: kryegjysh) is traditionally considered to be the highest ranking authority in the Bektashi Order. Traditionally the residence of the dedebaba was the Pir Evi (The Saint's Home) which was located in the shrine of Hajji Bektash Wali in the central Anatolian town of Hacıbektaş (aka Solucakarahüyük), known as the Hajibektash complex.

Traditionally there were twelve of these hierarchical rankings, the most senior being the dedebaba (great-grandfather).


In Albania, the World Headquarters of the Bektashi (Albanian: Kryegjyshata) divides the country into 6 different administrative districts (similar to Christian parishes and patriarchates), each of which is called a gjyshata.[31]

National Congress of the Bektashi

THe National Congress of the Bektashi, a conference during which members of the Bektashi Community make important decisions, has been held in Albania several times. Since 1945, it has been held exclusively in Tirana. The longest gap between two congresses lasted from 1950 to 1993, when congresses could not be held during Communist rule in Albania.[31]

No. Congress Date Location Notes
1 First National Congress of the Bektashi 14–17 January 1921 tekke of Prishta in the Skrapar region The name Komuniteti Bektashian (Bektashi community) was adopted.
2 Second National Congress of the Bektashi 8–9 July 1924 Gjirokastra
3 Third National Congress of the Bektashi 23 September 1929 tekke of Turan near Korça The Bektashi declared themselves to be a religious community autonomous from other Islamic communities.
4 Fourth National Congress of the Bektashi 5 May 1945 Tirana Xhafer Sadiku Dede was made kryegjysh (or dedebaba), and the influential Baba Faja Martaneshi, a communist collaborator, was made secretary general.
5 Fifth National Congress of the Bektashi 16 April 1950 Tirana
6 Sixth National Congress of the Bektashi 19–20 July 1993 Tirana
7 Seventh National Congress of the Bektashi 23–24 September 2000 Tirana
8 Eighth National Congress of the Bektashi 21 September 2005 Tirana
9 Ninth National Congress of the Bektashi 6 July 2009 Tirana

Dedebabas (1930–present)

No. Portrait Name Term in office
Sali Nijazi Dede (portret).jpg
Sali Njazi Dede
20 March 1930[32] 28 November 1941
11 years, 8 months and 8 days
Ali Riza Dede.jpg
Ali Riza Dede
6 January 1942 22 February 1944
2 years, 1 month and 16 days
Kamber Ali Dede.jpg
Kamber Ali Dede
12 April 1944 1945
0 or 1 year
Xhafer Sadik Dede.jpg
Xhafer Sadik Dede
5 May 1945 2 August 1945
2 months and 28 days
Ikonë Bektashiane.svg
Abaz Hilmi Dede
6 September 1945 19 March 1947
1 year, 6 months and 13 days
Ahmet Myftar Dede.jpg
Ahmet Myftar Dede
8 June 1947 1958
9 or 10 years
Ikonë Bektashiane.svg
Baba Reshat
20 July 1993 2 April 2011
17 years, 8 months and 13 days
Baba Mondi 2017.JPG
Baba Mondi
11 June 2011 Incumbent
10 years, 3 months and 8 days

Notable Bektashis

Some notable historic and legendary Bektashi people are:[31]

  • Abaz Hilmi, Dede Baba, of the Tekke of Frashër (1887–1947)
  • Abbas ibn Ali
  • Abdullah Baba of Melçan (1786–1857 (–1853?))
  • Abedin Baba of Leskovik
  • Adem Baba of Prizren (d. 1894)
  • Adem Vexh-hi Baba of Gjakova (1841–1927)
  • Ahmet Baba of Prishta (d. 1902)
  • Ahmet Baba of Turan (1854–1928)
  • Ahmet Karadja
  • Ahmet Myftari, Dede Baba (1916–1980)
  • Ahmet Sirri Baba of Mokattam (1895–1963)
  • Ali Baba of Berat
  • Ali Baba of Tomorr (1900–1948)
  • Ali Baba Horasani of Fushë Kruja (d. 1562)
  • Ali Haqi Baba of Gjirokastra (1827–1907)
  • Ali Riza of Elbasan [sq], Dede Baba (1876–1944)
  • Alush Baba of Frashër (c. 1816–1896)
  • Arshi Baba of Durballi Sultan (1906–2015)
  • Arshi Baba of Gjirokastra (d. 1621)
  • Asim Baba of Gjirokastra (d. 1796)
  • Balim Sultan of Dimetoka (1457–1517)
  • Dylgjer Hysejni of Elbasan (b. 1959)
  • Edmond Brahimaj, Dede Baba (1910–1947)
  • Faja Martaneshi Baba
  • Fetah Baba of Backa
  • Hajdar Hatemi Baba of Gjonëm (early 19th century)
  • Hajdër Baba of Kardhiq (d. 1904)
  • Haji Bektash Veli (1248–1337) (Albanian: Haxhi Bektashi Veli; Turkish: Hacı Bektaş Veli)
  • Hasan Dede of Përmet
  • Haxhi Baba Horasani of Përmet (d. 1620)
  • Haxhi Baba of Fushë Kruja
  • Hidër Baba of Makedonski Brod
  • Hysen Baba of Melçan (d. 1914)
  • Hysen Kukeli Baba of Fushë Kruja (1822–1893)
  • Ibrahim Baba of Qesaraka (d. 1930)
  • Ibrahim Xhefai Baba of Elbasan (d. 1829)
  • Iljaz Vërzhezha, Dervish (d. 1923)
  • Kamber Ali, Dede Baba (1869–1950)
  • Kasem Baba of Kastoria (late 15th century)
  • Kusum Baba of Vlora
  • Lutfi Baba of Mokattam (1849–1942)
  • Mehmet Baba of Fushë Kruja (1882–1934)
  • Meleq Shëmbërdhenji Baba (1842–1918)
  • Muharrem Baba of Frashër (early 19th century)
  • Muharrem Mahzuni Baba of Durballi Sultan (d. 1867)
  • Myrteza Baba of Fushë Kruja (1912–1947)
  • Qazim Baba of Elbasan (1891–1962)
  • Qazim Baba of Gjakova [sq] (1895–1981)
  • Qamil Baba of Gllava (d. 1946)
  • Reshat Bardhi, Dede Baba (1935–2011)
  • Rexheb Baba of Gjirokastra (1901–1995)
  • Salih Baba of Matohasanaj (19th to 20th centuries)
  • Salih Nijazi, Dede Baba (1876–1941)
  • Sari Saltik
  • Seit Baba of Durballi Sultan (d. 1973)
  • Selim Kaliçani Baba of Martanesh (1922–2001)
  • Selim Ruhi Baba of Gjirokastra (1869–1944)
  • Selman Xhemali Baba of Elbasan (d. 1949)
  • Sersem Ali Baba of Tetova [sq] (d. 1569)
  • Shemimi Baba of Fushë Kruja (1748–1803)
  • Sulejman Baba of Gjirokastra (d. 1934)
  • Tahir Nasibi Baba of Frashër (d. 1835)
  • Tahir Baba of Prishta (19th century)
  • Xhafer Sadiku, Dede Baba (1874–1945)


See also


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  2. ^ "Encyclopedia Iranica, "ḤĀJĪ BEKTĀŠ"". Archived from the original on 17 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b "ʿALĪ AL-AʿLĀ (d. 822/1419), also known as Amīr Sayyed ʿAlī, principal successor of Fażlallāh Astarābādī, founder of the Ḥorūfī sect". Archived from the original on 17 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Encyclopedia Iranica, "ASTARĀBĀDĪ, FAŻLALLĀH" (d. 796/1394), founder of the Ḥorūfī religion, H. Algar". Archived from the original on 17 May 2019. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
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  12. ^ "Albania Infographic Profile July 2018.pdf" (PDF).
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  20. ^ Gerlachlus Duijzings (2010), Religion and the Politics of Identity in Kosovo, New York: Columbia University Press, p. 82, ISBN 9780231120982, OCLC 43513230, archived from the original on 29 April 2016, retrieved 20 October 2015, The most illustrious among them was Ali Pasha (1740–1822), who exploited the organisation and religious doctrine...
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  31. ^ a b c d Elsie, Robert (2019). The Albanian Bektashi: history and culture of a Dervish order in the Balkans. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-78831-569-2. OCLC 1108619669.
  32. ^ 90-vjetori i ardhjes në Shqipëri të Kryegjyshit Botror të Bektashinjve, Sali Niazi Dedei



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