Islam in the Balkans. Religion and Society between Europe and the Arab World

Harry T. Norris




‘It would be mistaken to think that in the hands of the theologians Islam has remained a closed book. Ever more closed to science and open to mysticism, theology has permitted many irrational — and to Islamic teaching — completely alien elements and even blatant superstitions, to be added to it. It will be clear to anybody who is acquainted with the nature of theology why it found itself unable to resist the temptation of mythology and why it even saw in this a certain enrichment of religious thought. The monotheism of the Koran, the purest and most perfect in the history of religious teaching, was gradually compromised and a repulsive commercialism appeared in its practice.’ (Alija Izetbegović, The Islamic Declaration)


  1. The Baktāshīyya  89

  2. Non-Shī‘īte ūfī orders in the Balkans  100

  3. The Qādiriyya  105

  4. The Mawlawiyya  109

  5. The Khalwatiyya  111

  6. The Naqshabandiyya  112

  7. The Malāmiyya  115

  8. Shaykh al-ā’ifa al-Bayrāmiyya  118

  9. The origins of the Baktāshīyya in Albania  123

10. When were the first tekkes built in the heart of Albania?  126

11. Krujë  129



To consider the impact and the influence of ūfīsm and the ūfī orders on the Balkan countries, some attention has to be directed, by way of introduction, to the ūfīsm of Central Asia. Ultimately it is from that region, via Turkey and the Caucasus, that many of the ideas, practices and beliefs of Balkan ūfīsm originally evolved under the impact of Iranian ideas. Central Asia occupies a prominent place in Islamic history and especially in the evolution of ūfīsm. Particularly important are Khurāsān and Transoxania. [1] It was in this latter region of Central Asia that the study of Prophetic adīth achieved its peak, and it was there that the most important early collections of adīth were compiled. [2] Central Asia was also a major centre for the study of the Qur’ān and Islamic theology.


ūfīsm, Islamic mysticism (taawwuf), owes a number of its most important concepts to pious men and thinkers in Khurāsān and Transoxania. To some it was indebted in matters of doctrine, to others in



1. On the religious beliefs peculiar to Central Asia, and more especially those factors that influenced the evolution of ūfīsm (especially heterodoxy) see Emel Esin, ‘Eren’. Les Dervīš héterodoxe Tures d’Asie Centrale et la peinture surnommee “Siyāh- alam” ’, Turcica, vol. XVII, 1985, pp. 7-42.

2. As is confirmed by such names as Muammad b. Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī, born in Bukhara in 194/810; Muammad b. ‘Īsā al-Tirmidhī, who died near Balkh in 279/892-3; and later Mamūd b. ‘Umar al-Zamakhsharī, born in Khwārizm in 467/1075.







those matters that related to the rules of practice (ādāb) in the dervish orders and the habit of the retreat (khalwa). [3] Crucial too were those matters of organisation and discipline within the brotherhoods (uruq) as they subsequently evolved.


From Central Asia and later, likewise, from the Caucasus these innovations were adopted elsewhere. Great scholars such as al-Kalabādhī [4], al-Qushayrī [5] and al-Hujwīrī [6] were to record a transformation of ūfī ideas, beginning with the simple monotheism and early asceticism of such men as Uways al-Qaranī and al-asan al-Barī, [7] through the emotional and personal mysticism of love (maabba), in the verses of Rābi‘a al-‘Adawiyya, [8] to the gnosticism of al-Junayd and al-allāj, [9] and ultimately to that of the Spanish-Arab, Ibn al-‘Arabī, and Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, [10] especially the doctrine of the extinction of self within the divine essence (fanā’) and existential monism wadat al-wujūd — these latter earned for ūfīsm the charge from the orthodox of exchanging monotheism for pantheism. To cite the respected Albanian Baktāshī shaikh, Baba Rexhebi,


Neither man nor any other creation can exist independent from God. All are simply mirrors which reflect their master, the creator, without whom they could not have existed. Neither man nor any other creation can exist independent from God. All are simply mirrors which reflect their master, the true God. Wahdat Wujud sees only one essence existing in the world, any other essence representing its creator:


The pantheistic [sic] notion of Al Arabi is clearly expressed in this excerpt:

You alone hold in yourself each and all creations.



3. A khalwa is a cell for private meditation and retreat among the ūfīs. This is a central feature of the Khalwatiyya arīqa (see article in the Encyclopedia of Islam) but it is important in other orders, such as the Kubrāwiyya arīqa.

4. Muammad b. Isāq al-Kalabādhī (d. 996), an important ūfī from Bukhara who was the author of Kitab al-Ta‘arruf li-madhhab ahl al-taawwuf.

5. Abū l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī of Naysābūr (d. 1074), the author of al-Risāla al-Qushayriyya.

6. al-ujwīrī (d. 1071), the author of Kashf al-Majūb.

7. al-asan of Bara (d. 728), one of the most noted of the earliest ūfīs.

8. Rābi‘a al-‘Adawiyya (d. 801), famous woman mystic.

9. al-Junayd (d. 909-10) and al-allāj (martyred 922), whose life has been exhaustively studied by L. Massignon in his The Passion of al-Hallaj. See also Chapter 6 below, note 4.

10. Ibn ‘Arabī (Ibn al-‘Arabī) of Murcia (1165-1240) and Jalāl al-Din al-Rūmī (1207-73) are the most influential of the later ūfī, especially in the Persian and Turkish ūfī-influenced countries.









Plate 5. The opening and final folios, with colophon, of a commentary on urūfi verses of Sayyid Shārif by the Albanian Baktāshī dervish, Yūsuf b. aydar, possibly of Krujë. The ms. is dated 1240 AH/1824AD and is listed by E. G. Browne as OR, 26(9), in his catalogue of Oriental manuscripts in Cambridge University Library. The verses are part of a q̇aīda, or ode, entitled Jāwidān-nāma. There is no clear indication of where the copy was made. ‘Ārnā’ūdī is an unusual spelling of Arnā’ūī. Āq iār is an Ottoman name for Krujë. Photograph published by permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library.





You alone inside yourself created all that exists today.

You are the greatest essence.


The essence of God is the essence of all creations and there is no other essence. [11]



This vision manifests a clear terminal line of development within ūfī thought, though it would be wrong to maintain that one stage merely absorbed or displaced another. ūfīsm can be described as containing within itself a variety of subtly differentiated and sometimes incompatible conceptions of man in relation to divinity. Resulting maladjustments were always potentially there.


A semi-constant tension that may subsist between an orthodoxy and mystical movements is not exclusive to Islam, although in certain dervish orders the cult of ‘Alī, the son-in-law of the Prophet, carried to an extreme, was one such major cause of friction. There were, however, other and deeper reasons. These have been defined sharply by Hans-Joachim Kissling in his article ‘The Sociological and Educational Role of the Dervish Orders in the Ottoman Empire’. [12]


From the viewpoint of religious sociology, there are irreconcilable differences which cannot be changed by the fact that occasionally all-embracing pantheism may be colored by a theism instilled from childhood or that it may use theistic terminology, since the pantheistic experience cannot be described otherwise. Permit me to give one example. A mystic entranced by the sight of the stars is no claim that a loving Father must dwell above. Or on our topic: the Islamic dervish does not mind merging the pantheistic all-god term haqq with the orthodox term Allāh, while the strictly orthodox Moslem will carefully distinguish between them. In monotheism the idea of a unio mystica is unheard of, for the monotheistic God is outside his creation, that is, in opposition to it. A union, however, is possible only between essentially equal, not between different, things. Even the attempt of Ghazzali or Qushairi to make mysticism palatable for orthodoxy by declaring it to be originally monotheistic cannot invalidate our statement. The unconscious obscuring of pantheistic sentiment by a monotheistic predisposition can be observed in any form of mysticism.



In the ninth century the Oguz Turks began to embrace Islam. However, it was the counsels of their poet-priest-magician ‘Qam-Ozam’



11. Baba Rexhebi, The mysticism of Islam and Bektashism, vol. 1, Naples, 1984, pp. 75 and 76, under ‘Pantheism: Wahdat-i Wujud’.

12. Published in Studies in Islamic Cultural History (a special issue of The American Anthropologist), ed. G.E. von Grunebaum, 56, no. 2, part 2 (April 1954), memoir no. 76, pp. 23-35.





that appealed to them more than the teachings of the Muslim faqīhs. The Old Turkoman religious traditions lasted long in their memory, subconsciously or consciously influencing the later ūfīsm of the Yasaviyya, the first ūfī order to be fully ‘acclimatised’ among the Turks.


Here the ceremonial dhikr and the samā‘ were adjusted to the ecstatic dances of the Shamanistic Turks. As the Turks moved westward into the Islamic heartlands between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, so these ideas were to be influenced by others which were preached by the Carmathian (Qarāmia) Isma‘īlīs, with their division of Islamic religious teachings and beliefs into the esoteric (al-bāin) and the exoteric (al-āhir). Sects emerged. Extreme ‘Alīd views among the Boghratch Turks, a long distance from the borders of Khurāsān and Transoxania in the eleventh century, allotted to ‘Alī the role of the Turkish Sun God, Göle Tengri. [13] Once ūfīsm was institutionally realised within sundry orders (uruq), so these esoteric beliefs aided in the formation and promotion of mendicant and dervish orders, such as the Qalandariyya and the Haydariyya.


Here [writes Fuad Köprülü] the role of the Turks is too important to be neglected. There was a [ūfī] order which, deriving its origin from the Malāmatiyya [14] of Khurāsān (as represented by such great ūfīs as Abū Sa‘īd Abū’l-Khayr and amdūn-i-Qaṣṣār) after Shaykh Jamāl al-Dīn- Savī (in the years 382-463/992-1070), and under the influence of diverse factors and in different Turco-Muslim regions, had developed, and took a more definite form under the names of ‘Abdālān’ [15] or Javāliqa’ (those clothed in flock or hair). Excommunicated by the orthodox theologians and even by certain mystics because of the scandalous customs of its adherents and because of their indifference towards dogma and religious duties, this order, which was very widespread in the Muslim world, from the sixth to the thirteenth century, gave birth to a series of secondary branches among which the ‘aydariyya’ order was especially worthy of attention. [16] Shaykh Qub al-Dīn aydar, a disciple of Yasavī,



13. This and other kindred topics are discussed extensively in Irène Mélikoff, ‘Recherches sur les composantes du syncrétisme Bektach-Alevi’ in Studia Turculogica memoriae Alexeii Bombaci Dicata, Istituto Universitario Orientale, Seminario di Studi Asiatici, XIX, Naples, 1982.

14. Keuprulu Zadé Mehmed Fuad Bey (see also p. 88 overleaf, note 22), ‘Les Origines du Bektachisme. Essai sur le dévéloppement historique de l’hétérodoxie musulmane en Asie Mineure’, Actes du Congrès International d’histoire des religions, Paris, 1923, vol. 2, 1925, p. 398. See also Claude Cahen, ‘Le probleme du Shi’isme dans l’Asie Mineure turque préottomane’, Le Shi’isme Imamate, Paris, 1870, pp. 115-39.

15. Fuad Bey, ‘Les origines da Bektachisme’, p. 398.

16. ibid., p. 399.






who was born into a princely Turkish family and who died after 618/1221 and was buried at Zāva near Nīshāpūr, had founded a zāwiya, or convent. Its fame was to last for centuries. He surrounded himself with numerous adepts who were recruited among young Turkish men. Between the Qalandariyya and the aydariyya, orders overtly esoteric (inī) in their tendencies, and the Baktāshiyya there was so much affinity that we see these terms employed as though synonymous in subsequent centuries. [17]


Later he comments:


The esoteric creed of the great orders and heterodox sects such as the aydariyya, the Baktāshīyya, the urūfiyya, the Ni‘mat Allāhis, [18] the Nūrbakhshiyya, [19] the Qyzyl-Bāsh [20] and the ‘Alī-Ilāhis [21] is only, in fact, an eclectic and syncretic system, heterogeneous and sometimes even incoherent, a kind of conglomerate of Muslim esotericism, of indigenous beliefs of Anatolia and Iran, with an infiltration of diverse schismatic forms of Christianity and philosophical and ūfī ideas. Naturally, the character and proportion of these elements differ according to each sect or order, but whatever the result that future studies reveal, one can affirm that from this time onwards, the migration to the west of the Oguz nomads has contributed powerfully to the extension of heterodoxy in the countries of Anatolia and Iran and to the triumph of Shī‘īsm with the Safavids. [22]



Fuad Kopriilu relates the Baktāshīyya to the other heterodox ūfī orders:


Although the Baktāshī brotherhood existed in the fourteenth century, it was not the most important among the analogous heterodox fraternities which were the continuation of Bābāism. It only acquired this importance between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, that is to say after having absorbed the other heterodox groups. The existence in the fourteenth century of the cult of ājjī Baktāsh,



17. ibid., p. 400.

18. On the Ni‘mat Allāhī’s see Farzad Daftary, The Isma‘ilis, their history and doctrines, Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 462-7.

19. ibid., pp. 463 and 471.

20. On the Kizil-Bash (Kizilbaș etc.) see the article by R.M. Savory in the Encyclopedia of Islam (new edn), pp. 243-5.

21. There is an extensive literature on the ‘Alī Ilāhīs. See Matti Moosa, Extremist Shī‘ītes: The Ghulat Sects, Syracuse University Press, 1987. In this particular context, the reader is referred to Nikki R. Keddie, ‘The Roots of the Ulama’s Power in Modern Iran’ in Keddie (ed.), Scholars, Saints and ūfīs: Muslim Religious Institutions in the Middle East since 1500, University of California Press, 1972, pp. 217-19.

22. Mehmed Fuad Köprülü, Les origines de I’empire ottoman, Paris, 1935, p. 123.





the successor of Bābā Rasūl Allāh, among the Abdāls and all the other groups stemming from Bābāism has prompted the belief that all the groups were Baktāshīs and has given the Baktāshiyya an exaggerated importance in the foundation of the Ottoman empire. ājjī Baktāsh also had members of his sect in Western Anatolia. Let us add that these groups of wandering dervishes who exercised a major and a crucial influence on the religious life of the sedentary and nomad populations on the frontiers also played the most active role in the conversion of Christian populations. In the Islamisation of the Balkans during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, this decisive role of groups of heterodox dervishes appears very clearly. [23]



To balance this picture, something should certainly be said about the many other important and more orthodox ūfī orders that entered the Balkans after the Ottoman conquest, for example the Naqshabandiyya which, like the Baktāshiyya, shares origins in the popular mysticism of the Turkic-speaking countries, especially in the Yasaviyya ūfī order, though only so at a relatively recent date. [24] However, it is the Baktāshiyya that most obviously represents the surviving heterodoxy of the Central Asian Turkomans, the Iranians of Khurāsān, the Isma‘īlis and Carmathians, and, added to these, many of the customs and the beliefs which were indigenous to the pre-Ottoman Balkan peoples themselves. [25]



1. The Baktāshiyya


The Baktāshiyya, unlike other ūfī orders in the the Balkans, though officially Sunnī, is essentially Shī‘īte. Members of this order believe that their founder, ājjī Baktāsh, was born in Khurāsān in the thirteenth century. He was either taught by, or had a spiritual relationship with, Ahmed Yasavī (Amad al-Yasawī), which took no note of the passage of time.



23. See also Keddie, ‘The Root of the Ulama’s Power . . .’, op. cit., pp. 212 ff.

24. In regard to Bosnia, the Naqsbabandiyya has been admirably covered by āmid Algar, ‘Some Notes on the Naqshabandī arīqat in Bosnia’, Die Welt des Islams, vol. XIII, nos 3-4, 1971, pp. 168-203.

25. These matters are extensively discussed in Mehmet Fuad Köprülü, ‘Les Origines de l’Empire Ottoman’, Etudes Orientates, III, Paris, 1935 and in his Les Origines du Bektachisme, Essai sur le dëveloppement historique de 1’heterodoxie musulmane en Asie Mineure’, op. cit.





All paths in Turkish ūfīsm, it is said, lead back to Ahmed Yasavī, or Ata Yesevi, who is also called Pir-i-Turkistan. In the twelfth century Ahmed Yasavī created a genre of popular poetry the purpose of which was to convert the Turkic nomads to Islam. This kind of poetry was to be developed in most Turkic-speaking countries and reached its highest point in the verses of the thirteenth-century Anatolian poet Yunus Emre. Ahmed Yasavī founded the first Turkish arīqa, the Yasawiyya, which spread in Turkish-speaking areas.


Features of the legends that surround the life of Ahmed Yasavī, and the feats he allegedly performed, have been influenced by the divine powers that mark out two legendary characters in very ancient Arabic literature. They are central to the seventh- and eighth-century Yemenite tales of ‘Ubayd b. Sharya al-Jurhumī, and Wahb b. Munabbih’s Kitāb al-Tījān (where references to contacts between the Arabs and the Central Asians may be found in sundry passages). The power of flight is associated with the pre-Islamic prophetic figure, Luqmān, a Macrobite king. He, however, could not fly himself, but his seven eagles could, at his bidding, and when they lost their power to do so this had some effect on his own physical powers and his life-span. One eagle died, only to be reincarnated in its successor. Also, in these works, kingship is favoured with an insight into the mysteries of the ‘fount of life’ (‘ayn al-ayāh, beloved by mystics) and into the paradoxes and seeming injustices of the world that are hidden from human knowledge. Guidance for the superman was to be found in the prized companionship of al-Khir, ‘the green man’, the spiritual companion of the ‘two-horned’ king. [26]


Irène Mélikoff has shown that both Baktāshīs and Yasavīs shared a number of common practices. They used, or use, Turkish during their ceremonies instead of Arabic or Persian. Hymns are sung, and women participate in the ceremonies. Both orders share a belief in bird metamorphosis, a dove for ajjī Baktāsh, a crane (turna) for Ahmed Yasavī. The Baktāshiyya was to compound its heterodoxy later, after the sixteenth century, with the addition of the urūfī doctrines propounded by Falallāh al-urūfī (executed 796/1394) and with the adoption of the belief in the divinity of ‘Alī that characterised the Kizilbaș. Other beliefs such as reincarnation and sometimes metempsychosis may well have been a legacy from the pre-Islamic Turks, although they also figure



26. Such is the role of al-Khidr in the early age. On his ūfī role see the article by A.J. Wensinck, al-Khair in the Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, Leiden, 1953, pp. 232-5.





prominently in the beliefs of the heterodox Druze and the ‘Alawites of Syria. [27] ajjī Baktāsh came to Anatolia. His headquarters were established in that spot which bears his name today, Hacibektaș, between Kirșehir and Nevșehir (Suluğa Qara Ojük). [28]


The Albanian Shaykh, Amad Sirrī Bābā in the following passage from his Risāla al-Amadiyya, describes the arrival and the settlement of ajjī Baktāsh:


This situation lasted for the lengthy period in which he trod the ‘way’ until he arrived at ūlīja Qarah Ūyūk (Suluğa Qara Ojük) which subsequently became famous by being called ‘the district of al-ajj Baktāsh’ a locality named after his noble name. It belonged to the city of Qīr Shahr (Kerșehir) being a six hour’s travelling distance from it. He stopped there and he adopted it as his place of residence. He began to preach sermons of warning and to offer counsel. He disseminated religious knowledge, whether it be learning in the religious sciences or in spiritual gnosis. Students gathered about him for divine guidance in order to know of the essential reality of the divinity. The people thronged to that district to be blessed by him. So the sublime Baktāshiyya order was spread abroad in the entire land of the al-Rum. The number of those who were affiliated to it increased dramatically until the reputation of our lord reached the ears of Sulān Ūrkhān, the second Ottoman Sulān. He saw that he would be successful and would benefit through the prayer of the venerable Shaykh, so he left his throne and he journeyed in person to meet our lord and master. He enjoyed the privilege of kissing his blessed hand and he obtained his charitable supplications, and the divine blessing (baraka) came upon him. [29]



Well into the twentieth century, Hacibektaș retained its status as the great place of pilgrimage for Albanian and other non-Turkish Baktāshīs. G.E. White in an article ‘The Alevi Turks of Asia Minor’ in the Contemporary Review (Nov. 1913, pp. 690-8) remarks, after his visit to the tomb and shrine of the founder: ‘The purpose of the Dervish life is the rest, peace, satisfaction, that come on taking the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and withdrawing from the world. It was a surprise to find that out of about four-score dervishes resident at the tekke, nearly all are Albanians.



27. The principal studies of the Druze religion attach importance to this belief among them. A recent study by Nejla M. Abu-Izzeddin, The Druzes: New study of their history, faith and society, Leiden, 1984 (Chapter 13 on al-Amīr al-Sayyid Jamāl-Dīn, ‘Abdallāh al-Tanūkhī), reveals his ūfī commitment. There was clear compatibility in both belief systems.

28. A comprehensive description of the tekke of Haci Bektaș is provided by Suraiya Faroqhi, ‘The Tekke of Haci Bektaș, Social position and economic activities’, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 7 (1976), pp. 183-205.

29. Amad Sirrī Bābā, al-Risāla al-Amadiyya, ibid., pp. 6-7.





What are these Albanians doing, away over in Central Asia Minor? Yet, here they are, with others of Turkish or other nationality [p. 694].


According to the Vilâyet Nâme Manâib Hünker Hajji Bektaș-i-Veli, Ahmed Yasavī gave ajjī Baktāsh a number of sacred tokens. These were a head-covering, tadj (Ar. tāj, ‘crown’), a ūfī robe, hirka (Ar. khirqa, ūfī mantle), a table or table-rug, sofra (Ar. sufra, table), a prayer-rug, sedjdjade (Ar. sajjāda, prayer-rug), a candle-stick, çerag (Ar. sirāj, lamp) and a banner, ‘alem (Ar. ‘alam. landmark, banner or flag). All these had been given to the Prophet by God, then to the Twelve Imāms, Ahmed Yasavī and finally ajjī Baktāsh himself. [30]


Shaykh Amad Sirrī Bābā comments on the symbolic significance of this taj, and khirqa, in his Risala al-Amadiyya:


As for the Baktāshī‘crown’ (taj), it denotes a white skullcap of felt [Plate 5]. It has twelve furrows and is called the Husaynī‘crown’. It is conditional on him who wears this noble ‘crown’ that there should be gathered within his person such qualities as to enable him to be fit for the honour of wearing it. These noble qualities are: knowledge, obedience, the asking for forgiveness, the remembrance and recalling of God, contentment, dependence on God, abstinence, piety, humility, generosity, patience and the giving of one’s approval to what is ordained and decreed. In this there is a pleasing reference to the number of the letters in the confession that ‘there is no god but Allah’, namely twelve letters — lā ilāha illā’llāhu. In ‘Muammad is God’s Apostle’, ‘Muammad Rasūl Allāh’, there are twelve letters also. As for the wearing of the cloak (‘abā) or the mantle (khirqa), it is among the praised traditions that are followed by the godly forebear. The conquering lion of God, our lord, ‘Alī b. Abī ālib, may God honour his countenance, undertook to clothe asan al-Barī in the mantle or the cloak. [31]



According to Baba Rexhebi [32] ajjī Baktāsh was born in 648/1247/8 at Nīshābur in Khurāsān, a direct descendant of the Prophet’s family. He studied under Lomān Perende the khalīfa of Ahmed Yasavī, was inspired by Ahmed Yasavī and went to Anatolia as a missionary, visiting on his way the tomb of ‘Alī at Najaf in Iraq. He prayed at his tomb for forty days and during the month of Dhū’l-ijja he fulfilled the Meccan pilgrimage. Later he visited Palestine, Damascus and other sacred places. In 1281 he arrived at Soluğa Qara Ojük where,



30. ibid., p. 13.            31. ibid., p. 14.

32. Baba Rexhebi, The mysticism of Islam and Bektashism, vol. 1, op. cit., p. 99-101.





having won the hearts of local ūfī’s, he organised his tekke which was to become the centre for his arīqa. From there missionaries took his message to Arabia, Persia and the Balkans. He wrote two books, Maqālāt-al-ājj Baktāsh and Fawā’id al-fuqarā’. [33] He died either in 738/1338 or in 1341 and was buried in the tekke which he had founded. [34] Shaykh Amad Sirrī Bābā also says in his Rīsala al-Amadiyya [35] that the word Baktāshiyyah has numerical significance in regard to the decease of the saint. According to the numerical value of the Arabic letters in the Arabic alphabet (al-abjad), the sum total of the letters B-k-t-ā-sh-y-h amounts to 738, this number corresponding to the hijra date of the decease of ājjī Baktāsh (1338). The intimate connection between the Janissaries and the Baktāshīs was to take place years after his death. It was this connection that vitally contributed to the spread of the order in the Ottoman empire. [36]


In the early sixteenth century, the second major Pīr (shaykh) in the history of the order made determined efforts to reform its organisation and the practice of its members, both of which had succumbed to unorthodox practices and rituals. This was Bālim Sulān who, to cite Ziya Shaqir in his Baktāshi lyrics (Bektași Nefesleri), was born at Ker in Anatolia in 1472, although other historians say he was born in Rumelia and give the date as 1452 or even later. He re-established celibacy. Sulān Bāyazīd invited him to be his guest in the Topkapi Seray, and during his stay the Sulān himself and high officials of the court joined the Baktāshī order.


Four grades of initiation were introduced by him into the arīqa:


            (1) Asik (Ar. ‘āshiq, lit. lover) or kalender, one who seeks to be fully admitted to the order and receives instruction before initiation.

            (2) Dervish, one who had been admitted into the order.

            (3) Baba (Bābā), one who after a period as a Dervish becomes the leader and instructor of groups of Dervishes and Asiks.

            (4) the Dedebaba, who is the elected chief Baba and who, up till the abolition of the ūfī uruq in Turkey in 1925, was based at the tekke of Hacibektaș. A halife (Ar. khalīfa, deputy) was at times appointed between the grades of Dedebaba and Baba, having been selected by the former to exercise authority as his delegate.



33. ibid., p. 100, footnote 1. See the article in the Encyclopedia of Islam for further details regarding these works.

34. Baba Rexhebi, ibid.

35. Amad Sirrī Baba, ibid., p. 9.

36. Vincent Monteil, ‘Les janissaires’ in L’Histoire, 8, Paris, Jan. 1929, p. 29.





Those Baktāshis who are ‘Children of the Way’ (Yol Evladi) and who believe that ājjī Baktāsh never married and had no descendants maintain that true membership is gained by initiation at the ceremony of Ayin-i Cem [37] after a period of instruction from a mursit (Ar. murshid, guide). With them the Dedebaba is chosen for his paramount worthiness. On the other hand, the Yol Evladi, who claim descent from ājjī Baktāsh, believing him indeed to have married and had a son, maintain a right to the leadership. Known as Çelebis, they are members from birth, and thus no special initiation ceremony is required.


The formal requirements of Islam, especially the ‘five pillars’ (e.g. five regular daily prayers and pilgrimage to Mecca), were never given emphasis among them. Yet fasting during the first twelve days in Muarram is observed, preceded by the three preceding days of Dhū’l-ijja. Almsgiving (zakāh) is extended to the helping of all who are in need. The Baktāshiyya were to conceive of Allāh, Muammad and ‘Alī in a triune relationship, the Prophet and son-in-law united together in a unity of personality. Baba Rexhebi, however, makes a clear distinction between them, Muammad was the bearer of the Islamic ‘light’ [38] while the Imām ‘Alī was inspired by the Prophet and offered by him the knowledge of this same mystical light. ‘Alī, ‘the king of saints’ (shaykh al-awliyā’), then entrusted the divine light to the Prophet’s children and to the remaining Twelve Imāms, until it reached Pir Hunqar ājjī Baktāsh. Furthermore, Baba Rexhebi maintains that the order respects the rituals of the faith, and that there are two special prayers for the goodwill of the world (evrad, Ar. awrād, litanies), at dawn and dusk, and above all observes mourning (matam) for the martyrdom of usain, son of ‘Alī, at Karbalā. [39]


Baktāshīs hold their meetings in both home and tekke, with recitation and singing of verses occasionally accompanied by music. The meal held at these gatherings might be a sacrificial sheep, the drink wine or raki



37. On the overall organisation and ritual of the Baktāshiyya, including the Ayin-i-cem, one of the most lucid sources I know, and an excellent introduction for anglophone readers, in particular, is J.D. Norton, ‘Bektashis in Turkey’, in Denis MacEoin and Amad al-Shahi (eds), Islam in the Modern World, London, 1983. Likewise Helmer Ringgren, ‘The Initiation Ceremony of the Bektashis’, in Studies of the History of Religions, X: Initiation, Leiden, 1965, pp. 202-8.

38. Baba Rexhebi, The Mysticism of Islam and Bektashism, op. cit., and L. Massignon, The Passion of al-Hallaj, op. cit., vol. 3, pp. 282-5.

39. Baba Rexhebi, The mysticism of Islam and Bektashism, vol. 1, op. cit., p. 99.





distributed by the saki (Ar. sāqī, wine-bearer). In the conversations that developed, sohbet (Ar. uba, companionship), discussions would take place on religious and social matters, and questions would be answered by the Baba. Such teachings were based on the Maqālāt of ājjī Baktāsh and were aimed at leading the follower successfully and progressively through the four gateways, Sheriat (Ar. sharīa, the canonic law of Islam), Tarikat (Ar. arīqa, ūfī way), Marifat (Ar. ma‘rifa, gnosis) and Hakikat (Ar. aqīqa, the reality or essence of the Divine) attained by the lover (Ar. muibb). Each of these represented the observance of the revealed divine law, the path followed within the order itself, the mystical knowledge of God and finally the soul’s experience and feeling of oneness with the essence of Reality. [40]


An important belief, as in the other ūfī orders, is wadat al-wujūd, the Oneness of Being, and the discovery of God’s reality within oneself. All creations are only His manifestations. [41] Baba Rexhebi, in explaining this, cites verses by the Albanian poet Naim Frashëri, of whom more later:


Në det të madh e të gjërë

Çdo valë që të sheh syri,

Esht’ atje deti i tërë,

Po valëtë mirë kqyri.


[In the vast ocean the eye sees in each wave all of the seas. Look then closely at each wave your eye can perceive.]



The Baktāshīs have recognised that women have rights equal to those of men, and their presence in the tekke is accepted as natural and correct. In this respect, as Irène Mélikoff notes, the order is heir to the teachings of the Yasaviyya [42]: ‘An important point in the description of the medjlis of the Yeseviye is that women were admitted to the meetings without wearing a veil and alongside men. This custom also exists among the Baktāshīs.’


The Baktāshiyya offered, and still offers, a doctrine that caters for all intellects and temperaments. As will be seen, it shares with other ūfī orders a similar goal, although the path it discloses may differ and manifest contradictions.



40. This is lucidly explained by J.D. Norton in his article on ‘Bektashis in Turkey’.

41. Baba Rexhebi, citing Naim Frashëri (see Chapter 5, footnote 37), ibid., p. 123.

42. A reality confirmed by all Naim Frashëri’s Baktāshī writings (see Chapter 5).





Unique among these orders, as they reached the Balkan countries with the Ottoman conquest, was Baktāshī Shī‘īsm and the intensity of its devotion to ‘Alī. United as one with the Prophet, it is through him especially that the early Arab martyrs of the Muslim faith have made their mark on much of Albanian Islam. [43] To cite Baba Rexhebi:


Pathfinders discuss the sources of mysticism with believers by emphasizing the Islamic foundation of tassawwuf, the importance of the holy Quran, and the words of the Prophet. Not everyone can understand in depth the philosophy and science of Islam. Only the descendants of the Prophet are able to discern the subtleties of tasawwuf. The prophet Muammad has said:


I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its Gate.


To enter the garden of Islamic knowledge one must pass through the gate, the great Ali. Muammad has also said: ‘Ali is my hereditary successor.’ These words do not imply material inheritance, but they relate to the knowledge and the deference of the Prophet.


After the death of the Prophet, Ali founded the first religious school, madrassa, in Medina. There he began to teach the philosophy of Islam. After the martyrdom at Karbalā, the school continued to exist. Famous scholars like Imam Zaynel Abadin, Muammad Bakir and Imam Jafar Sadik were teachers at the school. Students from all over the Muslim world came to study its Islamic philosophy. Imam Jafar Sadik began the teaching of mysticism, which attracted many students, and it continued for centuries until the time of the Pir, Hajji Bektash Wali.


The believers of Bektashism revere the Prophet, the great Ali, and the Twelve Imāms. They believe that the road of Bektashism is the road of the great Ali.



Many of those features that characterised the Baktāshiyya in Turkey, were once to be found among the Albanians, although, as Margaret Hasluck discovered, [44] the Albanians impressed their own individual national character on the Baktāshiyya. As she explains:


Bektashism is a powerful factor in Albanian history and politics, conciliating the Christians enough to make them forget their age-long antipathy to Islam, yet remaining itself a very living force within that religion. It is by no means uninteresting to seek the explanation of such a paradox. In its organization there is nothing extraordinary. The rank and file are not outwardly distinguishable from other Moslems but recognise each other by a secret sign,



43. Baba Rexhebi, The mysticism of Islam and Bektashism, vol. 1, op. cit., pp. 108-9.

44. Margaret Hasluck, ‘The Non-conformist Moslems of Albania’, The Moslem World, vol. XV, 1925, pp. 392-3.





consisting, it is said, in a certain, apparently casual, touching of the chin. Above them are dervishes, conspicuous by their tall, ridged hats of white felt, and celibate or married according to the branch they choose: a single earring denotes a celibate. As usual with Eastern priestly castes, they are bearded, the Serbs rousing more resentment by shaving the abbot of Martanesh than by burning his tekke. Laymen live at home, but dervishes must reside in a convent (tekke), which the donations of the pious living and the legacies of the dead support; its essential feature is an oratory (ibadet hane) for common worship, and in it dervishes, as they die, are buried; a proper mosque is never attached.


Dervishes are appointed by abbots (Babas), who generally preside each over a tekke, and are themselves, if of the celibate branch, appointed either by the superior abbots called khalifehs, of whom three exist in Albania alone, or by the Akhi Dede, supreme head of the celibates, who lives in the central tekke in Asia Minor.



In Albania and other Balkan regions the Baktāshiyya has shown an eclecticism which perhaps surpassed limits observed elsewhere. Margaret Hasluck summarised its basic beliefs as faith, adoration and reverence centred around God, Muammad, Fāima, his daughter, ‘Alī her husband, and asan and usayn, their offspring. ‘Alī has a peculiarly close relationship with the Prophet; their personalities are fused, a personification of some higher spiritual being. The words of the Prophet are quoted, Anā wa-'Alī min nūr-in wāid-in — ‘I and Alī are from one light’, and Amad Rifat’s claim (Mir’āt al-Maqāid) that man ra’ānī faqad ra’ā’l-aqq — ‘whosoever sees me beholds the Truth [God’s essence] and the Reality’, as evidence of some mutual theological analogy between the Baktāshiyya and Christianity. [45] Massignon [46] stresses the numerical and urūfī influenced character of this association. ‘The divine identity of Muammad and ‘Alī is a very old extremist Shī‘ite concept. It forms the basis of the Khaṭṭābiyya initiation (in jafr, the numerical value added together is equal to Rabb (Lord = 202)’. The alleged words of the Prophet are quoted.


The dual person of Muammad-‘Alī was believed by the Baktāshī Albanians to be represented on earth by every Baba who is thereby entitled to great veneration. A Baktāshī creed would include the twelve Imāms,



45. Similarities between Christianity and Baktāshīsm have mainly been observed in rituals, hierarchy, celibacy and external forms. Irène Mélikoff, in ‘L’Islam Heterodoxe en Anatolie’, Turcica, vol. XV, 1982, pp. 151-3, discusses the relationship between Jesus, Elias and ‘Alī.

46. The passion of al-Hallaj Mystic and Martyr of Islam, Princeton University Press, 1982, vol. 2, 'The survival of al-Hallaj’, p. 255, footnote 86.





Moses, Mary, Jesus and countless saints. Worship is a secret affair, peculiar to initiates. Public prayers are held in the oratory of the ‘parish’ tekke, at sunrise and at sundown and not at the statutory five times each day. The Baba sits in his special corner, reciting the prayers or portions of the Qur’ān, while the devotees sit in a semi-circle around him and bow their heads to him as ‘Alīs representative. Twelve candles for the twelve Imāms burn on a three-tiered altar. Prayer requires no genuflexions, and attendance at the tekke is only compulsory twice a year. Instead of Ramaān, the commemoration of the martyrdom of ‘Alī’s sons asan and usayn at Karbalā is observed. Metempsychosis is widely believed and universal love for mankind, male and female, and for one’s homeland has become an all-inclusive ethical ideal. Acceptance of suffering without retribution is advocated; all violence and injustice is to be avoided. Charity and hospitality should be shown to all. For initiation, firm sponsorship and a rigorous enforcement of vow-keeping is demanded and expected. Babas once received a severe training either under superiors at other tekkes or at Hacibektaș itself. The admission of a layman was a veritable rite de passage. Convents of married or unmarried dervishes were once known and were sited away from towns and villages. Pilgrimages to holy places were shared by both Muslims and Christians. They were held throughout the calendar: visits to Sveti Naum near Ohrid, to St Spyridon in Corfu and to St Elias on Mount Tomor, who was identified by Baktāshīs with their saint ‘Abbās ‘Alī. [47]


The eclecticism of the Baktāshiyya has prompted comparison with other extreme Shī‘īte sects (ghulāt) — such as the Nuayrīs, in parts of Syria and Asia Minor [48] — that are viewed as being on the very fringe of Islam. It is perhaps the Kizilbaș (Qyzyl-Bāsh) who survive in Bulgaria in Deli Orman, that are most often mentioned. However, the Baktāshiyya has not transgressed the bounds of orthodoxy in the eyes of the Muslim community as a whole. The Kizilbaș conceal their true identity, outwardly professing to be orthodox Sunnis to their Turkish or Bulgarian neighbours, or alternatively claim to be Baktāshīs, depending on who is addressing them. Both Baktāshīs and Kizilbaș venerate ‘Alī, who is inseparable from the Prophet Muammad.



47. On legends regarding ‘Abbas ‘Alī, see Nathalie Clayer, L’Albanie pays des derviches, op. cit., pp. 409-11.

48. This eclecticism is of course an outsider’s assessment. To many Baktāshīs their beliefs are seen to be orthodox and even a mirror of a truer Islam than is to be found in many other Muslim communities. On this point see Nathalie Clayer, L’Albanie pays des derviches, op. cit., pp. 77-9.





Both honourasan and usayn, for whom they mourn. However, the Baktāshīs recognise Abū Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthmān as legitimate Caliphs. Both sects neglect the five prayers and the fast of Ramaān. The Baktāshīs, however, maintain that this is because they give emphasis to sincerity of faith and not to the religion’s outward observances.


The Kizilbaș differ fundamentally in some important respects. ‘Alī is a confessed incarnation of God who has revealed Himself in multiple hypostases. Before ‘Alī, Jesus was the greatest — Son, Word, Saviour and intercessor. God is conceived in three persons, with ‘Alī representing the Father, Jesus representing the Son, and Muammad, the Prophet, in the role of the Paraclete. Mary is the Mother of God. Below God are five beings — archangels that correspond to the five aytām of the Syrian Nuayrīs. Below these are twelve ministers of God, corresponding as they do with the Apostles and the naqībs of the Nuayrīs. Satan is not adored, but he is held to be incarnated. He appeared in the person of Yazīd, the enemy of Alī, and in his offspring. In nightly rituals, prayers are said in honour of ‘Alī, Jesus, Moses and David. Penances are imposed, demanded and acknowledged. Bread and wine are received after being blessed. Sometimes a sheep is slaughtered and its flesh partaken by the gathering. Several Christian festivals are observed, including Easter. Al-Khir is identified with Elias. The highest priest, the Dede, is an intercessor between God and man, while the two highest patriarchs of the Kizilbaș are regarded as ‘Alī’s descendants. Many shrines of other faiths, or sects, are revered, including the tekke of Hacibektaș. Woven into the fabric of popular observance are pagan survivals, sun and moon cults, worship of rivers and streams, and adoration of sacred trees in high places. [49]


Although apparently on a smaller scale than in Bosnia and Kosovo, the activities of ūfī orders were not unknown in Bulgaria in the years between the two World Wars. Tadeusz Kowalski observed:


The religious life of the Bulgar Turks equally offers a great number of curious phenomena which merit considerably more attention from scholars, as analogous phenomena have already all but disappeared completely in Turkey proper as a result of radical recent reforms. In the first place it is the matter of the religious fraternities of a mystical character. It is Hasluck who has first indicated



49. F. de Jong, ‘The iconography of Bektashiism’, Manuscripts of the Middle East, Leiden, 1989, pp. 7, 16 and passim. On the Baktāshī presence in Del Ormani see F. von Babinger. ‘Das Bektashi Kloster Demir-Baba’, Ostasiatische Studien, 1931, pp. 8-93.





the extent of Bektāshī propaganda in Bulgaria in former times. Following the information furnished by this author, there should be no more active Bektashī convents in this country. However, the facts furnished by him on this subject do not seem to be entirely exact and they call for some verification. The Muslims sectarians of Deli Orman, called Aliyans or Kyzylbaš, [50] seem to be in close relations with the Bektāshī movement. In his interesting study on the Bektāshī convent of Demir Baba, Babinger has recently touched upon the question of religious tendencies in this region, and has rightly insisted, as in his other works, on the importance of Shī‘īte propaganda amongst the Balkan Turks. It may be that the ‘athletic traditions’ that are so alive in the Deli Orman region, traditions that manifest themselves through the flights of popular athletes in the fairs and that are accompanied by diverse ritual ceremonies, are related in some way with the cult of Saint Demir Baba, mentioned above. There are beside the Bektāshīs other religious brotherhoods. I have visited myself at Ruscuk a small convent observing the Shādhilī rule. In all the country, one comes across sanctuaries, especially sacred tombs, of a two-way religious identity, tombs that are visited equally by Muslims and Christians.



Amongst the Turkish artisan, in towns such as Ruscuk, Razgrad, Sumen, Eski-Dzumaja, one finds the residue of an ancient organisation of corporations that are closely tied to the religious life. [51]



2. Non-Shī‘īte ūfī orders in the Balkans


Džemal Ćehajić, in his far-reaching studies of the implantation of the ūfī orders within the whole of what was once Yugoslavia, has emphasised the predominantly orthodox character of most of the mystical orders, especially in Bosnia and Hercegovina where the Baktāshiyya which Alexandre Popović regards as having once been the arīqa, or order, ‘qui a été le plus répandu dans l’ensemble des pays du Sud-Est européen’ [52] made its mark early on, although it failed to maintain a dominance in the Balkans as a whole. [53] Islam spread in Bosnia and



50. See the comprehensive study of Krisztina Kehl (Bodrogi, Die Kizilbaș/Aleviten. Untersuchungen uber eine esoterische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Anatolien, Berlin, 1988.

51. Tadeusz Kowalski, ‘Les Tures et la langue turque de la Bulgarie du nord-est’, Polska Kracow: Akademja Umiejtnosci, pp. 9-10.

52. Alexandre Popović, ‘Les ordres mystiques musulmans du Sud-Est européen dans la période post-ottomane’ in A. Popović and G. Veinstein (eds), Les ordres mystiques dans l’Islam, Paris: EHESS, 1986, p. 66.

53. For English readers see the useful resumes by Džemal Ćehajić on ‘Bektashis and Islam in Bosnia and Hercegovina’ in Anali Gazi Husrev-Begov Biblioteke, books V-VI, Sarajevo, 1978, pp. 83-90, 97-8.





Hercegovina immediately after the conquest of these provinces by the Turks (Bosnia in 1463 and Hercegovina in 1464-5). It was vigorously promoted and from the earliest days of Islamisation a powerful orthodox theological school was active. With support from the Ottoman authorities, it fought all kinds of unorthodox practices.


The Ottoman governors and Ottoman feudal society pursued a policy of protection and support for Sunnite Islam. They established tekkes of orthodox dervish orders, especially the Mawlawiyya (which has now all but disappeared); the Khalwatiyya which is still alive in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, the Rifāiyya; the Naqshabandiyya (with its historical roots in Central Asian Islam like the Baktāshiyya), which is found to this day in Bosnia; [54] the Qādiriyya, and at a later period the Tijāniyya in Albania and other orders.


‘Īsā Beg Ishaković, the ‘duke’ of the so-called Western provinces (1440-6), established a Mawlawiyya tekke in Sarajevo in 1462. Skender Pasha, probably during his third governorship in Bosnia (1499-1505), founded a tekke of the Naqshabandiyya, likewise in Sarajevo, about 1500. The famous Bosnian governor (1521-41) and benefactor of Sarajevo, Ghāzī Husrev-Beg, established a Khāniqāh (Hâniqâh) of the Khalwatiyya order of dervishes in Sarajevo before 1531. In the seventeenth century the great tradesman Hadži Sinan-aga founded the Sinan-aga tekke of the Qādiriyya order that was named after him in Sarajevo. These three orders thus played their part not only in the diffusion of Islam and ūfīsm in these regions but also as a defence against the spread of heterodoxy.


The dervishes themselves had a particular role to play in the foundation of these zaviyas (Ar. zawāyā), which over a period became the nucleus for larger settlements. This process began in the fifteenth century in Eastern Rumelia, where there was a settlement of populations in considerable numbers from Anatolia, especially in Thrace, Serres, Thessaly and Macedonia. The dervishes and their elders, the akhis (Ar. Ikhwān), in their numerous zaviyas, fulfilled their duty by offering travellers the services of wayside inns, around which settlements were to develop. To a lesser degree the same pattern of growth may be seen in Bosnia. Among the oldest in that region was the ‘Īsā Beg zaviya, founded in 1462, which according to its endowment (vakifname) was to be an inn and a public kitchen. The zaviya of Ayas Pasha was founded in Visoko in 1477.



54. See the studies by āmid Algar, Die Welt des Islams, vol. XIII, nos 3-4, 1971, pp. 168-203, and A. Popoviž and G. Veinstein, op. cit.





The dervish Muslihuddin founded a zaviya in Rogatica a little before 1489. About 1519, the Hamzevi zaviya was sited on the Srebrenica-Zvornik road. In Zvornik itself a public kitchen, together with a zaviya, was founded by Bahši-Beg in 1530. In the midsixteenth century a zaviya was founded at Prusac, and in the midseventeenth century the dervishes played a significant role in the Skender Vakif settlement. [55] The close personal connection between the ruler and the dervish goes back to the days of ‘Īsā Beg. According to Vlajko Palavestra, [56]


Isa Beg Ishaković, the second son of Ishak Beg, was governor of the Brankovic lands, and later Sanjak Beg of the Bosnian Sanjak (1464-8). In the spring of 1448 he stormed into Bosnia and, after laying it waste, permanently occupied the Vrhbosna district together with the castle of Hodidjed. In 1463 he played a decisive role in the destruction of the Bosnian kingdom. He laid the foundations of today’s Sarajevo, which took its name from his palace. In the summer of 1464 he was appointed Sanjak Beg of the Bosnian Sanjak for the second time. His name is mentioned for the last time in 1472. The present structure of the Sultan’s Mosque was built only in the 16th century, on the site of an older mosque which must certainly have been built before 1462, and which its founder ‘Īsā Beg later presented to the Sultan Mehmed II, the Conqueror, whence its name.


ūfīsm, however, was not neglected by ‘Īsā Beg. Vlajko Palavestra adds:


In the western part of the old city of Sarajevo there is a mosque which is popularly attributed to a certain sheik of the Magreb. When Isa Beg came to Sarajevo he was accompanied by a dervish sheik from the western lands, from the Magreb who built a mosque on this spot.



Sarajevo became, and remained, a major centre for ūfīsm and its orders. Even today the dhikr (ara), the spiritual exercise designed to ensure God’s presence throughout one’s being (J. Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam, p. 302: the ‘lauding of the Almighty’ or, as Shaykh Baba Rexhebi describes it, ‘a repeating of the names of God, by invocation either silent or vociferous’) is still regularly held in the tekkes of different orders. In the days of Asboth, who wrote in 1890, these services still maintained the ecstatic expression that survives today in Kosovo



55. On Skender Vekif, see Džemal Ćehajić, Derviški Redovi u Jugoslavenskim Zemljama, op. cit., pp. 41-4.

56. Vlajko Palavestra, Legends of Old Sarajevo, op. cit., pp. 39.





but is otherwise more characteristic of the ūfī Orders in India and the Arabic Middle East:


The most frequent meetings of the dervishes also fall during the time of Ramazan: one Friday we witnessed the ceremonies of the Howling dervishes. Towards ten o’clock in the evening we started for Sinan-Thekia, which is situated tolerably high up upon the hillside on the right bank of the Miliaska. This Thekia — Dervish monastery — takes its name from its founder, the celebrated Bosnian Dervish Sheik, who was held in great respect, and was even credited with being a sorcerer. We found a quiet, deserted place, a building in ruins. We were cautioned to mount the wooden stairs with care, and to take our places quietly in the broad wooden gallery; not only because the ceremonies had already commenced, but also that the rotten timbers might not give way. The broad, dome-covered hall was only dismally lighted by a few tapers. Opposite to us there stood, in front of the Kibla (the niche for prayer), which faced towards Mecca, a haggard old man, with a white beard and gloomy visage, in a pale, faded caftan, and the green turban of the sheiks. Before him stood a circle of about twenty men in the dress usually worn by the Mohammedan middle classes in Sarajevo: respectable water-carriers, merchants and artisans. For just as Islam knows no ecclesiastical hierarchy, so the dervishes form no particular order, as our monks do, for example, even though they, like them, rely upon mysticism and asceticism. As a whole the ceremony differs little from what which I have seen in the heart of the Mohemmedan world. But a closing scene followed, which I had nowhere beheld before, and which in its affecting solemnity is unequalled. Whilst one of the dervishes commenced to put out the lights in rotation, the others, one after another, with signs of the deepest reverence, approached the ancient sheik, still standing before the Kibla, and bent low before him; after the salutation each was twice embraced by him, and whilst he who had bidden farewell withdrew in silence, the next advanced to the sheik. The simple naturalness, the deep affection, which was manifested in this silent scene, is quite indescribable. Upon the stage at the close of an act it would make one of the most effective of closing scenes. Yet where would one find so many actors who would, in the constant repetition of the same action, understand how to combine such free, dignified bearing with such reverent awe; the earnest dignity of the sheik with his fatherly affection? One light after the other had been extinguished, one dervish after the other had withdrawn, and ever gloomier did it grow in the dome-covered hall, darker the picture, more vague the dignified form of the sheik, until at last he stood there alone, hardly visible now, by the glimmer of the one remaining taper. My companions had already departed; but I could hardly tear myself away from the scene in which such deep, such true and noble sentiments had been displayed. [57]



57. J. de Asboth, An Official Tour through Bosnia and Herzegovina, London, 1890, pp. 206-9.





Plate 6. The outer courtyard of the Sinan Pasha tekke of the Qādiriyya order in Sarajevo, built in 1640. The circular painting on the wall was once of significance for ūfī meditation and rituals. ājj Sinān and his wife are buried in an adjoining cemetery. Till recently, this handsomely restored tekke was regularly used for weekly dhikr and prayer and was a centre of ūfī activity in Sarajevo.





The part played by the tekkes (takiyya/takāyā) in spreading Arabic and Islamic learning generally in the region of Belgrade and in northern Serbia is important. Muammad Mūfākū, in his Tārīkh Bilghrād, al-Islamiyya remarks:


In addition to their social rôle, the tekkes had their cultural rôle as well. The tekke was a centre for the imparting of culture to those who were part of it and of its following. The dervishes used to hunt for knowledge in the ūfī sources and devoted themselves to writing, especially in verse. Usually in every tekke there was a library which housed, as was the custom, manuscripts concerned with ūfīsm. In these tekkes were found some dervishes employed in copying manuscripts. In a general way, ūfī literature developed and flourished in these tekkes and the bulk of it was in verse. I have already referred in passing to the fact that the majority of the ūfī orders and their well-known branches in the world of Islam exercised an influence and extended their presence in Belgrade. The number of tekkes at the beginning of the mid-seventeenth century reached seventeen, although the circumstances that swept through buffeted Belgrade during the war of recovery led to the uprooting of the tekkes as well as to the destruction of their manuscripts and, by the nature of things, their literature and culture. Nothing important from the legacy of these tekkes has been left to us. [58]



3. The Qādiriyya


A review of several of these other orders can offer a balanced picture of the relationship of Balkan ūfīsm to that in the wider, especially Central Asian, Islamic world. The Qādiriyya, for example, is among the most widespread of all ūfī orders. It was founded by ‘Abd al-Qadir b. Abī āli Jangīdūst, who was born in Jīlān, Persia, in 470/1077. He came to Baghdād and spent most of his life as a anbalī preacher. After his death in 561/1166, his followers attributed to him mystical teaching. His arīqa, after his death, grew into a major Ṣūfī order and came into favour in the Ottoman world at a relatively late date. As we have indicated, the Sinan Qādiriyya tekke was founded in Sarajevo in the seventeenth century. By repute a tekke was founded in Prizren, Kosovo, at the same time.


However, it is with another shaykh from Iran that the Qādiriyya in Kosovo associates much of its early history. This is said to have happened at the end of the succeeding century. Shaykh asan al-Khurāsānī came as a wandering dervish to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, which at



58. Muammad Mūfākū, Tārīkh Bilghrād al-Islamiyya, Kuwayt, 1987, p. 51.





that time was the centre of a ūfī order that had established its own tekke. Shaykh asan joined with the other shaykh already in occupation, who told him to take a stone and throw it as far as he could. There he would build a tekke. The stone fell at Prizren at a distance of some 100 kilometres. The stone is still preserved and the tekke has been continued down to the holder of the office at the time of writing, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qādir. Apart from Prizren, Gjakova was important in the spread of the Qādiriyya in Kosovo. It is especially associated with the life of ajjī Shaykh Islām who lived in the locality in the early part of the nineteenth century, who was a tradesman who became rich and bought land. He went on pilgrimage and visited Baghdād. However, on his way south he was lost in the deserts of Arabia and only survived through his miracles. The shaykh of the Qādiriyya in Baghdād became aware of his sufferings and sent two of his Arab followers to rescue him. He was brought to Baghdād, stayed there for six months and was instructed further in the Qādiriyya. He was given the office of khalīfa, and returned to Gjakova. He owned lands in a number of small villages, including Damian, Postosel and Radost but gave up his wealth on his return from Baghdād and distributed it to the ūfī novices, the fuqarā’. He refused to give his wealth to his two sons, this being unworthy of his religious mission; rather it was his duty to teach them the truth, and stories grew regarding his miracles, and his ability to travel at great speed and to distribute largesse to the poor. He established a ‘holy family’ through his offspring by his two wives:


Born by his first wife

(1) al-ajjī al-Shaykh Mamūd (Šejh Mahmud)

(2) al-ajjī al-Shaykh ādiq (Šejh Sadik)

(3) al-Darwīsh Zayn al-‘Ābidīn (d. 1977/8; at his death the branch came to an end)

(4) al-ajjī al-Shaykh aqqī (Šejh Hakija, d. 1977)


Born by his second wife

(5) al-Darwīsh Yūnus (Yunis)

(6) al-Shaykh Ibrāhīm (Sejh Ibrahim)

(7) al-ajjī al-Shaykh ‘Abd al-Raīm (Šejh Abdurahim)

(8) al-Shaykh Islām

(9) al-Shaykh ‘Azīz (Šejh Aziz) [*]



*. At the time of writing, he is in his thirties and is Shaykh of Gjakova tekke.





Al-Shaykh aqqī (Hakija) was born in Gjakova on January 13, 1913. He studied and traded, but on the death of his parents he had to devote all his time to the support of his family and became an imam in a local mosque and so continued for thirty years. During this time he was put in charge of the Qādiriyya tekke, and under his influence tekkes of the Qādiriyya were re-opened in Kosovo and in Macedonia. New ones were founded or old ones revived, including the Qādiriyya headquarters in Sarajevo after a long period of closure.


The Qādiriyya has played an important part in the encouragement of Islamic literature in Bosnia and Kosovo, such as the poet Dervish Muhamed Gurani, born in Sarajevo in 1713, who laboured hard to maintain the tekke there. Muammad Mūfākū lists four surviving tekkes of the Qādiriyya in Gjakova. [59]


One of the most representative of the Bosnian ūfī poets, both in Turkish and in aljamiado (composed in Bosnian Slav, though written in Arabic script) was asan Qā’imī Bābā (born in Sarajevo about 1630 and died in 1691), long regarded as a senior Khalwatī figure, but whose Qadirī sympathies, and his affiliations, embrace a wider ūfī circle; the close study of his dīwāns by Jasna Šamić shows this. [60] His first spiritual master was a shaykh of the Khalwatiyya resident in Sofia. Later, however, he became attached to the Qādiriyya and directed the Sinan tekke in his native city.


Dr ‘Abd al-Ramān Zakī in his article on the subject of the Yugoslav Muslims and their heritage (published in al-Majalla [sijill al-thaqāfa al-rafī‘a], no. 44, 1380/1960, p. 25) says of this building:


Let us pass on to the tekke of al-ājj Sinan (died 1640) erected in commemoration of the Turkish conquest of Baghdād. Sultan Murād III helped in its building. Nevertheless, the credit for its erection and establishment goes to al-ājj Sinān Āghā who was one of the wealthy merchants of Sarajevo. This tekke is built from hewn stone which has been cut and polished with care. The most important of its parts is the samahane wherein the dervishes used to sing their hymns and recite their spiritual and mystical poems and odes. Its ceiling has been adorned with calligraphic ornamentations and decorations of the names of the most important of the ūfī orders.



59. Muammad Mūfākū ‘al-Tanqa al-Qādiriyya fī Yūghūslāfiyā’, in al-‘Arabī, no. 285, 1982, pp. 82-6 (esp. 86).

60. Jasna Šamić, Dîvân de Kâ’mî. Vie et oeuvre d’un poète bosniaque du XVIIe siècle, Paris: Institut Français des Etudes Anatoliennes, 1986.





Dr Šamić gives a vivid account of the origin of this tekke (first described by Asboth, above):


One of the most beautiful monuments of the 17th century was the tekke of Hajj Sinān (1640) of Sarajevo [Plate 6]. Evliya Çelebi, who passed through Bosnia in the seventeenth century (towards 1650), claimed it to be one of the best known and the most beautiful tekkes of the region, even in the Jugoslav countries as a whole. This tekke belonged to the Qādiriyya order. There exist two versions of the history of its construction. The first tells that it was built by the Sarajevo merchant Sinān Aga at the behest of his son Muṣṭafā Pasha, the silādār of Sulān Murād IV (1623-40). According to the other version it was built by the silādār, Muṣṭafā Pasha himself, in the name of his father, Sinān Aga.


In our day, it is to be found on a hill of Sarajevo, in the Sagardzije quarter, beside the ‘Vrbanjusa’ mosque and its cemetery. The building is of cut stone. The great door gives access to the court where are to be found the tombs of the Shaykhs; the türbe of Sinān Aga and of his wife are in the cemetery behind the court. To the right are found the rooms that the Shaykhs of the epoch used to inhabit. To the north of the tekke is the guest chamber, müsāfirhāne and the chamber where the sick are cared for; both are extended by a large semāhane. The mirāb is to the left, the stairway of the balconies of the semahane to the right. On the wall are suspended different musical instruments (nine percussion instruments, birbir halka, kudum, zil etc) and a great rosary (tesbī). The traces of a rosette are left on the wall. On the floor several carpets and sheepskins act as the sajjāda (prayer-carpet). [61]



Having become involved in a riot, asan Qā’imī had to leave Sarajevo. He settled in Zvornik where he died about 1103/1691-2. He left his permanent mark through his verses and, personally, on the life of the dervishes there. His tomb is at Kula, a short distance from Zvornik. Near his tomb a Qādirī tekke was subsequently built. asan Qa’imī was reputedly the shaykh of another tekke on the left bank of the Miljacka in Cumurija street in Sarajevo, which was named after him. Originally his private house, it was transformed into a tekke in 1079/1667/8; the tekke belonged to the Khahvatiyya, but Jasna Šamić stresses that it is above all with the Qādiriyya in Zvornik that the name of asan Qā’imī is most firmly linked.


His major poetic achievements were two dīwāns in Turkish and sundry aljamiado didactic poems.The second dīwān, entitled Wāridāt (inspirations of a mystical kind), are predictions of future events — one of these



61. ibid., p. 244.





was the Ottoman conquest of Crete in 1669. However, the first dīwān contains a rich collection of symbolic Ṣūfī verse. The doctrine of Wadat al-Wujūd is revealed and great devotion is shown to ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī who is described as the ‘saint of saints’, the ‘spirit of the terrain’ and ‘the king of saints in West and East’. It will be through his help and ultimately the help of the Divinity that the ‘blond Europeans’ Banū’l Asjar will be ultimately routed. asan Qā’imīs poems are strongly rhythmic and they were intended to prepare the heart for participation in the dhikr within a Ṣūfī tekke. [62]



4. The Mawlawiyya


The Mawlawiyya became an important order throughout Balkan Islam and especially in the area of Bosnia and Hercegovina. According to Džemal Ćehajić, this may be observed in the influence of the thoughts of Rūmī on Bosnian poets and writers and in the way the order became influential in shaping Bosnian social and economic life. The presence of the order is recorded as early as the fifteenth century when its zavija was founded in Sarajevo (first at Šehovoj Korija and later at Bendbaša). Prominent in this activity was ‘Īsā-beg Ishaković, governor of the so-called Western Parts (1440-6) and the second Bosnian Sandžak-beg (1464-9). A tekke was built on the right bank of the Miljacka river on the borders of the city before the Bosnian campaigns of Sultan Mehmed in 1463. The building included a müsāfirhāna. This was an inn where poor Muslim scholars, military personnel and wayfarers were accommodated. Meat, rice and bread were cooked there and served free of charge, the remainder being distributed to the poor children of Sarajevo. Guests were entertained for three days. From the description of the Mawlawī zavija by Evliya Çelebi in his Siyāat-nāme, it would appear to have been an active and well-endowed religious centre. The Sarajevo chronicler Mulla Muṣṭafā Bašeskija recorded that the tekke was extensively restored in 1196/1762. Many of its activities continued till well into the twentieth century.


The tekke was one of the centres for the study and recitation of the Mesnevi of Rūmī. It was also actively encouraged at Mostar in Hercegovina. A number of leading Bosnian writers and poets were members of the Mawlawī order, and included some who wrote in Persian as well as Turkish.



62. ibid., p. 16, 17, 18, 19 and passim.





Their Mawlawī works pondered such themes as cosmic love, moral rearmament and aspirations of the soul towards absolute beauty. Characteristic of these writers and thinkers were their humanism and tolerance and the welcome they gave to converts. Ćehajić notes the success they achieved among Orthodox Christians in some areas of Bosnia and Hercegovina.


Four noted poets influenced by Rūmī’s teachings in the Muslim regions of Yugoslavia were Darwīsh Pasha Bāyazīd Agha-Zāde (Bajezidagić) al-Mūstārī (d. 1603), who wrote an equivalent of the Mesnevi together with poems in praise of Mostar, his home town; abīb abībī-Dede (d. 1643), who preached renunciation; Rajab-Dede ‘Adanī (d. 1684), who was head of the tekke in Belgrade and wrote rhymed glosses entitled Nakhl-i tajallī (the date-palm of transfiguration) to the love poems from Rūmī’s Mesnevi; and asan Namī-Dede of Sarajevo (d. 1713), who was deeply influenced by the same work and whose own dīwān is devoted to dependence on God (tawakkul) and devotion to Him. [63]


In contrast to the Mawlawiyya, the Baktāshiyya had far greater importance and played a far more significant role in the religious and social life of Macedonia and Kosovo in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The link between the Baktāshiyya and the Albanians was one obvious reason. The Pashas who ruled Macedonia and Albania during these two centuries had close relations with the Baktāshiyya. Affiliated to it there were janissaries, — most čifluk [64] owners, army officers, craftsmen and some of the free peasants. However, only at this period did the Baktāshiyya gain a strong presence even if several of their tekkes had been founded earlier, at Kosovska Mitrovica, Kacanik, Krkler and in a number of the major towns of Macedonia and Kosovo.



5. The Khalwatiyya


The Khalwatiyya order has as its founder ‘Umar al-Khalwatī, who died in Tabriz in 800/1397. It derives its name from the ‘retreat’, khalwa or khalva (Ar. cell), that figured prominently in the much earlier



63. Much has been written in Bosnia on Rūmī’s verse, inter alia a short article by Džemal Ćehajić, ‘Some characteristics of the teachings of Galāluddin Rumi and beginning of dervish order of Mawlawis in Bosnia and Herzegovinia’ (with English summary) in Prilozi, Sarajevo, XXIV, 1974 (printed 1976), pp. 85-108.

64. Çiftlik — farm or privately owned estate.





Kubrāwiyya order in Central Asia. This was the practice of entering into a retreat for periods of up to forty days, and fasting from dawn till sunset in a solitary cell. The Khalwatiyya began as a sub-order of the ‘illumina- tionist’ Suhrawardiyya order, and it spread to Shirvān, adjacent to Bākū, and among the ‘Black Sheep’ Turcomans of Azerbaijan. After the conquest of Istanbul it gained a considerable following among the population and in the Ottoman military forces. Sub-orders were founded in many parts of Anatolia, Syria and Egypt. At first, activism and a dubious orthodoxy brought the Khalwatīs under the suspicion of the authorities and they were in disagreement on a number of issues with the ‘ulama’. However, by degrees, they moved towards a comparatively orthodox form of ūfīsm. Its fortunes revived during the reign of Sulaymān the Magnificent (926-74/1520-74), and during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it produced a number of outstanding shaykhs and scholars. At the beginning of the latter century, out of the Qarabāshiyya branch of the order, there emerged Muṣṭafā Kamāl al-Dīn al-Bakrī, a Damascus shaykh (d. 1749), who undertook missionary journeys and many labours to gain followers and exert his influence in Syria and Egypt. While several of his predecessors openly adhered to the ideas of Ibn al-‘Arabī in regard to wadat al-wujud, he himself opposed monist, or rather theomonistic, views, and stressed the separate identities of God and the human soul. [65]


Apart from Bosnia and Hercegovina, the Khalwatiyya was, and perhaps still is, the most widespread order in Kosovo and Macedonia. Its members are divided into three principal branches, the Qarabāshiyya, with their asitane, or headquarters, in Prizren, the founder being Shaykh Osman Baba from Sereza, who established his tekke there about 1699/1700. It developed many branches in Albania and in the region of Skopje. The Jarrāiyya is named after Shaykh Nūr al-Dīn Dzerahi, who was born in Istanbul in 1673, went later to Egypt, but returned to Istanbul where he died in 1720. Several of its tekkes were established in Macedonia.


The ayātiyya, the sub-order founded by Shaykh Muammad ayātī, who was born in Bukhara [66] and allegedly reached Kičevo in



65. See the article ‘Khalwatiyya’ by F. de Jong in The Encyclopedia of Islam (new edn), pp. 991-2.

66. On the ayātiyya in the region of Ohrid, Kičevo, Struga and elsewhere in the Balkans see the article by F. de Jong on the Khalwatiyya cited above and Džemal Ćehajić, Derviski Redovi u Jugoslavenskim Zemljama, op. cit., pp. 112-15. The most specific study is that by Galaba Palikruševa, ‘Derviškiot red Halveti vo Makedonija’ in Zbornik na Štipskiot Naroden Muzej, no. 1, Stip, 1959. I have been informed by the shaykh of the Ohrid tekke and his wife that there are a few small inaccuracies in the silsilas printed in the article which they checked with the tekke scrolls preserved in Ohrid.





Macedonia in 1667, is of considerable local importance. He later went to Ohrid, where he died at the beginning of the eighteenth century. F.W. Hasluck reports that the date over the gate of their ruined tekke at Liaskovik (1211/1796/7) seems to confirm the general accuracy of the chronology of their arrival in Macedonia. Shaykh Amad Sirrī Bābā in his Risāla al-Amadiyya mentions that a Baktāshiyya tekke (founded by Baba Abidin in 1887) also once existed in this town which he spells Lasqūwīk (today Leskovicu), lying just within Albania north of the Greek border.



6. The Naqshabandiyya


The Naqshabandiyya was originally founded by the Khwājagān or ‘masters’, specifically of Bukhara, and by Bahā al-Dīn Naqshaband (1318-89). An early link between it and the Baktāshiyya is through the person of Ahmed Yasavī, who is revered by both. [67] It was introduced into Turkey by shaykhs from Transoxania. It also enjoyed the support of the Mughal emperors in India, and the Syrian lodges of the order were founded by a missionary from India. In the eighteenth century its reputation in Arab Asia was enhanced through the travels and writings of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ghanī al-Nablusī, who enjoined its followers to observe to the letter the rules prescribed by the Sharī‘a and to engage in silent meditation (dhikr khafī), as had allegedly been laid down by ‘Abd al- Khāliq Gujduvānī (d. 1179 or 1189) whose practice in this respect differed from the Yasaviyya, where the dhikr of the ‘saw-mill’, the zikr-i-djahriye, was a public dhikr recited with a loud voice. [68]


The distinction between these two forms of dhikr reflects the origin of the disclosure of the dhikr by the Prophet to his Companions.



67. On the connection between Ahmed Yasavī and the founder of the Gujduvānī order, ‘Abd al-Khāliq Gujduvānī (d. 1179 or 1189), who established the ‘silent dhikr, see Irène Mélikoff, ‘Ahmed Yesevi and Turkic Popular Islam’, Utrecht Papers on Central Asia, Utrecht Turcological Series, no. 2, 1987, pp. 83-94. The Gudjuvānī order was the parent order from which the Naqshabandiyya of Bahā’al-Dīn Naqshaband (1318-89) issued.

68. ibid., p. 89. While the dhikr of the Naqshabandiyya is khafī, ‘silent’, the Yasaviyya is erre, ‘sawmill’, or jahriyya, ‘loud-voiced’.





According to Shaykh Amad Sirrī Bābā in his al-Risāla al-Amadiyya, the dhikr khafī was a tradition adopted from the Caliph Abū Bakr who, once meditating in a cave with the Prophet, received it in a state of deep meditation and prayer with his eyes closed. As for the dhikr jahrī, this was a tradition adopted from ‘Alī b. Abī ālib who, after being told to be seated in the Prophet’s hara, was told to close his eyes and listen so as to receive the threefold dhikr of the kalimat al-tawīd, the forgiveness of the divinity, from the mouth of the Prophet. [69]


Much influenced by the laity, the Naqshabandiyya differed from other orders in having the character of a simple religious association. Unlike the Baktāshiyya, with its intense devotion to ‘Alī, the first link in the Naqshabandī chain of authority after the Prophet himself is the first Caliph, Abū Bakr. The order prides itself in its chain of authority (isnād) that shows that its way was that originally proclaimed by the Prophet’s Companions, the aāba. [70]


According to āmid Algar, who has written authoritatively on this arīqa, [71] the Naqshabandiyya first appeared in the Balkans in the fifteenth century in the person of Mullā ‘Abdullāh Ilāhī (d. 896/1490-1) who was the founder of the West Turkish branch of the order. After journeying to Khurāsān and Transoxania, he became one of the pupils and novices (murīdīn) of the Pīr, Khwāja ‘Ubaydallāh Arārt (d. 845/1441), in Samarqand. After severe khalwa, fasting and meditation at the tomb of the order’s founder he returned westwards, as khalīfa of his master, and led an active life in Istanbul. Later he moved to Yenice-i-Vardar in Macedonia although the expansion of his arīqa in the Balkans cannot be said to have begun there.


The first Naqshabandī tekke in Bosnia was built in 1463 in Sarajevo by Iskender Pasha, Beylerbeyi of Rumelia and four times governor of Bosnia. Adjoining it he built a bridge and a miisafirhane to accommodate visitors to the tekke. Another Naqshabandī tekke was built in Sarajevo in the nineteenth century, and this, by means of spiritual welfare offered to others, carried on the work of Iskender Pasha’s tekke, which no longer survives. As Ḥāmid Algar shows, it is outside Sarajevo in other tekkes in the Bosnia region that the Naqshabandiyya has left a profound influence on the Bosnian Muslims. Several of these tekkes date back to



69. Amad Sirrī Bābā, op. cit., p. 69.

70. R.S. Bhatnagar, Dimensions of Classical ūfī Thought, Delhi, 1984, pp. 175-6.

71. ‘Some notes on the Naqshabandī arīqat in Bosnia’, in Die Welt des Islams, 13, 1972, pp. 168-203, reprinted in Studies in Comparative Religion, 9, 1975, pp. 69-96.





the eighteenth century and are still active at the present time. [72]


The goals, character and membership of the ūfī orders in Bosnia and Hercegovina have been distinguishable from those among the Albanians in Albania proper and in Kosovo in several ways. These are not only cultural or historical. At one time, Bosnian ūfīsm was frowned on and deemed elitist, since it was expressed in Oriental languages that meant little or nothing to the Bosnians themselves apart from those scholarly men with the knowledge to study ūfī literature in these languages. [73] However, Ḥāmid Algar argues that this view has been based on an inadequate knowledge of ūfī practice in the tekkes, and is untenable. The rediscovery of Bosnian aljamiado literature, of Bosnian in Arabic script, and of verse in the vernacular has revealed that ūfī belief and sentiments occupy a significant place in such literature. [74] Bosnian ūfīsm is said to be dhikr (zikr)-centered, somewhat quietist, sober and subdued. There is a marked contrast between it and the sometimes ecstatic and violently emotional seances that characterised manifestations of ūfīsm in Kosovo. But whatever may represent the life of the ūfī uruq in Sarajevo and in Bosnia as a whole today, the evidence from the past indicates that here too ūfīsm had a marked individuality and was by no means divested of all unorthodox features.


Cornelia Sorabji has argued that in the eighteenth century the dervish orders were of sufficient notice and significance to become the target and focus of attention from followers of the Kadicevci puritan movement. [75] Kadizade, who died in Istanbul in 1635, was a puritan reformer who sought to revitalise the simple and puritanical lifestyle which, it was believed, marked the Muslim community when the Prophet was alive. The influence of his teaching lasted well into the



72. There is a functioning tekke in Sarajevo and a few outside the city and the order plays a prominent role in the Tarikatski Centar (based in Sarajevo, this body coordinates the programmes of Ṣūfī orders in former Yugoslavia) and the ūfī publication Sebi Arus.

73. A meagre view of this literature was expressed by Ivo Andrić in The Development of Spiritual life in Bosnia under the influence of Turkish rule, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990, pp. 67-9.

74. On Albanian Aljamiado literature, see the classic article by asan Kaleši, ‘Albanska Aljamiado Književnost’, Prilozi, XVI-XVII, Sarajevo, 1970, pp. 50-76 (with German summary).

75. This is indicated, for example, by the presence of urūfī elements in the Malāmiyya in Bosnia, as elsewhere. For a discussion on this issue see Cornelia Sorabji’s unpublished Cambridge Ph.D. thesis, ‘Muslim Identity and Islamic Faith in Socialist Sarajevo’.





eighteenth century in Sarajevo, although his movement was localised. The Kadicevci were especially opposed to the dervish orders. The chronicle kept by Muṣṭafā Baseskija, Ljetopis (1746-1804), refers to these attacks, among them those made by an Emir Vaiz, madrasa professor and upholder of the teachings of the founder of the Kadicevci sect who attacked shaykhs, dervishes, tekkes and uruq alike. Dhikrs were sometimes interrupted. Religious circles in Bosnia were divided at that time over the merits of the practising ūfīs and their orders. However, it seems clear from an example like this that they were sufficiently active and alive to evoke vigorous opposition from those who were opposed in principle to their activities. [76]



7. The Malāmiyya


Perhaps the Malāmiyya illustrates this. The Malāmiyya ūfī order in the Balkans, and especially in Bosnia and Hercegovina, was of significance in two specific periods and regions. The first, both in age and importance, was associated with the Ottomans, and centred around Shaykh amza of Bosnia and his descendants. The second, relatively recent movement is essentially Albanian and is distinct historically from the former, which exemplifies much of the character of ūfīsm among the Bosnians in particular.


The order originated in Khurāsān and is attributed to amdūn al-Qaṣṣār (d. 271/884-5). Its doctrines are found summarised and expounded in the Risāla al-Malāmiyya written by ‘Abd al-Raman Muammad b. al-usayn al-Sulamī (330-412/941-1021). Its tenets eschewed all outward appearances of piety or religiosity as ostentation, and even deeds of merit were to be performed in secret. The desire for a divine reward and man’s approval were equally susceptible to debasement. An inward and secretive devotion was the only solution to this paradox, whereby the believer could fulfil the requirements of Sura V, verse 54 in the Qur’ān, ‘They struggle in the path of Allah and fear not the blame of any blamer’. This teaching of the Malāmiyya was to be adopted by other ūfī orders, the Naqshahandiyya in particular. Its message was to be diffused directly or indirectly in many parts of the Islamic world, including the Arabian peninsula. There was a link between it and the futuwwa and the craft guilds, the relationship dating



76. The effects of this movement in Bosnia and social aspects are fully discussed in Cornelia Sorabji’s thesis.





back to the days of Hamdūn al-Qaṣṣār himself and to his followers and pupils such as Abū af al-addād and ‘Abdullāh Munāzil.


In the Ottoman empire it was the association between the Malāmiyya and the heretical branch of the Bayrāmiyya order in a new sub-order (ā’ifa) known as the Malāmiyya-yi Bayrāmiyya, the followers of Shaykh ‘Umar the Cutler (d. 880/1475-6), that presaged its later, sometimes violent history. Their writings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries indicate indebtedness to the ideas of Hallaj; ignoring the doctrines of fana’, individual loss of identity in God, and instead believing in a manifestation of the Divinity in the individual member of the sect. Such a view was unacceptable to the orthodox ‘ulama’, who regarded a ‘Quaker-like’ belief in divine authority within oneself as a disregard of the Sharīa and in effect a denial of a clearcut distinction between the canonically legitimate and the forbidden (alāl and arām). urūfī ideas and images that also shaped the teachings of the Baktāshiyya likewise found their way into the poetic imagery of the later Malāmiyya.


The Malāmiyya, as a sect within the Ottoman empire, had spread into the Balkan regions early in its history. [77] While Oghlan Shaykh is credited with having brought its doctrines to Istanbul from Anatolia, and was executed for heresy a year later in 1529, it is possible that Amad the Cameleer, a native of Hayrabolu in Thrace, brought its teachings to Europe. One of his successors, the Hidden Idrīs, in the middle of the sixteenth century, may have diffused Malāmiyya practice during his travels as a merchant to Belgrade, Plovdiv, Sofia, Edirne and Gallipoli. By 1560 its doctrines had reached Bosnia, and it became deeply rooted there. The Malāmī Shaykh, usām al-Dīn, a khalīfa of Amad the Cameleer, was tried and executed in Ankara in 1553, and a khalīfa of usām al-Dīn, Shaykh amza, a Bosnian by birth, was executed in Istanbul in 1561 after much public preaching. The execution of amza created a martyr for the cause of the Malāmiyya. Further persecution of his followers in Bosnia, after his death, failed to stamp out his movement. He had followers in Hercegovina and others well beyond the boundaries of the sanjaq. By the early seventeenth century, however, the Malāmiyya had noticeably changed. It had become markedly orthodox. One of its Bosnian shaykhs, usayn-i-Lamekānī



77. See the introductory article by Ḥāmid Algar on the Malāmatiyya in the Encyclopedia of Islam, pp. 224-5 for Arabic and non-Arabic works that list the basic texts on the Malamatī mystical tradition.





(d. 1625) [78] defended the gyrating dance of its dhikr, yet upheld the primacy of the Sharī‘a. The Malāmī leaders and their followers too came from the artisan class to a considerable degree and a list of Bosnian suspects in 1582 refers to two as knife-grinders. One of them, termed a khalīfa, may well have been a senior member of a craft-guild. [79]


The importance of amza in Balkan ūfīsm is, hard to assess. That he was a major figure in Bosnia and Hercegovina can hardly be questioned. In the view of Tayyib Okiç [80] his execution was a major religious event in the reign of Sulaymān the Magnificent. Condemned as a zindīq (free-thinker), he came from a region where even before the days of the Bogomils, heterodoxy found a refuge. His original name was Bālī, which he derived from his predecessor, Shaykh usām al-Dīn. He was a simple, possibly unlettered man, but possessed of a compelling charisma enhanced by his ascetic life that made him subsist on food for animals thrown down in the streets. Following the death of Shaykh usām al-Dīn, he returned to the sanjaq of Zvornik, in Bosnia, to preach his arīqa. The exact nature of Shaykh amza’s teaching and the specific reasons for his condemnation are not clear in the accounts. Tayyib Okiç cites a pamphlet of refutation written by Mehmed ‘Amīqī in 1614 to dissuade the son of a sipāhi, in which he characterised amza’s doctrines as being against work and effort, pantheistic in theology, opposed to seeing meaning in dreams and with a generally negative attitude to this practice.


The Messiah was held in high esteem, although Tayyib Okiç doubts the view that amza deemed Jesus to be superior to the Prophet himself. [81] Apart from amza’s impact on Islam in Bosnia, his appeal was also viewed with alarm by those ‘ulamā’ opposed to him. Not only did the greatest local scholar of the Ottoman era, asan Kāfī of Āqiār (Prusac, [82] 1547-1616), collaborate with the chief Qāī of Sarajevo,



78. On Shaykh usayn-i Lāmekānī (d. 1035/1625) see the article on the Mālamatiyya in Ottoman Turkey in the Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 228, and Džemal Ćehajić, Derviški Redovi u Jugoslavenskim Zemljama, op. cit., p. 206-8.

79. C.H. Imber, op. cit., p. 228, and G.G. Arnakis, ‘Futuwwa traditions in the Ottoman Empire, Akhis, Bektashi Dervishes and craftsmen’, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. XII, no. 4, 1953, pp. 246-7.

80. Tayyib Okiç, ‘Quelques documents inédits concernant les amzawites’ in Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Congress of Orientalists, Istanbul, 1951, vol. II, Leiden, 1957, p. 279.

81. ibid., p. 282.

82. See Chapter 2, note 30.





Bālī Efendi (d. 1582), with a view to extirpating the movement of amza in Bosnia, but he, with other scholars, made a major contribution to strengthening a sober orthodoxy there.


As Tayyib Okiç remarks,


Thanks to him, and to others like him, the Muslims of Bosnia and Hercegovina have acquired a reputation for being the established faithful. The activity of the existing religious orders in the country, Naqshabandī, Qādirī, Mawlawī, Khalwatī, Rifā‘ī, has thereby been reduced to a simple observance of the practice of the faith, whether in ritual or in moral conduct, without being able to expand effort into the theological and philosophical controversies which the different arīqas give rise to. The Malāmiyya and Baktāshiyya orders found no possibility to establish themselves there, contrary to the situation in Macedonia and Albania. It is true that a great number of Bosnians were adherents of these two orders, but they were always those who lived outside the frontiers of Bosnia [for example, ‘Abdullāh al-Busnawī (d. 1643), who was likewise Malāmī-Bayrāmī and a celebrated commentator on the Fuū al-ikam by Muyī’l-Dīn Ibn al-‘Arabī]. [83]



The uprising of the supporters of amza in 1582 had both a political and a religious purpose, the former taking precedence over the latter. Those who launched the movement had worked out who was to be a sulān, vizīr, defterdār, ī’l-‘askar and other such officers. The repression was total, so that Ibrāhīm, the grandson of amza, a silk merchant and an author of mystic works, was compelled to spend his life in the Arab world and to forgo the dream of a return to his native Bosnia. He died in Cairo in 1617. Muammad al-Muibbī, in his Khulāat al-Athar (Cairo, 1284/, 16-17), has furnished a portrait of him that is both strange and sad, yet fascinating in the way that it may shed a little light on the character, personality and beliefs of his still relatively little-known grandfather, amza:


8. Shaykh al-Tā’ifa al-Bayrāmiyya


Al-Shaykh Ibrāhīm b. Taymūrkhān b. amza b. Muammad al-Rūmī al-anafī was resident in Cairo, known as al-Qazzāz (the silk merchant), the great master, the shaykh of the sub-order (ā’ifa), known as the Bayrāmiyya.



83. On ‘Abdallāh al-Busnawī (Bosnevi) see Džamal Ćehajić, Derviški Redovi u Jugoslavenskim Zemljama, op. cit., pp. 190, 206, 208, 225. Likewise Tayyib Okiç, op. cit., p. 282.





He was the holder of a position of high esteem and made utterances and pronouncements on ūfīsm that were thought to be beautiful and agreeable. He composed epistles about the love of the people, including one that he named Muraqat al-qulūb fī’l-shawq li-‘alām al-ghuyūb (the holocaust of hearts in longing for the cognisance of the transcendental), and there are others. He was born in Bosnia and grew up devout, pious and ascetic. Then he travelled around the Muslim lands and met the great saints. He was serious and he toiled and laboured diligently. In every town he acquired a special name: in the lands of the Ottomans his name was ‘Alī, in Mecca it was asan, in Medina Muammad, in Cairo Ibrāhīm. He was initiated into the Kaylāniyya Bayrāmiyya ūfī order by Shaykh Muammad al-Rūmī in the line of Sayyid Ja‘far, preceded by Amīr Sikkīn and so back to al-Sulān Bayrām.


He resided in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for a period, then settled in Cairo and lived in the mosque of al-Zāhid for some time, then in the mosque of Qawūn, then in the Barqūqiyya. Afterwards he lived in the citadel and sat in a shop where he knotted silk. He experienced unusual moods of possession and trance, and other strange and singular happenings. He loved company around him, but he also loved to be alone. Much of his time was spent in the refuge that he found in the graveyards outside the citadel, and at Bāb al-Wazīr, and the graveyard of the Muqaṭṭam hills.


When in a trance he raved like a lion and exclaimed ‘I fancied that I beheld the Prophet, the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him, and ‘Alī al-Murtaā was standing before him. He was saying “O ‘Alī, write the farewell of peace and of health and well being in quiet solitariness.” He repeated that, and henceforth it was something that he loved dearly. He used to report that he had given birth to a son. When the muezzin called at the hour of the ‘ishā prayer he pronounced the witness to Allāh’s unity and to the Prophethood of His Messenger, yet the boy was still in his cradle. He [al-Shaykh Ibrāhīm] died in the year 1026/1617, and was buried with his offspring in the türbe of Bāb al-Wazīr, opposite the Niāmiyya. Thus mention was made by the Imām ‘Abd al-Ra’ūf al-Munāwī in his [abaqāt] al-Kawākib al-durriyya fī tarājim al-sāda al-ūfiyya. What I have edited here is derived from that worked through with some abridgement and alteration. The Muqaṭṭam graveyard contains the tomb of the Imam al-Shāfi‘ī’.



In Yugoslavia, however, it is a far more recent branch of the Malāmiyya order, the Malāmiyya-Nūriyya, founded in the nineteenth century, that has a peculiar interest, owing to the cultural link it has maintained with the Arab countries. Its founder, Muammad Nūr al-‘Arabī, came from Tantah in Egypt. At some unknown date he travelled to Macedonia. Apart from a stay in Prizren, he spent much of his life in Skopje where he was called Arap Hodža. He died in 1887





(according to Ćehajić in 1897). [84] He left a daughter who had married ‘Abdurraīm Fedai Efendi, a teacher who became Shaykh in succession to his father-in-law. He had successprs, although the tekke in Skopje was destroyed in 1938. Arap Hodža founded a number of tekkes in Kosovo and Macedonia.


According to Alexandre Popović, he was a cultured man and a prolific writer in Arabic and Turkish, author of at least forty works. Six of those written in Arabic, now in the University Library in Belgrade, have been studied. [85] Muammad Mūfākū has furnished details of his particular influence on the Albanians of Kosovo and Macedonia:


In the second half of the nineteenth century we had a poet who was called Shaykh Yūnus (Sheh Jonuzi) who was present in the remotest north, in the region of Kosovo. This poet, named by his parents Ḥaydar, was born in a village near the town of Toplica where he completed study at the primary school. With the flight of his family to the town of Vucitrn he continued his study there with the teacher of Arabic language and literature, al-afi ‘Ārif. After this he went to Istanbul, where he graduated from the College of Religious Sciences. Following his return, while in the city of Skopje, he met the Arab ūfī, Muammad ‘Arab Hūjā (Muhamet Arab Hoxha), who had come from Egypt to spread the Malāmiyya arīqa in Yugoslavian districts.



Mūfākū adds that Muammad Nūr al-‘Arabī had come to the area at the beginning of the nineteenth century to further the Malāmiyya and that his efforts had received a warm response from Albanians. He was able to found four tekkes of the Malāmiyya — in Kon Çan, Strumica, Prizren and Skopje. He spent most of his life in Skopje and it was there that he became known as Arap Hodža.


As a result of this encounter, aydar took up residence in this city until he was entitled to the licence (ijāza) to teach and initiate those who wished to enter the Malāmiyya, receiving this from Muammad ‘Arab Hūjā. The latter gave him the name Yūnus (Jonuzi), and since that time he became known as Sheh Jenuzi. After that he became concerned to spread the Malāmiyya among the Albanians. These latter took to him and for him they built the tekke in the town of Suhadoli. This tekke was turned into a centre for instruction and teaching in Islamic culture in the surrounding district in view of Sheh



84. For the most complete details on his life see Kāmil al-Būhī, ‘Arapski redovi Jugoslovenskih Pisasca’, unpubl. Ph.D. thesis, Univ, of Belgrade, and A. Golpirali, Melamlik ve Malamiler, Istanbul, 1931.

85. A. Popović and G. Veinstein, op. cit., pp. 75-7.





Jonuzi’s ability to give language and religious instruction in this tekke. It was there that he wrote until he died in 1909. He composed much verse which was copied by his followers, some were lengthy odes on religious and educational subjects. [86]



Mūfākū singles out from among his ‘spiritual and theological’ verse (ilāhiyyāt) ten odes of a Ṣūfī nature totalling 600 verses. In the Arabic alphabet, then used in the writing of Albanian, he wrote 220 verses and another ode of 410 verses consisting of a clear exposition of the Sharī'a, the arīqa, the aqīqa and ma‘rifa for ūfī novices entitled Nuqat al-bayān. [87]


Two other leading scholars of this order are also mentioned by Popović. The first, Hadži Omer Lutfi Pacarizi (Basharīzi) (1869—1929?), was a poet and writer and man of politics (he is discussed in Chapter 6). Hilmi Maliqi (1856-1928), the second scholar, was fluent in Arabic, Persian and Turkish as well as in Albanian and Serbo-Croat. He studied in Prizren before returning to his birthplace, Rahovec. Later he became the Shaikh of the Malāmī tekke there. He taught and translated, and left two dīwāns of verse, one in Turkish, the other in Albanian though written in Arabic script. [88]


Other Ṣūfī uruq in Albania and in surrounding areas are of more recent growth. The Tijāniyya, for example, entered the region from Turkey in the nineteenth century and gained a following in the north of the country around Shkodër. This was mainly due to the energetic propagation of Sheh Shaban and later, in Tiranë, the educational activities and teaching of Qazim Efendi. Though short-lived, it was sufficiently effective to ensure the Tijāniyya a modest place among the six ūfī uruq that were formally recognised in Albania.


The Rifa'iyya was likewise active, though more especially in the region of Skopje through the efforts of Shaykh Hadji Hatifi Abdulatif, Mehmed Efendi of Tetovo and the succeeding shaykhs of the Skopje tekke, Shaykh Hadji Saduddin, Mehmed al-Bakir and Saluddin Sirri. The Rifāiyya with its offshoots, both Middle Eastern and local,



86. Muammad Mūfākū, al-Thaqāfa al-Albāniyya fī’l-Abjadiyya al-‘Arabiyya, op. cit., pp. 154-6.

87. Muhamet Pirrzaku, Gjurmë të Veprimtarisë letrare shqipe me alfabet arab në Kosovë, II. Gjurmime albanologjikeSeria e Shkencave filologjike (Research in Albanian Studies), IX, Prishtinë, 1979 p. 215.

88. See Mark Krasniqi, ‘Sheh Hilmi Maliqi’ in Jeta e re, Revistë letrare, Prishtinë, 3, 1953, pp. 260-6.





was established far earlier in Macedonia and Kosovo. Evliya Çelebi mentions twenty tekkes of this order, which had been founded in Iraq in the twelfth century, in Skopje alone in the seventeenth century. This Rifā‘ī activity furthered the teaching and the study of Oriental languages and texts in Skopje, and the dervish tradition has continued there up till the present. [89]


A curious insight into the doctrines of the Rifāiyya of the region of Skopje, or further east in what is now Bulgaria, has been given by the English missionary W.H.T. Gairdner, (1873-1928). According to Constance Padwick,


Gairdner’s most enriching Potsdam experience (1910) as regards his own studies was the friendship that he made with two ex-Moslem sheiks [one of them a convert to Christianity], the elder of whom had been the ‘half-worshipped head of a pantheistic Sufi monastery in the wilds between Macedonia and Bulgaria’. Gairdner wrote ‘They are sincere enough men, of that I am convinced. Also they are not Moslems. The question is, however, are they Christians? or something quite patent of their own invention? They look to me more like Oriental heretics of the type that in the second century used to call themselves Christians, but were more or less impolitely informed by Irenaeus and others that they weren’t. The pantheist can make an equation of everything by the simple device of giving every quantity the value of zero, or as he would say, of unity. This is, I think, what our two Turkish friends are trying to do. I like the chaps immensely and am really interested. Oriental gnosticism in the twentieth century quite live and real!’ [90]



We know more about these two dervishes, Muammed Nasīmī and Amad Kashshāf (these, allegedly, were their names) from Gairdner’s curious work The Way of a Mohammedan Mystic, a pamphlet of twenty-three pages privately published in 1912 by Otto Harassowitz in Leipzig. Gairdner wrote before R. Nicholson’s eagerly awaited The Mystics of Islam (1914), and before his first meeting with Louis Massignon in 1913. Gairdner’s little study indicates that these brothers had been born into a ūfī family and had performed the dhikr since they were four years old. They were Rifā‘iyya, and the elder of the two, Shaykh Amad, had been shaykh of a ‘Rifa‘ite monastery in Bulgarian-speaking Turkey’; he was deeply acquainted with esoteric doctrines.



89. On the Rifāiyya arīqa in Yugoslavia, see Džemal Ćehajić, Derviški Redovi u Jugoslavenskim Zemljama, op. cit., pp. 149-55, and in Albania, Nathalie Clayer, L’Albanie pays des Derviches, op. cit., pp. 150-62.

90. Constance E. Padwick, Temple Gairdner of Cairo, SPCK, 1930, pp. 203-4.





Gairdner speaks of long discussions with him. Apart from the dhikr (notated by Gairdner), much of the work is taken up with an explanation of the seven stages (maqāmāt) of this order. Some of the details given by Gairdner seem more characteristic of other uruq, and all the technical terms that he cites are furnished in Arabic. Violent actions during the the dhikr are mentioned (p. 8): ‘. . . At such times the ecstatic, in virtue of his State, and involving the merit of its founder, Amad El Rifā’ī, will stab himself with a dagger, and it passes in and out without doing harm: he will handle fire and the fire loses its heat and does not hurt. If he drinks a deadly thing, it has no effect. “Verily to find the signs promised to believers in Mark’s Gospel, in these days it is to the ūfīs thou must go” (sic Sheikh Amad).’


Gairdner discusses the ‘traces of ancient cosmology or astrology in the Sevenfold Way’, traces of gnosticism, ‘the Seven Stages’ as they correspond to seven states of the soul (p. 11), finally culminating in the Seventh Stage, the Soul Clarified, Perfect (al-nafs al-āfiya wal’-kāmila) (p. 19). The study ends with a brief appendix entitled ‘The Seven Tesserads’ (p. 21), and cabbalisms not dissimilar to that mentioned by John Kingsley Birge concerning the Baktāshiyya and the urūfiyya. However, Gairdner merely quotes what he has read in Ibn Khaldun and does not make it clear whether he was personally enlightened to any degree by his informants. There is an interesting diagram of ‘the Sevenfold Mystical Way’ in Appendix 11. The work was written in Cairo and, granted the authenticity of his discussions with Macedonian or Bulgar ūfī’s in Germany, the text may well have been elaborated in Egypt and reworked into a wider portrayal of ūfī beliefs of an esoteric kind. Be this as it may, the work contains a curious and entertaining reflection of the views shared by Balkan ūfīs at that time.



9. The origins of the Baktāshiyya in Albania


The Baktāshiyya was established in a number of areas of the Balkans by the end of the sixteenth century. The Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi refers to its establishment. In Serbia, for example, he mentions the tekke of Mehmed Pasha Yahyapašić, which must have been founded before 1548 when he died. This tekke was situated on the southern side of Abaza Pasha kiosk in Belgrade [91] and the head of it was Dervish Mehmed Khurāsānī. Since its founder, Mehmed Pasha, was akinci Bey,



91. Muammed Mūfākū, Tārīkh Bilghrād al-Islāmiyya, op. cit., pp. 32-3.





and it is known that the cult of ājjī Baktāsh was wide spread among akincis, [92] it has been suggested by Hazim Sabanović, and not disputed by Džemal Ćehajić, that this tekke was in all probability Baktāshiyya. [93] If one turns to the situation in Albania at that time, there are many gaps in the chronological record. Birge attempted to reconstruct a possible context for the establishment of the order in that country. The invasion of Albania by Turkish troops under Murād II began at least as early as 1431, when Ioannina in Epirus was captured, and Evliya Çelebi reports that Evrenos Gazi advanced as far as Lake Ohrid — he died in 1417. Birge thinks it likely that his advance campaign took place in the reign of Bāyazīd I, who was fighting on the borders of Albania when called away to attend to the invasion of Tamerlane in 1402. It is possible that Baktāshī companions of the Janissaries accompanied them and that these may have influenced those who settled there, and persuaded the local inhabitants who were tempted to convert to Islam.


Yet Evliya Çelebi hardly says anything to confirm it. Rather, he alludes — indirectly — to a tenuous Baktāshī presence. He once met a group of people who manifested a marked hatred for the Umayyad Caliphs, Mu‘āwiya and Yazīd. They refused to wear blue and would not drink millet spirit because they believed that Mu‘āwiya was partial to the colour and the beverage. At another place he found those who observed New Year’s Day, and who honoured Sari Saltik, a major saint of the Baktāshīs (more is said of him later). At Elbasan [94] he came across a tekke of dervishes who followed the ‘way of the family of the mantle’ and at Pugarados found tekkes of the Abdāl dervishes, who, as has been seen, foreshadowed the Baktāshiyya. This proves the presence of the heterodox, but it avoids any explicit mention of the name of the order as known later. [95]


The movement began to take root in the Balkans at the Ottoman conquest. It did so peacefully, slowly and without serious opposition. Those who preached it were handicapped by a lack of knowledge of local languages, fluent as they were in Turkish and Persian.



92. Irregular soldiers who were used as scouts or raiders. See Peter F. Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 1354-1804 (vol. V in A History of East Central Europe), Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977, pp. 39 and 343.

93. See Džemal Ćehajić, op. cit., pp. 169-70.

94. Franz von Babinger, ‘Ewlija Tchelebi’s Reisewege in Albanien’, Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprachen, vol. 33, 1930, pp. 137-78, esp. p. 169.

95. Besides ‘adopting’ Christian shrines and saints it is clear that earlier Islamic heterodox traces and ūfī cells were equally subject to assimilation.





They came in tiny groups, often just three — a Baba and two dervishes. The principal centre for their departure apart form Istanbul was Dimotika (Dhidhimótikhon) on the border between what are today Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. Among the earliest Baktāshī preachers, who allegedly reached Albania and its borders, were Pir Abdalli in Kosovo and Shah Kalenderi in Elbasan. This was a period when the small cells of the order were not established in geographically fixed tekkes.


These first missionaries were men of the scholarly stature of Baba Ali Horsani of Krujë, Dylgjar Hysejni in Elbasan and Baba Arshiu, all of these men are said to have lived during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The growth of a network of tekkes, especially those in the Tosk regions of Albania, was to follow and stem from the activities of Durballi Sultan to establish a base in Thessaly, whence Baktāshī establishments were to be sited in parts of southern Macedonia and in Crete. In the eighteenth century, there were established tekkes at Gjirokastër by Asim Baba about 1800, at Krujë by Shemimi Baba about 1790, and afresh in Elbasan by Xhefaj Ibrāhīm Baba (1723-1780). Further tekkes were founded, a number of them sub-houses in the adjacent countryside, e.g. at Kuç, Melçanit, Korçë, Kuit, Devoll, Prishtë, Skrapar and the Baba Hajder tekke in Gjirokastër. Among other tekkes were Koshtan and Gllava. Among the most famous was Frashër. These tekkes were not free from Ottoman interference and, on occasions, destruction, if the Sultan suspected the incumbents of working for nationalist or subversive interests. Baba Rexhebi mentions the burning of the tekke of Baba Alikos at Berat in the reign of Sulān Mamūd (1808-39), when priceless books of mysticism and philosophy in Arabic and Persian were destroyed. There was similar destruction in Monastir (Bitolj) and Melçanit. This wholesale assault on the Baktāshiyya in Albania served to strengthen its support from Albanians and was a factor that made the country the headquarters of the order after the closure of tekkes and zaviyas in Turkey itself in 1925.


Babinger, in his article about Evliya Çelebi’s journey in Albania, [96] noted the lack of any description of a Baktāshī tekke in Krujë, and that the only tekke mentioned was one in Kanina. [97] Kissling, in his important article about the origins of the Baktāshiyya in Albanian regions,



96. See Babinger, op. cit., p. 149, footnote 1.

97. On this historically important tekke in Albania, see Nathalie Clayer, op. cit., pp. 308-10, suggesting a foundation date between 1491 and 1644. The evidence is inconclusive.





took up this point afresh and subjected the speculations to a rigorous examination. Conceding that individual Baktāshī groups, attached to the Janissaries, could have had some influence on the spread of the order, he was disposed from the start to favour a date that was late rather than early and certainly not in the sixteenth century. He drew attention to Hasluck’s views, however exaggerated, about the much later impetus the order received under ‘Alī Pasha, and the desire at that time to push back the date of entry into a remoter past. [98]


Since Evliya Çelebi mentions the founding of a Baktāshī tekke at Kanina and a Khalwatiyya tekke in Elbasan, both during the governorship of a certain Ghazī Sinan Pasha, it is obvious that the Khalwatiyya reference might shed some light on the question of who this governor might have been and the circumstances that led to the founding of the Kanina tekke. By a process of elimination, Kissling concluded that no governor of the early sixteenth century could have founded the Khalwatiyya establishment, since the missionary activities of Mamūd Hudā’ī al-Khalwatī were not launched till the first and second decades of the seventeenth century. In Kissling’s view, both tekkes must have been founded towards the end of the century, near the date of Evliya Çelebi’s account. Of relevance were the vizir Qara Muṣṭafā Pasha and his aide Qirq-Ayaq Sinān, who were responsible for the demolition of the Baktāshī tekke in Adrianople district, known as Xirliq. According to Hasluck, it was suppressed in 1641. The foundation of Kanina could be viewed as a direct result of this suppression, a substitution by Baktāshīs of its function on the soil of Albania, and perhaps encouraged by the ideas of a subordinate who was himself an Albanian. In Kissling’s opinion, the meagre evidence, if interpreted correctly, suggested that it was during the period between the suppression of the Xizrliq tekke in 1644 (this being the actual year of the suppression) and the visit to Albania by Evliya Çelebi in 1662 that the Baktāshī order first gained a firm footing in Albania. [99]



10. When were the first tekkes built in the heart of Albania?


The chronology of Baktāshī influence in the region of Albania is complicated by the gradual nature of the Ottoman conquest.



98. Hans-Joachim Kissling, ‘Zur Frage der Anfange des Bektaschitmus in Albanien’, Oriens, vol. 115, 1862, pp. 281-6.

99. ibid., pp. 283-5.





It was not the result of random raids but according to a strategy facilitated by, or contingent upon, the Sultan’s alliances with local lords and with issues that involved major European powers. [100] The Turks arrived first in Epirus and Albania, between 1380 and 1418, as mercenaries in the service of Christians. Later they were to dominate them and — during this first phase of Ottoman encroachment — they were to involve themselves in local and international conflicts or alliances. Eventually they reduced the Christian lords to vassalage. Following this the Turks established Albania and Epirus as Ottoman territories.


Back in the fourteenth century, this part of the Balkans was the scene of conflicts between the Angevin family. In 1380 Turks were introduced into the Ioannina area as allies of the lord of Janina Thomas Prealimbos, then fighting the Albanians; these Turkish troops were led by Shāhīn, later to bear the name of Shihāb al-Dīn Shāhīn Pasha. In 1391, Bāyazīd I annexed several Turkish amīrates, which by then had been formed using his vassals in Epirus and Albania. One of the conquests at that time was the town of Krujë, later Skanderbeg’s capital. In 1393 Bāyazīd adopted a course of action designed to restrict Venetian trade. Aside from causing problems for Venetian merchants, he began to dispute Venetian possession of the territory. The Ottomans occupied the fortress of San Sergio. By August 1394, the Venetian administration in Durrës (Durazzo) was obliged to make pacts with its governor Shahīn. The Turks were assured of their supplies of salt while they, in turn, permitted the caravans to reach Durrës. Shkodër was also under Shāhīn’s command. Among the localities annexed at that time was Krujë, then governed by Helena Thopia, sister of Giorgio Thopia, and her Venetian husband Marco Barbadico; in 1394 they gave the town to the Turks. Its administration was entrusted to Constantine, a member of the Balsha family who had the confidence of the Sulān. Krujë’s inhabitants were rewarded for their surrender, since Yāqūt Pasha and Khodja Fīrūs granted them exemption from various taxes.


It was of course after all these events that the Baktāshī order gradually penetrated into this and other parts of Albania. The tradition reported to Birge by aydar Bābā, a well-informed member of the order, was that Baktāshī Bābās accompanied the army of Murād II to Albania. Supported by a report from Zylfo Baba of the Turan tekke near Korça,



100. For this see Birge, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes, op. cit.; M. Choublier, ‘Les Bektachis et la Roumëlie’, Revue des Etudes Islamiques, 1927, pp. 427-53; and H. J. Kissling, op. cit., pp. 281-6.





Plate 7. Tomb of a Baktāshī Baba capped by a crown (tāj), and with an Arabic inscription, in the cemetery adjoining the Dollma tekke at Krujë, Albania. It is thought that the alleged tekke was the grave (türbe) of Baba Mustafa Dollma. The entire group of sanctuaries dates from 1779. Restoration in 1989 confirmed that the structure is a handsome Islamic edifice with mural decorations and magnificent Arabic and Turkish calligraphy dating from 1779 onwards.



and by a reference in a work by Turabi Baba on the general history of the Baktāshiyya in Albania, a number of names of holy men seem to support this order’s early presence, though they hardly confirm it. One holy man, Qāsim Bābā, is believed to have come to Albania and settled there in the time of Muammad II (1451-81), whose successor Bāyazīd II (1481-1512) is said to have endowed many tekkes. Qāsim Bābā was especially active in the district of Kastoria (Kostur), perhaps as early as the beginning of the early fifteenth century. At about this time, or later, Yamin Baba is said to have come to Vutrine of Naselich, Piri Baba to Djuma, near Kozani in Greek Macedonia, and usayn Bābā to Konitsa in Epirus. These accounts may contain some truth, though their chronology is uncertain.


An early rather than a later date for the establishment of Baktāshī centres in the Balkans is given by Baba Rexhebi in a detailed chronology





that is included in his short biography of Muharem Mahzuni Baba of Gjirokaster. [101] This important shaykh of the nineteenth century served for a while in the famous tekke of Farsalla in Thessaly, that was founded by the missionary Durballi Sultan in 1480.



11. Krujë


Krujë may be selected as a locality to shed light on this early period. The Albanian town — ‘wellspring’, a fortress spectacularly sited — was surrendered in 1478 to Muammad II. It became known as Āq iār and until recent times remained one of tae most important historical centres of the Baktāshiyya (Plate 7). [102]


A. Degrand, who wrote about Albania at the end of the nineteenth century, conveys the character of rural life of the Baktāshiyya and especially of the Babas of Krujë. Although he admits that little opportunity was afforded to him to discuss matters relating to the doctrines of the order, or to examine the content of its religious buildings closely, he found it possible to devote a number of his pages to the basic beliefs of the Baktāshiyya among the village communities near Krujë at a time when their curious eclecticism was still widely maintained. These beliefs were about the mystical chain of ajjī Baktāsh with its improbable chronology, the high regard for the position of women in the sect, the adoration of ‘Alī, the ‘house-church fellowships’, the non-observance of the fast or of communal prayer, and the strong national feeling that permeated all religious denominations within Albania at that time. The miracles of ajjī Baktāsh, as told by the far-flung Baktāshī community (as it then was), have much common hagiography. However, Degrand singles out several of the leading saints, ūfīs and Babas of Krujë for an extended chapter on Baktāshī hagiography. [103]


Degrand places Baba ‘Alī chronologically at the beginning of the sixteenth century (a date that must be considered as far too early). He came from Khurāsān and settled in the lower part of Krujë where he built a tekke — a simple affair, consisting of four planks of wood from a cypress tree. Within the shelter thus afforded, he lived from the alms given to him by the locals on account of his good works and wise counsel.



101. Baba Rexhebi, Misticizma Islame dhe Bektashizma, op. cit., pp. 270-1.

102. F.W. Hasluck, Christianity and Islam under the Sultans, op. cit., pp. 549-57. The tekke there has been reopened.

103. A. Degrand, Souvenirs de la Haute-Albanie, Paris 1901, pp. 228-48.





Plate 8. The elaborate gravestone of a Baba buried outside the eastern end of the Dollma tekke in view of the range of mountains above Krujë, where one of the alleged tombs of the saint, Sari Saltik, is situated.





One evening he said to the humble townsfolk who visited him that he would be going on a long journey. On their way to work in the fields the following day, they saw a large cypress tree at the place where he had sited his primitive tekke the four planks had been transformed into this tree. The body of the Baba was laid to rest next to the tree and a türbe was built above the grave. Baba Bali (‘honey’) Efendi also originated from Khurāsān. He came to Krujë, it was said, at the time of its capture by the Muslims. One day he met a man leading a horse that was carrying wine. He asked him what the animal was transporting, and the man in his embarrassment told him it was honey. The saint replied that it would indeed be honey from that time onwards, and when the man arrived at his destination he found this to be so. Zemzem Baba, at an unknown date, met a sick person who begged for water from the Meccan well of Zemzem. The dervish tapped the ground with his staff and at once fresh water gushed forth. The sick man knew its taste, drank of it and was cured. The staff was transformed into a magnificent cypress tree. The türbe of Zemzem Baba was sited below the bazaar.


Baba Hujjat secured the word of the Sultan in Istanbul, and a firmān was given to the effect that the people of Krujë were excused taxes. This firmān was written upon a bronze plaque, and so was preserved. This Baba, too, was buried locally, though in a painted türbe. Shaykh Mīmī, an agent of ‘Alī Pasha, founded a tekke at Krujë in 1807 [104] near to the tekke of Bābā ‘Alī. He was murdered by Kaplan Pasha and the tekke was ruined. It was restored by Baba usayn of Dibra who was attached for a while to the Farsalla tekke in Thessaly, during 1794. The restoration took place during the mid-nineteenth century. Bābā usayn lived to a great age. His successor Bābā ajjī (Haxhi), born in Krujë, was much travelled, but his efforts to purchase and employ machines to work his mill and farm aroused the hostility of some of the pious in Krujë, who made them unusable.


Babinger and Birge were amongst the first Western Orientalists to mention tombstones around the zawiya of Murteza Baba. This building dates from the beginning of the eighteenth century. [105]


However, Machiel Kiel in his research about the cult of Sari Saltik Dede in Krujë has established some observances of the cult there around 1567/8.



104. On the evidence for or against this proposed chronology see Nathalie Clayer, op. cit., pp. 325-32, under ‘Ibrāhīm Shemimi Baba’.

105. ibid., pp. 326-32.





This has provided a more stable chronology of early Baktāshī influences in Albania, especially in Krujë. Evliya Çelebi saw a türbe of Qāsim Baba during his visit to Kastoria in the spring of 1661. The most interesting discovery of Dr Kiel was made in the Ottoman census register (Kuk 27) in Istanbul, dated 991/1583, which mentions a ‘congregation of Muslims that is appointed to repair the road of Sari Saltik’. This was fifty years after the reputed death, in Krujë of the saint, amza Bābā, in 940/1533/4. The grotto sanctuary of Sari Saltik is situated within the mountain range above Krujë (it has, or had, an inscription dated 1104/1692/3). The Muslim congregation in the census numbered ten families of tamircis. First these road repairers are mentioned by name, then the following is added:


On the mountain of Āqa iār is the tomb of Sari Saltik to which the people of the neighbouring district come on pilgrimage. The mentioned road is very arduous and difficult and gives those who come to visit it much trouble. For the task of flattening and repairing the road, having paid their tithe, the repairers referred to were freed from the extraordinary tax for the dīvān and Common Law Duties. Such was their reward. [106]



A point of special interest is that an actual tomb of Sari Saltik was said at that date to be at Krujë. We now know that Krujë had been exempted from certain taxes, possibly from as far back as the early sixteenth century. An earlier date had the support of Babinger after his visit to the tekke at Krujë. He published his observations in an article entitled ‘with the Dervishes of Krooya’ in The Sphere (no. 1525, April 13, 1929, p. 63):


It had long been clear to me that the widespread theory that this order had only existed on Albanian territory for about 150 years could not stand serious examination. Although Mehmed Baba’s conviction that Albanian Bektashism was older than Ottoman rule in Albania (fifteenth century) perhaps oversteps the mark, yet what I ascertained later, especially in the dervish monasteries of Southern Albania, testified that the monastic order of the Bektashi was planted in Albania at the latest by the middle of the sixteenth century. This is already indicated by the numerous Albanian Bektashi saints who can with certainty be identified with that century.


Mehmed Baba invited us, after the usual refreshments had again been offered, to inspect the shrines of his own monastery. We traversed the middle-court, with the stabling and the new convent buildings, and passing through a tiny



106. I am grateful to Dr Kiel for his personal views and for the communication of details which at the time of writing have not appeared in print.





little gate, reached a broad meadow where there grew a huge fence. All around stood the turbes or mausoleums of the holymen of the monastery, which apparently owes its existence to Ali Baba, who died in 1562 (970 AH).


Next to the chapel of Ali Baba, that of the Jelaleddin Ibrāhīm Shemimi is held in particularly high veneration; he ended his days as sheikh of the monastery in 1807 (1222 AH), and he is honoured and revered not only as a saint but also as a poet. As a matter of fact, up in Krooya I saw for a few moments his collection of poems. A zealous Bektashi held them safely the while, and in some Bektashi song-books, which were also shown to me, I came across songs from his hand.


The third especially revered saint is Haji Husain Baba; he died only in 1890. But the present head of the monastery also stands in high repute, although he has only held his office for the last seven years. His home is in Argyrokastro (Albanian-Gjirokastra), in Southern Albania, where the Bektashi have several establishments which I afterwards visited.


Meanwhile the hours had slipped by, and as we still had the intention of paying Krooya itself a thorough visit, we had to take leave of Mehmed Baba and his four monks. After the group of dervishes and various objects of interest in the monastery had been photographed, we drove up into the mountains in the company of the schoolmaster, who had kindly offered us his services. The road was straight at first, but afterwards climbed in frequent curves, bordered by splendid old groves of olive. Soon the whole wide plateau lay stretched at our feet, and we could gaze far into the Albanian land. Away in the distance gleamed the Adriatic.


But our eyes were held by the view of the town of Krooya, which has an almost indescribable charm. Out of a magnificent wood of olive trees interspersed with dark cypresses the cupolas of the Bektashi shrines rise up, between them nestle the quaintly grouped houses of the town, crowned by the castle with its high-girt walls, from whose ruins a single clock tower raises its head — the only structure which has been able to defy the onslaughts of time. Behind the dwellings of men rise the steep, in some places perpendicular, rocks of the Mali Krus, on whose summit is situated the greatest shrine of Krooya — the tomb of Sary Saltyk Dede. It is reached by a winding path over countless boulders, negotiable only by men and mules.


It is striking how few mosques there are; I could only perceive two, and of these only one was in daily use — the mosque of Murad Bey, founded according to its inscription in 1533 (940 AH) and restored in 1827 (1253 AH). The other erected by Sultan Muammad II, the Conqueror, with splendid stained glass windows, was almost completely destroyed, and a pitiful picture inside.


The paucity of mosques may to a certain extent be explained by the fact that three-quarters of the inhabitants (about 5,000) are Bektashis, while the rest are members of the Sunni branch of Islam. As the Bektashi possess no mosques of any kind the need for such places of worship did not arise. All the more





imposing is the number o£ mausoleums whose cupolas rise here, there, and everywhere above the dark groves o£ the cypresses.


The türbe of Bali Sultan is particularly important, because solemn oaths are made by the coffin of this saint. Haji Hamza Baba belongs to the older of the Bektashi saints; his death is said to have occurred already in 1533 (940 AH), that is, about the same date as Ali Baba. At that time Krooya had long been under Moslem rule. The outstanding landmark of the town — the castle which dominates the whole neighbourhood — was three times besieged in vain by the Turkish sultans, first by Murad II and later by his son, Muammad II.



A Macedonian Baktāshī mystic, a poet of importance, lived in the midsixteenth century. This was Sersem Ali Dedje, a contemporary of the reformer, Bālim Sulān. According to Baba Rexhebi, his family ties were with the region of Tetovo in Macedonia and with Kosovo. After a promising career as a vizir in the administration of Sulān Sulaymān the Magnificent (1520-66), he was drawn to the mystical quest of the Baktāshiyya and served for nearly twenty years in the tekke of Hacibektaș, [107] eventually returning to Tetovo where, allegedly, he founded the tekke of Kalkandelen and was buried within it. The tekke later fell on hard times. In a vakufname of Redzep-pasha dated 1799, the construction of a complex of some size is mentioned. [108] According to Hasluck, it was refounded by ‘Riza Pasha’ at the behest of the Baktāshī shaykh, Muharrabe Baba. The Kalkandelen tekke came to be known as Harabti-baba tekke. It was a beautifully designed complex of celibate dervish-quarters with a number of meeting halls and refectories and a library. A cult grew up surrounding the personality of Sersem ‘Alī Dedje (d. 1569) who was believed to have been the original founder. Local Christians identified him with Elias. A wooden sword was hung above his tomb.


The southern Albanian town of Gjirokastër was also for centuries an important centre for Baktāshī propagation and literary activity. One of the oldest Babas to laud it in his verses was Arshi Baba, who was born in Diyarbakir in Anatolia and died in 1621. In the following century Sayyid Asim Baba, who was born in Istanbul, studied in Hacibektaș and moved to Kara Ali Dede tekke near Dimetoka in Bulgaria, arrived in Albania in 1778. He founded a tekke in Gjirokastër in 1780



107. Baba Rexhebi, Misticizma Islame dhe Bektashizma, New York, 1970, pp. 209-13.

108. See F.W. Hasluck, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 205-6.





(‘one of the oldest in Albania’ according to Hasluck), [109] and under his headship it established daughter establishments in southern Albania. He died in 1796. Together with his successor asan Bābā Turku (1796-8), he was buried at the gateway to the tekke. Later this tekke had many links, through its scholars and Babas, with Elbasan.


In the nineteenth century, Haxhi ‘Alī Haqi Baba (d. 1861), who was associated with the growth of the Gjirokastër daughter houses, was a noted traveller in the Middle East. He visited Iran as well as the holy places in Arabia. He wrote a Siyāetnāme of 1000 pages and a 5000-page composition on mystical terms and technical expressions (iṣṭilāāt ūfiyya). [110] During this same period, lived Muharem Mahzuni Baba, who was born in Gjirokastër. He was resident in the tekke of Durballi Sultan (1480-1522) in Thessaly between 1845 and 1867, and he was buried there. This tekke was one of the most famous of Baktāshī establishments in the Balkans and from its well endowed and imposing portals went forth numerous missionaries, among them ‘Alī Rismi Dede Khorasanli who founded the Baktāshī tekke at Candia in Crete in 1650. According to Robert Elsie [111], Muharem Mehzuni Baba composed Turkish verses that were ‘permeated with Arabic vocabulary’, [112] although his style would appear to be an indulgence in the use of urūfī symbolism, his employment of the Arabic letters for numerical purposes, with reference to Qur’ānic verse and to dates of religious significance. He also wrote in Albanian and he maintained contact with the tekkes in and around Gjirokastër. He was the twenty-seventh Baba of the tekke at Durballi Sultan. [113]


An important Albanian Baktas//“scholar of the nineteenth century was Baba Abdullah Meçani or Melçani (d. 1852), who some hold was the true founder of the Melçani tekke near Korça. Much of his verse is concerned with ūfīsm and in one of the poems that is best preserved he



109. See Baba Rexhebi, op. cit., p. 288, and Nathalie Clayer, op. cit., pp. 280-90.

110. On Haxhi ‘Alī Haqi Babai, see Baba Rexhebi, Misticizma Islame dhe Bektashizma, op. cit., pp. 291-302.

111. Baba Muharem Mehzuni, in Robert Elsie, Dictionary of Albanian Literature, New York, 1950, p. 96.

112. This is only intermittently obvious from the examples of his poetry published in Hajdar Salihu’s, Poezia e Bejtexhinjve, op. cit., pp. 235-9, and in Baba Rexhebi, Misticizma Islame dhe Bektashizma, op. cit., pp. 269-75.

113. On the ultimate fate of the Durballi Sultan tekke see F. de Jong, The iconography of Bektashiism, op. cit., p. 18, note 98.





is laudatory towards Sari Saltik (Sari Saltek Baba) and other saintly personages of the Baktāshiyya. According to Baba Rexhebi, he was a Geg (an Albanian from the north) and a painstaking and energetic dervish. He was inspired by the guidance of Qemaluddin Shemimi and by the Babas of Krujë. He was also inspired by such scholars as Baba usayni (Hysejni), who was of the Melçani tekke, and who was likewise buried there. He inspired Baba Tahir Prishte who founded the tekke in Prishtinë.


The Albanian mystical verses of Baba Abdullah Meçani were highly prized. He extols Sari Saltik alongside Amad Muhtar (Mukhtār) who is none other than the Prophet Muammad, ‘Alī DhuTFaqar who is called Zylfikar, Hunqar Haxhi Bektashi, and all the sacred scriptures of the monotheistic faiths without any distinction. He and his order, above all, typify the syncretic character of ūfīsm in much of the Balkan peninsula. However, this development evolved over a period of time and owed much to its Albanian environment.


Muhammad Mūfākū has remarked:


The Baktāshiyya remained in its primitive and original state for a while in Albania. It had not evolved beyond the war-cry that called for Shī‘īte vengeance for [the blood] of ‘Alī b. Abī ālib and his offspring. To compensate for this, its teachings lacked any special bias against Christians or against beliefs of others. This led to the Baktāshī tekkes being open to everyone. Furthermore, the Baktāshiyya took upon itself to explain, interpret and comment on the statutory rites and canonical duties in accordance with their peculiar way and order. It excused and allowed its members from performing the canonic observances — prayer, fasting, and the like — just as it allowed them to drink wine, lawfully, and so too make use of other things that were prohibited. To balance this, the Baktāshiyya promoted its own rituals and observances. Its individual establishment for the members was the tekke, which was devoid of any niche for prayer towards Mecca [qibla]. The gatherings for the dhikr and the recitation of it in seances belonged to varied ranks and orders. These took the place of statutory prayers, and the form of a circle was adopted so that each man faced another. In this way the Baktāshīs protested against the facing of any specific direction in order to pray, ‘since there is nothing better for you than to face, or turn your person towards, another human being’. It would appear that these matters were encouraged and enjoined [on members], together with a Baktāshī emphasis on the unity of all that exists (wadat al-wujūd), [members] who were a section of the Muslims who entered and among whom were traces and elements of Christian belief. So in the Baktāshiyya they found an unusual solution [to their dilemma], enabling them to combine their





former Christianity with their outward and open confession of the Muslim faith. [114]



Dervishes were once highly colourful characters in the Balkans and were occasionally described by Western travellers in Albania, Epirus and Thessaly in the early nineteenth century. Not infrequently, the person portrayed was unfriendly and suspicious, unusually fanatical and at times stupid and unlettered. We do not dispute the sincerity of these travellers, or the fact that many drop-outs and beggars somehow found their way into the multifarious orders that competed within the Balkan peninsula. However, there were also highly cultured, poetic and dedicated men and women among them. One of the most warming descriptions of a dervish in Greece at that time is that in Henry Holland’s Travels in the Ionian Islands, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, etc. during the years 1812 and 1813 (London, 1815, pp. 283-4):


Our party, in leaving Larissa, was further increased by a Dervish travelling to Salonica, and by another Turk who was taking the same route. The Dervish belonged, as I believe, to the class of these religieux called the Bektashis: his dress was that most common among the Dervishes, a long cloke made of coarse white woollen, and on his head a tall white cap, in form nearly resembling that worn by the Tartars. His beard was of remarkable length: though sanctified by his character, he wore pistols in his girdle, while over his shoulders was suspended a long leathern case containing a mandolin, which we afterwards found to be a most important part of his travelling equipage. Though his exterior had something of uncouth wildness, his manner was gay, good- humoured, and civil; he seemed to court an intercourse with us, and sought to beguile the way by the chaunting of Turkish songs, a species of music which more engaged the ear by the loudness than by harmony.



114. These and other often very critical views (understandable in view of his Arab readership) are to be found in the author’s article ‘al-Baktāshiyya’, in al-‘Arabī (Kuwayt), no. 220, March 1977, pp. 64-8 (esp. p. 66).


[Previous] [Next]

[Back to Index]