The Bektashi Order of Dervishes

Before the world came into being in the hidden secret of nonexistence,
I was alone with Reality in his oneness.
He created the world; because then
I formed the picture of Him, I was the designer.

I became folded in garments made of the elements;
I made my appearance out of fire, air, earth and water.
I came into the world with the best of men [Adam];
I was of the same age even as Adam.

The blessed rod I gave to Moses.
I became the Holy Spirit and came to Mary.
I was guide to all the saints;
To Gabriel the Faithful I was the right hand companion.

To this world of ``being annihilated in God'' I have often come and gone.
I have rained with the rain and I have grown as grass.
I have guided aright the country of Rum;
I was Bektash, who came from Khurasan.

O honourable Patron Saint, Seyit Sultan, Haji Bektash Veli, may God the Most High bless his mystery.
He rode lions, talked with birds and deer, walked on the sea, flew to the heavens on a lion skin, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, and cured the sick.

For him who has perception, a mere sign is enough.
For him who does not really heed, a thousand explanations are not enough.

Haji Bektash Veli

The history of the Bektashi Order rightfully begins with the life of its traditional founder, Haji Bektash Veli. The constantly recurring migrations from Central Asia brought not only nomadic Turkish tribes but spiritual leaders in the form of wandering holy men who had learned something of the mystic life from such a leader as Ahmet Yesevi. These leaders were able to gain reputation for miraculous powers among the credulous people both Moslem and Christian. Haji Bektash Veli was such a leader. He appears to have grown to be the most famous of them all. Haji Bektash was a travelling dervish, held by hagiographic sources to have been a Turk from Khorassan (Iran and Afghanistan). Tradition has it that he flew from his native land, on the command of his spiritual master, metamorphosised as a dove, to Rum (the name then given by Turks to Anatolia) and to a site which corresponds to present-day Hajibektash, a village near Kirsehir, in Cappadocia an area which, in Byzantine era, was a centre of Paulinians, heterodox Christians who gave rise to the Bogomils and later the Cathars. That the heteredox Alevi-Bektashi movement also developed here a few centuries later is perhaps not altogether by accident.

As an aid to the memory and in accordance with a well nigh universal custom in the Moslem east the life of Haji Bektash Veli is summarized among Bektashis in four sentences, certain words of each sentence containing letters whose numerical value accounts for one fact or another in the chronology of the Saint's life. These four sentences are as follows:

1. Hazreti Pirin veladeti müruvvet, ``The birth of the Patron Saint, generosity of soul.'' The word müruvvet with its four Arabic letters: mim 40, re 200, ve 6, and te 400. The sum of these numbers results in 646, which is accepted as the traditional date for his birth, 646 A.H. (1248 A.D.)

2. Horasandan Ruma tesrif eder, reft. He came from Horasan to Rum, the outgoing. Reft has value as follows: re 200, fe 80, and te 400; gives 680. 680 A.H. (1281) is therefore taken as the date of his coming to Anatolia at the age of thirty-four.

3. Müddeti ömrü Muhammad dir cemali. ``The length of his life is the beauty of Muhammad.'' This time not the final word but the word Muhammad gives the number of yers of his life: mim 40, ha 8, mim 40, and dal 4; which gives 92. This number is therefore accepted as the number of years he lived.

4. The date of his death 738 A.H. (A.D. 1337) is represented by the fourth sentence: Bektasiye tarih asvabi rihlet. ``The Bektashi date of death, very true.'' In this sentence both word Bektasiye and the words asvabi rihlet equal 738; be 2, kef 20, te 400, elif 1, sin 300, be 10, and he 5 gives 738 and; elif 1, sad 90, vav 6, elif 1, be 2, re 200, ha 8, lam 30, te 300 gives 738.

In the girdle, of the Bektashi Order of Dervishes is a stone called the `palank'; it has seven corners, or points, called `tarks', in token of the seven heavens and seven earths which God created, also the seven seas and the seven planets; for God has said, ``We have created the seven heavens in seven folds, and seven earths in the same form, all out of light''. He then commanded all of these to worship Him, which they do, continually revolving round His holy throne. The `palank' is very useful, and the Bektashi `Baba' (Sheikh) puts it on and off, each seven times, saying,-

"I tie up greediness, and unbind generosity."
"I tie up anger, and unbind meekness."
"I tie up avarice, and unbind piety."
"I tie up ignorance, and unbind the fear of God."
"I tie up passion, and unbind the love of God."
"I tie up hunger, and unbind (spiritual) contentment."
"I tie up Satanism, and unbind Divineness."


Down through history Bektashi Babas accompanied the Janissary troops, acting in the capacity of chaplains. An official representative, vekil, of Haji Bektash lived in the barracks of the ninety-fourth Orta. The head of the Bektashi Order, on being appointed to his place, is said to have come by custom to Istanbul where after a formal procession, his tac was placed on his head by the Aga or Commander-in-Chief of the Janissaries. Aga of the Janissaries used to rise up in the Divan at the mention of Haji Bektashi's name. The Janissaries were sometimes called Sons of Haji Bektash, Haci Bektas Ogullari. Selim III, in appealing to the Janissaries to be loyal and brave, in the second year of his reign, 1789, addressed them as the Lads or Servants of Haji Bektash, Haci Bektas Köçekleri. In becoming enrolled as members of the Janissary corps a vow of faithfulness to the Way of Haji Bektash was extracted from each soldier. The recognition, however, of Bektash's authority as Patron Saint and the formal acceptance of various doctrines does not seem to have accomplished much in the way of spiritualizing the Janissary way of life.

Janissaries Discharge Certificate

I have Trusted in God. Company (Bülük) 45.

We are believers from of old. We have confessed the unity of Reality. We have offered our head on this Way. We have a prophet, Ahmedi Muhtar Cenap. Since the time of the Heroes (Erler=Mystic Saints) we have been the intoxicated ones. We are the moths in the divine fire. We are a company of wandering dervishes (serseri divaneler) in this world. We cannot be counted on the fingers; we cannot be finished by defeat. No one outside of us knows our state. The Twelve Imams, the Twelve Ways, we have affirmed them all, the Three, the Seven, the Forty, the Light of the Prophet, the Beneficence (Kerem) of Ali, our Pir, the head sultan, Haji Bektash Veli. In one thousand two hundred and thirty-eight, in conformity with the benevolent arrangement established by the Law-Giver, the Conqueror, Sultan Suleyman Han whose place is in Paradise and whose abode is Heaven, and by permission of the Aga of the Soup-Makers (Çorbaci) and with the knowledge of all the elders this Discharge Certifi cate (Suffa) has been given to Mahmut who sought and desired it, and whose name is written in the Record-book of the Way. When required let it be shown.

(Seal) (Seal)
I have trusted in God Mehmet
Commander (Usta) Chief of the Barrack
Hüseyin. (Oda Basi)

Janissaries prayer

Allah Allah illallah. We are blameless. We have our hearts afire. Our devoting to the Sultan is revealed. the Three, the Seven, the Forty, the Light of the Prophet (gul-bang-i) Muhammed, the Beneficence (Kerem) of Ali, our Pir (Patron Saint) the head sultan Haji Bektash Veli, let's say Hu for all of them, Huuuu.

In 1808 a determined monarch, Mahmut II, came to the throne. Trained under his older cousin, Selim III, he realized both the need for reform and the danger of the Janissary Corps. A new body of regular soldiers he named Eskinci, reviving an old name once given to the Janissaries Corps when on active service. Janissary Corps had been wiped out on the fifteenth of June, 1826. That the destruction of these military Sons of Haji Bektash should have a great effect on the tekkes of the Bektashi Order was inevitable. the Sultan ordered his representatives all over the country to search the Bektashi tekkes, and suppress the order. In Istanbul (Constantinople) the Bektashi tekkes in the following places were razed to the ground: Sehitlik tekke at Rumeli Hisar, Öküz Limani, Kara Agaç, Yedi Kule, Bademli tekke in Sütlüce, Karyagdi tekke in Eyüp, Mürüvet Baba tekke in Üsküdar, Shahkulu Dergâh at Merdebanli Köy (Merdiven Köy), and Tahir Baba tekke in Çamlica. All the books found in the tekkes were confiscated and the dervishes were placed under arrest. For a time the Bektashi properties were turned over to Naksibendi dervishes. Bektashis reported that Mahmut II vowed to execute seventy-thousand Bektashis, and that when he could not find that many to behead he ordered headpieces to be cut off Bektashi tombstones until the count should be complete!

By the middle of the nineteenth century Bektashiism was not only widespread, but finding influence in high places as well; Besmi Sultan, a legal wife of Sultan Abdil Mecit (1839-1861), attributed her elevation to that high and unusual position to the fact that she had once stood on a ``wishing stone'' in the grounds of the famous Bektashi Tekke (Shahkulu Dergâh) at Merdivenköy near Istanbul. This stone standing near the grave of Azbi Çavus, a famous saint in Bektashi lore, possessed the power, dervishes asserted, to grant the wish of anyone standing on it. Whether through the influence of this Besmin Sultan or of someone else, it is certain that by the year 1869 Bektashis felt assured that in the government there existed influences that were being exerted powerfully in their defence.

In the plain of Harran we whirled in the ancient semah, thousands of us, and the gazelles of the plain whirled with us. Like proud falcons we were, and held great feasts and holy gatherings. From the shores of one great ocean to the shores of another we surged... A thousand soul whirling in the semah, with a thousand gazelles, three days and three nights, forty days, forty nights...

The Legend of the Thousand Bulls, Yasar Kemal.

Bektashi Tekkes in Istanbul (Constantinople)
European side:

Asiatic side:
Bektashi Tekkes in U.S.

The Principles of the Order of the Bektashis

Six ahkâm, or `Commands':
1. Liberality4. Holy Law
2. Knowledge5. Submission
3. Truth6. Contemplation

Six arkân, or `Columns':
1. Science4. Thankfulness
2. Meekness5. Calling on God
3. Contentment6. Retirement

Six binâ, or `Constructions':
1. Repentance4. Increase of Spirituality
2. Submission5. Contentment
3. Fidelity6. Seclusion

Six hukum, or `Wisdoms':
1. Knowledge4. Fidelity
2. Liberality5. Reflection
3. Approach to Divine Science6. Faith in God

Six asbât, or `Evidences of the Order':
1. Benevolence4. Abandonment of Passions
2. God's Praise5. Fear of God
3. Abandonment of Sin6. Cheerfulness of Spirit

Bektashi Art, Architecture, Graveyard, and Clothes

The graphics and photographs in these web pages are copyrighted work by Gökhan Perçin.

Alevi-Bektashi Poetry

*Kaygusuz Abdal
*Hasan Dede
*Mehmed Ali Hilmi Dedebaba
*Edip Harabi
*Hatayi (Shah Ismail)
*Yunus Emre (includes sound-bytes by Ruhi Su and Zülfü Livaneli)
*Pir Sultan Abdal English, Deutsch.
*Asik Veysel
*Asik Ali Izzet Özkan

Alevi-Bektashi Music

* Prayer (Besmele) by Ruhi Su, 0.66MB AU, 0.66MB WAV
* Daima Fikrimde Zikrin Ya Muhammet Ya Ali (semah by Hatayi) by Ruhi Su, 1.8MB AU, 1.8MB WAV
* Hazreti Sahin Avazi (semah anonym) by Ruhi Su, 3.6MB AU, 3.6MB WAV
* Turna Semahi (semah anonym) by Zülfü Livaneli, 5.9MB AU, 5.9MB WAV
* Askin Aldi Benden Beni ... (ilahi by Yunus Emre) by Ruhi Su, 1.31MB AU, 1.31MB WAV Song words in Turkish.
* Evvel Benem Âhir Benem ... (ilahi by Yunus Emre) by Ruhi Su, 1.65MB AU, 1.65MB WAV Song words in Turkish.
* Geldi Geçti Ömrüm Benim ... (ilahi by Yunus Emre) by Zülfü Livaneli, 1.33MB AU, 1.33MB WAV
* Dostlar Beni Hatirlasin by Asik Veysel, 8MB AU, 8MB WAV
* Uzun Ince Bir Yoldayim by Asik Veysel, 3.2MB AU, 3.2MB WAV
* Kara Toprak by Asik Veysel, 12.5MB AU, 12.5MB WAV

Available Music Titles:

Available Books:

Responsibility of The Teacher

Haji Bektash appointed Nurudin Chaqmaq as his Khalifa ('deputy') in the farthest north.

At that time Sheikh Chaqmaq already had many disciples, for he was a dervish who had attracted, through his dedication and readings of the ancient masters, several circles of pupils. Moreover, he had been in intimate contact with more than one of the teachers.
The Haji gave him teachings which on the surface were strongly at variance with the traditional customs and thoughts to which his disciples were accustomed.
Chaqmaq tried to evade his responsibility by handling over his flock to the Haji. But Haji Bektash refused, and told Chaqmaq: `Only by acting as a channel from me to your people will you yourself become transformed.'
Chaqmaq feared that this new teaching would undermine his authority. `If you teach only through authority, you are not teaching at all,' said Haji Bektash. Certain of Chaqmaq's disciples came to complain to Haji Bektash that their master was behaving in an eccentric manner. `We are no longer able to have the comfort of the customary observances,' they said. `This is exactly what I want to happen,' said the Haji.
Other disciples feared that the Haji had influenced Chaqmaq and that he would influence them similarly. This was reported to the Haji. He said: `They see something good happening to Chaqmaq but they think it is bad. This is a fever which has to burn itself out.'
Four years passed before, entirely through the Haji's example, Chaqmaq's disciples realized that Bektash had other things to do than `capture lame horses'. Bektash said: `It was your own self-esteem about yourselves which made you imagine that you were something which anyone would bother himself to enslave.'

Knowing not,
And knowing naught of his not knowing,
He scatters.
Hasten from him.

Knowing not,
Yet knowing of his not knowing,
He seeks.
Teach him.

Yet knowing naught of his knowing,
He sleeps.
Wake him.

And knowing of his knowing,
He centers.
Draw near him.

Please visit Sahkulu Bektashi Tekke in Istanbul homepage for more information about Alevi-Bektashi people in Turkey.
Please also visit First Albanian American Bektashi Monastery homepage for information about Albanian Bektashis in U.S, and
Hubyar Sultan Ocagi homepage for information about Hubyar Sultan Branch of Alevism.
Abdullah Muzaffer [Laurence Galian], author of a new book about Sufis who follow The Ehl-i Beyt (family of Prophet Hz. Muhammed) tradition needs sponsor to have it printed. Please visit the book's website.
Please also visit Sufi Cookbook for delicious Sufi gourmet cooking.


1. John Kingsley Birge, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes, Luzac's Oriental Religions Series, Luzac & Co., London, 1937 (first published 1937, revised, facsimile 1994).
2. John P. Brown, The Darvishes or Oriental Spiritualism, (edited with an introduction and notes by H. A. Rose), Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., London, 1968 (first edition 1868, second edition 1927, new impression 1968).
3. Edward G. Browne, ``Some notes on the literature and doctrines of the Hurufi Sect.'', in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1898, pp. 61-94, London, 1898.
4. Edward G. Browne, ``Further notes on the literature of the Hurufis and their connection with the Bektashi order of dervishes'', in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1907, pp. 533-581, London, 1907.
5. Frederick William Hasluck, Christianity and Islam Under The Sultans, (edited by Margeret M. Hasluck), vols. 1 & 2, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1929.
6. Philip Khuri Hitti, The Near East in History A 5000 Year Story, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., New Jersey, pp. 353-356, 1961.
7. Georg Jacob, , ``Die Bektaschijje in ihrem Verhältnis zu verwandten Erscheinungen'' (German), in Abhandlungen Der Philosophisch-Philologischen Klasse Der Königlich Bayerischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften, XXIV Bandes, München, 1909.
8. Idries Shah, The Sufis, (introduction by Robert Graves), Doubleway & Company, Inc., New York, 1964.
9. Idries Shah, The Way of The Sufi, E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York, 1969.
10. J. Spencer Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971.
11. Frances Trix, Spiritual Discourse: Learning with an Islamic Master, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1993.
12. Eustratios Ch. Zenkines, ``Ho Bektasismos ste D. Thrake : symvole sten istoria tes diadoseos tou Mousoulmanismou ston Helladiko choro'' (Greek), Hidryma Meleton Chersonesou tou Haimou (Series), vol. 220, Thessalonike : [Institute for Balkan Studies], 1988.


Revised August 19, 2001.
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