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Hacı Bektaş Veli

By:
Rabia Harmanşah, Aykan Erdemir
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Hacı Bektaş Veli

Hacı Bektaş Veli (c. AH606–669/1209–1271 CE)was an Anatolian mystic and the eponym of the Bektāshīyah order. He is believed to be a sayyid descended from the seventh imam Mūsā al-Kāẓim (d. 183/799). Hacı Bektaş Veli's biographies are shaped by anachronistic legendary accounts and hagiographic narratives. He is presented in the tradition as a mythological figure and is venerated by his followers, especially in Anatolia and the Balkans, as a saint who performed supernatural deeds. This is also reflected in the different titles attributed to him, such as pīr (master), hünkâr (sovereign), serçeşme (fountainhead), and ḳuṭbü-i evliya (pole of the saints).

Several manuscripts are attributed to him, the most famous of which is Maḳālāt (Discourses). Of works about Hacı Bektaş Veli, the hagiography known as Vilayetnāme-i Ḥācī Bektāsh-ī Walī (Hagiography of Hacı Bektaş Veli) is most popular among Ṣūfī circles. It is said that Uzun Firdewsī wrote it, in Turkish, after the death of Hacı Bektaş Veli. The most detailed information about him comes from ʿĀshıḳ Pasha-zāde's history. He is also mentioned by other authors, namely Aḥmed Eflāḳī, Elwān Çelebi, Lāmiʿī, and Tāṣköprülüzāde.

The exact nature of Hacı Bektaş Veli's identity and past is a highly politicized and disputed matter. Many scholars and followers nevertheless agree that he was a Türkmen leader and a khalīfah (viceregent) of Aḥmad Yasawī, the founder of the Yasawīyah order. Hacı Bektaş Veli came from Khurasan and lived in the village Suluca Karahöyük near Kırşehir in central Anatolia around the time of the Bābāʿī revolt in 1239.

Although Hacı Bektaş Veli neither intended to establish a dervish order nor could foresee the great impact of his teachings, he is regarded as the founder and spiritual master of the Bektāshīyah order, which was established following his death and became widespread as one of the most popular Ṣūfī orders in Anatolia and the Balkans. The order was institutionalized and gained its present characteristics through the efforts of a later figure, Balım Sultan, its second pīr. It was divided into two branches after the early sixteenth century. The Çelebis argue that they are the biological descendants of Hacı Bektaş Veli, while the Babagân, who believe in the celibacy of Hacı Bektaş Veli, attach importance to following his spiritual path.

The shrine of Hacı Bektaş Veli, which is also the main dervish lodge of the Bektāshīyah order and the holiest site for Alevis, is located in the town of Hacıbektaş in the province of Nevşehir. The shrine complex was closed to the public in 1925, after the banning of dervish lodges in Turkey, and was reopened in August 1964 as a museum under the jurisdiction of the Turkish Ministry of Culture. A festival, which is now international, is held in August in the town of Hacıbektaş to mark the reopening of the saint's shrine. The shrine and the festival are attended annually by large crowds of Alevis and Bektāshīs, as well as Sunnīs and non-Muslims. Currently there are numerous Turkish associations and foundations that bear the name of Hacı Bektaş Veli, testifying to his central role in the contemporary political and religious culture of Turkey.

See also ALEVIS, subentry on TURKEY; BEKTāSHīYAH; SUFISM; and TURKEY.

Bibliography

  • Birge, John Kingsley. The Bektashi Order of Dervishes. London, 1937.
  • Mélikoff, Irène. Hadji Bektach: Un mythe et ses avatars: Genèse et évolution du soufisme populaire en Turquie. Leiden, Netherlands, and Boston, 1998.
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