Cappadocia Travel Blog

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I don't know if it's ok to do this.. The following article is a compilation from articles appeared on the related pages of Ministry of Culture  and Turkish Culture Portal. But I wanted to share.. If you ever go to Cappadocia region, you should definitely visit Hacibektas, the small village named after Haci Bektashi Veli, and see the most important sufi center in the world.

Haji Bektashi Veli, one of Turkish philosophers who shaped the Turkish understanding of the world was a contemporary of the famous Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi. He united the Christian residents of Anatolia and Turcoman migrants with their educational and developmental activities and played an important role in the formation of cultural unity and central authority in Anatolia.

Some holy men migrated to Anatolia, settled on mountains and empty crossroads and opened dervish lodges there. These institutions settled on empty land gradually became centers for culture, development and religious thought. In this manner, religious congregations spread everywhere, rules of morals, good breeding, attitudes and beliefs reached a high standard, knowledge and science were both produced and spread in these centers. The administration encouraged such holy men to settle in villages, and their educational activities gave them some privileges.
As a result, even in the most desolate places in Anatolia, dervish lodges emerged, and with the effect of the education they provided, a common cultural structure began to form.

Haji Bektashi Veli was one of those figures who came to Anatolia from Khorasan with this purpose in mind. He was born in Nishabur, Khorasan in 1248, spent his childhood in Khorasan, and was trained in philosophy and social and positive sciences at Hodja Ahmed Yesevi’s school. After traveling to Iran, Iraq and Arabia, Haji Bektash settled in Sulucukarahoyuk in 1275/80.

At that time, Anatolia was under Mongol occupation, there was a severe social and economic crisis and fighting for political power. In that difficult climate, Haji Bektashi Veli settled in Sulucakarahoyuk, developed his philosophy and began to teach his students. His tolerance and human love based philosophy reached many people, and were taken up by them in the important center of Christianity of Cappadocia.

Any road that doesn’t follow science, ends in darkness,
Give education to women,
Control on your tongue, hands and waist,
The greatest book to read is man himself,
Honesty is the door of a friend,
Being a teacher is to give, not to take,
Science illuminates the paths of truth,
We travel in the way of science, comprehension and human love,
Clean where you’ve settled and deserve the money you’ve made,
Let’s be one, be big and energetic,
Don’t hurt anyone, even though you’ve been hurt,
Don’t ask anyone for anything that would be difficult for you to do,
Don’t blame any nation or individual,
Blessed are those who illuminate the darkness of thought,
Don’t forget that even your enemy is human,
The biggest God-given miracle is work

His thoughts are based on human love and human existence.
Haci Bektas-i Veli
This vision is similar to the 1948 Charter on Human Rights. His thoughts were also shared by M. Kemal Atatürk 600 years later, and the Turkish Republic was built on the principles of secularism, democracy and respect for human rights. His thoughts are still alive and still lighten the way for many people.

Heat is in the fire, not the pan
The miracle is not in the crown but in the khirkah*
Whatever you are seeking, look within yourself
It’s neither in Jerusalem, Mecca nor in Pilgrimage.

*woolen garment worn by a dervish

“There is no need to discriminate between religions. Religions cause disputes among people. In fact, all religions aim to provide peace and brotherhood on earth” says Bektashi Veli in his opus “Velayetname”. Bektashism, which originates from Haji Bektashi Veli’s ideas, aims to comprehend the unity of “Universe, God and Man” based on human love.

Man is ornamented with divine characteristics. The first step to success is to know yourself and love yourself because man harbors divine qualities within himself, and the man who loves himself also loves God. This quatrain explains Bektashism’s understanding of love in the clearest way:

Students hew stone,
They hew and present it to their master,
In every inch of the stone,
They call God to mind.

Man is independent. His duty is to behave modestly and to feed, refine, mature and fill his spirit with love of God. Bodies are only tools for the main purpose. So discriminating between men and women or classifying people according to their social status or race is a huge mistake. Man or woman, all of mankind is equal. Haji Bektashi Veli’s views are still alive today and celebrated with excitement every year on the 15-17th August in the Haji Bektash region of the province of Nevsehir.

Another institution that contributes to Anatolian culture unity is ahilik. (rules, manners, attitudes of people sharing same profession) Ahi, who came to Anatolia with the Yesevi dervishes, preferred cities to rural areas because they had professions. Ahilik (being an Ahi), is not only a professional organization but also a sacred institution with its own rules, traditions, conformities and secrets. Ahi Evran Veli was a holy man from Khorasan, like Haji Bektashi Veli, who united Anatolian Ahis and made them an organized force. Ahi Evran’s wife, Sister Fatima (known as Woman Mother) set up the first woman’s organization in the world, “Baciyan-i Rum”. Ahis gathered in Ankara and Kirsehir under the sheik of Evran in the 13th century and spread to all Seljuk cities. Ahis played an important role in the formation of the Ottoman state, and to some researchers they even counted Osman Gazi, who founded the Ottoman state, his son Orhan Gazi and Sultan Murad I among their numbers.

Equality between members is the first Ahi rule. All members are brothers. On the other hand, the institution has many internal rules, and beginners have great respect for their elders. To become a member, one must be invited by an Ahi and people with bad reputations or who have dubious jobs can never be accepted. For example, murderers, people who kill animals (butchers) or people who have committed adultery are not allowed to be members. As with Bektashism, becoming a member is celebrated with a special ritual. In this ritual, the Ahi candidate wears a special belt (Sed) and members instruct him to treat everyone equally and honestly. Absolute affiliation and eternal obedience is expected from all members. Atheists and religious fanatics are not allowed to join. As with Bektashism, the Ahi goes through many stages in which he learns patience, purification of the soul, loyalty, friendship and tolerance.

In addition to these qualifications mentioned above, there are six important principles:

Open your hand,*
Share your food,
Open the door of your house when somebody needs shelter,
Close your eyes**
Control your waist,***
Control your tongue.

* Be generous to everyone
**Don’t be led astray by the artificial beauties of the world
***Don’t be a victim of your sexual impulses

There are many degrees in Ahism. In these, the student learns professional skills, Sufism and religion, reading and writing, Turkish, Arabic, Persian, music, mathematics and the Constitution of Ahi “Futuvvetname”

The nine degrees of the Ahi are:

1. Young fellow
2. Assistant
3. Apprentice
4. Experienced Apprentice
5. Master
6. Ahi
7. Caliph
8. Sheik
9. Grand Sheik

Hacibektas town and the commemoration ceremonies

Hacibektas is a typical central Anatolian town at about 46 km (30 mi) north of Nevsehir, near Cappadocia. The town looks very ordinary but it's named after the Sufi philosopher Haci Bektas Veli who lived here in the 14th century. He is one of the most important figures of Alevi (Alawi) order, a sect of Islam. Thus, the town is the sacred center of the Alevis in Anatolia. In mid-August every year, there are commemoration ceremonies in Hacibektas town where tens of thousands of followers gather to show their respect for the founder of the Bektashi Order of Dervishes.

The most important event in Hacibektas is the commemoration ceremonies between 16th and 18th of August. During these three days of ceremonies, people come from all over, especially from Turkey of course and from the Balkans. Sema dancers perform their ceremonial dances in their colorful traditional costumes. There are also theater and music performances which creates a festival atmosphere in this small town.
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Haci Bektas-i Veli
Haci Bektas-i Veli
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photo by: EmyG