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Journal of Islamic Studies Advance Access published July 14, 2012

Journal of Islamic Studies (2012) pp. 1 of 24




Sufi hagiographies (menakibname) produced in late medieval Anatolia
sometimes reveal characteristics in their subjectsmoral weaknesses,
worldly ambition and rivalry with fellow Sufisthat are at odds with the
idealized Sufi type. These characteristics are sometimes expressed
indirectly through symbols, sometimes directly in words, attitudes and
actions including fighting. How the representatives of a movement that
set out as a world-renouncing way of life oriented to individual salvation
became engrossed in worldly aspirations and ambitions is closely
connected to the fact that, over the course of time, Sufi shaykhs took
on significant social roles and commitments, not just to individual
salvation, but also to the salvation of society as a whole, with new
interpretations or models of ascetic renunciation to fit the orientation to
public service and a public role.1

For the evolution of the new model of renunciation as a movement based

on rejection of society while living within the society, see Ahmet T. Karamustafa,
Gods Unruly Friends: Dervish Groups in The Islamic Later Middle Period
(12001550) (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Pres, 1994), 13, 2532. On Sufis
taking on social responsibilities, see H. Landolt, art. Khalwa, EI2, iv. 9901.
The Sufis communalist tendencies are well illustrated by Abu Ishak-| Kazarun:
he accepts as an important task for himself to improve the morals of the people
and invite them to the true religion, and he does not consider being among the
people an obstacle to the ideal of a permanent state of being with God. See
Wevk|-i Kadm, Menak|b-i Wayh Abu Ishak-| Kazarun Tercumesi (Suleymaniye,
Esad Efendi Kutuphanesi Kay|t no: 2429, microfilm ArZ no: 1178, 1955, fos.
38ab). A similar approach is evident also in the Naqshbandi doctrine
 The Author (2012). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic
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formulated as solitude in society (khalwat dar anjuman): see Jo-Ann Gross in

Leonard Lewisohn (ed.), Authority and Miraculous Behavior: Reflections on
Kar:m:t Stories of Khw:ja Ubaydull:h AAr:r in The Legacy of Medieval
Persian Sufism (London: Khaniqahi Nimatullahi Publications, 1992), 163.
A. YaZar Ocak, Babaler Isyan|: Alevligin Tarihsel Altyap|s| Yahut
Anadoluda Islam-Turk Heterodoksisinin TeZekkulu, (Istanbul: Dergah
Yay|nlar|, 2nd edn.,1996), 626.
The serious scholarship began with the pioneering work of M. Fuad
Koprulu: see his Early Mystics in Turkish Literature (transl. and ed. Gary Leiser
and Robert Dankoff; London: Routledge, 2006) = Turk Edebiyat|nda Ilk
Mutasavv|flar (Ankara Diyanet IZleri BaZkanl|g| Yay|nlar|, 8th edn., 1993); Islam
in Anatolia after the Turkish Invasion (transl. and ed. Gary Leiser; Salt Lake
City: University of Utah Press, 1993) = Anadoluda Islamiyet Darulfunun
Edebiyat Fakultesi Mecmuas|, 2 (1922). Koprulus disciple, A. Golp|narl|
continued this work in, for example, Melamlik ve Melamler (Istanbul: Gri
Yay|nlar|, [1931] 1992); Yunus Emre ve Tasavvuf (Istanbul: Ink|lap Kitabevi,
2nd edn., 1992); Turkiyede Mezhepler ve Tarikatler (Istanbul: Ink|lap Yay|nlar|,
1997); etc. Nearer to the present, the scholarly works of A. YaZar Ocak and
Ahmet T. Karamustafa are especially important. See, e.g., A. YaZar Ocak,
Osmanl| Imparatorlugunda Marjinal Suflik: Kalenderler (XIVXVII.

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From the eleventh century onwards, the Turkicization and Islamization of Anatolia went hand in hand with dervish migrations into the
region.2 The conditions there must have been propitious for the spread of
Sufi ideals and dervish settlements. Indeed, the elite of the Sufis who lived
in the capital also took a hand in administrative affairs, while others
played an important role in the colonization of the newly conquered
areas and in the process of social and economic life, as well as in the
religious life of society. Their influence was closely related to how they
were perceived by the people as well as to their social functions. The
intense spirituality and the special powers attributed to the shaykhs
were the principal reasons for their spiritual authority with the people.
That authority is evident in their relations with various sectors of society,
including the ruling elites, and is the reason why at least a significant
proportion of the shaykhs engaged in a kind of power struggle among
themselvesthey did so in order to convert spiritual influence into
temporal influence, in other words, to secure symbolic and material
benefits for themselves or for their sects.
This study focuses primarily on the extent of the influence that the
shaykhs enjoyed in the thirteenthfifteenth centuries, its causes and
effects, in particular the competitive rivalries that emerged among them
in Anatolia and Central Asia more generally.
The identity and origins of early Anatolian Sufism have been the
subject of intensive and serious scholarship.3 Apart from these, the social


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and cultural aspects of these Sufi groups, their relations with the ruling
elites, and their living conditions, centred on dervish lodges, have also
been extensively researched.4 So too have major political events, notably

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Yuzy|llar) (Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu Yay|nlar|, 1992 [2nd revised and
enlarged edn., 1999]); Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Gods Unruly Friends; id., Early
Sufism in Eastern Anatolia in Leonard Lewisohn (ed.), Classical Persian Sufism
From Its Origins to Rum (London: Khaniqahi Nimatullahi Publications, 1993);
id., Yesevlik, Melametlik, Kalenderlik, Vefalik ve Anadolu Tasavvufunun
Kokenleri Sorunu in Ahmet Y. Ocak (ed.), Osmanl| Toplumunda Tasavvuf ve
Sufiler: kaynaklar- doktrin-ayin ve erkan-tarikatlar-edebiyat-mimari-guzel
sanatlar-modernizm (Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu, 2005), 6688. Although not
directly related to Anatolian Sufism, the work of Devin DeWeese on the Central
Asian Yasavi tradition has a bearing on Anatolian Sufism, especially the question
of its origin and ties with the Yasavi tradition. See, in particular his Foreword to
Early Mystics in Turkish Literature, viiixxvii; A Neglected Source on Central
Asian History: The 17th-century Yasav; Hagiography Man:qib al-akhy:r in B.
A. Nazarov and D. Sinor (eds.), Essays on Uzbek History, Culture, and Language
(Bloomington, IN: Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, 1993; Uralic and
Altaic Series, 156), 3850; The Mash:8ikh-i Turk and the Khojag:n: Rethinking
the Links Between the Yasav; and Naqshband Sufi Traditions, Journal of
Islamic Studies, 7/2 (1996): 180207; The Yasav; Order and Persian
Hagiography in Seventeenth-Century Central Asia: 62lim Shaykh of 6Al;y:b:d
and his Lamah:t min nafaA:t al-quds in Leonard Lewisohn and David Morgan
(eds.), The Heritage of Sufism, III: Late Classical Persionate Sufism (15011750)
(1999), 389414.
This research has focused mostly on the Ottoman period, but the Sufis role
in the colonization and Islamization of Anatolia and Rumelia, and some of their
social activities and cultural services, are usually mentioned. As the most typical
mer Lutfu Barkan, Osmanl| Imparatorlugunda Bir Iskan ve
examples, see: O
Kolonizasyon Metodu Olarak Vak|flar ve Temlikler I: Istila Devirlerinin
Kolonizator Turk DerviZ leri ve Zaviyeler, Vak|flar Dergisi, 2 (1942): 279
304; Ahmet Y. Ocak, Zaviyeler, Vak|flar Dergisi 12 (1978): 24768; A. Y. Ocak
and S. Faruk, art. Zaviye, Islam Ansiklopedisi, xiii, MEB Yay|nlar|, 4716. On
the Sufis relations with Sultans and ruling elites, see Halil Inalc|k, Dervish and
Sultan: An Analysis of the Otman Baba Vil:yetn:mesi, The Middle East and the
Balkans Under the Ottoman Empire, Essays on Economy and Society
(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993); ReZat O
Osmanl|larda Tasavvuf, Anadoluda Sufler, Devlet ve Ulema (XVI. Yuzy|l),
(Istanbul: Iz Yay|nlar|, 2000). For the Seljuk and Ottoman period, see: A. Y.
Ocak, Sufi Milieux and Political Authority in Turkish History: A General
Interdisciplinary Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 15: Sufism and Politics:
The Power of Spirituality (ed. Paul L. Heck; Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener
Publishers, 2007), 16595; see also two as yet unpublished papers presented at
the workshop Court and Society in Seljuk Anatolia, 1617 October 2009,

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Sufi migrations, beginning after the battle of Manzikert (1071),
accelerated through the thirteenth century and led to an important Sufi
presence in Anatolia in a relatively short period. Thereafter, the Sufis
made their presence felt, as a distinct social group. However, they were
by no means a single, homogenous entity. Their diversity is closely
connected to their origins in different schools and dervish orders. During
our period, many Sufi sects or schools in the Islamic world began to be
represented in Anatolia, and furthermore, new local Sufi orders or
groups also appeared.6
Orient-Institute, Istanbul: A. C. S. Peacock, Sufis at the Seljuk Court: Politics
and Patronage; HaZim Wahin, Sufi Shayks and Sultans: Shaykh Majd al-Din
Ishaq (d. 1234)s Spiritual Edification of Ghiyas al-Din Khusraw I, Izz al-Din
Kaykaus I and Ala al-Din Kayqubad I. A related work is: Ethel Sara Wolper,
Cities and Saints: Sufism and the Transformation of Urban Space in Medieval
Anatolia (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003), 2437.
For the revolt of the Babais during the Seljuk period, see A. Y. Ocak,
Babaler Isyan|. For the movement of Shaykh Badreddin and his disciples, see
Michel Balivet, Islam Mystique et Revolution Armee dans les Balkans Ottomans:
Vie du Cheikh Bedreddn, le Hallaj des Turcs (1358/591416) (Istanbul: Isis,
1995) = Weyh Bedreddin: Tasavvuf ve Isyan (transl. Ela Guntekin; Istanbul: Tarih
Vakf| Yurt Yay|nlar|, 2000).
On the Sufi groups of this early period, see Franz Babinger, M. Fuad
Koprulu, Anadoluda Islamiyet (ed. Mehmet Kanar; Istanbul: Insan Yay|nlar|,
1996), 4155; A. Y. Ocak, Babailer Isyan|, 6276; id., Quelques remarques sur

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rebellions, in which the Sufis were involved.5 However, these studies

have not dwelt on social dimensions of the role of the Sufi shaykhs as
leaders of groups with a distinct identity and function in the life of
society. The origin question need not inhibit research on the social
dimensions of the shaykhs role. The available hagiographies and Sufi
biographies provide a substantial volume of material to enable us to
understand the life stories of the shaykhsat least from the perspective
of their followerstheir relations with society, popular perceptions
about them and the extent of their influence over the people. Of course,
information from the hagiographical material needs to be checked
against the other sources and literature available. That information is
critically important to our understanding of the shaykhs relationships
and rivalries, both vividly reflected in the hagiographies.


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le role des derviches Kalenderis dans les mouvements populaires dans lEmpire
Ottoman au XVe et XVIe sie`cles, Osmanl| AraZt|rmalar|, 3 (1982): 6980; id.,
Les milieux soufis dans les territories du Beylicat ottoman et le probleme des
6Abdalan-| Rum (13001389) in Elizabeth Zachariadou (ed.), The Ottoman
Emirate (13001389) (Rethymnon Institute for Mediterranean Studies: Crete
University Press), 14558; Karamustafa, Early Sufism in Eastern Anatolia, 175
zerine Din
97; Mehmet Rahmi Ayas, Turkiyede Ilk Tarikat ZumreleZmeleri U
niversitesi Bas|mevi,
Sosyolojisi Ac|s|ndan Bir AraZt|rma (Ankara: Ankara U
1991), 3557; Resul Ay, Tasavvufi Hayat ve Tarikatlar in A. Y. Ocak (ed.),
Anadolu Selcuklular| ve Beylikler Donemi Uygarl|g| 1 (Ankara: Kultur ve Turizm
Bakanligi Yayinlari, 2006): 45965.
Karamustafa, Gods Unruly Friends, 13.
A. Y. Ocak, Kalenderler ve BektaZilik in Dogumunun 100. y|l|nda
Ataturke Armagan (Istanbul: Istanbul Universitesi Edebiyat Fakultesi, 1981),
29799; id., Kalenderler (XIVXVII.yuzy|llar) 5779.
M. Fuad Koprulu, Osmanl| Devletinin KuruluZu, (Ankara: Turk Tarih
Kurumu, 4th edn., 1991), 1012; Ocak, Kalenderler ve BektaZilik, 299300.
Kucuk Abdal, Otman Baba Vilayetnamesi (Milli Kutuphane, Mikrofilm
ArZivi. No: A-4985, 1976), fos. 50ab, 54ab, 101b102a, 104a (= in Turkish
script, ed. Wevki Koca, Vilayetname-i Wahi: Gocek Abdal (BektaZi Kultur Dernegi,

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Among these diverse groups, those whose orders were based on

renunciation through social deviance, a tendency that had only recently
emerged in the Islamic world, are particularly noticeable.7 This tendency
can be correlated with the Qalandari movement or Khorasan
school, adopting love and ecstasy as the mystical path. Representative
of this tendency were the Haydariyya, Wafa8iyya, Jawlaqiyya, and
Qalandariyya in thirteenth century Anatolia.8 According to Koprulu and
Ocak, Over time these groups came to be known as Babai, probably
because they joined the rebel movement (1239/40) of Baba Ilyas, and as
Abdalan-| Rum during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and
subsequently as BektaZi, in association with Hac| BektaZ.9 This last
naming seems somewhat forced: several Sufi groups active within the
same community did not consider themselves attached to the lodge in
Sulucakaraoyuk, the centre of the Bektashiyya, but rather belonged to
the dergah of Seyyid Gazi.10 The Bektashi shaykhs of these orders chose
to reside in both urban and rural areas, whereas the shaykhs related
to this movement and referred to as Turkmen baba, dede and abdal,
preferred to live mainly in rural areas. The latter had a special
relationship with the semi-nomadic Turkmen tribes. It is highly probable
that they migrated to Anatolia with these tribes, settled or moved with
them as their holy men and that there were also kinship ties between

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A. Y. Ocak, Turkiyede Tarihin Saptirilmasi Surecinde Turk Sufligine

Bak|Zlar (Istanbul: IletiZim Yay|nlar|, 1996), 1589. There are data in the
hagiographies that strengthen this probability. For example, see DerviZ Burhan,
Velayetname-i Hac|m Sultan: eine turkische Heiligenlegende zum ersten Male
(ed. and transl. Rudolf Tschudi; Berlin: Mayer & Muller, 1914) (Das
Vilayet-name des Hadschim Sultan), 37; Haydar Teberoglu, S. Kalender Veli
Vilayetnamesi, (Ankara: n. p., n. d.), 11112, 162.
Barkan, Osmanli Imparator lugunda . . . Kolonizator Turk DerviZleri, 295,
A. Y. Ocak, Les milieux soufis, 14951.
Ibid, 150.
A. Y. Ocak Selcuklular ve Beylikler Devrinde DuZunce, Turkler (Ankara:
Yeni Turkiye Yayinlari, 2002), vii. 4306 (Eng. transl., The Turks [eds. H. C.
Guzel, K. C
icelc and S. Koca], ii. 6346); Ay, Tasavvufi Hayat ve Tarikatlar,

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them.11 According to Barkan, these shaykhs were different, both from

the city-dwelling shaykhs engaged in zikr or other mystical practices
in their lodges and from the itinerant and mendicant shaykhs. Instead,
these shaykhs lived together with their family members and relatives,
establishing new villages as heads of community or tribe.12 In their
preference for the countryside or border regions they may have been
motivated by their priorities in their mystic life, such as providing
guidance (irZad), taking part in holy war (gaza), and even their
adventurous spirit.13
There was a substantial Sufi presence in the cities where (as Barkan
observes) their shaykhs favoured a life-style rather different from that of
the rural shaykhs. They too belonged to various Sufi orders and schools,
but their preference was asceticism and God-wariness (taqva).14 Their
adoption of a more mystical or professional life was probably influential
in that preference. We see city-dwelling shaykhs following strict ascetic
life-style in the struggle against the ego, engaging in zikr and other
devotional exercises such as prayer (namaz), fasting and reciting the
Qur8:n. Many of them were aware of madrasa sciences as well as mystic
ones, and therefore represented a more elite class of Sufi. Many of their
shaykhs belonged to orthodox Sufi orders such as Kazeruniyya,
Kubraviyya, Suhrawardiyya and Rifa6iyya.15 One of the most important
Sufi figures, Mevlana Celalu8d-Dn Rum, and his followers, can also be
included in this category. Rum had previously trained under the
influence of the Kubraviyya, then fell under the influence of the ecstatic
and love-filled nature of Wems-i Tabrz, but he and his followers did not


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The Sufi shaykhs in Anatolia were not disconnected from the society at
all but, to the contrary, well connected to people of various types and
social ranks. They established their lodges in urban or rural areas
according to their social and cultural attitudes, and within their lodges
maintained their mystical life and evolved their esoteric teachings. At the
same time however, they also maintained an active role in various areas
of social life. Among their most common activities were: providing
guidance on religious issues, accommodation and hospitality services to
travellers, public works such as the construction of bridges, fountains
and homes, and assistance in agriculture and animal husbandry.18
These voluntary services by the shaykhs were sufficient reason for the
people to hold a positive image of them. On that image was based their
growing prestige among the people. However, in the popular perception

A. Golp|narl|, Mevlana Celaleddin: Hayat|, Felsefesi, Eserleri, Eserlinden

Secmeler (Istanbul: Ink|lap Yay|nlar|, 1999), 1723; Mevlanadan Sonra
Mevlevlik (Istanbul: Ink|lap ve Aka, 2nd edn., 1983), 4202; Ocak
Selcuklular ve Beylikler, vii. 433 (The Turks, ii. 6367).
Koprulu, Ilk Mutasavv|flar, 195; Ahmed AteZ, art. Muhyid-Din Arab
Islam Ansiklopedisi, viii (MEB Yay|nlar|, 1993), 5524; Ocak, Kalenderiler, 77,
Barkan, Osmanli Imparator lugunda . . . Kolonizator Turk DerviZleri, 284
94; Ocak and Faruk, Zaviye, 4716.

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completely abandon ascetic practice despite their emphasis on love and

In the Anatolian cities, there were also other Sufi shaykhs who came
to prominence through their personal charisma rather than sectarian
affiliations, and gathered a wide circle of disciples. They left a deep
impact on Anatolian Sufism through their mystical teachings and the
disciples they trained. The best known of these shaykhs are: Evhadu8dn
Kirman, who resided in his own personal lodge, or zaviye, in Kayseri
and who stayed for a short time in Malatya; Fahru8d-Dn Iraq, who lived
n Pervane and Sadru8din a zaviye in Tokat built by Vezir Mu8inu8d-D
Dn Konev in Konya. Both of these had a substantial community of
disciples. In the same period, Ibn Arab and Wems-i Tabrz resided for a
while in Anatolia and, though they did not found any Sufi groups there,
deeply influenced Anatolian Sufism through Sadru8d-Dn Konev and
Celalu8d-Dn Rum respectively.17

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The life-story of Ruzbihan Baql gives a particularly clear idea about the Sufi
practices and spiritual experiences. See Carl W. Ernst, R<zbih:n Baql;: Mysticism
and the Rhetoric of Sainthood in Persian Sufism (Richmond: Curzon Press,
1996), 209,12130; Nazif Hoca, Ruzbihan al-Bakl ve Kitab KaZf al-Asrari ile
Farsca Baz| Wiirler (Istanbul: Edebiyat Fak. Matbaas|, 1971), 427.
For a more detailed explanation, see Sultan Veled, Ibtida-name, (transl., A.
Golp|narl|; Ankara: Guven Mat., 1976), 132, 207, 215, 217, 258; Sultan Veled,
Maarif (Turkish transl., Meliha Anbarc|oglu; Istanbul: MEB Yay|nlar|, 1993),
23, 77. For further detailed information and bibliography on the construction of
the dervish image and its influence, see Ay, Anadoluda DerviZ ve Toplum,
(Istanbul: Kitap Yay|nevi, 2008), 13959.

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of the shaykhs, the practical services they offered were less important
than their image as holy men. Although perceptions of the figure of the
shaykh varied among different segments of the populace depending on
their social environment and exposure to Sufi teachings, it seems that
almost all people saw their shaykhs as friends of God, and capable
of doing miracles of some sort and endowed with supernatural powers.
Accordingly, the shaykhs were accorded a great deal of trust and
reverence, mixed with fear.
There are many reasons for the formation of the holy man image.
To begin with, Islamic mysticism itself played an important role in
constructing this image. Both in its oral tradition and written records, the
Sufi way presents in some detail the various stations (makam) and states
(haller) through which the Sufi aspirants must pass in their spiritual
journey. The Sufis had detailed doctrines about the insan-| kamil or
perfect human who has completed the spiritural journey, and whose
embodiment is the Shaykh or head of the order.19 According to this
doctrine, the insan-| kamil was related to God as veli or friend and
believed to act by the will of God. As he had purified himself of his self
the divinity in some form had replaced it. Some Sufis expressed this state
allegorically as being an instrument in the hand of Godlike a brush in
the hand of a painter or a saw in that of a carpenter. Therefore the
actions of a Shaykh who was considered a veli were taken to be the
effects of Gods will.20 This made the words and actions of the shaykhs
indisputable, particularly for their disciples or murids and the people
who believed in the doctrine.
In many mystical works, notably Sufi poetry collections (divan), the
creation of the universe and the secrets hidden in it and in the human
body are mentioned. Some Sufi poets strongly imply that they know these
secrets. Even if no explicit claim to that effect is made, the idea insinuates
itself in the readers mind. There are many poems in the divan of Yunus


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In a poem by Kaygusuz Abdal, who was a Sufi poet of thirteenth/fourteenth
century Anatolia, the Sufis are characterized as knowing their own meanings,
having attained the station of unity and observed the inner meanings; in
another, the Sufi can see all beings in his own body and know divine
knowledge: Kaygusuz Abdal, DilguZa (ed. Abdurrahman Guzel; Ankara: Kultur
ve Turizm Bakanl|g| Yay|nlar|, 2nd edn., 1987), 27; for other examples, see: id.,
Sarayname (ed. Abdurrahman Guzel; Ankara: Kultur Bakanl|g| Yay|nlar|, 1989),
10; and A. Golp|narl|, Yunus Emre ve Tasavvuf (Istanbul: Ink|lap Kitabevi, 2nd
edn., 1992), 328.
Koprulu, art. Abdal in Turk Halk Edebiyat| Ansiklopedisi (Istanbul:
Burhaneddin, 1935), 37; Turk Edebiyat|nda Ilk Mutasavv|flar, 19.
Michael Gilsenan, Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt: An Essay in the
Sociology of Religion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 73; for the attribution of
a Aad;th stating that a shaykh as a friend of God (i.e velis/saints) will use the
mer Suhreverdi, Tasavvufun
attributes of God, see Ebu Hafs Wihabuddn O
Esaslar|: Avariful-Mearif Tercumesi (eds. H. Kamil Y|lmaz and Irfan Gunduz;
Istanbul: Erkam Yay|nlar| 1990), 116; Suleyman Uludag, art. Firaset in Turkiye
Diyanet Vakf| Islam Ansiklopedisi, xiii, 1996, 1167.
See, for example, Shaykh Abul Vefa, Menak|b-| Weyh Ebul- Vefa Tercumesi
(Suleymaniye (Murad Buhari) Kutuphanesi, No: 257), fo. 99b; for Otman Baba,
see Kucuk Abdal, Otman Baba Vilayetnamesi, fo. 75b.

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Emre, Kaygusuz Abdal and others in this vein.21 The shaykhs disciples
contributed to the construction of the holy man sometimes attributing
qualities and powers to the shaykhs that they really did not have. The
adage, the Shaykh doesnt fly, his disciples make him fly expresses this
rather neatly. The peoples own observation of the shaykhs activities on
behalf of others and their dedication to the service of man and God, as
well as their mystical states and the miracle motifs, reinforced the holy
man image. The shaykhs enjoyed a degree of trust that helped cement
the theoretical image of the shaykhs in Sufi literature. Ancient popular
beliefs about holy men may well have contributed also by implicitly
associating the ancient holy men with the new ones. Koprulu argued
that the cult of ancient Central Asian shaman, kam and ozan still
retained its vitality in the memory of some Turkmens, at least in the early
years of their migration to Anatolia.22
Invested with such meanings, the shaykhs inevitably accrued strong
spiritual authority over the populace. Many literally believed that,
through their wisdom (feraset), the shaykhs could know the secrets in the
hearts of others and heal just by looking at the sick.23 Many penitents
therefore called on them to secure release from their sins and the negative
influences of illicit desires.24 Similarly, those who suffered from bodily
illnesses or had other problems would contact the shaykhs in the belief

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Vilayet-name: menak|b-| Hunkar Hac| BektaZ-| Vel, (ed. Adbulbaki

Golp|narl|; Istanbul: Ink|lap Kitabevi, 1958) 67; Suraiya Faroqhi, Osmanl|
Kulturu ve Gundelik YaZam Ortacagdan Yirminci Yuzy|la (transl. Elif K|l|c;
Istanbul: Tarih Vakf| Yurt Yay|nlar| (Turkiye Ekonomik ve Toplumsal Tarih
Vakf|), 1998), 1823. The sentiment is well expressed in the lines of poetry by
Kaygusuz Abdalpatients also come to demand healing, all the living come to
my lord Abdal Musa: Kaygusuz Abdal (Alaeddin Gayb) Menak|bnamesi
(Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu, 1999), 130. For more details see Ay, Anadoluda
DerviZ ve Toplum, 1504.
Kucuk Abdal, Otman Baba Vilayetnamesi, fos. 60b, 80ab, 81a; Ahmed
Eflaki (Shams al-D;n AAmad Afl:k;), Ariflerin Menk|beleri (transl. Tahsin Yaz|c|;
Istanbul: Milli Egitim Bakanl|g| Yayinlari, 2nd edn., 1995), ii. 299; Menak|b-|
Weyh Ebul-Vefa Tercumesi, fos. 101b102b; Weyh Evhadu8d-din Hamid
El-Kirman ve Menak|b-Namesi (ed. and transl. Mikail Bayram; Istanbul:
Kardelen Yayinlari, 2005), 356 (cited hereafter as: Menak|b-| Evhadu8d-Dn
Kirman); Menak|b-| Hac| BektaZ-| Veli, 234.
Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, ii. 299300
Menak|b-| Evhadu8d-Dn Kirman, 356.

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that they might be cured or aided.25 For these reasons, it was very
important to win the shaykhs favour. People generally showed their
respect by serving them, offering gifts, and kissing their hands. When the
shaykhs travelled, they were welcomed by large crowds competing with
each other to show their reverence and receive blessings.26
The popular perception of the shaykhs in the major Islamic city centres
did not differ much from that. When a famous Rufa Shaykh called
Seyyid Taceddin Rufa (T:j al-D;n al-Rif:6;) came to Konya with a group
of his murids, the citys dignitaries received him amid much excitement
and took him to a medrese. There the Sufis extraordinary rituals or
shows called burhan aroused great interest.27 Indeed, some shaykhs
found the excessive attention a nuisance and preferred to avoid it. When
Evhadu8d-Dn Kirman came to Tabriz, people met him with great
excitement and hospitality, and frequent requests that he preach to them.
Shown the same regard the next day he decided to leave the city.28 Some
shaykhs actually preferred to travel incognito. It seems that travelling
and its hardships were regarded by many Sufis as part of their
self-discipline and improving their dependence on Godintense public
attention was evidently a serious distraction from this purpose.
There were of course also many who did not approve of the Sufis
or their shaykhseither because they totally rejected Sufism or because
they suspected their sincerity and were put off by doctrinal differences.
Especially in orthdox circles, some Sufi shaykhs nonconformist
teachings, expressed sometimes in bizarre appearance, dress, and
behaviour, provoked negative reactions. Nevertheless, Sufi teachings,


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Menak|b-| Hac| BektaZ-| Veli, 67; Sultan Veled, Maarif, 240.

Such warnings are also found in the hagiographies of shaykhs of other
regionsfor example, there are many stories about Khwaja Ahrar, Central Asian
shaykh of the Timurid period, in which his rivals and enemies are punished. See,
Gross, Authority and Miraculous Behavior, 1669.
Eflak, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, i. 453.
Winasi Coruh, Emir Sultan (Istanbul: Tercuman Yay|nlar|,?1972), 185.
Eflak, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, i. 4056; Abdulbaki Golp|narl| (ed.), Mevlana
Celaleddin Mektuplar (Istanbul: Ink|lap Yayinlari, [1963] 1999), 27, 49, 128.
For the case of Ibrahim GulZeni, who lived during the time of Akkoyunlular, see
Muhy-yi GulZen, Menakib-i Ibrahm-i GulZen (ed. Tahsin Yaz|c|; Ankara: Turk
Tarih Kurumu, 1982), 334; Ocak Sufi Milieux, 167. The shaykhs role as
mediators was in the second half of the fifteenth century in Central Asia. Peasants
or the poor would seek protection from Khwaja Ahrar, against the vicissitudes of
continually warring princes and to secure fiscal privileges; see Jurgen Paul,
Forming a Faction: The Eim:yat System of Khwaja Ahrar, International
Journal of Middle East Studies, 23 (1991): 53440.
Golp|narl|, Mevlana Celaleddin Mektuplar, 1023, 11517, 1889; Ocak,
Sufi Milieux, 171. In late fifteenth-century Central Asia where political
authority was weaker and the shaykhs were economically more independent
and powerful, they were able to manipulate power struggles among the princes

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especially the version of them popularized in the hagiographies,

emphasized the shaykhs special powers which inspired fearful reverence.
Sayings like the breath of saints (eren/velis) is like a sword constituted a
warning that harming the shaykhs could bring serious consequences.29
The hagiographies field many examples of the disasters that befell
individuals who had failed to show the proper respect due to the spiritual
authority of the shaykhs, with the clear implication that others had best
avoid making the same mistake.30
The meanings with which the populace invested the shaykhs made
them important actors in society. When the people of a city encountered
a problem, they would apply to the shaykhs for help. For instance, when
the Mongol armies were approaching Konya, people turned to
Celalu8d-Dn Rum who attempted to prevent the invasion and possible
devastation of the city.31 A similar role was played by Emir Sultan in
Bursa during the Timurid invasion.32 Sometimes we see the shaykhs
acting as mediators between the people and the state. As occurred
frequently in the case of Rum, when individuals or a group had an issue
with the administration, they sought the mediation of the shaykhs who
enjoyed a good reputation and credibility with the rulers.33 The shaykhs
were even able significantly to influence the appointment of officials. We
have many letters of Celalu8d-Dn Rum addressed to high officials for
these reasons.34 In rural areas far from the influence of central authority,

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and secure the accession of their favoured candidate. For example, the sources
mention that Khwaja Ahrar, as head of the Naqshbandi order, used his economic
and spiritual authority to secure Abu Sads accession to the throne: see Jo-Ann
Gross, Multiple Roles and Perceptions of a Sufi Shaikh: Symbolic Statements of
Political and Religious Authority in Marc Gaborieau, Alexandre Popovic and
Thierry Zarcone (eds.), Naqshbandis: cheminements et situation actuelle dun
ordre mystique musulman (Istanbul/Paris: LInstitut Francais dEtudes
Anatoliennes dIstanbul, Isis, 1990), 10921. Khwaja Ahrar used his considerable wealth and influence to counterbalance that of the emirs, and assured
protection and fiscal privileges for those who entered his himayat or protection.
Paul, Forming a Faction, 53742.
For Ottoman and Akkoyunlu examples, see Faroqhi, Osmanl| Kulturu, 77;
GulZen, Menakib-i Ibrahm-i GulZen, 334, 107.
Inalc|k, Dervish and Sultan, 267; Ocak, Sufi Milieux, 167.
Ocak, Babaler Isyan|, 113; A. Y. Ocak, Osmanl| Toplumunda Z|nd|klar ve
Mulhidler (15.17. Yuzy|llar), (Istanbul: Takih Vakf| Yurt Yah|nlar| (Turkiye
Ekonomik ve Toplumsal Tarih Vakf|, 1998), 136200; Michel Balivet, Islam
mystique et Revolution Armee, 7090 (= Weyh Bedreddin Tasavvuf ve Isyan, 73
Feridun b. Ahmed Sipehsalar, Mevlana ve Etraf|ndakiler, Risale (transl.
Tahsin Yaz|c|; Istanbul: Tercuman, 1977), 189, 98; AZ|kpaZazade, Tevarih-i Al-I
mire, 1332
Osman8dan AZ|kpaZazade Tarihi (ed. Ali Beg; Istanbul: Matbaa-yi A
[1914]), 67, 42, 467 (cited hereafter as AZ|kpaZazade); NeZr, Kitab-|
Cihan-Numa NeZr Tarihi I (eds. F. R. Unat and M. A. Koymen; Ankara: Turk
Tarih Kurumu, 1987), 163, 171, 203; Zeki Gurel, Koyun Baba (Ankara: Yoruk
Turkmen Vakf|, 2000), 49, 59.

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the role of the shaykhs was more important still. They served almost
as a counterweight to local government officials or notables. They
were responsive to conditions and grievances of the people, suffering
ill-treatment at the hand of notables or officials. They would send letters
of complaint to the capital through the central tekke or its Shaykh and
politely request that the problem be resolved.35
The shaykhs, together with their murids, also had at their disposal the
power of effective propaganda, which made them very influential in
legitimizing or challenging state authority. In the Eastern literary
tradition, there was an established sentiment that a ruler was not safe
on his throne without public support.36 The Sufi shaykhs contributed
to the maintenance of peace and stability in the society by inspiring
brotherhood, but they had the potential also to do the opposite. They
could oppose the policies of the sultans and threaten their power and
authority. The uprisings of the Babais and Bedreddinis can be viewed in
this context.37 Since sultans were aware of this potential of the shaykhs,
they often presented them with opportunities and scope for their work in
order to keep them satisfied.38 The religious sentiments of the sultans


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The prestige that the shaykhs enjoyed in the eyes of the rulers together
with their spiritual authority with the populace also gave rise to
competition among themselves. They sought a direct impact on the wider
society; they derived their prestige, influence and, perhaps even more
importantly, their livelihood from society. For at least some of them,
their influence with the ruling elites was also of immense significance:
those who enjoyed the support of the rulers could spread their teachings
and build up their orders more easily and quickly, which in turn
increased their legitimacy, respect and influence with the people. The
rulers likewise sought to benefit by embracing the shaykhs, whose
popularity they could not ignore but could turn to advantage by using it
as an instrument of governance
Barkan, Osmanli Imparator lugunda . . . Kolonizator Turk DerviZleri, 301;
Ocak and Faruk, Zaviye, 472.
Wolper, Cities and Saints, 27.
For particular examples of the relationships between the shaykhs and the
ruling elite, see the references in n. 30 above; also Ay, Anadoluda DerviZ ve
Toplum, 1538; Wolper (Cities and Saints, 247) looks at the Sufi shaykhruling
elite relationship from a different angle. After the breakdown of centralized rule
in Anatolia, by the second half of the thirteenth century, local rulers appeared as
an independent landed aristocracy. They used the endowment of dervish lodges
or vakfs as a means to extend their control over newly acquired lands converting
them into protected vakfs and retaining the revenues from them.

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themselves, as well as the willingness of the shaykhs to assist the state,

especially in rural areas, played an important role in fostering the
accommodating stance of the rulers. The shaykhs acted as a sort of
volunteer bureaucracy for the state, taking on various duties like providing education, accommodation for travellers, even the security of the
rural highways, that were really duties of the rulers.39 Especially in times
of political weakness, notably the second half of the thirteenth century,
local leaders sought the support of the dervishes because of their great
influence with the local people and the Turkmen groups. No longer able
to rely on Seljuk allies, they sought alliances instead with the shaykhs
of dervish groups in order to defend their cities from external threats
or potential revolts within.40 For these reasons, the rulers were very
sympathetic to the shaykhs and donated land for the construction of
their lodges and foundations (vakf ), met their routine expenses and
dispensed alms (sadaka) and gifts to them.41

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About the formation and nature of Muslim saint cults in Anatolia see A.
YaZar Ocak, Kultur Tarihi Kaynag| Olarak Menak|bnameler (Metodolojik Bir
YaklaZ|m), (Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu, 1992), 109.
Menak|bname of Piri Baba (written by Hoca Ibrahim) Topkap| Saray|
Muzesi Hazine Kitapl|g|, No: 1313, fos. 12a13a; Suraiyya Faroqhi, The Life
Story of an Urban Saint in the Ottoman Empire: Piri Baba of Merzifon, Tarih
Dergisi, 32 (1979), 673. We noted above that state support of the shaykhs was
seen as source of prestige; here the refusal of it is presented as a sign of
superiority over rivals inasmuch as the shaykh is prestigious in the eye of the ruler
but, being unworldly, does not accept the rulers giftsas lesser rivals do.

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The inevitable rivalry among the shaykhs was sometimes motivated by

religious and spiritual concernsto protect society and people from
religious innovations and heretical ideas or the teachings of rivals.
Indeed, rival shaykhs frequently accused each other of failings or sins of
this nature. We will discuss below, through examples, the many reasons
for this rivalry and its diverse manifestations. Before this, however, it is
worthwhile to mention another aspect of this rivalry.
It took place not only between the shaykhs themselves but also
between communities around them. Group loyalty and identity engendered a pervasive competiveness that exceeded the differences of school
and order. Even after the death of a shaykh the cult around him
continued to inspire group identity,42 as is clear from the hagiographies.
The Sufi epics (menkabe) circulating among the disciples strove to assert
the superiority of their own shaykhs or saints overs those of others. They
placed their own saints in the more elevated ranks of saintly hierarchy as
miracle workers or as the pole of the age (kutb), while demoting rival
saints to a lower rank. We see just such an approach in the cult of Piri
Baba, who is buried in AmsayaMerzifon. In his menak|bname, he is
portrayed as refusing the gifts offered by the sultan, implying that he was
remote from worldliness, while Koyun Baba, the saint of the nearby
town of CorumOsmanc|k, is portrayed as asking the same sultan for
money, land, clothes, etc. for his dervishes. In this way, the menak|bname
attempts to create an image of a rival shaykh as spiritually inferior to its
Among other devices of this kind, the rival cult and saint might be
accused of not belonging to the Ehl-i Sunnet (i.e. Sunni Islam), and
similar allegations. The disciples of saints sought in this way to gain
legitimacy for their group and to increase their standing through that of
their shaykhs. This natural impulse to seek social advantages is found too
among the shaykhs themselves. However, there were also other reasons
for their competition and its various manifestations.


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Attempts to show the saint of a rival cult as not belonging to the Ehl-i
Sunnet, and to humiliate them with other allegations, were among the
methods applied. Of course, with these efforts the disciples or murids
sought to gain legitimacy for their group identity and to increase
their prestige through their saints. This desire, as a natural impulse, was
also true for the competition between the shaykhs and its various

Rivalry among shakyhs often manifested as disputation, criticism and

accusation. Sometimes it was directly reflected in outward behaviour and
even developed into physical fighting. Of course, the particular school
and its teachings were an important factor in how the rivalry was
expressed. One style or method of Sufi practice, or some variant
interpretation of a religious issue, could easily lead to contention. For
examples, some concepts and practices adopted by Qalandari dervishes
as a method of seyr-i suluk were sharply criticized by other shaykhs, as
were their mystical beliefs about reaching the Creator through His
creation of the seyr-i suluk-| afaki.44 Reportedly, when Shems-i Tabrz
met with Evhadu8d-Din Kirman he saw him staring at the water in a
basin and asked what he was doing. Kirman replied that he was
watching the moons reflection in the water. Tabrz criticized his
understanding by telling him angrily Why dont you look at the moon by
lifting your head, unless you have a boil on your neck?.45 As a variant of
the same understanding, Evhadu8d-Din adopted the practice of looking
for Gods face in the faces of beautiful boys. That is why he used to have
young boys or pretty-faced disciples in his sema ceremonies. But this
practice of his was also strongly criticized by other Sufis of the period.46

Mikail Bayram, Weyh Evhadud-Din Hamid el-Kirman ve Evhadiye Tarikat|

mer Faruk Bayam, 1993), 66
(Konya: O
Eflak, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, ii. 191; Abdurrahman Cam (J:m;),
ns, Evliya Menk|beleri (transl. and commentary Lami Celebi; ed.
S. Uludag and M. Kara; Istanbul: Marifet Yay|nlar|, 1995), 805.
Menak|b-| Evhadu8d-Din-| Kirman, 153; Ocak, Kalenderler, 756.
Annemarie Schimmel (Mystical Dimensions of Islam [Chapel Hill, NC:
University of North Carolina Press, 1975], 289) argued that some Sufis regarded
human beauty as an object of mystical love because it reflected some part of
divine beauty and glory. Comtemplating Absolute Beauty in human form
originated in the Greek philosophical and Central Asian shamanist traditions; see
Julian Baldick, Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism (London: I.B. Tauris,

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1989), 201. This Sufi practice, i.e. gazing at young men met with great
objections by their colleagues. Hujvr (d. ca. 1071) called the practice Aar:m
(forbidden) and said that anyone who declares this to be allowable is an
unbeliever: Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions, 290.
Wems-i Tebrz, MakalatKonuZmalar (transl. O.N. Gencosman; Istanbul,
1974; [Milli Kutuphane: 1974 ad 4624]), 1278, 130.
Ahmet T. Karamustafa (ed.), V:hid;s Men:k|b-| Hvoca-i Cih:n ve Net;ce-i
C:n, Tenkidli Metin, Tahlil ve T|pk|bas|m (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1993; Sources of Oriental Languages and Literatures, 17; Turkish Sources,
15.), fos. 28a40b; T. Yaz|c|, Hatib-i Farisi, Menakib-i Cemal al-Dn-i Sav
(Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu, 1999), Preface, ixxx.
Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, ii. 4445.
Kucuk Abdal, Otman Baba Vilayetnamesi, fos. 50ab, 54ab, 101b102a,

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As far as can be gathered from his Makalat, Wems-i Tebrz also did not
hesitate to enter into discussions with shaykhs he met on his journeys. He
found their comments about verses of the Qur8:n very superficial and
criticized their failure to see their inner meaning. He was sometimes
so sure that his colleagues could not understand him that he avoided
openly sharing his perceptions of certain Qur8:nic verses with them and
preferred to talk with them only allusively.47
In some instances, the disputation between shaykhs constituted an
attack on or defence of particular ideas and practices. For example, a
Qalandari community from Iran were guests in the tekke of Hace-i Cihan
in Istanbul. In the face of criticism they laboured to offer a legitimate
basis for their teachings and the dress and behaviour that expressed them.
Their shaykh went into considerable detail in his explanations, but his
critics were unconvinced and presented their counter arguments. Quietly
the next day, the Qalandari shaykh and his community left the lodge.48
Ulu Arif Celebi and Otman Baba also generally did not hesitate to
enter into disputations and discussions to promote the views and techniques they upheld. In one of his long journeys, Ulu Arif C
elebi visited
the country of Mesud Bey of MenteZeoglu. Here, during a sema ceremony
organized in his honour, he was seen to enter into a controversy with a
popular Turkmen shaykh.49 Otman Baba, similarly, often argued with
the shaykhs he met on his tours. Evidently, he was engaged in a struggle
with them for legitimacy and authority.50
This sort of disputation could also turn into fighting. Otman Baba in
particular evokes the image of a bullying sheikh (eli sopal|). His rivalry
with Bayezid Baba and his disciple Mumin DerviZ, sometimes drew
them into what looked like open fighting. His violence was directed at
those shaykhs who refused to accept his status as shaykh or his greatness.
This violence (described in his menak|bname) took the form of hitting


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Ibid, fos. 88a, 101ab, 189ab.

Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, ii. 4469.
Ibid, 44950.
Menak|b-| Evhadu8d-Dn-i Kirman, 73.
Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, i. 5978; ii. 5960.

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rivals with a stick or, more frequently, of punishing them through

elebi visited Sivas (a city in central
miracles.51 When Ulu Arif C
Anatolia), he met a shaykh called Erzurumlu Hoca who was locally
very famous and highly respected. However, probably because of the
latters Qalandari style, Ulu Arif Celebi treated him as a hypocrite and
puffed-up peacock, became angry with him and did not hesitate to slap
him.52 Interestingly, his father Sultan Veled greatly praised instead of
condemning their behaviour.53
The most common of the accusations thrown at a rival shakyh was
over-fondness of ostentation, hypocrisy and opposition to the Ehl-i
Sunnet. For some Sufi shaykhs, another common criticism was to present
the rival as ignorant of the secrets hidden in the creation. The point was
to bring the rivals legitimacy as a shaykh into question, thereby
depriving him of the source of his influence and rendering him socially
ineffective. While such accusations were sometimes expressed directly
to the shaykh, circulating rumours within Sufi circles was the more
frequently used tactic to discredit a rival.
Assuming that the authors of hagiographies, the disciples of the
shaykhs, were not being deliberately misleading, the shaykhs appear to
have been sceptical of the different mystical understandings and practices
of their fellow Sufis. For example, when Evhadu8d-Dn Kirman was in
Kayseri, he met a shaykh who lived in solitude. Kirman did not consider
the shaykh genuine and alleged that what he really desired was worldly
property. Kirman went on to assist this shaykh in realizing that desire.
According to the author of the Menakib, Evhadu8d-Dn, by visiting that
shaykh, made him famous so that he was visited by the notables of the
city and many gifts came his way.54 Of course, some shaykhs were less
tolerant of disingenuous Sufis and, as seen in the example of Ulu Arif
elebi, could resort to violence.
In fact, the shaykhs in Anatolia who adopted the path of love and
ecstasy and neglected outer aspects of Shar;6a provoked a strong
reaction. They were seen by the orthodox Sufis and the ulema as Ehl-i
bid8at and opponents of the Shar;6a. This critique, reflecting the norms
prevalent in the medrese environment, was often leveled at famous Sufis
like Hac| BektaZ, Yunus Emre, Kaygusuz Abdal and others. If we accept
as true what Eflaki tells us, the Mevlevis described Hac| BektaZ as the one
who did not adopt Shar;6a and did not pray.55 The Menakib of Hac|

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Menak|b-| Hac| BektaZ-| Veli, 8, 112, 56.

Ibid, 578.
Kaygusuz Abdal, 136, 13741.
Mustafa Tatc|, Yunus Emre Dvan| II (Tenkitli Metin), (Istanbul: MEB
Yay|nlar|, 1997), 65.
Ibid, 119.
Ibid, 237. Ben onu (manay|) anadan dogmuZ gibi aypak eylerum.
Ibid, 239. Bir zerrece Hakdan ayru gozum nesne gormez benim.
Abdulbaki Golp|narl|, Mevlanadan Sonra Mevlevlik, 84.

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BektaZ appears to confirm (while also explaining) that this shaykh did
not pray or join the congregation of the mosque,56 and was for this
reason abused and portrayed as Ehl-i bid8at.57 Kaygusuz Abdal was also
accused of these failings, and he remonstrated with a preacher who
criticized him for his outward appearance and behaviour.58
Yunus Emre was more skillful in his rejoinders and used the power
of poetry to extol the virtues and achievements of his mystical way.
For example, he wrote: Once you see the face of the Friend (i.e. God),
polytheism is sackedfor this reason shar;6a is left at the door (Dost
yuzin goricek Zirk yagmaland|, Anuncun kapuda kald| Zeriat). He
claimed to have reached God (his maZuk or Beloved) so that the
distinction between Creator and creature (between I and He) had
disappeared and only He remained. For one such as himself, the Shar;6a
had become unnecessary. According to Yunus, Shar;6a is merely a tool for
bringing people to God, while Yunus is with Him in every moment, not
just five times a day as in the practice of namaz.59 Yunus is really sure of
himself, offering his scruffy, lunatic state as a sign of the condition
of possessing a divine mystery. According to him, to see the face of God
it is essential to be poor (miskn).60 He also argues, against those
who claimed that the meaning was hidden, that I can disclose it (i.e. the
meaning),61 and in another verse: my eyes do not see any object except
for God.62
Adopting themes in their poetry intended to show that they had
experienced the mystery of unity in their poems, Yunus Emre, Kaygusuz
Abdal and other Sufis from the school of Khorasan were probably trying
to argue a case for their own superiority and to legitimize their
non-Shar;6a practices. At the same time, they criticized their opponents
for being unaware of the mysteries and for giving more importance to the
external aspect of the Shar;6a and even being too ostentatious in that
regard. Ulu Arif C
elebi characterized such Sufis (probably all Sufis except
for Mevlevis) as a community subject to ceremony and satisfied with
appearance (torenlere tabi ve gorunuZe kani bir kavim) and he too
argued that they were ignorant of the mysteries.63 In the same way as


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mentioned above, Wems-i Tebrz used to complain that some of the

shaykhs he met could only give external (zahir) meanings to the verses of
the Qur8:n and did not understand their internal (batin) meanings.64



Wems-i Tebrz, Makalat, 1278.

Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, ii. 4445
Ibid, 504.
Ibid, 5212.

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What were the reasons for the attitudes and behaviour of the shaykhs
towards each other and for the competition among them? Of course, as
we have mentioned above, there were religious, spiritual reasonsto
prevent the spread of teachings seen as undesirable, to eliminate harmful
activities, and to promote their own teachings, believing them to be
superior. However, to explain the rivalry on the basis of only such
motives is not satisfactorythe fact is that every group used arguments
of this nature to assert its own legitimacy and question or discredit that
of others. This was true even of Sufi communities belonging to similar
schools that were nonetheless competing socially. Rather, we observe
that competition developed on the basis of more worldly concerns and
expectationsstruggles for influence over rulers and society, moral
weaknesses such as jealousy, and even the desire for economic benefits,
were also striking elements of the rivalries among shaykhs.
It was always an important goal for the shaykhs to spread their
teachings and extend their orders over large areas. For this purpose, they
sent their educated disciples as their halifes or representatives to the
selected regions. However, it was not easy for them to establish their
sects in areas already previously entered by other shaykhs or sects. In
such circumstances, some sort of power struggle inevitably ensued. The
debates or disputes of Ulu Arif C
elebi during his long-distance travels
undertaken for the purpose of spreading Mevlevi teachings, can be seen
as efforts to make himself accepted in that environment. Especially in the
rural areas where the semi-nomadic Turkmen were dominant, he
experienced this difficulty to a greater degree. He had a hard time in
the province of Mesud Bey of MenteZe65 and in AkZehir, a province
under the control of the EZrefogullar|.66 His relationship with the
Karamanogullar| was already poor.67 His quarrel with a very popular
Turkmen shaykh in Sivas stands out as an example of this struggle.
Moreover, Ulu Arif Celebi did not have a good opinion of the other

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For more on Ulu Arif Celebs view of other religious orders, see Golp|narl|,
Mevlanadan Sonra Mevlevlik, 836.
Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, ii. 511.
Ibid, 299300.
Kucuk Abdal, Otman Baba Vilayetnamesi, fos. 88a, 101ab.

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religious orders generally.68 Eflaki represents him as being in competition

even with some shaykhs with whom he normally enjoyed good relations.
For example, when he was in Amasya, a conversation between him and a
Rufai shaykh called Seyyid Ahmet Kucuk-i Rufa is reported to have
passed as follows: During the conversation, a group of Rufai dervishes
came in and began to dance (sema) with great excitement, accompanied
by the kabak, a kind of musical instrument. As the Rufai shaykh
probably felt embarrassed, he apologized to Celebi and said: Our crazy
dervishes have been dancing for a long time to the sound of such a
kabak. To this, C
elebi said: Very good. All the dervishes did is
acceptable and beloved, yet, in this respect it was strange; your murids
dance to an empty kabak, while our friends do so to one that is full . . . ,
there is a great difference between this sema and that sema.69 The
reaction of Celalu8d-Dn Rum to a special burhan ceremony held by
some Rufais, under the leadership of Seyyid Tace8d-Dn during a visit to
Konya, was very interesting. It is apparent that Mevlana was disturbed
by this visit, but it is not clear whether his discomfort owed to the fact
that his wife had gone without permission to watch the ceremony with
other women or that they attracted great attention from the people and
notables. However, it is known that he was very angry with his wife and
punished her.70
This sort of rivalry is also seen between Otman Baba and the Sufi
circles attached to the Bektashi lodges in the Balkans. The most common
cause of it was different Sufi groups operating in the same geographical
area and social environment. As we learn from his Menakib, Otman
Baba tried to impose himself on the Sufis in some tekkes that he visited
during his travels in the Balkans, and entered into harsh discussion with
those who denied his sainthood and fought with them, even resorting to
harming them through the force of his keramat.71 A name prominent in
connection with the conflicts mentioned in his Menakib, is that of
Mumin DerviZ. He was a halife of Beyazid Baba who belonged to the
cause of their conflict appears to have been
Hac| BektaZ lodge. The main
that Otman Baba was descended from the Akyazili Sultan line and not
from the line of Hac| BektaZ. In an epic (menkibe), it is expressed that
Otman Baba tried to teach his tarika to a dervish group who turned out
to be murids of Mumin DerviZ. Mumin DerviZ reacted harshly to this as


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Ibid, fos. 67a68b.

Ibid, fos. 189ab.
Ocak, Kalenderler, 179.
Kucuk Abdal, Otman Baba Vilayetnamesi, fos. 59a60b, et passim.
Kaygusuz Abdal, 130; for more examples see also: Kucuk Abdal, Otman
Baba Vilayetnamesi, fos. 75b, 80b; Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, ii. 536; Wukru
Elcin Bir Weyh Wucauddin Baba Velayetnamesi, Turk Kulturu AraZt|rmalar| 22/
12 (1984) (Prof. A. Necati Akder Armagan|), 201.
For an example, see Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, ii. 3701.

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the teachings imparted by Otman Baba differed from those of his own
Otman Baba was again confronted by a few Bektashi dervishes around
the Hisar Kap|s|. Their shaykh was Mahmud C
elebi. Otman Baba tried
to impose his greatness on the dervishes there by asking who the
Hunkar was, referring probably to Hunkar Hac| BektaZ. At that time,
Mahmud Celebi came over with his dervishes and argued with Otman
Baba. According to the Menakib, Otman Baba admonished him for not
renouncing arrogance, hypocrisy and worldly pleasures, and then
punished him through his keramat.73
There was a strong economic dimensions to this rivalry between
Otman Baba and the Bektashi dervishes, especially with Mumin
DerviZ.74 During their journeys, Otman Baba and Mu8min DerviZ tried
to collect food, clothing and, more importantly, sacrificial animals, from
the surrounding villages for their winter needs. The effort of winning the
favour of villagers would probably return to them in the form of many
charitable gifts and donations because, in this environment, it was very
important for the people to be in the presence of the shaykhs,75 who
were seen as the gate of blessing and of healing (Zifa kap|s|) for all kinds
of afflictions and ailments. A poem by Kaygusuz Abdal is a good
expression of this: the sick come to demand healingall the living come
to my master Abdal Musa (Hastalar da gelur derman isteyu/Saglar gelur
prim (Sultan) Abdal Musa8ya).76 The need to secure the attention of the
people in order to harvest their offerings early is one of the reasons for
the stiff competition between Otman Baba and Mu8min DerviZ.
Important as it was for these Turkmen shaykhs to win the favour of
the people in rural areas, it was no less important for the urban shaykhs
to obtain the favour of ruling elites and other notablestheir permanence in the cities depended upon it to a great extent. The gifts, gratuities
and other financial support offered by their patrons were vital to the
livelihood of the shaykhs.77 More importantly, the prestige of association
with the ruling elite was a factor in enabling them to grow in influence.
Indeed, for some shaykhs, this support was the unique instrument for

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Ocak, Kalenderler, 778.

Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, ii. 345.
Ibid, 3412.
Ibid, 346.
Ibid, 415.
Mikail Bayram, Tarihin IZ|g|nda Nasreddin Hoca ve Ahi Evren (Istanbul:
Bayrak Mat., 2001), 2138. Bayram attributes the famous exchange of letters
between Nasiru8d-Dn al-Tus and Konev to Ahi Evren and Konev, see
Sadrudd-Din Konevi ile Ahi Evren Weyh Nasirud-Din Mahmudun
niversitesi Fen-Edebiyat Fak. Edebiyat Dergisi, 2
MektuplaZmas|, Selcuk U
(1983): 5175.

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maintaining their existence in that region. Some shaykhs, severely

criticized for their bizarre teachings and practices, were only able to
retain their position through this support and would otherwise have had
to migrate elsewhere. For example, Fahru8d-Dn Iraq, supported by the
vizier Mu8inu8d-Dn Pervane and staying in a zaviye built by him in Tokat,
left the city after the death of his patron (1277) probably because no one
remained to safeguard him.78 The ceremonies and musical instruments of
Mevlana and the Mevlevis were often the subject of complaint but each
time, with the support of the ruling elites, these complaints would be
ineffective.79 Again, it is thanks to this support that the Mevlevi order was
able to establish itself in the cities of the Seljuk empire.
It was not so easy for Mevlana and his halifes to secure this position.

They had to struggle with some influential Ahis,

shaykhs and theologians
in Konya. Mentioned in Eflakis Menakib, Ahi Ahmet is seen as a
persistent, determined opponent of Mevlana. He was strongly opposed to
a decision of Vezir Ziyau8d-Dn to give a tekke whose shaykh had died, to
Celebi Husamu8d-Dn, Mevlanas disciple. By declaring, I dont accept
this man as a shaykh in this district, he provoked a crisis and caused a
fight.80 But after a long time, that tekke was indeed given to Celebi
Husamu8d-Dn during the time of Sultan Veled and after Ahi Ahmets son,
Ahi Ali, had become a disciple of Sultan Veled.81 The same Ahi Ahmet one
day objected to the Mevlevi chanters (guyendes) chanting a lyric (gazel)
before the funeral corte`ge of a notable, which greatly upset Sultan Veled.82
Shaykh Nasiru8d-Dn was another opponent of Mevlana. Mikail
Bayram, professor of medieval history in Konya, has identified him with
the famous Ahi Evren, i.e. Shaykh Nasiru8d-Dn Mahmud.83 This shaykh
used to criticize Mevlana at every opportunity and there was a conflict
between them. Although Mevlevi sources accept that he had a deep
knowledge of all kinds of sciences, it is said that he tried to rouse public
opinion against Mevlana and denied his greatness because of jealousy
and envy. In the end, it is claimed that he received a spiritual blow from


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Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, i. 3702.

ldurulmesi ve O
lum Tarihinin Tespiti IX.
Mikail Bayram, Ahi Evrenin O
Turk Tarih Kongresi Ankara: 2125 Eylul 1981, Kongreye Sunulan Bildiriler
(Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu, 1988), ii. 6234. Mikail Bayram attributes this
struggle between Ahi Evren and Mevlana (and his followers) to intellectual,
political and racial differences. According to him, Mevlana and his followers
with the support of government, especially the Mongols, tried to destroy the
intellectual movement of Ahi Evren. Bayram also argues that that this
controversy is owed to the intellectual divergence between Wems-i Tabrz, the
spiritual guide of Mevlana, and Evhadu8d-Dn Kirman, father-in-law of Ahi
Evren, and to the conflict between Bahau8d-Dn Veled, father of Mevlana and
Fahru8d-Dn Razi, teacher of Ahi Evren. Bayram, Sadru8d-Din Konevi, 725;
id., Ahi Evrenin, 62341.
Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, i. 3234.

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Mevlana and subsequently fell into a number of immoral habits.84 The

kinds of accusations leveled against him in Eflakis Menakibfor
example he engaged in homosexualitygive an idea of how deep the
animosity went. Bayram speaks of the fatal outcome of this rivalry.
According to him, Ahi Evren had a role in the assassination of Wems-i
Tabrz. That is why he had to leave Konya with Elau8d-Din, son of
Mevlana, also thought to be involved in this assassination, and settled in
K|rZehir, another city in Central Anatolia. Bayram ascribes a different
meaning also to the murder of Ahi Evren by the governor of K|rZehir, as
a result of a revolt, emphasizing the governors being a friend and
disciple of Mevlana.85
In such a harshly competitive environment, government support was
crucial. If the ruling elite favoured a rival, it was cause for concern.
During his visit to Konya, Weyh Baba-y| Merendi, or Buzag| Baba, was
shown great respect by Sultan Elau8d-Din who had chosen him as his
spiritual father. Mevlana became very disturbed. He expressed this
disturbance as follows: if he chose a father for himself, we will select
another son for ourselves. The Menakib describes Mevlanas reaction as
jealousy, and even claims that such jealousy was common among the
shaykhs.86 In this case however, it is impossible to ignore the anxiety
attached to the fear of falling into disfavour and, accordingly, the
opportunities lost because disfavour carried the risk of a loss of generous
gifts from the sultan and other elites or the risk of having to share with
others endowments such as lodges and income derived from pious trusts.
Jealousy is a common motif in the competition between the neighbouring shaykhs too. This is clearly expressed in the hagiographic materials.
For example, in the legend of the coming of Haci BektaZ to Anatolia, we
learn that the saints of Rum (i.e. Anatolia) tried to prevent him because:
if he comes to Rum he will dominate the country and make the people

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Menak|b-| Hac| BektaZ-| Veli, 18.

Eflaki, Ariflerin Menk|beleri, i. 2923; Sipehsalar also relates the same event
but in his work, those who organized that invitation were not Pervane, but Sultan
Ruknu8d-Dn. See Ferdun bin Ahmed, Mevlana ve Etraf|ndakiler, Risale, 8990.

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his subjects, we will not play any more in Rum. Then, they cut off the
path of Rum, miraculously, by standing wing to wing. But Haci BektaZ,
with the power of his sainthood, transcended this barrier and came to
Sulucakaraoyuk in the form of a dove.87 There should be little objection
to understanding this account in the following terms: Haci BektaZ had to
undergo a period of competition with the incumbent shaykhs in Anatolia
before he was able to establish his credentials as a saint there. As
reflected in the legend, the loss of an acquired position was a significant
cause of anxiety for the incumbent saints.
We must take note of the fact that the rivalry was sometimes a struggle
for prestige, for a superior position in the hierarchy of shaykhs, or an
effort to hold on to a current position. One day, Mevlana was invited with
other notables of the city to the the palace of Pervane Mu8inu8d-Dn but he
was a little late and all the places on the corners of the sofa were occupied.
Mevlana abruptly sat down at the entrance near where the people had left
their shoes. After this protest, many participants left their place on the
sofa and sat down around him. In this way, Mevlana created his own top
corner, maintained and asserted his prestige before the others.88
In conclusion, we can say that the rivalry between the Sufi shaykhs was
closely related to their spiritual influence over society. This, of course,
does not mean that there were no other reasons for it. Differences in
doctrine, temperament or personal vulnerability and several other factors
probably also played a part in this rivalry. However, the tendency of the
shaykhs to direct their spiritual influence over society and ruling elites
toward political, social and economic profit made rivalry among them
inevitable. The institutionalization of Sufism on the basis of order,
lodge (tekke) and charitable foundation (vakf) prepared a fertile ground
for this process. This development also spread the rivalry among the
disciples or communities subject to the authority of the shaykhs,
whereas, earlier, it had been confined to the shaykhs themselves. After
the shaykhs, the Sufi communities and their followers continued this
rivalry as a means of sustaining, and an expression of, group identity and
consciousness. It took the form of attributing superior virtues to their
own shaykhs as against the shaykhs of other groups, becoming irritated
by the presence of a rival group in their sphere of influence, and giving a
strong response to the appointment to their own tekke of a shaykh from
a different tarika tradition.