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Associate Professor Hüseyin Özcan
Hacı Bektaş Velî is an important Turkish Sûfî who had influenced the Turkish mysticism and social life with his thoughts that go beyond the ages and times. The love of Hacı Bektaş Velî, especially in different regions of Anatolia and the Balkans, is still in people's hearts and his ideas, words and expressions have been conveyed from elder to younger.
Hacı Bektaş Velî, who is referred to as `The Sultan of Hearts’ and who brought the torch of love emblazed in Horasan to Anatolia where he was truly embraced, outshined since his dignity and tolerance to people.
Hacı Bektaş Velî called attention to the disadvantages caused by the faction in the society and invited everyone to unify by stating “Let’s be one my beloveds” and “Let’s be one, let’s be big, let’s be alive” in Anatolia where a number of political and social unrest prevailed in the XIII. century. He emphasized the catastrophe that may be caused by ignorance and darkness with his message of “End of the path which doesn’t align with wisdom and science is nothing but darkness”. He contributed to the formation of atmosphere of community peace and security with his advices such as “Control and govern your hand, words and desires”.
As it is common for other Sufis, different portraits of Hacı Bektaş Velî exist in society’s faith and imagination under the effect of oral culture. His personality and prophecy has been surviving in the words and songs of “Asik”s (singers) for centuries by playing a role of an epic that is consistent with the structure of oral culture and has been conveyed by ancestors to descendants.
In order to comprehend Haci Bektasi Veli better, first of all, his works are needed to be investigated. As generally seen in Sufi traditions, his works consisting of the conversations with his disciples are the actual sources that directly reflect his ideas. Apart from these, his life and applications articulated in Velayetnames shed light on his perception about occurrences in social life.
While trying to know him, one of the most important factors that should also be taken into consideration is his Muslim identity. Like each sufi, his fundamental references are also Kuran and Hadis. We can clearly see this in his all works. While discussing subjects, Haci Bektasi Veli frequently mentions verses and hadis and utilizes these fundamental sources in his works.
Investigating Velayetname written concerning him, it can also clearly be seen that he too possesses love and attraction, is a person with love for Allah, had a life appropriate to Kuran and Hadis, and instructs people in light of statements in these sources.
Hacı Bektaş Veli is a Allah-Lover, who is well-known for giving much emphasis on being united and together despite having differences in religious belief and ideologies, therefore united with the different religious beliefs and ideologies in Anatolia.
Hacı Bektaş Veli had a prominent place among the various groups that came to Anatolia. He has identified Ahiler in Anatolia closest to himself. As he was respectful to different faiths, Hacı Bektaş Veli formed a bridge between Islam and Christianity, gained the love and the respect of both religious groups. People view him as a person of faith and soul. "Hacı Bektaş Veli has joined the revolt and gathered the remaining Türkmen, Alevî, Bâtınî, Babaî, Kalenderî, Haydarî, Vefâî and Yesevî groups around him and formed the new group of the Bektâşî-Order." (Öz,1997:100)
Hacı Bektaş Veli, who has played an important role in the formation of the Turkish intellectuality and the spirituality of Anatolia, generated his ideology based on the principles of Qur'an and hadiths. That's why; his ideas have been able to reach the current times. (Güzel,2002:147)
Hacı Bektaş Veli, is one of the most important figures of Turkish Sufism. The Sufi tradition, which started and expanded with the teachings of Ahmet Yesevi in 11th century and moved to Anatolia, gained a basis with Hacı Bektaş Veli and it was maintained in the Turkish social life over centuries.
Because of the valiant element in their character, the Turkish people have always had a unique love for Ali. Epic stories about Ali have been told among the Turkish communities, their love for Ali generated new literary types, and this stream of love and epic literature have been passed from generation to generation.
As a result of Kuran’s order to love “the people of the Prophet’s house” (his family and further generations), and Muhammed’s (p.u.h) hadis that says “love Allah because he feeds you with his blessings, love me for the sake for your love for Allah, and love the people of my house for the sake of your love for me”, the love for the house of Muhammed (p.u.h.), in particular for Ali, has become sacred. Haci Bektasi Veli, who is the eponym of the Bektasi Sufi order that bases its teachings on this love, lived in an era that witnessed several social and political disorders in Anatolia, addressed the people’s religious needs, enthusiasms and emotions with his wisdom. By doing so, he established a place in the hearts of people who put hope and tolerance to the center of their life.
Bektasi teachings have a significant place in the Turkish culture, literature and social life. Bektasi order has embedded the Turkish beliefs, customs and traditions into its own teachings and influenced the masses. Its followers formed a social and cultural community and consequently created a distinctive life style and philosophy.
“Bektâsi” philosophy is culturally very rich. This cultural understanding contains concepts ranging from sociology to philosophy and literature to folklore.
Fevâid, Hacı Bektas Veli’s book says “if you want to be in Heaven forever treat everybody friendly and do not hold a grudge against anyone. Be gentle and tender, not austere”.
Bektâsis has a real, lenient, tolerant and comprehensive point of view on life and society. “Overlook the faults you see, do not talk about what you have not seen” is a principle that is reminded to every new member in an oath ceremony. This is explained in “Hacım Sultan Velayetnamesi” via a divine wisdom of “Allah Subhane Teala graced Adam’s heart with a light of tolerance”. In Bektâsî understanding, the phrases such as “Bravo for those who overlooks others’ faults, be ignorant against others’ faults” reflects tolerance. The poet Kaygusuz Abdâl, a Bektasi member, implies that tolerance is a character of Allah in his poem: “God knows everything about each person, but does not call it out”
The expressions, mentioned as Allah’s commands, in the book of Besmele Şerhi (Explanation of Bismillah) by Hacı Bektas Veli further explains the Bektasi understanding: “Supreme God says: My dear Prophet, tell people to clean their heart with humbleness and love, get rid of zeal, doubt, hypocrisy, unfaithfulness, envy and gossips, feel regret for bad things they have done, cleanse with repentance, give up secret actions. Let them setup the table of love so that they become in love.”.
In his book Fevaid (Beneficial Advice), Haci Bektas Veli says, "The true dervish is one who won't allow his heart to get hurt when others break it; and the hero is the one who won't break the hearts of even those who deserve to be hurt.”
As seen in this sentiment, love and tolerance are the pillars of the Bektasi belief system. This has continued unchanged to this day. The disciples of this understanding, who view all seventy-two nations in the same light, continue to maintain the same perspective even today.
Love and tolerance are the values that embrace all human beings as 'one and the same', and that will make it possible for them to intermingle altogether regardless of religion, language and race. Today, we have reached a point where we realize that each and every individual has to be valued and respected as a human being in the same manner.
In the Turkish history, Mevlana, Haci Bektas Veli and Yunus Emre have embraced the same reality centuries ago as a principle; and they have reflected it upon the ones around them.
Haci Bektas Veli, the founder of the Bektasi school of thought, has made love and tolerance the main tenets of this belief system by proverbializing his vast tolerance with the following words: "Whatever you are searching for, search in yourself. Win hearts, so others will win yours. Do not forget that even your enemy is a human being. Do not hurt even if you get hurt. Do not impose on others that which is hard on you". He also encouraged people to live in unity and solidarity by saying, "Let's become one, let's become big, let's become strong."
Haci Bektas-i Veli’s Lost Commentary on Fatiha
Due to some policies and incidents of our modern history, books written in the Arabic script have been destroyed, disappeared or kept in private libraries. This happened to many books on the Bektasi Order.
The widely-known books of Haci Bektash-i Veli, such as Makalat, have been published. According to the sources we have, some of the books attributed to Haci Bektasi Veli have never been found. One such book is the Commentary on Fatiha. Most scholars believe that he authored such a book.
Esat Cosan, who did an extensive research on Makalat, reported that he went to the Tire Library, but could not find the book itself, nor a record of it. Similarly, a Bektasi elder (dedebabasi), is known to have looked for the book. Most prominent scholars of Haci Bektasi Veli and the Bektasi Order agree about the existence of the book. As indicated earlier, there has been no record of the book in the libraries.
I started searching this by the suggestion of my professor Abdurrahman Guzel. After 19 years, I found a manuscript which includes Fatiha tafsir written with Haci Bektas’s Makalat in British Museum Library. Then, I found another copy of the manuscript in Suleymaniye Library. I compared two manusripts and published my findings.
This work as you can understand from the title, is a word to word tafsir of the first chapter of Kuran. The author composed this piece by translating the hidden explanations which is a common technique in sufism. The interesting quality of this work is it makes mystic comments, focuses on the word count and the letters that have not used in this chapter.
In Bektasi understanding Fatiha, the first chapter of Kuran has a special place. Bedri Noyan, the last father of Bektasi dervishes said: “Bektasis value Fatiha so much. They believe that whole Kuran is summarized in Fatiha. They call this chapter as Seven Layers, Book of Fatiha, The Main Book. Fatiha is the essence of the Kuran and mankind is the Fatiha of the Universe. The last part of the Haci Bektas’s translation of Fatiha is as follows;
“Rabbi’l-âlemîn” (Lord of the Worlds (1:1)) consists of ten letters. Adding ten letters to the eight letters, it becomes eighteen. Allah created eighteen thousand worlds. Whoever recites these eighteen letters, he would be given as much reward as the number of the creatures of these eighteen thousand worlds
“Errahmânirrahîm” (The Beneficent, the Merciful (1:2) ) consists of twelve letters. When you add it to the eighteen, it is thirty letters. Sirat bridge. Whoever recites these letters, he would pass the Sirat Bridge like a streak of lightning.
“Mâliki yevmi’ddîn” (Owner of the Day of Judgement.(1:3))consists of twelve letters. Adding thirty to the twelve, you get forty two. Whoever recites these forty two letters, he would get reward as he worshipped for forty two years.
“İyyâke na’büdü” (You (alone) we worship (1:4)) consists of eight letters. When you add forty two to the eight, you get fifty. Doomsday takes fifty thousand years to pass. Just as in the Quran, Allah who has the supreme power says: “Ve alâ fî yevmin kâne mikdâruhû hamsîne elfe senetin” (The angels and the spirit ascend unto him in a day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years.(70:4)) Whoever recites these fifty letters, may Allah protect him from the judgment day affairs. May Allah provide him shadows.
“Ve iyyâke nestaînü” (You (alone) we ask for help. (1:4)) consists of eleven letters. If you add it to the fifty, it makes sixty one letters. Allah has created sixty seas. If he recites these sixty one letters, he would get such a reward that it is worth all the drops of those seas.
“İhdine’s-sırâta’l-mustakîm” (Show us the straight path (1:5)) is nineteen letters. When you add nineteen to the sixty one, it makes eighty letters. Whoever recites these eighty letters, he would be blessed with the reward of eighty years of fasting and the reward of praying at nights.
“Sırâtallezîne en amte aleyhim” (The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; (1:6)) is nineteen letters. Allah has ninety nine Names. Whoever recites these 99 letters, he would be rewarded like reciting these 99 Divine Names. That is to say, this person is certainly to be among the people of the Heaven.
“Gayri’l mağdubi aleyhim” is fifteen letters long. When added to ninety nine, it makes hundred and fourteen letters. The Quran also consists of hundred and fourteen surahs (chapters). Whoever reads those hundred and fourteen letters, it is as if he has read the Quran.
“Veladdâllîn” is ten letters long. When added to hundred and fourteen, they make hundred and twenty four letters. Allah (Allah) has hundred and twenty four thousand prophets, more or less. Whoever reads the Surah Al Fatiha from beginning to the end properly gains as much sawab (spiritual merit) as the reward of the former prophets, Allah willing. O Allah, do not deprive us of that reward. Do not deprive the person who wrote that text, the person who read it and all the Muslims, too. O Allah, the sovereign of the sovereigns, Lord of the universe, for the sake of the prophet Mohammed, do not deprive us of your mercy.
In conclusion, we strongly believe that the book “Tefsir-i Fatiha” belongs to Haci Bektasi Veli. Our belief is based on several factors such as, researchers, who are working in the subject, declare that there exists an interpretation of Fatiha by Haci Bektasi Veli. Also there exist many examples of Fatiha interpretations in the Sufi practice. Moreover, the characteristics of the language, the style and the contents of the book “Tefsir-i Fatiha” are similar to the “Fatiha Interpretation” by Haci Bektasi Veli. These factors support our belief that the book “Tefsir-i Fatiha” belongs to Haci Bektasi Veli.
We think more copies of the work exists in some libraries or owned by some people. When we discover them, we may have better ideas and greater knowledge about the book “ Tefsir-i Fatiha”.
Since the time Haci Bektas Veli lived in 13th century, his Sufi thoughts and Bektasi order have been influencing people continuously. Finding and distributing similar written sources related to him and his work provides valuable authentic references for national and international researchers. It is certain that the research efforts, in the light of the fact he pointed out “The path outside the science has a dark end”, will contribute significantly to introduce Haci Bektasi Veli correctly into the public.
I would like to take this opportunity to remember Resat Bardi Baba who had provided valuable support to protect Bektasi Beliefs and ideas, and also I would like to express my deep appreciation to Baba Mondi who wrote the preface of the book, and the publisher Mr. Nuh.
Güzel, Abdurrahman (2002), Hacı Bektaş Velî ve Makâlât, Akçağ Yayınları, Ankara.
Noyan, Bedri (1987), Bektâşîlik Alevîlik Nedir, Ankara.
Öz, Baki (1997), Bektâşilik Nedir? , Istanbul.
Özcan, Hüseyin (2010), Fatiha Tefsiri, Horasan Yayınları, İstanbul.
 International Burch University, Faculty of Education, Turkish Department, Bosnia and Herzegovina