Dergahs (dervish lodges) were institutions of wisdom and knowledge; these institutions were the foremost of the non-profit organizations that played a significant role in religious, scholarly, social and even economic life of the Ottoman Istanbul. The activities of the dergahs started following the conquest and grew from this date on. From the conquest until 1925, more than 500 Sufi orders of various sizes were established in Istanbul- this was higher than the number of dergahs in any other city in the Muslim world. Almost all of the Sufi orders formed a branch in Istanbul, and in time some of them even moved their center to this city. Even in the first years after the conquest, we see that Naqshibandi Sufi order started to become a part of daily life and was represented in Istanbul. Even though the dergah of Gümüşhanevi, also known as Fatma Sultan Sufi Lodge, which was established by Ahmed Ziyaeddin Efendi from the city of Gümüşhane, one of the representatives of the Naqshibandi tradition, was formed in the later Ottoman periods, it is remarkable for its effect and influence.
The building of Gümüşhanevi Dergah in the district of Cağaloğlu is used as the office of the governor of Istanbul today. In the Ottoman period, it was used as the office of the grand vizier, who was the counterpart of today’s prime minister. The powerful grand vizier of the Tulip Era Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha used this building actively; in following periods its significance as an administrative center fluctuated depending on the effectiveness of the grand vizier. İbrahim Pasha was very diligent in constructing buildings and endowing them for the public benefit. He built some of his charitable works together with his wife, the daughter of Sultan Ahmed III, Fatma Sultan, and/or he supported her to make endowments on her own. The külliye (building complex), which is located in the district of Vezneciler, located in the south of Şehzade Mosque, is one of the buildings that they commissioned and endowed together and enriched the the Ottoman Civilization. During the period of his active duty at the Sublime Porte, İbrahim Pasha constructed a külliye (complex), whose parts were scattered around his palace. His wife noticed a prayer house, which was known as Terzibaşı Piri Ağa Masjid and lay in ruins close to the palace. She had this prayer house, which took place in the lot across from today’s governor’s office, demolished, had some more land out of the palace territory allocated and constructed a mosque in the enlarged lot. The mosque became known after her as Fatma Sultan Mosque, which was commemorated by her name. The construction of this charitable work was completed in 1140 (1727-1728).
Fatma Sultan Mosque, in time, was affected and damaged by some disasters like lightning, fire, etc. In the middle of the nineteenth century, this mosque, rebuilt by Mahmud II in 1243 (1827-1828), became half-forsaken where only noon and late afternoon prayers were performed.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Ziyaeddin Gümüşhanevi Efendi, who resided in Mahmut Pasha Madrasa and became engaged in teaching, writing and preaching, felt the need to move his activities to a larger place. When his close friend, student and disciple Kastamonulu Hasan Hilmi Efendi volunteered to act as the caller to prayer (müezzin) at Fatma Sultan Mosque, five daily prayers began to be performed in the mosque. Moreover, this mosque became recognized a locale for the function of meşihat (Sufi mastership)in 1859—it became a tevhidhane, i.e. a dergah. In 1875 a harem (private) and a selamlık (public) section were added to the western side of the mosque. Thus the mosque became a full-fledged Sufi complex. From this time on it began to be known by different names, such as “The Lodge of Ahmet Ziyaeddin Efendi”, “The Lodge of Fatma Sultan”, “The Lodge of Gümüşhaneli”, and “The Lodge of Halidi Order.”
This building was the dergah for Ahmed Ziyaeddin Efendi, the founding master of the Ziyaiyye Sufi order, a sub-branch of the Khalidi branch of the Naqshibandi Sufi order. As such it served as the asitane (center) of the said sub-branch. It became the center in which Ahmed Ziyaeddin Efendi’s successors resided and continued the practice of the method and manners of the Ziyaiyye order until the Sufi dergâhs were closed. The Sufi masters who served in this dergah are: Ahmed Ziyaeddin Efendi of Gümüşhane (1859-1893), Hasan Hilmi Efendi of Kastamonu (1893-1911), İsmail Necati Efendi of Safranbolu (1911-1919), Ömer Ziyaeddin Efendi of Daghistan (1919-1920) and Mustafa Feyzi Efendi of Tekirdağ (1920-1925).
Gümüşhanevi Dergah consists of the mosque-tevhidhane as well as harem and selamlık sections. In the section of mosque-tevhidhane, daily prayers were performed; educational activities were undertaken; weekly ceremonies of dhikr (remembrance of God) were enacted, and other religious ceremonies on appointed holy days and nights were held. In the private section of the dergah, the the sheikh and his family resided. In the public section, a library and cells for religious retreats existed.
The documents in the official and private archives, particularly the documents of the Gümüşhanevi Dergah, housed in in the M. Esad Coşan’s private archive, demonstrate that people from all classes of Istanbul society continued to participate in programs at the Gümüşhanevi Dergah. The same documents show that the majority of the events were designed to attract the attention of scholars. Choosing a location right across from the Sublime Porte is important from the point of the mission-location relationship. At that time this area was the center of the government. This region later became the center of the press and developed into one of the main places in Ottoman cultural life.
As teaching the ahadith (reports of the prophetic tradition) became one of its main educational tools in this dergah. Ramuz al-ahadith, of Ahmed Ziyaeddin Efendi, which became one of the most-read books on the subject in the recent history, was read and taught from sunrise until noon, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Every year this activity started at the beginning of the month of Muharram; was completed in the month of Rajab, and a special ceremony for the completion of the book took place. Those who attended the class from the beginning until the end received their certificates, and were presented a copy of Ramuz al-ahadith that had been loaned to them as well as a copy of its commentary, Lawami‘ al-uqul, as a gift. Gümüşhanevi Ahmed Ziyaeddin Efendi taught Ramuz to more than seventy circles throughout his life and at least seventy people attended each one of these circles; these attendees were either students or people who had already completed their education. It can be inferred from this information that this dergâh provided education to thousands of people in its relatively short life. Likewise Gümüşhanevî’s other book on the same topic, Gharaib al-ahadith, which was written for a different purpose, was taught on the same days following the noon prayer. Reading this book was completed in a shorter time than the other (Ramuz), and thus it was repeated a few times a year. In various classes that were taught at the dergah, the aim was to create a collective consciousness and to strengthen the identity by means of combining worship and education with daily life.
The disciples, associated with the dergah usually attended and completed their education at the prestigious educational institutions of the period such as Fatih, Beyazıt, or Mahmut Paşa madrasas; some of them even excelled and became muderris (professor) at these institutions. At the same time, they complemented their scholarly training as well as underwent a spiritual training and perfection at Gümüşhanevi Dergah. Then they were sent throughout the Muslim lands, spreading the Sufi understanding in accordance with the Qur’an and the prophetic tradition (Sunnah) to the places they went. It can be seen that a significant number of these successors worked as an instructor at huzur lessons (lessons held in the presence of the sultan), as teachers at the Darü’l-hilafeti’l-aliyye or other madrasas.
The ceremony of hatim (reading the entire Quran) would be undertaken every morning in the Gümüşhanevi Dergah, which was frequented by men and women, people from different careers, from tradesmen to artists and artisans, from scholars to military officials, from the ordinary public to sultans. After this ceremony, a hatm-i hace service (the Naqshibandi ritual consisting of prayers and litanies), would be performed; when this was finished, işrak prayer (supererogatory late morning prayer would be performed. On Friday afternoons, the ceremonies of hatim and hatm-i hace services would be conducted together with the congregation. Likewise, Tuesday nights after the night prayer, hatm-i hace and other religious services would be performed.
In some years, the practice of khalwat/halvet (seclusion) would be carried out only once, while, in some other years, it could be performed twice or more. Those who participated in these practices, which were usually directed towards scholarly circles and held in the months of Rajab and Dhu al-Hijja, an oath would be taken about what kind of services they would offer society afterwards. Thus, almost all of the attendees would promise to go to their hometowns or other places and spend their time, particularly during the month of Ramadan, preaching and giving advice to the people.
On holy days and nights the people would come together in the dergah and listen to sermons, recite the Qur’an, make prayers, say the testimony of Islamic faith (tehlil) seventy thousand times, and perform late night prayers. Thus they would enliven the night with religious practices.
After the eid prayers, the attendees would congratulate each other. At the Eid of Sacrifice and at other times some people would bring their sacrificial animals and offerings to the dergâh and sacrifice them there. This meat would be used to prepare the food to be offered to the visitors of the dergah.
The kitchen of Gümüşhanevi Dergah, which was located in a central place, would serve the sheikh, his family, and those who were on permanent duty at the dergah as well as those who came and stayed at the dergah for various occasions like eids, holy days and nights, congregational religious services, the meals for breaking the fast in the month of Ramadan and the needy people living in the neighborhood of the dergah.
It can be seen that in addition to this dergah, hatm-i hace services would be performed at about forty other places in Istanbul. Women would not be overlooked and they could attend similar services either in the dergah or in their private homes.
It can also be seen that during the period when Duyun-i Umumiyye (the Administration of Public Debts), a period of economic bankruptcy (after 1881), Gümüşhanevi Dergah demonstrated ways and solutions for both the public and the administrators by mobilizing the social dynamics through its entrepreneurship in this field, as in many other aspects of life.
Gümüşhanevi Dergah which closely observed the difficult situation that the state was in, asked its followers to collect their savings to make a fund; this was used to make investments. Then the dergah distributed the profits from these investments to those who had joined the fund and used a part of the profits for the expenditures of the dergah. The dergah purchased printing press, established libraries, and published books with the profits of such investments and distributed them throughout the Islamic world. In this way it served for the development of the knowledge and made an effort to fulfill the requirements of the first command, and more importantly the first word of the religion, “Read.”
Distributing the books, published at its own printing press, to scholars and establishing a library and a book center in the dergah, Gümüşhanevi Dergah exerted influence in the scholarly life of Istanbul. It also established libraries in several regions of Anatolia and established foundations in order to ensure the survival of these libraries.
Some of the representatives of Gümüşhanevi Dergah which carried the religious understanding and practices of Istanbul to Anatolia and to many other places in the world through its representatives established madrasa-dergah-library in their homelands or in other places they visited. Hasan Hilmi Efendi from Kastamonu established such an institution in Geyve, Eşref Efendi from Lüleburgaz did so in Istanbul, Hilmi Efendi from Ankara did so in İzmit, Hasan Hilmi Efendi from Düzce established a madrasa-dergah-library in Düzce, Yusuf Bahri Efendi did so in Ünye, Zeynullah Efendi from Kazan did so in a region called Tarvisky, Yusuf Şevki Efendi did so in Of, Osman Niyazi Efendi established a madrasa-dergah-library in Rize, Ferşad İbrahim Efendi did so in Çaykara, Ali Efendi from Çırpılar did so in Bayramiç, Mehmed Efendi from Karahisar did so in Afyon, Hasan Ziyaeddin Efendi did so in Nallıhan, and Yörükzade Ahmed Efendi established such an institution in Bolvadin; all these men operated as representatives of Gümüşhanevi Dergah.
The heads of the dergah had special interest in the Comoro Islands, Balkans, Caucasus, Damascus, Baghdad, the Hejaz region, and in particular Egypt, which was one of the most important scholarly and knowledge centers, although it was going through the process of separation from the Ottoman State.
Mustafa Feyzi Efendi was the head of the dergah in 1925, when the dergahs were closed down. After his death, his approach were represented by Serezli Hasib Efendi (d. 1949), Kazanlı Abdülaziz Bekkine Efendi (d. 1952), Bursalı Mehmed Zahid Kotku Efendi (d. 1980) and Çanakkaleli M. Esad Coşan Efendi (d. 2001). Starting from the day Gümüşhanevi Dergâh was established, it conducted its services by placing Istanbul at the center both during the period of the Ottoman State and the Turkish Republic. It continued its services in Turkey and in various countries of the world. In addition to religious life, the dergâh provided leading and important services through its institutional activities and the people it trained in various aspects of life, particularly in health care, press, publishing, communication, art, culture, environment and politics.
After the closure of the dergahs, the building in which Gümüşhanevi Dergah was born and developed became one of of the group of mosques outside the government payroll. For a period of time its harem and selamlık sections were used as the dormitory of the office of the governor of Istanbul, while its mosque-tevhidhane section was used as clothes storage. Even though in 1950 the mosque was added to the list of mosques that were to be restored, it was demolished during the expansion project of Babıalı Street in 1956-1957. Today, in 2014, there are some efforts to reestablish the dergah in a form that would reflect its original.
Documents about the Gümüşhanevı Dergah housed in the archives of M. Esad Coşan Research and Education Center.
Gündüz, İrfan, Gümüşhanevi Ahmed Ziyâüddin Hayatı-Eserleri-Tarikat Anlayışı ve Halidiyye Tarikatı, Istanbul: Seha Neşriyat, 1984.
Kevseri, Mehmed Zahid, et-Tahrirü’l-veciz, Istanbul 1326.
Kevseri, Mehmed Zahid, İrgamü’l-merid, Istanbul: Bekir Efendi Matbaası, 1328.
Mustafa Fevzi b. Nu‘man, Hediyyetü’l-Halidin fi menakıbı Kutbi’l-arifîn Mevlana Ahmed Ziyaeddin b. Mustafa el-Gümüşhanevi, Istanbul 1313.
Mustafa Fevzi Efendi, Menakıb-ı Haseniyye fi ahvali’s-seniyye, Istanbul 1329.
Tanman, M. Baha, “Gümüşhanevi Tekkesi”, DİA, XIV, 277-278.
Yılmaz, Necdet (ed.), Ahmed Ziyaüddin Gümüşhanevi Sempozyum Bildirileri, Istanbul: Seha Neşriyat, 1992.
Yücer, Hür Mahmut, Osmanlı Toplumunda Tasavvuf (19. Yüzyıl), Istanbul: İnsan Yayınları, 2003.