The Kelami Dergah (dervish lodge), located in the Odabaşı neighborhood of the Şehremini district of Istanbul, was established by Kelami Mustafa Efendi of Khalwati order (d. 1738). The dergah, which was affiliated with the Khalwati order, changed hands after the eighteenth century and until the middle of the nineteenth century Sufi sheikhs from different Sufi orders served as its head After this position stayed vacant for a while, a Sufi sheikh of Qadiri order Çadırcı Sheikh Mehmed Raşid Efendi (d. 1878) was appointed as the head of the dergâh by Meclis-i Meşayıh (the official committee that appointed the sheikhs). Following Mehmed Raşid Efendi, the dergâh was usually associated with the Qadiri order, even though Sufi masters from various orders occasionally were appointed as its head. In 1893, a Naqshibandi sheikh, Erbilli Muhammed Esad Efendi (d. 1931), who had also received license from the Qadiri order, became appointed as the head of the Dergâh. Esad Efendi became the last head of the Dergah.

Esad Efendi affiliated with the Naqshibandi sheikh Taha al-Hariri, who was a successor of Taha al-Haqqari, who in turn had been a successor of Khalid al-Baghdadi. Esad Efendi taught Hâfız Dîvânı at Fatih Mosque and was invited to the palace by Sultan Abdülhamid II’s son in-law, Halid Pasha, to give sermons. Esad Efendi later was appointed as the head of the Kelami dergâh after it had been vacant for a while. As a result of negative reports given against him by some people who wanted to cause him problems, Esad Efendi was exiled by Sultan Abdülhamid to his hometown of Erbil in 1900. Thus, his mission at Kelami Dergah was interrupted for a period of time. However, he continued his educational and training activities by sending letters to his disciples who were living in various parts of the country; Esad Efendi was able to return to Istanbul at the beginning of the Second Constitutional Perid. He reestablished Kelami Dergah in 1909. During this period, he occupied important positions at Cem’iyyet-i Sufiyye (The Sufi Association) and the Meclis-i Meşayıh. Until the Sufi lodges were closed down in 1925, Esad Efendi continued his activities at the Kelami Dergah and Selimiye Dergah, located in Üsküdar. The Danish author Carl Vett, who visited the Dergah just before 1925, presents a very positive impression of the Dergah as well as relates his conversations with Esad Efendi. Later, Esad Efendi secluded himself to his home in Kazasker, Erenköy (Istanbul). In 1930, together with his son, Esad Efendi was taken to Menemen and tried in a court as a result of the Menemen Incident. Esad Efendi passed away in Menemen.

The closure of the dergah and the death of Esad Efendi did not mean the complete disappearance of this center of spirituality. On the contrary, after the 1950s Esad Efendi’s guidance was continued by his successor, Mahmud Sami Ramazanoğlu (d. 1984). The dergah maintained its existence as a school of wisdom, knowledge, culture and morality in Istanbul and Anatolia. Mahmud Sami Efendi, who came from the family which had founded the Ramazanoğulları principality, graduated from Darülfünun Law School. At the time he received Sufi training, he fulfilled some duties, related to the functioning of the Kelami Dergah. After the closure of the Sufi lodges, Mahmud Sami Efendi continued to offer spiritual guidance in private gatherings in his hometown of Adana. In 1954 he moved to Istanbul and settled in Erenköy, where he gave sermons at Zihnipaşa Mosque. Because his home and the mosque in which he preached was in Erenköy, the group that gathered around him also became known as the Erenköy Cemaati (Erenköy Community). Rich and poor, tradesmen, workers, public officers and merchants, in other words, people from all classes of society, attended and benefited from his preaching. In addition to Naqshibandi wirds/virds (litanies), Mahmud Sami Efendi recommended Qadiri virds to his disciples. Sami Efendi played an important role in shaping the spiritual culture of modern-day Istanbul, by writing many books, particularly on Quranic exegesis and the lives of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad. A wide segment of society has benefited from his books.

After the death of Mahmud Sami Efendi, his disciple Musa Topbaş Efendi (d. 1999) from Konya undertook the guidance of the community. In accordance with the wish of his family, Musa Efendi received religious education. He took lessons in Quranic and other religious sciences from Elmalılı M. Hamdi Yazır; Arabic and religious knowledge from Mustafa Asım Yörük, and calligraphy from the calligrapher Hamid Aytaç. He attended lectures and sermons of several scholars, such as Bekir Haki Yener, Tahirü’l-Mevlevi, Babanzade Ahmed Naim, Ali Yekta Efendi and Ömer Nasuhi Bilmen. After Sami Efendi’s death, Musa Efendi began to guide the disciples of the order. Musa Efendi came from a family that pioneered for the establishment of many charitable institutions. After the 1980s, in addition to these institutions, he continued his guidance and charitable activities through the Aziz Mahmut Hüdayi Foundation.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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