Debates in the Second Constitutional Period

In order to accurately trace the course of Sufi life in the Republican era it is necessary to go back a little in time. The period, which started with the declaration of the Second Constitutional Period (Meşrutiyet) in 1908, is the one that consists of a number of “firsts” and innovations. The fundamental feature of this period is that all Ottoman institutions were brought under scrutiny. Monarchy itself became the major focus and everything became a topic of debate and discussion; this included the entire world of intelligentsia, from the legal structure to the tekkes (dervish lodges) and madrasas, from the language reform to nationalism. The main question concerning this subject is: Could the Ottoman State have continued to exist with tekkes? Could the dervishes contribute to society in any way?

It is possible to find different answers to this question in many journals and newspapers published in Istanbul between 1909 and 1919. Whether these journals and newspapers were published by people with Western or Eastern orientation or by Turkists or Islamists makes little difference. In all the same question was asked. This long-standing debate may be summed up as follows: With the exception of the İçtihad magazine, published by Abdullah Cevdet and his friends, everybody unanimously stated: “Not without the tekkes! But, they must be reformed.” However, a small group acting with İçtihad supported the permanent closure of these institutions.

But what did the Sufis themselves, the main addressees of the question, have to say? To find the answers they gave, we need to turn to the journals published in Istanbul by tekke members. For the first time in history, during the distressing years of the Second Constitutional Period, years that were spent in war, Sufis published journals and established associations. Through these journals, we are able to follow their thoughts on the subject matter.

The following is a list of the journals published in Istanbul:

Tasavvuf. This journal began its publication life as a weekly journal under the editorship of Sheikh Safvet (d. 1950), also an MP of Urfa. It was published between March 23, 1911 – December 21, 1911 (20 Rabi al-Akhir 1329 - 29 Dhu al-Hijja 1329) for 36 issues.

Cerîde-i Sûfiyye. This was a weekly journal published on Fridays. The first issue was published on March 19, 1909 (26 Safar 1327). Although some of the issues were printed at different time intervals, a total of 161 issues were published until August 31, 1919. The directing manager was Hasan Kazım, and the first editor was Ali Fuad. Later Mustafa Fevzi took over the editorship of the journal.

Muhibbân was published monthly under the editorship of Hacıbeyzade Ahmed Muhtar (b. 1871- d. 1955). The first issue of the journal was published on September 14, 1909 (8 Sha‘ban 1327) and the last issue on April 1, 1919 (29 Jumada al-Akhira 1337). A total of 26 issues were printed in ten years.

Despite the different opinions they voiced from time to time due to differences in disposition (mashrab), the final word they all united around was this: “There has been a collapse in Sufi life, there is a loss of refinement in tekkes. Urgent measures must be taken to improve their current condition.” That is, everybody agreed that tekkes, and Sufi life in general, were beleaguered with serious troubles. However, there were different views on what the course of treatment should be.1

The duty of those who acknowledged the problem was obvious: To find the path that led to the solution. The primary solution suggested by dervishes was to oversee the proper training of the sons of sheikhs, that is, the future sheikhs of tekkes. In their opinion, putting an end to the destructive course the tekkes were on, and then directing them toward a better course; this was hinged upon providing the proper training and education for the sheikh candidates. They had even come up with a name to give to the private school that was to be established - Medresetü’l-meşâyih (Madrasa of Sheikhs). The students of this madrasa would be the children of sheikhs. These children were to be educated in religious-Sufi culture by competent educators who would prepare them for the heavy responsibility they were to shoulder. Unfortunately, because of all the problems in this period, the project was never realized.

However, the second issue discussed for finding the solution to the problem was the Meclis-i Meşayih, a general directorate of Sufi orders; this had been established during the Tanzimat period (1839–1876). State administrators, who had wanted to put tekke life in order through new regulations and instructions, revised the council. We have the details of these efforts, undertaken in 1917, at our disposal.

The War of Independence in Istanbul and the Istanbul Tekkes

One of the first things Mustafa Kemal did when he set out toward Samsun from Istanbul was to write letters to a number of tekke sheikhs and leading Sufis of the time. The gist of these letters was “It is not possible without you.” That is, it would be impossible for this movement to be successful without the support, prayers and spiritual resolve of the sheikhs.

Indeed, along with the members of Sufi orders in Anatolia, the Istanbul tekkes supported the armed struggle during Istanbul’s occupation. Among these tekkes, the Hatuniye Naqshibandi Tekke in Eyüp was actively involved in smuggling arms, due to its location in a quarter close to the weapons and ammunition depots. Although the sheikh of the tekke, Saadeddin Ceylan, was later arrested due to these activities, the dervishes of the tekke succeeded in emptying the weapons depots which had been under the control of foreign military forces, and in transferring them to İnebolu.

The Üsküdar Özbekler Tekke worked as a mail center during the War of Independence. Very significant pieces of intelligence obtained from representatives of the Allies were conveyed to Anatolia by means of this tekke. During Istanbul’s occupation, the tekke functioned like an outpost which hid those willing to participate in the National Struggle, sending them to Anatolia. It was also used as a hospital for the treatment of soldiers who were wounded during raids on ammunition depots occupied by the enemy. In her books entitled Mor Salkımlı Ev (The Wisteria House) and Türkün Ateşle İmtihanı (Turk’s Examination by Fire), the famous writer Halide Edip Adıvar recounts her memories of the Özbekler Tekke, which served as a center for the transfer of soldiers, weapons, and ammunition, and also secretly conveyed intelligence reports from Istanbul to Anatolia during the years of the War of Independence; in addition, she records her memories of the tekke’s sheikh Atâ Efendi.

When the dervishes from Anatolian Mawlawi lodges formed a “Regiment of Mawlawi Warriors,” many dervishes from the Mawlawi tekkes in Istanbul also set out to join the fighting. During those distressing years, many tekkes prayed for the victory of the army, a tradition that began with the lodge of Kocamustafapaşa Sünbül Sinan. The kalima-i tawheed khatims were made and Sura al-Fath were recited and read countless times for the victory of the army until early hours of morning.

The members of the Grand Turkish National Assembly - established while the war was still raging – consisted mainly of people affiliated with various Sufi orders, and additionally there were nearly ten sheikhs. This state of affairs was perfectly natural for the Anatolian people; it was obligatory for two of the parliamentary deputy speakers to be selected from amongst sheikhs. Cemaleddin Efendi, the sheikh of the lodge of Hacı Bektaş Veli in Kırşehir, and Abdülhalim Efendi, the sheikh of the Mevlana Lodge in Konya.2 We have in our possession a manifesto supporting the Ankara government, with the title Tarikat-ı Aleviyye on May 5, 1922, written by the sheikh of the Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli Lodge, Veliyyüddin Efendi.

The Closure of All Tekkes and the Period of Sufism without Them

Between 1920 and 1925 there were no noteworthy debates held in parliament about tekkes or Sufi orders. Even in 1924, around the time when the Diyanet (Directorate of Religious Affairs) was being established, the management of tekkes, as well as mosques and masjids, was given to the directorate as one of its essential duties.

Suffering due to the Sheikh Said Rebellion (February 1925), which had begun in January in the Eastern and Southeastern Anatolian provinces, the government pinned the blame on two institutions: tekkes and the first ever opposition party, the Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası (Progressive Republican Party), which had only recently been established. The latter was a fledgling organization, while the former was a very well-established institution. The party was shuttered shortly thereafter. Although it was more difficult to eliminate the tekkes, it did not take a long time, either. December of 1925 was a turning point for all the Sufi orders in Istanbul: Tekkes, dotted all across the city since 1453, were banned. Having once been one of the strategic sources for the Independence War, lodges were now “sealed.” Along with the tomb of Hacı Bayram Veli (in Ankara), collectively visited upon the inauguration of the first assembly, all tombs in Istanbul belonging to sultans and statesmen were locked. Even the tombs of saints, which held invaluable articles in them, were locked and left to rot. In addition, addressing anyone as şeyh, “derviş”, murid, çelebi, dede or baba was prohibited.

How long could this dam - placed across a river that had flowed for centuries - withstand? Or would the floodgates be opened from time to time to avoid social catastrophes? Another way to put this question: were tekkes closed permanently or temporarily? It was, at that time, not possible to ask such questions regarding an institution that was seen to be the cause of a movement which the state had been able to rein in only with a set of rigorous measures. Who could have asked questions of this sort in an extraordinary period that was dominated by the İstiklal Mahkemes (Courts of Independence) - which operated based on mandates provided by laws like Hıyânet-i Vataniyye (Treason Law) or the Takrîr-i Sükûn (Consolidation of Peace)?

We must take into consideration the reactions of tekke members, as they were directly targeted by Act No. 677, dated December 13, 1925, which closed down and outlawed all tekkes and zaviyes. These reactions can be divided into several groups. The majority of the Sufis of the time were unsettled by this act, and thought that it was a wrong decision. There was a small minority who had differing assessments about what had happened, and some of their ideas are as follows:

1. It is not possible to close down the tekkes. The entire universe is dervish lodge. There is no need for a special venue for the remembrance of Allah.

2. It is not possible to cure the worsening state of tekkes. They shut themselves down, and not the government.

3. One must abide by the principle of “the good wisdom of the government.” Whatever the government does is right. What is incumbent on us is to obey.

4. The related act closed down only tekkes; it did not outlaw Sufism. Therefore, this “artery” will retain its vitality.

There were also those who expressed their thoughts in verse:

Açarlar bab-ı Hakkı kar’ eden talibler ey Hakkı
Hüda fettahtır elbette kalmaz bu kapı muğlak
(O Haqqi, the aspirants who knock shall open the door of the Truth
The Guide (Allah) is the Opener, this door shall not remain closed)

One of the sheikhs who voiced through poetry his deep sadness caused by the aforementioned law, but who was unable to publish the poems, was Mehmed Şemseddin Ulusoy, a Misri sheikh; he passed away in Istanbul in 1936.3

To be able to follow and examine Sufi culture in both the present time and over history it is necessary to examine the following three topics: Sufi personalities, books on Sufism, and Sufi institutions. During the era of the Republic, the last subject was completely eliminated, while the first and second elements were reduced to the lowest possible level. As there were no institutions left to train, discipline or educate people to raise genuine Sufis, no more “people of the heart” could emerge to write new works on Sufism. At this point, the famous couplet is quite topical:

Marifet iltifata tabidir
Müşterisiz meta zayidir
(Skills are affiliated with praise,
Merchandise without customers decays)

Thus, a life of Sufism without tekkes was now intermingled with the endeavors of timid and anxious dervishes to seek a way out; moreover, they tried to express their feelings without provoking a reaction from the government. To help you better imagine what kind of atmosphere we are talking about, Tâhir’ül Mevlevî (d. 1952) is a good example. This Mevlevi dervish, who was the official Mathnawi teacher at the Fatih Mosque from September 1925, was tried by the İstiklal Mahkeme because he had sold five copies of a work by Âtıf Efendi of İskilip, entitled Frenk Mukallitliği ve Şapka (Imitating the West and the Hat); as a result he was sent to prison term from December 7, 1925 to February 3, 1926. He was then acquitted.

To be able to get a full picture of the social vacuum created by the absence of tekkes, we need to remember the function of these institutions once again. Tekkes were not places where people with a certain mindset gathered for merely holding sohbet (conversations/lectures) or dhikr (remembrance of God). In addition to being locations for Sufi teachings and training, these institutions served the society over a broad spectrum - from making efforts to promote every kind of social solidarity, to music and sports. They were particularly unrivaled in the area of teaching fine arts, especially poetry and music. While it would have been possible to improve the tekkes, their prohibition created widespread disappointment, given that they had penetrated into the fabric of society. That a small minority, primarily a number of lawmakers, applauded this decision does nothing to change this fact. Also the fact that noble sheikhs, who were Istanbul’s most venerable dignitaries, were overnight placed in the same category as “the most abhorrent figures,” resulted in profound disillusionment. Moreover, they were unable to voice their opinions due to a hostile political environment. Dervishes had lived their religious-sentimental life at a very deep and effervescent level, particularly through gatherings of vocal remembrance ceremonies, and their current experience was comparable to a state of shock, like that caused by the sudden halt of a vehicle which had been progressing at high speed. Having lost their long-established living standards, some of the sheikhs found themselves unable to earn a livelihood, and at times were even deprived of a single piece of bread. Although they passed years under these circumstances, the Menemen Incident, which broke out in 1930, was exploited as a pretext to deliver another blow to Sufis. Sheikh Es’ad Erbili, one of the most renowned sheikhs in Istanbul, who had already been under house arrest in his Erenköy home for five years, was taken to Menemen, and tried to be punished with the death penalty. Although 27 others, including his son Mehmed Ali Efendi, were hanged 40 days after the incident, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment due to his advanced age. Following his death, his body was not returned to his family.

Government officials, who saw tekkes and tekke members as the cause of the Sheikh Said Incident, pinned the blame for the Menemen Incident (December 23, 1930) on the same group of people and held them responsible. All opposition movements of the day were connected by the prevailing political atmosphere of either “trickery” by the Naqshibandis or an “uprising” by the supporters of Edhem the Circassian. According to the president of the court martial, the incident was not a simple case of rebellion, but instead was a plot of a secret organization (the Naqshibandis, that is) who believed Dervish Mehmed to be the Mahdi. After conveying this information, Mete Tunçay said the following: “However, it must have been so obvious that such a serious Sufi order as the Naqshibandis would not accept the claim of an ignorant dervish that he was the Mahdi.”4

It is safe to assume that many innocent people were convicted by the court during these trials. An example of how the top officials of the day viewed the event from their own sentimental perspectives can be found in the memoir of Fahreddin Pasha, the commander of the martial law. He noted that at a meeting held in Çankaya, attended by the prime minister, the parliamentary speaker, the minister of defense and the interior minister, the president asked that the people of Menemen be exiled, whilst the ministers stated that the Naqshibandi Order was a “serpent” that had to be crushed. Only if the stories of the people who were held under house arrest, convicted, exiled or hanged in the aftermath of the Sheikh Said and Menemen incidents are known in detail, can the silence and resentment of the religious people and the dervishes in our country be fully appreciated.

Initially dismissing the gap left behind by the absence of tekkes as nonexistent, government officials finally admitted the truth. But, at this point, it was impossible to reopen tekkes; another alternative had to be developed. Amid the controversies about the performing of the call to prayer (adhan / ezan) in Turkish, one which attracted a lot of public attention in early 1930’s, an alternative to the tekkes was discovered – halk evi (community centers). These institutions were opened in 1932. Although they did serve some beneficial purposes, they could not possibly fulfill the same functions as the dervish lodges. The only person in the 1930s to discuss the benefits of dervish lodges - without stirring any official reaction - was Osman Nuri Ergin (d. 1961), who regularly had attended the talks given by Ahmed Âmiş Efendi. Those who take the time to read his Türkiye’de Şehirciliğin Tarihi (The History of Urbanism in Turkey), published in 1936, and his five-volume Türkiye Maarif Tarihi (The History of Education in Turkey) can find this courageous man’s remarks on the topic.

While critiquing historical events, dervishes very often resorted to the Sufi terms of cemâlî tecelli (manifestation of beauty) and celâlî tecelli (manifestation of rigor or majesty). That is, where there are roses, there are thorns, and vice versa. From this perspective, even though the 1930s appear to be a time when the thorns vastly outnumbered the roses, there were still roses. Although they were upset and heartbroken, many people of spiritual perfection had grown up during the Ottoman era and were still alive and busy continuing their spiritual interactions with their immediate surroundings. Albeit in closed circles, Sufi sheikhs kept their channels open. How to publish books - the second channel of Sufi education - was also a topic of discussion, despite the challenges imposed by the language reform. Those familiar with works of Sufism were able to quench their thirst in this way. Previously published works of scholar-sheikhs, who had been sheikhs of tekkes in Istanbul, also proved very valuable. Most of these works, which had been written in Ottoman Turkish, were transliterated to the modern Turkish alphabet. The first twelve works that immediately come to mind are the following:

Abdülhakim Arvasi: er-Riyâzü’t-tasavvufiyye (The Sufi Gardens), Istanbul 1341; Râbıtâ-i Şerîfe (The Blessed Connection), Istanbul 1341.

Kenan Rıfai: İlâhiyât-ı Ken’ân (The Anthology of Ken’ân), Istanbul 1341; Ahmed er-Rifâî, Istanbul 1340.

Sadeddin Nüzhet: İlm-i Tasavvuf (The Science of Sufism), Istanbul 1341; Sheikh Galib, Istanbul 1935.

Ahmed Remzi Akyürek: Gülizâr-ı Aşk (the Rose Garden of Love), Istanbul 1337; Tuhfe-i Remzî (The Gift of Remzi), Istanbul 1344.

Hüseyin Vassaf: Vesîletü’n-necât (Means of Deliverance), Istanbul 1329; Sefîne-i Evliyâ (The Ship of Saints).

Veled Çelebi İzbudak: Dîvân-ı Türkî-i Sultan Veled (The Turkish Anthology of Sultan Veled), Istanbul 1341.

Fahreddin Efendi: Suâlnâme (Questions and Answers), Istanbul 1339; Ta’rîfnâme, Istanbul, undated.

Abdülbaki Baykara: Enfâs-ı Bâkî. (The Breath of the Permanent One)

Mustafa Feyzi Efendi: Menâkıb-ı Zıyâiyye (The Illuminating Feats ), Istanbul 1313; Risâle-i Mir’âtü’ş-şühûd (Treatise on The Mirror of Direct Vision of Divine Manifestations), Istanbul 1320.

Hasan Hüsnü Efendi: Nesamât-ı Ruhâniyye (Spiritual Winds); Risâle-i Mir’âtü’l-ebrâr (Treatise on the Mirror of the Righteous and Virtuous).

Abdülhay Efendi: Mektûbât. (The Letters)

Taceddin Efendi: Güldeste-i Dervişân (The Rose Garden of Dervishes), Istanbul 1341.

One of the famous dervishes in Istanbul at the time was Küçük Hüseyin Efendi (d. 1930). What needs to be emphasized about this dervish is that he was the sheikh of Fevzi Çakmak, the chief of staff. It is for this reason their graves lie side by side in Eyüp Sultan. Küçük Hüseyin Efendi was also the spiritual guide of the great composer Abdülkadir Töre, who wrote the following lines:

Pertev-i nûr-ı Hüdasın yâ Hüseyn-i Nakşıbend
Mebde-i feyz-i ûlâsın yâ Hüseyn-i Nakşıbend
(You are a glimmer of Divine Light, O Husayn of Naqshiband
You are a source of Divine Effusion O Husayn of Naqshiband)

Ahmed Âmiş Efendi, known as the keeper of the tomb of Fatih (Sultan Mehmed II),5 passed away a few days after the first assembly gathered in Ankara, and Abdülkadir Belhi, one of the greatest figures in the Naqshi-Malami tradition and also the sheikh of the Eyüp Sheikh Murad Tekke, passed away a few months before the declaration of the Republic. His son, Ahmed Muhtar, passed away in 1933. Figures such as Hüseyin Avni Konukman, Hasan Basri Çantay, İsmail Fenni Ertuğrul, Süheyl Ünver’s father Mustafa Enver Bey, who was a postman, and the calligrapher Hasan Rıza Efendi, benefited greatly from the sermons and conversations (sohbet) of Ahmed Âmiş Efendi. Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı published the notes he took during these conversations. Following the passing of Âmiş Efendi, this tradition continued with Mehmed Tevfik Efendi (d. 1927), Ahmed Tahir Mar’aşi (d. 1954) and Mustafa Özeren (d. 1982). During the early years of the Republic, İsmail Fenni (d. 1946) struggled against materialist ideas, and his work entitled Vahdet-i Vücûd ve Muhiddin Arabî (The Unity of Existence and Muhyiddin Arabî), published in the same year as the language reform, is an important piece of work. İsmail Fenni, who was influenced by Ahmed Âmiş Efendi spiritually, published another work in the same year, entitled, Maddiyyûn Mezhebinin İzmihlâli (The Collapse of the Materialist Creed).

In the year when tekkes were shut down, Mehmet Ali Ayni, a lecturer at Dârülfünûn School of Theology, published his work Tasavvuf Tarihi (History of Sufism). In the same year, three dervishes who were important authors in this field passed away - Mehmet Tahir of Bursa, Ahmed Hüsameddin Dağıstani and Ahmed Mahir Efendi. The world of Sufism lost Mustafa Feyzi Efendi in 1926, Elif Efendi in 1927, and in 1929 it lost Hüseyin Vassaf Efendi, the last great star in the tradition of biography writing.

One of the people who passed the religious-Sufi understanding of Ahmed Âmiş Efendi onto later generations was Abdülaziz Mecdi Tolun (d. 1942). Mecdi Efendi worked as undersecretary in the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Islamic Endowments after the declaration of the Republic. In addition to his own Dîvân (Istanbul, 1945), he undertook and finished an important project by translating Abdülkerîm al-Jîlî’s Insân-ı Kâmil (The Perfect Man). A work published by Osman Nuri Ergin about him in 1942 was also important.

The following - all of whom possessed a dervish’s temperament - were among those who taught people about religion, history and Sufism between 1925 and 1950.

Sadık Vicdânî (d. 1934) Tomâr-ı Turûk-ı Aliyye. (The Lineages of the Sublime Sufi Orders)

Tâhir’ül Mawlawi (d.1951), Mesnevî Dersleri (Mathnawi Lessons)

Ferit Kam (d. 1944), Vahdet-i Vücûd (The Unity of Existence).

Rıza Tevfik (d. 1949), Serâb-i Ömrüm (The Mirage That Was My Life)

M. Zeki Pakalın (d. 1972), Osmanlı Tarih Deyimleri ve Terimleri (Dictionary of Ottoman History Idioms and Terms).

Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır (d. 1942), Tafsir.

Ahmed Nâim Efendi (d. 1934) Tecrid Tercümesi (The Translation of an Abridged Version of Sahih al-Bukhari).

As the Menemen hurricane was picking up speed in Istanbul in the final days of 1930, Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı’s work (Melâmîlik ve Melâmîler - Malamiyya and Malamis) came as somewhat of a relief for Istanbul’s Sufi circles. This graduation thesis, prepared under the supervision of Professor Fuad Köprülü at Istanbul University, remains an important resource. The works Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı would publish in later years would qualify amongst the books that shed light on the world of Sufism and Sufi orders.

At this point, we must mention another resident of Istanbul who was busy “weaving his cocoon” in his retreat: Ahmed Avni Konuk (d. 1938). When all of the lodges were closed down, Konuk was busy writing a four-volume commentary on Ibn al-Arabi’s Fusûs al-Hikam (The Seals of Wisdom), one of the fundamental classics of Sufi thought. This postman Sufi, who was still weaving his cocoon in the 1930s, also interpreted Rumi’s Mathnawî in thirty-four oversize notebooks. However, it took half a century for the books to be transliterated and published.

Muhammed İhsan Oğuz (d. 1991), with whom Konuk maintained a correspondence on the concepts of Vahdet-i Vücûd / Vahdet-i Şuhûd (the unity of existence / the unity of (all-inclusive) witnessing), was one of the Sufis who established a spiritual circle through his works and regular talks during the era of the Republic.

If one reason why all books regarding Sufism, Sufi orders, and Sufis literally “hit rock bottom” was the great concern caused by Law No. 677, another reason was the language reform that changed the alphabet. However, in the very same period, another “window” was opened for those willing to read works on Sufism. By placing an emphasis on the now much-cherished notion of Turkishness this became possible. This “umbrella,” which was gradually opened in the 1930s, providing some shade for the Sufi culture to re-emerge, albeit indirectly. We can give examples from the following works by famous authors on this subject:

Son Asır Türk Şairleri (The Turkish Poets of the Last Century), İbnülemin Mahmut Kemal İnal.

Türk Tefekkür Tarihi (The History of Turkish Thought), Hilmi Ziya Ülken.

Türk Şairleri (Turkish Poets), Sadeddin Nüzhet Ergun.

Türk Ahlâkçıları (Turkish Writers of Ethics), Mehmet Ali Ayni.

Türk Maarif Tarihi (The History of Education in Turkey), Osman Nuri Ergin.

Türk Vakıfları ve Vakfiyeleri (Turkish Waqfs and Waqf Charters), Halim Baki Kunter.

Türk Halk Edebiyatı Ansiklopesidi (The Encyclopedia of Turkish Folk Literature), Fuat Köprülü.

Bir Türk Dahisi: Ekber (A Turkish Genius: Ekbar), Ömer Rıza Doğrul.

Türk Mistisizmine Giriş (An Introduction to Turkish Mysticism), Hilmi Ziya Ülken.

The same phenomena can be seen in the field of articles. Two such examples are the two book-length articles: “Kolonizatör Türk Dervişleri” (Colonizing Turkish Dervishes) by Ömer Lütfi Barkan, and “İslâm-Türk İllerinde Fütüvvet Teşkilâtı” (The Guilds in Turco-Islamic Provinces) by Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı.

Abdülkadir Erdoğan thanked the Istanbul branch of the Republican People’s Party on the first page of the book he wrote about Sheikh Vefa; the name of the book is Fatih Mehmed Devrinde İstanbul’da Bir Türk Mütefekkiri Şeyh Vefa (A Turkish Thinker in Istanbul in the Era of Mehmed the Conqueror -1941).

Various movements that had been initiated in the 1930s, such as concentrating on regulating religious life and spreading the notions of a “Turkish Qur’an,” “Turkish sermons” and “Turkish ezan,” continued into the 1940s. However, a number of changes were underway as the balance in the world was undergoing a readjustment in the aftermath of World War II. The most important manifestation of God’s beauty (cemâlî tecelli) that is of interest to us at the beginning of the 1940s was the presentation to the public of certain works on Sufism. This was a part of a project that involved translating selections from world classics, launched with the encouragement of the minister of education, Hasan Ali Yücel. This project allowed the residents of Istanbul to be reunited with the works of great figures of Sufism, such as Rumi, Ibn Arabi, Fakhr al-Din Iraqi, Ibn Ata’ Allah Iskandari, Fariduddin Attar, Hafiz, Sa’di, Shabustari, Qushayri, Aflaki and Ghazzali. But a “highly confidential” manifesto - dated 27.4.1942 - from the Istanbul office of the Prime Minister’s General Directorate of Press and Publications must be read concurrently with the above developments:

Among the recent publications of our newspapers, we come across a number of articles, op-eds, implicit suggestions and wishes about (the) religion (of Islam). From this day on, we request that the publication of all sorts of articles, passages, anecdotes and serials - be they in the context of history or observation - be avoided and that all such serials which have already been started be ended within 10 days.

Deputy Director of Press, İzzettin Tuğrul Nişbay

It is known that people who are inherently inclined toward mystical matters benefit more from the atmosphere of the lodges. When the tekkes were outlawed, people of the temperament in question, if unable to find natural ways, would seek and find “similar” ways to meet this inborn need for mystical nourishment. They continued to operate in ways that were not legally closed to them, and so to speak, under “roofs” that did not clash with secularism. These roads may be “yoga sessions” imported from the Far East, as well as discussions on parapsychology imported from the Far West. While forced fabricated rulings portrayed the tradition of our own ancestors as evil and harmful, it was able to show the audacity to establish totally foreign teachings as good and beneficial. There is no harm in making references to the mystical observations of Hallaj, Rumi, Ibn Arabi or Yunus Emre under these “legally allowed roofs,” while you can also publish periodicals under such names as “The World of Love” or “The World of the Spirit.”

Although the multiparty regime which arrived with the establishment of the Democratic Party (DP) on January 7, 1946 could not go so far as to reopen the tekkes, it removed some of the obstacles in the way of the freedom of religion and conscience, and made new channels available for religious publications. The following is a list of the periodicals, along with their managing directors; as of 1947, almost all of them ran articles with religious content for the public:

İrşad, F. Kavukçuoğlu
Ehl-i Sünnet, Abdurrahman Zapsu.
Islam, Şemsettin Yeşil.
Selamet, Ömer Rıza Doğrul.
Sebîlürreşâd, Eşref Edib.
Doğruyol, Faruk Rıza Güloğul.
İslam Dünyası, Taceddin Öney.
Doğan Güneş, Mustafa Ilık.
Hakikat Yolu, Esat Ekicigil.
Altınışık, İhsan Koloğlu.

Ömer Rıza Doğrul (d. 1952) published his work İslâmiyet’in Geliştirdiği Tasavvuf (The Sufism Developed by Islam) in 1948. In this work, he does not touch upon the practical (ameli) aspect of Sufism, but rather emphasizes its gnostic (irfani) aspect. In the part where information is provided on Sufi orders, the author praises the Mawlawi Order as a brand-new zenith in Islamic Sufism, while not sparing a single line for the Khalwati, Baktashi or Naqshibandi Orders. His final lines in the book indicate another reality, another concern:

... On the other hand, those who had disguised themselves as Sufis devoted themselves to politics and objected to the modern reforms, which caused the Turkish Republic to pass a law in 1925 abolishing all Sufi orders. This gave the degenerated and corrupted Sufism, which had overstepped its bounds, the blow that it so rightly deserved. But the kind of Sufism that sustained this blow and got knocked out is this degenerated Sufism. As a matter of fact, what has sustained this blow is not the sublime ideals and the immortal spirit of Sufism, as these two shall live eternally. People with pure and refined hearts, endowed with the illuminated power of discernment, will always live and help the sublime spirit of Sufism to live.

We previously mentioned that the efforts of dervishes in publishing magazines began with the declaration of the Second Constitutional Period. About 40 years after the first publication of the Tasavvuf journal in 1911, another journal by the same name was born. But although the names were the same, their contents were very different. The person who published the new Tasavvuf journal was Cemal Bardakçı (d. 1982), who had served as governor in many provinces during the Republican era. The author of a book entitled Alevilik, Ahilik, Bektaşilik, Bardakçı was also the translator of Ibn Arabi’s Risâla al-Ahadiyya (Treatise on Oneness).

The magazine used the following couplet as its motto:

Tasavvuf yâr olup, bâr olmamaktadır
Gül-i gülzâr olup hâr olmamaktadır
(Tasawwuf is to be a friend to all, and not a burden
It is to be a rose in the rose garden, and not a thorn)

The following is the final part of an article entitled Niçin Çıkıyoruz (Why are We Publishing This Journal?), which appeared in the first issue:

Here in this journal we have deemed it our target to promote and spread some works of these great saints by translating them into our current language or transliterating them in our current accent. We will try and demonstrate that the thoughts and ideas put forward by them centuries ago fully correspond to the discoveries made by knowledge and science today. In doing so, we believe that we will have served many of our citizens who are struggling with a crisis of faith today, and that we will help our bright youth in particular.

The journal placed emphasis on a Sufi culture centered on the vahdet-i vücûd by publishing translated passages from such works as Ibn Arabi’s Fusûs al-Hikam, Imam Rabbani’s Mektûbât, Badraddin Simawi’s Wâridât, Rumi’s Masnawî, and Shabustari’s Gulshan-i Râz. The first article it featured in its 10th issue bore the following title: Tasavvuf ve İrtica (Sufism and Reaction).

The third journal to carry the name Tasavvuf began its publication life in 1999 and still continues as a peer-reviewed journal. The journal Islam has been published since April 1, 1956. Among the issues it has brought onto the platform of contemporary topics of discussion, two main areas stand out from all others; the debates on secularism, and the problems regarding İmam-Hatip schools, the Directorate of Religious Affairs and Ankara Faculty of Theology. It has also concerned itself closely with the problems in the Islamic world. Despite not being a journal with a direct focus on Sufism, it has occasionally given space to research projects and case studies in this field. The series of articles it launched in the earliest issues, along with those by Nurettin Topçu on the psychology of religion, were later followed by texts on religious Sufi literature.

It is known that conveying Sufi thoughts and interpretations to people is accomplished via two main methods; one is by writing, and the other is the spoken word. One such Sufi who wanted to benefit aspirants in the 1940’s was Şemseddin Yeşil, and he employed both of these methods. He was born in 1905 in Istanbul, the son of Hüseyin Efendi, the imam of the Samatya Hatuniye Mosque, and was a descendant of Abd al-Qadir Gilani. He passed away in 1968 in Istanbul. A person who possessed the utmost eloquence both in speech and writing, Şemseddin Efendi utilized every opportunity every means possible to introduce people to Islamic principles. He started publishing a journal entitled Hakikat Yolu (The Path of the Truth) in February 1947, which was merged into another journal called Islamiyet, which he began to run a year later. Şemseddin Efendi ran for the parliament in 1946 for the Milli Kalkınma Partisi (National Development Party) founded by Nuri Demirdağ, and in 1950 for the Demokrat Parti (Democratic Party). His sermons generally reflected a Sufi temperament, and unsettled a group of people. His particular focus on the love for the Ahl al-Bayt (the family of Prophet Muhammad) upset another religious group. Finally, with a growing number of complaints, his license for preaching and working as imam was revoked. We have in our possession the audio recordings of the conferences he gave at the Yüksek Ahlâk Derneği (Society of Refined Morals) during the last seventeen years of his life. In addition to many other works, he wrote seven volumes of Quranic exegesis based on a Sufi perspective: Füyûzât (Istanbul 2004). Most of this exegesis, penned between 1943 and 1966, was published in İslâmiyet.

It can be said that the group of Sufis least affected by the Republican reforms were the Malamis, who had always taken a different kind of Sufi path. The reason for this is due to the fact that one of their distinctive features is they do not have a particular gathering place (that is, they do not have a tekke), and secondly, they wear no special clothing which sets them apart. Because they consider these (that is, having a tekke and wearing special Sufi outfits) as a means of pretension and showing off, their Sufi understanding has been based on the notion of “being with God inwardly while being with people outwardly, and appearing ordinary amongst the public.” The laws passed in 1925, therefore, did not have any real consequence for them. They were able to continue to living with greater freedom (compared to other Sufi groups), and this enabled them to hold their gatherings whenever they were together, thereby giving them the ability to partake in “spiritual feasts.” Ahmet Yüksel Özemre’s book Üsküdar’ın Üç Sırlısı (The Three Secret Saints of Üsküdar) (Istanbul, 2004), focused on the lives of Eşref Ede (d. 1954), Nâfiz Uncu (d. 1958) and Turgut Çulpan (d. 1990), who all had a Malami temperament; the author emphasizes the unseen influence they had on community life.

One of the outstanding Sufis of the Republican era was Kenan Rifai (d. 1951), who served as the sheikh of the Ümmü Kenan Lodge until January 1926. He took off his Sufi attire as enjoined by Act No. 677 and thus continued teaching what he knew to those around him. While some of his colleagues were deeply offended by this act, and retired into seclusion, he did not fight with the revolutionary laws; this enabled him to guide those people who wished to benefit from his knowledge and experience. A work entitled Kenan Rifâî ve 20. Asrın Işığında Müslümanlık (Kenan Rifai and Islam in the Light of the Twentieth Century) was written immediately after his death by four women from his innermost circle of friends: Samiha Ayverdi, Safiye Erol, Sofi Huri and Nezihe Araz. The following statement, quoted from the introduction to the book, conveys the perspective of the people whose hearts were illuminated by the talks this sheikh gave:

... Although this work is a biography, it has been prepared with an effort to reflect a cause that has gone beyond being an individual problem and that has been adopted by the society... Kenan Rifai was somebody who achieved the happiness of taking the individual as a harmonious whole and of rearranging that individual’s social interactions based on a new plan... In his personality, Islam took on the value and meaning that it deserved and had the opportunity to re-establish its connection with and rebuild bridges to the young generation who possess all the knowledge and scientific realities of the century.

Samiha Ayverdi (d. 1993) incorporated in her works the mystical realities she came to hear and understand in the talks of Kenan Rifai in the 1930s, and in so doing, she gave society an opportunity to inhale a different kind of breath during the “arid season.” In many of her novels, it is possible to find an insider’s definition of what Sufi life is about. It is known that (during the classical era of Sufism in Turkey before 1925) Sufi orders had female members, who participated in remembrance ceremonies in the part of the tekke reserved for women, and that sometimes the sheikh of a particular tekke authorized a female member to teach the other female members. Despite this, it was still rare to find any women who served as tekke sheikhs. Samiha Ayverdi was a dervish who conveyed her worldview to everybody around her, without making gender-based distinctions. The October 1988 issue of the academic journal, Kubbealtı, was dedicated to her on account of fifty years as an author.

By writing works such as Son Asır Türk Şairleri (The Turkish Poets of the Last Century), Son Sadrazamlar (The Last Grand Viziers), Hoş Sadâ (A Pleasant Voice) etc., İbnülemin Mahmud Kemal İnal (d. 1957) gave the new generation thousands of pages filled with Ottoman oral culture and civilization. Moreover, along with his unique personality, he represented Sufi culture in a different manner. In his works, in particular, Son Asır Türk Şairleri, he put the biographies of a large number of Sufis into writing, presenting them in a disguised manner as “poets.” This is what Ömer Faruk Akün says about him:

... The gatherings he held in his mansion for a period of more than fifty years witnessed the last great conversations of a culture that was about to fall into oblivion; conversations where every topic was discussed - from literature to Sufism, from calligraphy to music and to people and events that made our political history. His mansion also served as a refined shelter, so to speak, that helped classical Turkish music survive, and was a venue of unforgettable music performances. Therefore, it became the last bastion, an outpost as it were, in which distinguished figures from scholarly and art circles gathered, spending long nights together in the mansion on a weekly basis; this went on for years. As a central figure around whom all these activities revolved, İbnülemin left an indelible mark on the history of Turkish culture as a man of great knowledge and culture.6

Hüseyin Vassaf places İbnülemin’s personality and thought on three main pillars. The first pillar was Sufism, and the Naqshi Order in particular; the second pillar was Cevdet Pasha, with whom he had a kinship of thought in terms of political evaluation, perception of Sufism, and conception of civilization; and the third pillar was the era in which he lived. Almost everything about İbnülemin took shape under the influence of these three main pillars. He placed Sufism at the very center of his life in action, state and speech. By holding onto the dynamic elements in his thought, he managed to keep himself aloof and immune from the frailty of thought from which Islamists suffered from time to time, and he thus became a unique personality who produced original ideas along the lines of those of Cevdet Pasha. He was unique in that he demonstrated the courage to engage in self-criticism, which allowed him to approach everything he defended with a certain cynicism. As well as reconciling his bureaucratic life with his Naqshi temperament, İbnülemin sometimes became an outspoken critic of Sufism, so much so that while, on the one hand, endeavoring to respond to the criticisms directed at Sufism during a process of modernization, on the other, İbnülemin strongly criticized the corruption in some Sufi orders.7

Nureddin Topçu, who obtained his Ph.D. in philosophy in Paris in 1934, was a resident of Istanbul who based his works - numbering around 20, written over 40 years - on Sufi thought. He presented to society the immense beauty of this realm, into which he entered under the guidance of Abdülaziz Bekkine, a Naqshi sheikh (d. 1952), and cultivated it with his philosophical background. He set out on this path with a periodical he named Hareket; this began to be published when Topçu was in his thirties and teaching high school. He sought and found the assets and the treasures that the trio of religion, morality and art offer people, and he shared these with the youth. Speaking and writing what he believed was the truth in any given situation, regardless of his audience, Topçu was not accepted into university as a lecturer, despite being an associate professor. He continued working as a high school teacher, deeming it as pleasurable as an act of worship. This is how he defines Sufism, “Sufism is the door to the truth that is human. In reality, it is the knowledge of what the human being is for.”

As the number of written and translated works on Sufism rose in the 1960’s and 1970’s, there was a rise in the tendency to group around certain notable Sufis. Even though not all the people who attended the talks given by the Sufis discussed below became disciples, they were all seeking an appropriate environment compatible with their religious sensitivities.

There were three famous figures bearing the same name - Ali Haydar Efendi - all of whom came of age in the last decades of the Ottoman era. All three were Ottoman jurists during the last years of the Empire, the first among them being Büyük (the Elder) Ali Haydar Efendi (d. 1903), who was famous for his work Usûl-i Fıkıh (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence). The second one was Küçük (the Younger) Ali Haydar Efendi (d. 1935), known for his commentary on Mecelle. The third Ali Haydar Efendi (d. 1960) served in every phase of scholarly activities after receiving his madrasa diploma in 1901 in Istanbul; he guided people as a Naqshi sheikh from 1919 on. His master was Ali Rıza Efendi, who is buried in the reserved section in the Bandırma Tekke Mosque. Like many of his colleagues, he was under arrest during the era of the Republic; his wish to be buried next to one of his teachers, Ahmet Efendi of Çarşamba, was not granted. Mahmud (Ustaosmanoğlu) Efendi, who still guides and enlightens people as a Naqshi sheikh in the vicinity of the İsmail Ağa Mosque, is one of his disciples. The person who introduced Mahmud Efendi to Ali Haydar Efendi was Ali Öztaylan (d. 2008) (known as Bandırmalı Ali Efendi.)

Mehmed Zahit Kotku represented a community of people who worked in the field of religion and religious education, such as mudarris (professor), qadi (judge), mufti (jurist), imam or preacher. All of these people created a unique structure in the Fatma Sultan Lodge, established by Ahmed Ziyauddin Efendi of Gümüşhane on the basis of reading and studying the hadith. Ahmed Ziyauddin Efendi was succeeded, respectively, by Hasan Hilmi Efendi of Kastamonu (d. 1911), İsmail Necati Efendi of Safranbolu (d. 1919), Ömer Ziyauddin Efendi of Daghestan (d. 1920), who wrote a large number of works in Turkish, Arabic and the languages spoken in Daghestan, Mustafa Feyzi Efendi of Tekirdağ (d. 1926), Hasib Efendi of Serez (d. 1949) and Abdülaziz Bekkine of Kazan (d. 1952).

Mehmed Zahit Kotku (d. 1980) came to Istanbul from Bursa when Abdülaziz Bekkine died in 1952, and he started serving as imam and preacher first in the Zeyrek Ümmügülsüm Mosque, and then, from 1958 onwards, in the Fatih İskenderpaşa Mosque, becoming one of the guides of religious life through his sermons and talks. Some of the young people, all university students, who attended his talks in the early days, pioneered a political movement toward the end of the 1960’s under the leadership of Necmeddin Erbakan (d. 2011). His talks were published in five volumes under the title of Tasavvufî Ahlâk (Sufi Ethics). He also had other publications.8 He was succeeded by his son-in-law, Mahmud Esad Coşan (d. 2001). Teaching Turkish Islamic Literature at the Ankara Faculty of Theology, M. Esad Coşan focused his studies mainly on Turkish Sufis, such as Hatiboğlu Muhammed, Yunus Emre and Hacı Bektaş Veli. He also gave hadith lectures at the İskenderpaşa Mosque in Fatih, Istanbul on a weekly basis, taught Sulami’s Tabakât-ı Sûfiyye in Eyüp, and Qushayri’s Risala al-Qushayriyya (Treatise on Spiritual Ascent) in Ankara. In addition, he tried to increase the intellectual level of his surroundings by means of various cultural activities both within and outside of Turkey.

Ahmed Tahir Efendi of Maraş (d. 1954) was also educated as a jurist, having studied with Ömer Nasuhi Bilmen in Madrasatu’l-Qudât (the Faculty of Islamic Judges). He became a disciple of Ahmed Âmiş Efendi, fought on the Caucasian front during World War I, served as an Islamic judge and dersiâm (general religious instructor) at Beyazıt, and, when the madrasas were closed down, continued to preach at Hagia Sophia Mosque. During his sermons and talks, Ahmed Tahir Efendi would read from Rumi’s Mathnawî and Dîvân-ı Kebîr, and interpret the couplets he read. The talks he held in the Küllük (Ashtray) Coffee House in Beyazıt were attended by his disciples, such as, Evrenoszade Sami Bey, Mustafa Efendi (Özeren), Hasan Nevres, Miralay (Colonel) Hilmi Şanlıtop, Muzaffer Özak and Fethi Gemuhluoğlu, as well as a number of important figures of the era, such as Babanzade Ahmed Naim Bey, Muhiddin Raif, Neyzen (Nay Player) Tevfik, Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı, as well as many university students.9 Ahmed Tahir Efendi’s disciple, Mustafa Özeren Efendi (d. 1982), came to Istanbul in 1911 from his hometown of Mucur. Until his retirement in 1953, he worked in the Vakıflar Umum Müdürlüğü (Directorate of Foundations), and then presided over the Vakıflar İstanbul Tasnif (Waqfs Istanbul Classification Committee) for fifteen years. Mustafa Efendi had the opportunity to serve Ahmed Âmiş Efendi (d. 1920), Mehmed Tevfik Efendi of Kayseri (d. 1927), and Ahmed Tahir Efendi of Maraş, and then, from 1968 to his death, he guided his followers.10

Ramazanoğlu Mahmud Sami Efendi, who came to Istanbul from Adana in 1951, was a disciple of Esad Erbili. He became the representative of a community that had been continuing, quietly in the background since 1930; now, with Ramazanoğlu Mahmud Sami Efendi, this movement was slowly opening up to society. Because he was not a religious official like Kotku, he held his talks mostly in his home, where he enlightened people. The works he penned became the “manual” of his community of dervishes. Furthermore, the smaller groups of his dervishes who lived outside of Istanbul also based their talks and conversations during their weekly gatherings on these works. After his passing, a large portion of his followers became disciples to Musa Topbaş. Musa Efendi’s talks were published under the title of Musâhabe (Reciprocal Conversations) in six volumes. He had other works as well.

Fahrettin Erenden (b. 1886 - d. 1966), who was the sheikh of the asitane (central lodge) of the Jarrahi Order in Fatih’s Karagümrük quarter when tekkes were closed down, learned the manners of the path and his overall spiritual upbringing from his uncle, Yahya Galib Hayati Efendi, and his father, Muhammed Rızaeddin Yaşar Efendi, who had both served in the same position before him. He became the sheikh of the Jerrahi asitane upon his father’s passing in 1912. He was one of the figures engaged in the lifelong struggle of trying to keep the tekke culture alive. His two-volume work named Envâr-ı Hazret-i Nûreddin (The Lights of the Noble Nureddin), which remains unpublished, introduced the saints of the order. It first mentions Nureddin al-Jerrahi, and contains information on Jarrahi lodges as well as the manners, ethics and pillars of the order. Putting up a great struggle for years against the kind of mentality that sought to turn his tekke into a workshop of sorts in the 1940’s, he managed to have the tomb section as well as the tevhidhane (remembrance hall) repaired with economic support from İstanbul’u Sevenler Derneği (The Society of Istanbul Lovers), thereby making it possible for the entire premises to remain preserved to the present day. Now that he cites the names of the men and the women to whom he gave hilafet (written authorization to be a sheikh) in the above-mentioned work that he wrote after the declaration of the Republic, we may say that this “river” is still running deep, albeit partially.

The greatest authority of his time on tekke music and remembrance rites, İbrahim Fahreddin Efendi exerted great efforts after the closure of tekkes for Sufi culture and music to be handed down to the next generation. He also played a key role in the spiritual upbringing of such prominent figures such as Muzaffer Özak, Safer Dal and Kemal Evren. İbrahim Fahreddin Efendi wrote a number of works, such as, Envâr-ı Hazret-i Nûreddin, Suâlnâme and Tarîkatnâme, as well as many poems that he wrote under the pseudonym Fahrî.

Muzaffer Efendi (d. 1985), the successor of Fahreddin Efendi, continued the “walk” without worrying about the taboos of the new regime. The fact that he was not only the sheikh of the Sahaflar Çarşısı (antique book dealers’ market), he was also closely involved in Turkish music, and this made him popular to a broader audience. As a result, Muzaffer Efendi became instrumental in taking his order to Europe and America, reacquainting these lands with rites of vocal remembrance of God (cehri zikir). Özak also served as the Friday Imam and preacher in the Camilihan Mosque located inside the famous Grand Bazaar, and with all the works that he wrote and published, he promoted this culture. He has a number of other works in addition to his well-known three-volume İrşâd. Muzaffer Efendi’s halife, Safer Dal (Safer Baba) (d. 1999), took the very same path as his predecessors. The Jarrahi Order lives on, true to its roots, in the asitane at Karagümrük.

Another influential figure of the era of Sufism without tekkes was Seyyid Abdülhakim Arvasi. After serving as mufti in many Anatolian towns, he came to Istanbul in 1919 and was appointed as sheikh of the Kaşgari Lodge in Eyüp Sultan. He was given permission to continue living and preaching in the same place after 1925. He delivered sermons both officially and voluntarily until 1931, in such major mosques as Eyüpsultan, Fatih, Beyazıt, Ayasofya, Bakırköy Zuhuratbaba and Kadıköy Osman Ağa, thereby teaching people religion from a Sufi perspective and influencing many. He taught the Qur’anic exegesis of Qâdi Baydâwî in the Beyazit Mosque, and he was actually able to complete the entire work. He was arrested in relation to the Menemen Incident, but was later released. He was arrested again in 1943, and sent to İzmir. Afterwards, he was allowed to go to Ankara, where he passed away in the same year. He could speak Arabic, Persian and Kurdish fluently, and he wrote poetry in all of these languages. His Râbıta-i Şerîfe (The Blessed Connection) (1342/1924), in which he explains how to establish rabita (spiritual connection with the sheikh) in the Naqshi way, is renowned. One of Arvasi’s most influential students was Necip Fazıl Kısakürek (a.k.a. “the Sultan of Poets”). After Necip Fazıl (d. 1983) became a disciple of Arvasi, he became deeply attached to Sufi traditions. The Büyük Doğu (the Great East) journal, which he began publishing in 1942, featured articles on Sufism-related topics. Batı Tefekkürü ve İslam Tasavvufu (Western Thought and Islamic Sufism), another work he wrote, published in 1982, comprised the transcriptions of three conferences he gave in the 1960s during the month of Ramadan; conferences that began after the supererogatory (tarawih) prayers and lasted until the pre-dawn meal (sahur). His work O ve Ben (He and I) was written to illustrate the attachment he had with his sheikh. Kısakürek’s sympathy for Sufism had a visibly positive impact on the up-coming generation; it proved to be one of the reasons why fundamentalist (salafi) approaches to Islam and dismissive attitudes towards Sufism failed to prevail in Turkey. Hüseyin Hilmi Işık (d. 2002) was also one of the leading disciples of Abdülhakim Arvasi. Just like Necip Fazıl, he regularly attended Arvasi’s talks for a quite some time.

In addition to all these personages, there were Sufi sheikhs who came to Istanbul for different reasons, and who were quite influential in the neighborhoods in which they lived. For example, Sultan Baba (İhsan Tamgüney), born in 1904 in Arhavi, served on the Naqshi-Khalidi path - which he had inherited from Sheikh Şerafeddin of Daghestan - in his dergah in Zeytinburnu. Osman Siraceddin Efendi (b. 1896 - 1997) - one of the descendants of his namesake Osman Siraceddin, who was one of the leading caliphs of Mawlana Khalid al-Baghdadi - came to Istanbul and settled in the district of Esenyurt after spreading his order in Baghdad, Northern Iraq and Iran for years. He held many talks for his followers in Esenyurt, and is also buried there.

Research into Sufism in Academic Life

In societies deprived of the freedom of thought, the state’s official views limit, among other things, the freedom of those who are able to write. Academics in Turkey, in particular, felt obliged to employ a very meticulous language when writing on any person or organization convicted by the state. Ömer Lütfi Barkan published documents about zaviyes in 1942 in the Vakıflar (Foundations) journal. Around the same time, Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı was busy preparing the fütüvvetnâme (charters) of the fundamental organization of economic life (that is, guilds). But what was the current state of working life? Where did we stand with the world, which was swinging between Marxism and capitalism? Where were we supposed to stand? Which economic theory was most compatible with the mentality of the Turkish individual? Was it possible to reconcile the Protestant ethics of the West with Turkish views? Destiny placed the responsibility of seeking answers to these questions on the shoulders of an economic historian born in the Gümüşhanevi Lodge: Sabri Ülgener (d. 1983). Ülgener’s father Fehmi Ülgener (d. 1943) was the first mufti of Istanbul, and his grandfather İsmail Necati Efendi of Safranbolu, was the third sheikh of the Gümüşhanevi Dergah. Known as “Turkey’s Weber,” Ülgener brought clarity to the subject with two works, while emphasizing the connection between the tekke psychology and working life: İktisadî İnhitat Tarihimizin Ahlak ve Zihniyet Meseleleri: Başlangıcından 18. Asır Sonlarına Kadar Fikir ve Sanat Tarihi Boyunca Akisleri ile Umumi Bir Tahlil Denemesi (The Ethical and Ideological Issues of Our History of Economic Downfall: An Attempt at a General Analysis with All Its Implications Through the History of Thought and Art up from the Beginning to the Eighteenth Century - Istanbul 1951) and Dünü ve Bugünü ile Zihniyet ve Din: İslam, Tasavvuf ve Çözülme Devri İktisat Ahlakı (Ideology and Religion with Their Past and Present: Islam, Sufism, and the Economic Ethics of the Disintegration Era - Istanbul 1981).

Erol Güngör approached this subject from a psychological and philosophical perspective and a related work he published in 1982 was called İslam Tasavvufunun Meseleleri (Matters of Islam’s Sufism). Although we may object to some of the views and assessments of both Ülgener and Güngör, their works are significant in that they removed the obstacles in the way of the discussion of such subjects in academia. As is apparent from the foreword of Güngör’s book, most of the criticisms he received after the publication of his 1981 book, İslam’ın Bugünkü Meseleleri (Current Matters about Islam), were concerned with the fact that he gave no place to Sufism in this book. Not deeming it appropriate to make up for this deficiency by simply adding an article on the subject to the second edition, he rewrote İslam’ın Bugünkü Meseleleri. He made analyses and related suggestions as well as directed criticisms with respect to Sufism, particularly in the last part of the book entitled, Günümüz ve Tasavvuf (Today and Sufism). Regarding the “gaps” created by rationalism, which he believed defiled people’s souls, and the idolization of positive sciences, Göngör says:

In a society deprived of love and faith, the need for these would be sorely felt and a system was to be introduced that would, in the best way possible, fill the gaps left behind by the rationalist mindset. In fact, Turkey tried to satisfy this need with things other than religion. But no worldly belief or ceremony could satisfy a spiritual need that did not exist in its essence, no matter how much they were pushed and imposed.

Another academic who put Sufism in the spotlight was Ahmet Yüksel Özemre, who was born in Üsküdar five years after the Menemen Incident. He graduated from Galatasaray High School in 1954, and from Istanbul University’s Department of Mathematics-Physics in 1957. The first nuclear engineer of Turkey, Özemre (d. 2008) was also a very pious Sufi. Özemre wrote around 40 books, among them Üsküdar’ın Üç Sırlısı, Kâmil Mürşitlerin Mirası (The Inheritance of Perfect Guides), Üsküdar’da Bir Attâr Dükkânı (A Perfume Shop in Üsküdar), and Gel de Çık İşin İçinden (Now, How are You Going to Get out of This?), all of which directly pertain to Sufism.

Although one of the courses taught in the Dârülfünûn (School of Sciences) Faculty of Theology, opened in 1924 after the passage of the Law on Unification of Education, was the history of Sufism, the Faculty of Theology founded in 1949 in Ankara had no such course. However, the Istanbul Higher Islamic Institute, founded in 1959 under the Ministry of Education, offered such a course. Today, the history of Sufism has its own faculties across the country, and it is even possible to obtain Master’s and doctoral degrees, in addition to attending undergraduate courses. The history of Sufism, one of the courses at Marmara University’s Faculty of Theology, has encouraged its academic staff to write new books in the field. Mahir İz (d. 1974) and Selçuk Eraydın (d. 1995) were the first to produce the newer publications in this field.

The history of Sufism is an area of research in other faculties that are independent of the faculties of theology. Kemal Edip Kürkçüoğlu, who studied the field of tekke literature, Amil Çelebioğlu, who studied Yazıcıoğlu’s Muhammediye at a doctoral level, Mahmud Esad Coşan, who wrote a post-doctoral dissertation on Hacı Bektaş Veli and who also taught as-Sulami’s Tabaqât to his followers for years in the Molla Murad Dergâh in Istanbul, are among the pioneers of such works.

However, there have been influential people and institutions in academia who are opposed to Sufism and Sufi orders. The Directorate of Religious Affairs and Ankara University’s Faculty of Theology stood out, up to a certain period in particular, with their anti-Sufism attitudes. A number of Ankara-based journals, such as, Hakikat, İktibas and Kriter, have also taken a stance against Sufi culture. The tekke-madrasa debate has never lost its relevance.

Certain historians, men of letters, art historians, and architects, who indirectly served Sufi culture in the era of the Republic, should be mentioned. In this regard, the gold medal belongs to Ekrem Hakkı Eyverdi for the immortal works he wrote on Ottoman architecture. We should also mention H. Ethem Eldem (d. 1938), Kamil Kepecioğlu (d. 1952), İbnülemin Mahmud Kemal (d. 1957), Rıfkı Melul Meriç (d. 1964), Sedat Çetintaş (d. 1965), Celal Esad Arseven (d. 1971), Mehmet Zeki Pakalın (d. 1972), Reşat Ekrem Koçu (d. 1975), İsmail Hakkı Uzunçarşılı (d. 1977), İbrahim Hakkı Konyalı (d. 1984), Cemaleddin S. Revnakoğlu (d. 1968) and Sedat Hakkı Eldem (d. 1988). The architect Turgut Cansever (d. 2009) explained the connection between architectural layouts and Sufi thought, and the architect Baha Tanman has, so to speak, rewritten the history of Istanbul tekkes with the work that he has been producing over the last thirty years. We also cannot forget the contributions of Şinasi Akbatu, Ekrem Işın and Mustafa Özdamar. All the information that was gathered in the Republican era has been brought together as a summary in the Encyclopedia of Islam in Turkish, published Foundation of Religious Affairs. The works of such people as Fuad Köprülü, Agâh Sırrı Levent, A. Hamdi Tanpınar, Nihat Sami Banarlı and Ahmet Kabaklı helped tekke and Sufi literature to become contemporary topics, while the works of Hüseyin Sadeddin Arel, Sadeddin Nüzhet Ergun, Yılmaz Öztuna and Rauf Yekta have made it possible, albeit partially, for tekke music to survive, also ensuring that certain pieces of information have been recorded.

Another important fact we should record here in terms of academic research is that almost all the fundamental works on Sufism have been translated into Turkish in the last 40 years. Some of them were translated in the Ottoman era, while some others are works that have been translated into Turkish for the first time. We can see the same level of intensity regarding the translation of research in Western languages.

Sufi Communities and the Impact of Media in the Post-1980 Era

Until 1946, Turkish media was limited to newspapers. The newspapers were all under the scrutiny of the single political party. There was only one radio station, which aired nothing but the voice of the state and the government. The different voices that began to be heard after 1946 led to the emergence of different newspapers and magazines. Despite the many newspapers and magazines, there was still only one radio station. The device called “television” appeared in the 1970s, and again there was only one TV station, and it was owned by the state. This monopoly lasted until the 1990s. After 1983, we see a revival in the publication of books on religion and Sufism, and especially of journals. The Islam journal, published by M. Esad Coşan, was a pioneer of its kind. The Islam journal ceased to exist in the 2000s, but the Altınoluk journal, which started being published in 1986, still continues. While a number of Sufi communities have become “full-fledged” powers on certain radio and TV stations, newspapers, journals, dormitories, private schools, financial institutions, foundations and associations that they now own, some others have found this to be against the ethics and manners of Sufism. The tendency of some Sufi communities to become holdings tops the list of items that draw criticism.

We can list some of the journals and magazines that have a Sufi attitude, some of which have continued to be published without interruption, while others have taken breaks in being published: Altınoluk, Arifan, Beyan, Buhara, Çağrışım, Fark, Hakikat, İlim ve İrfan, İnkişaf, İslam, Keşkül, Kubbealtı Akademi, Reyhan, Semerkand, Somuncu Baba, Sufî Gelenek, Yeni Dünya and Zuhur.

The great prevalence of media, particularly television, has encouraged the finding of new methods in spiritual wayfaring. “A remote controlled education” has come along in addition to the “eye to eye” and “knee to knee” education.


The Ottoman capital city of Istanbul became home to more than twenty Sufi orders with their sub-branches, and of more than 300 tekkes, making it one of the most prominent cities in the history of Sufism. There were times when Sufi culture, which permeated all areas of life, went through difficulties, even before 1925. There were periods before 1925 when dervishes were hanged, sheikhs were exiled and tekkes were - albeit temporarily - closed down. What transpired in 1925 was nothing like what the Sufi orders had suffered before. The prevailing ideology of the time put an end to Sufi education by closing down tekkes, thereby severing the jugular vein of Sufi culture. But just like the human body, which gives new functions to the capillaries when the main arteries get clogged, people living in Istanbul at the time came up with new “paths” by which they endeavored to reach the “Desired Destination” (union with Allah.) However, it is very difficult to keep an outlawed movement alive without any loss of level or quality. Faced with the despotic, stone-cold face of the state, Sufis kept quiet for a long time, and later they came face to face with different kinds of problems caused by the great gap in the dwindling number of real sheikhs and Sufis. Even though the related laws and regulations continue, some of the obstacles in the way of religious-Sufi life have been removed over time; this is in keeping with a number of developments in Turkey’s road to democracy. Nonetheless, as the door to the freedom of religion and conscience was being opened little by little, the number of perfect spiritual guides has decreased, allowing abusers almost free rein. People are naturally inclined toward mystical subjects, and have been able to taste “real faith” and meet their spiritual needs when they found guides with pure hearts. But those who have fallen prey to abusers eventually came to realize the “mirage” that was being offered, leaving greatly disillusioned. So, a question that has been asked since 1925, and is constantly at the forefront of this debate is: Were tekkes closed down temporarily or permanently? Or we can put the question this way: When will the tekkes be reopened? We do not have a clear answer to this yet.


1 For further information, see: Mustafa Kara, Metinlerle Günümüz Tasavvuf Hareketleri, Istanbul: Dergâh Yayınları, 2002.

2 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Nutuk, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1982, III.

3 For these poems, see: Mustafa Kara, Buhara-Bursa-Bosna, Istanbul: Dergâh Yayınları, 2012, p. 485.

4 Mete Tunçay, Türkiye Cumhuriyetinde Tek Parti Yönetiminin Kurulması Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 2010, p. 294.

5 See: Mustafa Özdamar, Ahmed Âmiş Efendi, Istanbul: Kırkkandil Yayınları, 1997.

6 Ömer Faruk Akün, “İbnülemin Mahmud Kemal”, DİA, vol. 21, p. 262.

7 Osmanzâde Hüseyin Vassâf, Bir Eski Zaman Efendisi: İbnülemin Mahmud Kemal ve Kemâlü’l-Kemâl, prepared by İsmail Kara and Fatih M. Şeker, Istanbul: Dergâh Yayınları, 2009.

8 See:

9 For further information, see: Nihat Azamat “Maraşlı Ahmet Tahir Efendi”, DİA, vol. 28, pp. 38-39.

10 For further information, saee: Abdullah Kucur, “Mustafa Özeren Efendi”, Sahabeden Günümüze Allah Dostları, Istanbul: Şule Yayınları, vol. 10, pp. 236-240.

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