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Sabbatai Zevi and the Bektashi Sufi

(the import of Sabbatai Zvi's affiliation with Alevi-Bektashi form of Islam.)


Dr Ali Duran

Ya Ali Madad!

Thanks to our brothers Avi El-Qaim and Dr. Tortchinov for their input on the Bektashi Sufi connection.

Sabbatai Zevi and Sufism Professor Avraham Elqayam
The Bektashiya Order of Sufism by Prof. O. Akimushkin translated in English by Prof. Evgueny Torchenov

In my reading not much has been made of this affiliation and it would be interesting to get some anecdotal information from our contemorary Turkish Sabbatean brothers on the list.

One thing which has not been made much mention of is the non-orthodox Bektashi praxis. In many regards, Bektashis and Alevis (I make an artificial distinction) are regarded as beyond the limits of acceptible Muslim behavior.

For example, as I have mentioned, Hazrat Ali Ibne Abe Talib the successor and legati (wasi) of Prophet Muhammad is regarded as a Divine being personage, even an incarnation or Manifestation, of Allah.

Second is the regard the Alevi-Bektashi regard the Babas or Dedes who are considered Insan e Kamil, that is Perfect Man. The Insan e Kamil is the perfect representative of Allah on Earth and more emphasis is placed on the instruction and example of the Baba than upon the texts and laws.

Regarding prayer, many Alevi-Bektashis do not follow the prescribed sunnah of 5 daily prayers, preferring instead to offer their prayers privately or at Cem, the gathering of the Alevi.

Fasting during Ramezan is not adhered to, instead fasting in the month of Muharram, especially in the day of Ashura (10 Muharram), is employed in honor of the Martyrdom of the Imam Husayn.

Alcohol can be and is used by many Alevi Bektashis and is not regarded as sinful unlike the majority of the sunnah belief.

Male and female equality is emphasized.

Men and women practice together in the Cem and in Zikrullah (the gathering for Zikr)

Pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca is substituted with pilgrimage to shrines of sufi saints or visits to living Babas or Dedes.

In many ways the Bektashi-Alevis are considered antinomian by the sunni majority, so in many ways it is interesting that Sabbatai Tzvi chose to affiliate with the Bektashi rather than the other Sufi orders of Anatolia.

I alluded that this affiliation may be subject to hermeneutic interpretation, since many of Sabbatai Tzvi's actions are given to such interpretation.

Scholem gives only a passing reference to this in his magnum opus, however, this behavior after the holy apostasy seems to speak volumes (at least to me) regarding AMIRAH's approach to Islam and Sufism.

Note: Most of this is based on personal discussions that I have had with Alevis and Bektashi Sufis, as such it is anecdotal.  For the more academically rigorous, I refer these two books:

Schindeldecker, John "Turkish Alevis Today" (Istanbul: Sakhulu Sultan Kulliyesi Vakfi) 1998.  ISBN 975-94-441-0-0

Moosa, Matti "Extremist Shiites"  (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press) 1988 ISBN 0-8156-2411-5.

Schindeldecker may be hard to find in the US, but it is in English. Moosa can be obtained from

Ya Ali Madad Ali Duran

Ibrahim al-Qa'im (Professor Avraham Elqayam) adds:

Some aspects of the relations between Sabbatai Sevi and the Bektashi order were discussed some months ago in my own posts and chaver Evgueny Tortchinov's posts.

As for books, I'd like to add some more choice of reading material to the chaverim interested in the Bektashi order. Those of the chaverim who can read French, are referred to a recent title by an imminent French scholar, the most up-to-date research work that I know of: Melikoff, I., Hadji Bektach: un mythe et ses avatars. Genese et evolution du soufisme populaire en Turquie, Leiden 1998.

Those interested in various Bektashiya aspects, can try this title: Kehl-Bodrogi, K., Kellner-Heinkele, B. & Otter-Beaujean, A. (Eds.), Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East: Collected Papers of the International Symposium "Alevism in Turkey and Comparable Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East in the past and Present", Leiden 1997.

Ibrahim al-Qa'im

posted on the Donmeh forum June 1999

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page uploaded 29 June 1999, last modified 7 September 2004