BEKTĀŠ, ḤĀJĪ (d. 669/1270-71?), Khorasanian Sufi and eponym of the Bektāšī order (see bektāšǰya), once widespread in Anatolia and the Balkans, with offshoots in Egypt, Iraq, and Western Iran. His life is still more thickly shrouded in legend than that of many other Sufis because of the multitude of extraneous influences that gradually penetrated the Bektāšī order and became anachronistically reflected in the accounts of its origins. The principal hagiographical work concerning Ḥājī Bektāš is the Welāyat-nāma (Vilâyet-­Nâme) of Uzun Ferdowsī (also known as Ferdowsī-e Ṭawīl), written in Turkish prose some time between 886/1481 and 907/1501 (see Gölpinarli, ed., 1958, pp. xix-xxv). It was composed on the basis of popular traditions at a time when the Bektāšī order was becoming suffused with elements of the folk Shiʿism that was rampant in Anatolia.

According to the Vilâyet-Nâme (pp. 1-4), Ḥājī Bektāš was the son of Sayyed Moḥammad b. Mūsā, a great-­grandson of Mūsā al-Kāẓem (d. 183/799); this is impossible, given the fact that Ḥājī Bek­tāš lived in the 7th/13th century. Genealogies encountered in later sources and designed to fill the obvious gap in time are all questionable and may well have been inspired by a wish—analogous to that of the fabricators of the Safavid genealogy—to give Ḥājī Bek­tāš, as the eponym of a nominally Shiʿite order, Imami descent.

Again according to the Vilâyet-Nâme (p. 1), Ḥājī Bek­tāš was born in Nīšāpūr. There is no independent confirmation of this, and a general tendency to describe a whole range of sacred personages—particularly those with Malāmatī features—as Horasan erleri (the saints of Khorasan) can be discerned in Turkish hagiographical works of the period (see Köprülü, 1338/1919-20, p. 295). It is nonetheless highly probable that Ḥājī Bektāš did indeed form part of the westward migration that was occasioned by the Mongol invasion of Khora­san and that his origins were therefore Iranian.

As to the spiritual affiliations of Ḥājī Bek­tāš, legend has regarded him as a ḵalīfa of Ḵᵛāja Aḥmad Yasawī (d. 562/1166-67), the eponym of the Yasawī order that had a wide following among Turkic nomads in Central Asia; supposedly Yasawī sent him to Anatolia to propagate his order there. This is chronologically impossible, and may be taken as reflecting the later absorption into the ranks of the Bektāšī order of Anatolian Yasawīs who had abandoned the Sunni affiliations of their order under the influence of Anatolian folk Shiʿism. The attribution of Yasawī affiliation to Ḥājī Bek­tāš was also accepted, however, by members of other orders, who wished to combine reverence for the figure of Ḥājī Bektāš with condemnation of the Bektāšīs for their antinomianism (see, for example, Lāmeʿī Čalabī/Lâmi’î Çelebî, 1289/1872, p. 691). Ḥājī Bek­tāš is also said to have been the disciple of Loqmān-e Paranda (Vilâyet-­Nâme, pp. 5-7). Loqmān-e Paranda, one of the successors of Aḥmad Yasawī, is frequently confused with Loqmān-e Saraḵsī, a contemporary of Abū Saʿīd b. Abi’l-Ḵayr (d. 440/1048), the confusion being facili­tated, no doubt, by the fact that Saraḵsī is related once to have flied (Jāmī, Nafaḥāt, p. 296, and Maʿṣūm-ʿAlīšāh, n.d., II, p. 348).

It is historically verifiable that after his arrival in Anatolia—by way of Najaf and Mecca, it is said— Ḥājī Bek­tāš became a leading follower (ḵalīfa-ye ḵāṣṣ) of a certain Bābā Rasūl-Allāh, also known as Bābā Elyās Ḵorāsānī. Bābā Elyās, who led the Bābāʾī insurrection of 639/1240 and was executed at Amasya in the same year, was the ḵalīfa of Dada Qarḡïn (or Ḡarqïn), himself the appointed representative among the Anatolian Turkmen of Tāj-al-ʿĀrefīn Sayyed Abu’l-Wafāʾ (d. 498/1105 in Baghdad), founder of the Wafāʾī order (see Elvân Çelebi, 1984, text, pp. 17-18, and introduction by Erünsal and Ocak, pp. xli-xlv). Bābā Elyās was able, however, to gather beneath his banner not only Wafāʾīs but also members of many other loosely organized antinomian Sufi groups that can he designated collec­tively as Qalandarīs. It seems that Ḥājī Bektāš may also be regarded as a Qalandarī, neglectful as he was of his ritual obligations under the religious law (šarīʿa). Aflākī, biographer of the earliest members of the Mawlawī (Mevlevī) selsela, describes him as “a man of gnostic and illumined nature who failed to follow the šarīʿa (dar motābeʿat nabūd)” (Aflākī, 1953, I, pp. 381-82). He also reports the account given to Mawlānā Jalāl-al-Dīn Rūmī by Nūr-al-Dīn Jījā, governor of Kıṛşehir, of Ḥājī Bek­tāš’s refusal to pray and his transformation of the water intended for ablution into blood (ibid., I, pp. 497-98; see, also, Vilâyet-Nâme, p. 30).

Ḥājī Bek­tāš began his activity on behalf of Bābā Elyās in Sivas, together with his brother Menteş. From there they moved in turn to Amasya, Kı ṛşehir and Kayseri. From Kayseri Menteš returned to Sivas where he was put to death, while Ḥājī Bek­tāš went to settle in Suluca-karaöyük, a village near Kıṛşehir that later came to bear his name (Aşıkpaşazade, 1332/1916, pp. 204-05). Never involved in the Bābāʾī insurrection as militantly as his brother, Ḥājī Bek­tāš spent the rest of his life there, peaceably engaged in preaching to a small group of followers. It is unclear whether they had a formal initiatic relation with him; as a pure majḏūb (ecstatic) he referred all who sought disciplined spiritual training to an adoptive daughter, Ḵātūn Anā.

The date of Ḥājī Bek­tāš’s death is given on the frontispiece of a collection of Bektāšī treatises now in the Ankara library (ms. A. I. 132) as 669/1270-71. The same date is given in the Selsela-nāma of Darvīš Moḥammad Šokrī, an early twentieth-century writer (ms. Hüdayı 122). The epithet al-marḥūm used after the name of Ḥājī Bek­tāš in a waqf document dated 691/1291-92 indicates that he must at all events have died some time before or during that year (Birge, 1937, pp. 40-41). The first tomb built over his grave was erected by Sultan Morād I (r. 763-91/1362-89).

Bektāšī tradition is in general agreement that Ḥājī Bek­tāš left behind adoptive, spiritual offspring. There is division of opinion on whether he also left behind natural offspring. What is certain is that the Bektāšī order acquired most of its distinctive characteristics—­close identity with folk Shiʿism, an enthusiastic interest in Horufism, and an openness to certain Christian influences—considerably after the death of Ḥājī Bektāš.

A record of his own teachings and beliefs is contained in the Maqālāt (also known as Küçük Vilâyet-Nâme), the only book reliably attributed to him. It seems to have been written originally in Arabic, although based on Ḥājī Bektāš’s dicta in Turkish; it survives both in an Arabic version and a more widely read Turkish recen­sion made by one of his followers, Saʿd-al-Dīn (see Coşan, ed., pp. xliii-lii). Illustrated with frequent Koranic quotations and a variety of vivid if fanciful anecdotes—many of them not encountered in earlier Sufi writings—the Maqālāt is dominated by an em­phasis on the fourfold structure of religion (šarīʿat, ṭarīqat, maʿrefat, ḥaqīqat) together with its correlates in the material world (the four elements), man (four distinct spiritual types), and sacred history (the four Rightly Guided Caliphs). Particularly noteworthy as preparing the way for the later absorption of Horufi influences by the Bektāšīya is Ḥājī Bek­tāš’s assertion that man was created according to the pattern of the letters forming the name Moḥammad (Maqālāt, ed. Coşan, p. 77). Ḥājī Bek­tāš includes formal adherence to the Sunni creed among the ten stations (maqāmāt) of the šarīʿa, as well as performance of the prayer, despite his own neglect of it (ibid., pp. 20-21); in these respects, his work is at variance with the later practice of the Bektāšī order.

Two Persian treatises have been attributed to Ḥājī Bek­tāš: Fawāʾed and Maqālāt-e ḡaybīya wa kalemāt-e ʿaynīya (copies of both in ms. Osman Ergin, İstanbul Belediye Kütüphanesi, 1948). Both consist of unacknowledged borrowings from the writings of Sufis who lived either before or after Ḥājī Bek­tāš and must therefore be regarded as inauthentic. Also incorrect is the attribution to Ḥājī Bek­tāš of a brief šaṭḥīya in Turkish, written by a certain Anwarī, a name wrongly taken to be the maḵlaṣ of Ḥājī Bek­tāš.

Bibliography: Actes de la table ronde internationale sur l’ordre des Bektachis et les groupes se réclamant de Hadji-Bektach, 29 juin-2 juillet 1986, Strasbourg, forthcoming. Šams-al-Dīn Aḥmad Aflākī, Manāqeb al-ʿārefīn, ed. T. Yazıcı, Ankara, 1953, I, pp. 381-82, 497-98. Aşıkpaşazade, Tevarih-i Al-i Osman, Istanbul, 1332/1916, pp. 200, 204-05. J. K. Birge, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes, London, 1937, pp. 33-51. Claude Cahen, “Baba Ishaq, Baba Ilyas, Hadjdji Bektash et quelques autres,” Turcica 1, 1969, pp. 53-64. Esad Coşan, ed., Maḳâlât, Ankara, 1986. Elvân Çelebî, Menakibu’l-Küdsiyye fi Menasibi’l-­Ünsiyye, ed. İ. E. Erünsal and A. Y. Ocak, Istanbul, 1984, pp. 169-70. Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı, ed., Vilâyet-­Nâme: Manâkıb-i Haci Bektaş-i Veli, Istanbul, 1958. E. Gross, Das Vilâyet-Nâme des Hağği Bektasch, Leipzig, 1927. F. W. Hasluck, Christianity and Islam under the Sultans, Oxford, 1929, II, pp. 571-72 (concerning the equation of Ḥājī Bek­tāš with St. Charalambos or St. Eustethius by various Christian communities). Fuad Köprülü, “Bektaş,” in İA. Idem, “Anadolu’da İslami­yet,” Darülfunun Edebiyat Fakültesi mecmuası 2, 1338/1919-20, pp. 344ff. Idem, Türk edebiyatında ilk mutasavvıflar, new ed., Ankara, 1966, pp. 27-38. Lâmi’î Çelebî, Nefehat el-üns tercemesi, Istanbul, 1289/1872, pp. 691-92. Maʿṣūm-ʿAlīšāh, Ṭarāʾeq al-ḥaqāʾeq, ed. M. J. Maḥjūb, Tehran, n.d., III, pp. 345­-48. Ahmet Yaşar Ocak, Babailer İsyanı, Istanbul, 1980. See also under bektāšǰya.

(Hamid Algar)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 2, pp. 116-118