Dervish Piety and Alevism in Late Medieval Anatolia

Episode 359

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In this episode, we explore the evolution of Abdal and Bektashi doctrine from the 14th to 17th centuries. The Abdals of Rum and the Bektashis were two dervish groups in Anatolia who by the 16th century would merge to become the Bektashi Sufi order. Many Bektashi beliefs and practices are also inter-connected with those of Alevi communities. By taking a closer look at Abdal and Bektashi poetry, we examine how poetry, fiction, and other aspects of dervish piety evolved into the core beliefs of contemporary Alevism in Turkey.

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Contributor Bios

Zeynep Oktay Uslu holds a BA in Comparative Literature from Darmouth College and a PhD in Islamic Civilisation from Sorbonne University École Pratique des Hautes Etudes. She currently teaches at the Department of Turkish Language and Literature at Boğaziçi University. Her research interests include: The formation and historical evolution of Bektashism and Alevism, dervish piety, vernacularization, Islam in Anatolia and the Balkans in the Beglik and early Ottoman periods.
Matthew Ghazarian is a Ph.D. Candidate in Columbia University's Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, African Studies. His research focuses on the intersections of natural disaster, humanitarianism, and sectarianism, in central and eastern Anatolia between 1839 and 1893.
Işın Taylan is a PhD candidate in History at Yale University. Her research examines the Ottoman intellectuals’ production of geographical knowledge in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


Episode No. 359
Release Date: 20 April 2018
Recording Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Audio editing by Matthew Ghazarian
Music: Katibim (Üsküdar'a Gider iken) - Safiye Ayla
Images and bibliography courtesy of Zeynep Oktay Uslu


Ḳayġusuz Abdāl, Dīvān, Ankara, Milli Kütüphane MS. Mil Yz A 7621 (dated 920/1514). The second oldest manuscript of Ḳayġusuz Abdāl’s works (only 13 years newer than the oldest), discovered by Zeynep Oktay Uslu. It includes over 400 previously unknown poems, thus bringing Ḳayġusuz’s total number of individual poems to around 530. The newly discovered poems include previously unknown doctrinal elements of Twelver Shi’ite origin.

Select Bibliography

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DeWeese, Devin. “Foreword. ” In Mehmed Fuad Köprülü. Early mystics in Turkish literature. Edited and translated by Gary Leiser and Robert Dankoff. London-New York: Routledge, 2006.
Dressler, Markus. Writing Religion: The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam. Oxford-New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

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Karakaya-Stump, Ayfer. “The Forgotten Dervishes: The Bektashi Convents in Iraq and their Kizilbash Clients.” International Journal of Turkish Studies 16, no. 1&2 (2011): 1-24.

Karakaya-Stump, Ayfer. “The Vefā’iyye, the Bektashiyye and Genealogies of ‘Heterodox’ Islam in Anatolia: Rethinking the Köprülü Paradigm,” Turcica 44 (2012): 279-300.

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Peacock, A.C.S. and Sara Nur Yıldız. “Introduction: Literature, Language and History in Late Medieval Anatolia.” In A.C.S. Peacock and Sara Nur Yıldız (eds). Literature and Intellectual Life in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-century Anatolia. Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2016, 19-35.

Peacock, A.C.S., Bruno De Nicola and Sara Nur Yıldız. “Introduction.” In A.C.S. Peacock, Bruno De Nicola and Sara Nur Yıldız (eds). Islam and Christianity in Medieval Anatolia. Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2015, 1-20.

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Yıldırım, Rıza. “Sunni Orthodox vs Shi‘ite Heterodox?: A Reappraisal of Islamic Piety in Medieval Anatolia.” In A. C. S Peacock, Bruno De Nicola and Sara Nur Yıldız (eds). Islam and Christianity in Medieval Anatolia. Surrey: Ashgate, 2015, 287-307.

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