What is Bektashism?

Bektashism: The first thing that comes to mind when Alawism is mentioned is Bektashism. Actually, Bektashism is a tariqah-religious order-that is believed to have been founded by Hajji Bektash Wali. However, Bektashism can be called Alawism as its followers are attached to the basic principles of Alawism like affection for Hadrat Ali and the Family of The Prophet, loving the ones who love the Family of the Prophet and not loving the ones who do not love them. In Turkey, while every Bektashi is Alawi, not every Alawi is necessarily Bektashi, although they regard Hajji Bektash as the Horosan Saint, and respect him. For this reason, there is a division of Rural Bektashism and Urban Bektashism; while the former is called Alawi, the latter is called Bektashi. (1)

According to the Alawi writer Rıza Zelyut, there is no difference between Bektashism and Alawism. He thinks that Hajji Bektashi Wali is a great master of Anatolian Alawism. In general, he did not create a way or tariqah peculiar to himself. The great master is Alawi. In this respect, the expression Bektashism is wrong. The Bektashis he calls Dervish Bektashis are also Alawi and have small differences among each other. (2)

We think that there has arisen a difference between Alawism and Bektashism especially since the sixteenth century. Some current differences are as follows: Although the basic beliefs of both groups resemble one another, their social structures are different. While Alawis are the groups that have generally come from tribes and lived in rural places for centuries, Bektashis are groups that live in towns and that are generally educated. (3). Although both of the groups love and regard Hajji Bektashi Wali, Alawis are attached to the lodges of Dervishes that they believe have come from the lineage of the Prophet, not the Lodge of Hajji Bektash. Actually, as Bektashism is a tariqah, everyone who sticks to the way of this tariqah can be a Bektashi. However, Alawism depends on lineage and only the one whose parents are Alawi can be an Alawi himself. (4)

Haslok mentions such a distinction concerning belief between Alawis and Bektashis: While Alawis claim that they are attached to the Fifth Imam Muhammad Bakr, Bektashis claim that they are attached to the Sixth Imam Jafar-i Sadik as their master. (5) Besides these, there are also some other differences. (6)

1- Ethem Ruhi Fığlalı, Türkiyede Alevilik Bektaşilik, Ankara 1989, page 9. According to Abdurrahman Sezgin, who has studied Bektashism, there is no difference between the words Alawi and Sunni. See Hacı Bektaş Veli ve Bektaşilik, İstanbul 1990, s. 60.
2- Rıza Zelyut, Öz Kaynaklarına Göre Alevilik, Istanbul 1990, page 12-13.
3- Irene Melikoff, Uyur İdik Uyandırdılar, trans. Turan Alptekin, page 29.
4- Mehmet Eröz, Türkiyede Alevilik ve Bektaşilik, Ankara 1990, page 52; İlyas Üzüm, Günümüz Aleviliği, İstanbul 1997, page 4.
5- F.R. Haslok, Bektaşilik Tetkikleri, trans. Ragıp Hulusi, simplified by Kamil Akarsu, Ankara 2000, page 4.
6- For these differences see: Ahmet Turan, Anadolu Alevileri-Kızılbaşlar, OMÜ İlah.Fak.Dergisi, Issue 6, Samsun 1992, page 58-59.

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