Turkey // South Central Anatolia //

The life and teachings of Haci Bektas Veli

While little is known about the life of Hacı Bektaş Veli, he is believed to have lived from 1208 to 1270. Like other Turkish intellectuals of the time, he was educated in Khorasan, where he became well versed in religion and mysticism. After journeying with his brother, he returned to Anatolia and lived in Kayseri, Kırşehir and Sivas. Eventually he settled in a hamlet of seven houses, Suluca Karahöyük, the present location of the monastery.

Hacı Bektaş’s teachings, on the other hand, are well known. His great work, the Makalat, gives an account of a four-stage path to enlightenment or Marifet – a level of constant contemplation and prayer. The faults that grieved him most were ostentation, hypocrisy and inconsistency: “It is of no avail to be clean outside if there is evil within your soul.” This could be the origin of the unorthodox customs of later followers of the Bektaşi sect, which included drinking wine, smoking hashish, eating during Ramadan and – for women – uncovering the head outside the home. Hacı Bektaş’s widely quoted dictum on women was unequivocal: “A nation which does not educate its women cannot progress.”

The teachings reverberated throughout the Muslim world, and sects including the Bektaşi, the Alevî and the Tahtacı still follow traditions that originated in his doctrines. These now form the main counterbalancing force to Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey.

An annual festival, held in Hacıbektaş August 16–18, celebrates the philosopher’s life.