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Sufi Islam


Doctrines Bektashi belief and practice is drawn from various sources and, therefore, is not systematic. Such sources include popular pre-Islamic religion, as well as Christian and Islamic elements. Evidence of Christian influence is found in the practice of distributing bread, wine and cheese when new members are received into the order and the confession of sins to senior members of the order, who have the power to grant absolution.
The Bektashiyyah claim to be a Sunni order but their doctrines are much closer to Shi'ism than the Sunni tradition; this is evidenced by their recognition of the twelve Imams. They, however, place themselves outside both mainstream Shi'a and Sunni Islam through their neglect of many Muslim ritual duties, including the salat, and their worship of Ali, Muhammad and Allah as a trinity.
The order is governed by a Celebi, an office which used to be hereditary. Each monastery is governed by a postnisin (he who sits on a sheepskin). Certain members of the order make a vow of celibacy, and they place themselves under the authority of a figure known as a dede.

History The origins of Bektashiyyah are uncertain. The order looks to the Turkish Sufi Hajji Bektashs of Khurasan (d c.1337) as its founder. However, it is only in the 15th century that there is any evidence of the Bektashiyyah operating as an organised order. Under the leadership of Balim Sultan (d.1516) the order acquired its own initiatory system and a clear ritual system.
In the 16th century the order came to be associated with the Janissaries, a military corps within the Ottoman army that was composed of Christian slaves. As long as the Janissaries enjoyed official favour the Bektashis remained largely free of official interference in spite of their highly unorthodox doctrines and practices, and flourished in areas such as Albania and South Anatolia which had large Christian populations. However, with the abolition of the Janissaries in 1826 the Bektahis lost all official support and their property was confiscated. The order was able to reorganise itself under the relatively mild rule of 'Abd al-Majid (1839-61) only to be prohibited again in 1925 as a result of Kemal Ataturk's policy of the secularisation of Turkey. Its main lodge in Turkey was restored and opened as a museum in 1964. Today the Bektashiyyah continue in the Balkans, particularly in Albania where their chief tekkah (tariqa-centre) is in Tirana, Albania.

Symbols The Bektashiyyah wear a white cap, consisting of four or twelve foldings. The number four symbolises the four gates: sharia, tariqa, ma'riqa, haqiqa; the number twelve points to the number of imams. In parts of the world where they have absorbed Christian communities they celebrate the reception of a new member with wine, bread and cheese.

Adherents There are no figures for the number of followers of this order.

Main Centre
 Tirana in Albania.