The Sufi Bektashi order and Albanian Marxism

The passages below were selected from Dissident website @

For more on the Bektashi order visit Dissident here.

The ‘heretical’ Sufi Bektashi sect offers the conscientious the nearest to the way of life that Jesus of Galilee led (and hoped his followers would lead) that is institutionally possible for ‘Christianity’ or Islam in the 21st century.

Like Jesus and his followers, Bektashi are a celibate, commensal, anti-hierarchical, anti-dogmatic, anti-hypocritical Brotherhood who do not exclude women, but who do stand against those vile “Family Values” that were the curse of ancient world as of the modern, and were reviled by Diogenes of Sinope whose nihilist tradition Jesus of Galilee – alongwith scores of other dissidents – briefly followed and briefly perpetuated before being betrayed by his own disciples.

They are closely-connected with the popular and tolerant Alevi sect in Turkey, who also venerate Haji Bektash Veli.

The history of the Bektashi is curious: just as ‘Christianity’ quickly became associated with Roman imperialism and ever since then an intolerant instrument of oppression, the Bektashi were associated with Turkish imperialism. And just as Jesus was almost trapped into becoming a pawn for Jewish nationalism, Bektash was associated with an anti-Seljuk movement…


“It was six years ago,” Saim said, “a Saturday afternoon. I was leafing through the magazines put out by fellow-travellers of the Albanian Workers’ Party and its leader Enver Hoxha. There were three Turkish publications back then which all denounced each other vitriolically. I was scanning the last issue of one called LABOUR OF THE PEOPLE to see if there was anything interesting in it. I noticed a photograph and an article about a ceremony in honour of new recruits inducted into the splinter-group. What caught my attention was not the revelation that here was a Marxist outfit with songs and poems in a country where all Communist activity is banned – but the caption that deliberately mentioned the Twelve Columns in the black-and-white photo which showed a crowd smoking passionately as if it were performing a sacred duty, posters of Enver Hoxha and Chairman Mao, and reciters of poetry. Even more strange, the assumed names of the new recruits were chosen from the names of the ‘Alawite Sufi order – names like Hasan, Hüseyin (Hussain), Ali and (as I was later to discover) the names of the Bektashi shaikhs or spiritual leaders. Had I not known that the Bektashi had been big in Albania between the wars, I would perhaps never have suspected anything about this incredible mystery, and, after four years of reading all sorts of books on the Bektashi, the Janissaries, Hurufism and Albanian Communism, I discovered a hundred-and-fifty-year-old conspiracy.

“You know all this anyway,” said Saim – but went on to recount the seven-centuries’ Bektashi history, beginning with Haji Bektash Veli. He described how the order has ‘Alawite, Sufi and Shamanistic origins, how it was related to the periods of formation and rise of the Ottomans and the tradition of revolution and rebellion in the Janissary Corps. When you consider that every Janissary was a Bektashi, you understand how the important the Order was. The first time they got the boot from Istanbul, it was because of the Janissaries: while the barracks was bombarded in 1826 under the orders of Mehmet II who lost patience with the Janissaries’ resistance to his Westernising programme of reform. The tekkes were shut down and the Bektashi dervishes kicked out.

Twenty years after going underground, the Bektashis returned to Istanbul, but this time under the guise of the Naqshbendi order. Until Atatürk proscribed them completely seventy years later, the Bektashis presented themselves to the world as Naqshis – but amongst themselves they were Bektashis.

Galip studied an engraving from an English travel book that represented a Bektashi ritual which probably reflected the fantasy in the mind of the artist-traveller than reality. He counted the Twelve Columns in the engraving.

“The third time the Bektashis manifested themselves,” Saim said, “it was fifty years after the Republic was declared in Turkey – not under the Nakshbendi order this time but wearing a Marxist-Leninist guise…” Following a silence, he gave an excited recital, producing as illustration articles, photos, engravings he had cut out of journals, books, leaflets. All that was performed, written and experienced in the Bektashi order corresponded exactly to all that went on in the political factions: the rituals of initiation, the periods of severe trials and self-denial before initiation; the pain endured by the young aspirants during these periods; the veneration of the fallen, the sainted and the dead amongst the order’s or faction’s past members, and the rites of paying homage to them; the sacred meaning assigned to the word Road [spiritual path]; the repetition of words and expressions for the sake of the spirit of oneness and community; the litanies; the fact that Adepts who travel the same road recognise each other by their beards and moustaches – even the expression in their eyes; the rhyme-scheme and metre in the poems they recited and the songs they played in their ceremonies, etc. etc.

“Ostensibly, unless all this is only coincidence,” said Saim, “unless God is playing a cruel epostolic joke on me, then I’d have to be blind not to see that the logogriphs and the anagrams the Bektashis took over from the Hurufis are, without any doubt, being reiterated in the leftist publications.” In the silence that followed – broken only by the whistles of the nightwatchmen in outlying quarter – Saim slowly began to recite for Galip the word-games he had worked out, presenting them with their secondary meanings, as if he were repeating his prayers.

The kids who joined political factions, Saim went on to say, had no idea they had turned Bektashi. Since the whole thing was concocted between the party middle management and the Bektashi masters in Albania, those in the rank and file were entirely unaware that their photos taken at the ceremonies, rituals, marches and meals, were all evaluated by some dervishes in Albania as an extension of their Order.

Towards morning, as Galip drowsed on the sofa, Saim was still soliloquising that, in all probability, the elderly Bektashi masters in Albania who got together with the Party leadership in the dreamlike empty ballroom of a white Italian hotel left over from the turn of the century, looking through tearful eyes at the photos of the Turkish youths, had no inkling that it wasn’t the mysteries of the order that were being recited at the ceremonies, but enthusiastic Marxist-Leninist analyses.

(selected from Orhan Pamuk’s Black Book)

See also left accelerationism here

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