Khidr in Alevism ant Bektashism

Khidr in Alevism ant Bektashism

Khidr belief is one of the most important and fundamental matters in Alevism- Bektashism.

In other words, Khidr believe is an integral part and the whole of Alevism-Bektashism. Khidr believe has emerged in the Qur’an, Hz. Muhammad, Hz. Ali, Ahl al-Bayt, Twelve Imams, from life of Hunkar Hacı Bektas Veli.

All Alevi- Bektashi circles are believed to be Khidr, who is known for his ledun ilm.

He is a mursid-i kâmil with a black beard, a gray horse, a dervish, and a grandfather.

He is the helper of every person who has difficulty and hardship. Khidr name is widely used, because Khidr is so important in Alevism-Bektashism. In this respect, in the historical process, the names of lodges, tomb, yatır, visit, makam and various places called Khidir (Hıdır) have appeared on all four sides of the world. In addition, Khidr (Hıdır) was named after two Alevis Ocaks. These are Hıdır Abdal Ocak and Uryan Khidr Ocak

The faith of the Khidr, with different names, can be seen in many societies. The Qur’an and hadiths have directly contribute the acceptance of this faith in the Islamic societies. Khidr faith has an important place in Turkish folk beliefs and this has influenced the Alevi-Bektashi thought.

Khidrrname is the common name for poetic works about the Khidr and ricalü’l-gayb (Unseen dervishes). Khidrnames, with the features they contain, are as important as the buyruklar in the faith of Alevi-Bektashi. These works include numerous beliefs and concepts that are important in the Alevi-Bektashi faith. Some of them are as follows:

four doors forty rank, three sunnahs, seven obligations, companionship, sacrifice, dâr, twelve imams, tajalla and tabarra and Ali-Mohammed, Hasan, Huseyin etc.

There is a connection between the Khezr’s longevity and Imam’s occultation. Shi’a effects can be seen in the work at various rates



From the “resurrection” of Ali to the hanging of Hallaj

by Thierry Zarcone

Our objective here is to shed light on one aspect of this phenomenon, taking the example of a hagiographic theme of Shi’ite origin that has become a feature of the religious history of this region to the present day.. This theme, which we will call the “camel bearing the coffin of Ali” (abbreviated camel of ‘Ali); refers to the legendary and mysterious death of Imam ‘AIi b. Abi Tálib (661).

The purpose of this theme, welcomed in the Alevis-Bektashi circles  where it  knew new versions, is not only the illustration of the imagined end of life of the main figure of Shi’ism, but also the return to the first major doctrines of Muslim gnosis and Sufism: initiatory death, that is to say a voluntary death followed by a rebirth.The Alevis-bektachis poets frequently refer to this theme in their texts, and the artists of This movement is particularly noteworthy in their calligraphy and paintings, and visual art has done much to make it popular.

On the other hand, the regime of voluntary death, of which ‘Ali’s camel’s theme is the most perfect expression in the Anatolian current studied, becomes in other initiatory movements in Islam and in other religious systems, the structuring element of the reception ritual in the Alevi  and in the Bektachi Brothehood. Here, however, as we we will show it, Ali  gives way to Husayn b. Mangir al-Halláj, the famous mystic tortured to the fourteenth century, who also embodies, in his own way, the ascetic idea of death before death.

  • To die before you die” or the resurrection of “Ali

According to Shi’ite folk tradition, Ali , wounded to death in 661, told his friends that after his death, his body should be placed on the back of a camel which would be left free to go where he likes, and that his remains would be buried at the place the animal would decide to stop. Tradition holds that the camel did not go any further than Kufa, where today is the tomb of the ‘Imam. The theme of ‘Ali’s camel has spread throughout the Muslim world, Sunni as well as Shi’ite, as far as India and Turkestan, which explains why there are several versions. The animal came to rest in Afghanistan, in the town of Mazar-i Sharif, where an imposing mausoleum dedicated to the Imam was later built.In an other version , the camel arrived at the mountain Mustagh Ata, one of the highest glaciers of the Pamirs, mountain that will then serve as a shrine to ‘Ali’.

In Anatolia, however, this theme has important variants. Although the image of the camel bearing Imam’s body is preserved, the ultimate goal of the animal is not to go in search of a place where Ali will be buried. On the contrary, these versions exclude the idea of ​​any burial to the extent that they consider that the imam has become immortal, or rather because he is called to resurrect and reborn. In these versions, it is Hasan and Husayn, the two children of ‘Ali, to whom their father reveals that after his death a man with a veiled face will carry his body to put it in the ground. But, intrigued by the veil that hides the face of this stranger, Hasan and Husayn, eager to know his identity, pursue him and get him to reveal his identity. To their surprise, the two boys discover that the mysterious character is none other than their own father, a sign that he has just resurrected.

The oldest of these versions probably dates from the sixteenth century, but it is very likely that it was made one or two centuries later, when Shi’ism and ultra-Shi’ism entered Anatolia.

The analysis of Kathryn Babayan is that this theme refects the Shi’ite idea of ​​occultation (ghayba) according to which “the divine never dies but remains hidden, and that it manifests again in a human form “. It will be recalled here that, in classical Ismaili theology, ‘Ali is not revered only as a supreme guide and savior of humanity, being not only an imam and a wasi, but also as the Qa’im of the “resurrection”. There is a Sufi interpretation of this theme in Anatolia, especially among the Alevis-Bektachis: it is based on a hadeeth of the prophet Muhammad which encourages “to die before dying”. We will come back to this formula later.

The theme of the camel of  Ali is present in the famous epic of Abu Muslim, hero of the Abbasid cause in the 8th century, which is considered, in Anatolia, as the paragon of spiritual chivalry (futuwwa), the destructor of tyrannies and the protector of the Shiites. He is naturally particularly honored by Alevis-Bektachis. From the first lines of the epic about him, the oldest manuscripts of the eighteenth century can be read:

When the caliph ‘AIi, the king of men, falls under the dagger of Ibn Mulcem, his sons, Hasan and Huseyn, took his body to wash him and put him in the coffin. Then appeared a veiled form holding a camel by the bridle. The stranger took the coffin with the body of the Caliph and his sword, Dhul-Falcár, and, loading them on the camel, he went away. Curiously, Hasan ran behind the apparition. The stranger withdrew his black veil and Hasan recognized his father.

The theme of Ali’s camel is undergoing a notable change in the hagiography of Haci Bektas (1271), a text also written in the sixteenth century, inasmuch as the camel driver is the face of this last saint and not that of Ali. In fact, it is in the form of the eponymous master of the Bektachi order  that the imam lives again. Haci Bektas would thus be the ‘Ali of Anatolia or rather Haci Bektas resurrected in the form of’ Ali.

In addition, the hagiographer substitutes a gray horse for the camel, a horse that is not unlike DIal-Jináb, the famous mount of the imam. In summary, Haci Bektas tells his favorite disciple, Sari Ismail, that after his death, a veiled person will appear riding a gray horse (boz at). This one will come to read the prayer Yásin , will bring a shroud (kefen), wash his body and will carry it with him to put it in the ground. Then, Haci Bektas encourage Sari Ismail not to speak to this person. When the day came, however, Sari Ismail wanted to know who the mysterious stranger was and found that it was his own master.

In addition to the place it attributes to Haci Bektas, this version of the theme of the camel ‘Ali innovates on an important point because it intends to enlighten its reader on the meaning that should be given. It then connects Ali’s camel to the “die before dying” formula. In the first place, to console Sari Ismail, upset when he learns that the death of his master is near, Haci Bektas reveals to him that “we will not die but we experience, on the contrary, a change of form.

Later, when he takes off his veil, Haci Bektas explains to the same Sari Ismail that “[the real] man is the one who dies before dying, and who washes his own body before burial“. The change of form is rendered in Turkish by the term don (change) or by the expressions don-be-don dolasmak (to go from one form to another) and donuna girmek (to seize a form) .

These points have inspired several Alevis-Bektachis poets who attach, in their verses, the camel of ‘Ali to voluntary death:

The ruler Haci Elektas who runs his own funeral,

 is’ Ali himself.

Asik Hasan (seventeenth century) ”

I taught the way to many spiritual teachers

 I die without dying and I resurrect

I know the secret of “dying before I die”

 I have lived so many times my own funeral.

Edib Harabi (1917)

Before he died, he put his own body in the grave.

Tacettin Knetik (1922 -?)

One opens the book of love,

One of them elixir to the assembly of the masters,

One, before dying, cuts his own shroud:

Do not question the one who does not prune, ask who is cutting.

T . Kucuk

Other Bektashi hagiographies take again, to the benefit of the saints to whom they are dedicated, this phenomenon of the change of form of ‘Ali. This is the case of the gesture of Otman Baba (15th century), Baltm Sultan (1516) and Pir Sultan Abdal (14th century) whose bodies also welcome the soul of the Imam.

The popularity of the theme is such that painters-miniaturists and calligraphers Alevis-Bektachis seize it. Ali’s camel – but never the horse of Haci Bektas – is represented in various forms and on various supports (paper, wood, glass, etc.). The contours of the animal and of the chainer are sometimes traced with the help of Arabic letters and certain formulas, in the same language, and are inserted in the drawings. The injunction “Die before dying” (mutu qabla an-tamutu) usually appears on the coffin.

An artist even represented the camel driver in 1894-1895 in the form of an upright gravestone”. In accordance with ancient texts devoted to the theme, there is the fabulous sword of Imam fixed on a camel’s temple. Other well-known Shi’ite formulas take place on calligraphic planes, such as the prophetic tradition: “I am the city of knowledge, and ‘Ali is the gateway to it’ or a futuwwa’s formula: “There are no other heroes than `Ali and no other sword than Dhul-Falcár ‘.

The injunction “die before dying” was long commented in Sufism; it is at the center of several initiations and ascetic practices, for example among the Sufis of the Naqshbandiyya brotherhood whose members must visualize the gradual decomposition of their bodies.

However, among the Alevis-Bektachis of Anatolia, this formula legitimizes a singular doctrine of death and of post-mortem becoming, a doctrine which is elsewhere shared by other syncretistic religions of the region and by the Hurufi movement:

the main idea is that voluntary death is the beginning of a Conscious transmi-gration of the soul of the deceased to another body. This is essentially what Haci Bektas explains to his disciple shortly before his death.

Moreover, according to the Bektashi poets, the idea of ​​transmigration is added to a conception of evolution and involution according to which the saint of the saints travels and adopts the various forms of creation, from unsuitable things (minerals), to animate beings (plants, animals, humans). In the Ottoman Empire, this belief was diffused in the circles of Bektachis through a particular poetic genre called devriye (circle [of creation]). These poems are built on a precise model that allows the poet to tell his changes of form, since his soul is emanated from the Absolute or God until his return to the divine. Several great figures of Alevi-Bektashi poetry, as well as authors related to other Sufi fraternities, have written at least one such poetry; it’s almost an imposed exercise .

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Ottoman thinker Bektachi Riza Tevfik was both the author of scientific studies on this literary genre and of a devriye which was partly inspired by his reading. Here are some excerpts:

I was a hidden light in the eternal morning,

I manifest myself to the archetypes.

I wanted to be known, I manifested myself.


I walked a lot in the world of the elements.

At the moment where  I acquired the most beautiful form,

After respecting the rules, I reached the human stage.


I walked through the eighteen thousand worlds.

I only traveled in myself.

Today, this literary genre still has great appeal to Alevi-Bektashi poets, a sign that they continue to cultivate the worldview associated with it. It can be seen by reading a little pamphlet entitled Olmeden Evvel Olmek (Dying before dying), published in 1997 by an Alevi association in Istanbul: “death does not exist in Alevolian Alevism, the soul moves from one body to another .

The saints never die,” says Haci Bektas, “they change their form.”

Note: Here more info about Masur al Hallaj  poems and Tawasin

The regime of voluntary death and the idea of ​​second birth occupy a prominent place in the initiation ritual of the Alevi and Bektachi communities.

Before “dying”, the recipient is instructed by means of symbolic gestures (presentation to the four doors) and speeches on the question-and-answer mode, interspersed with trips within the limited framework of the reception room (meydan evi), and entry and exit of this space menie (crossing the threshold).

A symbolic object, the tigbent (sword-belt), usually a rope or piece of cloth, and a ritual act (Halláj’s hanging), in a place called dar (the gallows), announce his imminent death.

We have already discussed the case of this sword-belt( see article here and see later) which is, in the Bektachis, the equivalent of the shadd of spiritual chivalry (futuwwa)( see article here), and which refers to the bonds with which Abraham hindered his son to sacrifice him to God ; it is therefore a strong symbol of voluntary death. We will deal here with the hanging of Hallaj, which prefigures that of the recipient.

The center of the bektachi (Tekke) convents reception area is called “Mansur Gibbet” (dar-l Mansur). This gibbet recalls the dramatic execution of this mystic hanged in 922 for his Gnostic ideas; he had declare “ana l-haqq” (I am God). The death of Halláj, which is also interpreted as a mi`ráj, is a model for the Sufis who interpret his end as a voluntary sacrifice and an initiatory death. Alevi-Bektashi poets often evoke his name or his famous formula (enelhak in Turkish).

The fact that the central space of the reception hall of tekke Bektachi devolves on him confirms the place which initiation gives to voluntary death and the second birth.

The guide seized me and tore me from the outside world, He washed me of my impurities and made me reborn. The secret of “die [before dying]” was revealed to me, The night I stopped at Mansur’s gallows.

Remzi Baci (1883-?)

The ritual confirms that the “Mansur gibbet” is the place where the recipient is symbolically executed.

At the beginning of the ceremony, the swordbelt, usually made from the wool of a sheep that was sacrificed a short time ago, is tied around the applicant’s neck. It will be taken away during one of  his passages at “Gibbet Mansur” and  knotted around his loins, sign of his victory over death and its rebirth.

This rebirth, described as a “second birth”, is realized thanks to the spiritual master, the Mursid.

The Bektashi author Giridi Ali Resmi Baba (1789), who insists on this point, quotes verse 3 of the Gospel of St. John : “In truth, I tell you, he who does not be born again can not see the kingdom of God “. This translation is certainly slightly different from the original, but it nevertheless makes the same idea: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, no one can see the kingdom of God”  .

I was born of two mothers: The first was my mother,

And the second was my spiritual master.

Munire Baci (1912) ”

I was born of four mothers and two fathers.

Turgut Baba (I999) (These are the four constituent elements of all things. The two fathers here correspond to the physical father and the spiritual father, the Murshid.)

The ritual posture adopted by the recipient when he is at the level of dar-i Mansur is to “seal” his feet (big right toe on big left toe), while crossing his arms on his chest and tilting slightly head.

There are several engravings showing the Bektachis, and in particular the famous Kaygusuz Abdal (between 1380 and 1410), in this posture which symbolizes respect and expectation.

This gesture is part of the ritual posture named paymaschán, used in Persian Sufism. Afláki (1360), the biographer of Jalál al-din Rumi, indicates that it is adopted by a man who is about to be initiated by a Sufi master. “The word paytnáchán also appears in the Vilayetname of Haci Bektas, where a disciple of the saint takes this posture for forty days, and in a few Bektashi rituals. Among the members of the Khálcsár order, in Iran, almost identical posture is called gulbáne.

At the time of the presentation of the gibet candidate, his guide (rehber), who plays a key role in the reception ritual with the Sheikh (or Murshid), declares that the recipient feels the deepest disdain for his body and that he is ready to die under the priest’s knife.

Speaking in his name, the guide adds: “In the name of Cháh Alláh Alláh. I am on the gallows of the perfect, my face is on the ground, my being is on the gallows, my flesh is like dust, my neck is in the convent of the True, I am guilty of a thousand bad thoughts and a thousand faults

This statement is visible in the older versions of the Bektachi ritual at the end of the eighteenth century.

The candidate must then “seal” his hands and feet, so the tigbend is wrapped around his neck. The following presentation of this candidate is also read:

This soul [the recipient] wishes to be related to the group of twelve imams, to the right way of Mubammad-‘Ali ” and to the right path of our respectable master [Haci Bektash). She also wants to be the friend of our friends and the enemy of our enemies.

We have a young ram (koc kuzulu) to sacrifice ... “Another version of the ritual (early twentieth century) indicates that the Recipient is drawn and walked through the reception hall by his guide, using the rope (tigbent) wrapped around his neck, and that he is wrapped in a shroud (kefen). The initiate is “as dead”, or more precisely that he is a “living dead” .

The initiator will then tell him: “Arise, you were dead, come back to life, you are coming again to the world ».

This central moment of the ritual is illustrated by many poets and poets related to the brotherhood:

We offered our existence to the Master [the Prophet],

All our actions have fallen into the void.

The assembly of the perfect is our gallows,

For the love of the beloved rose that is’ Ali

Ferdi (1909) ”

On the way to “enelhak “(I am God),

 he [the recipient] was led to the gallows

 Thank you, God, to those who give their lives, their heads.

Dervis Ruhullah (1935)

(In the Alevi doctrine, Muhammad and ‘Ali are intimately related until they constitute one and only person)

Today, I suffered the gallows: Mansur is myself,

I am far away and do not know any more of my ism,

 of my self, of my world.

Riza Tevfik (I949)

He died for the sake of realized men,

The young rams arrive in the reception hall to be sacrificed.

[Me] Turgut Abdal, I reached the city of contentment,

I sacrificed myself for love.

We have written ‘the two sacrificed’ “on the seal of love,

The young rams arrive in the reception hall to be sacrificed.

Turgut Babaa

( “The two sacrified “: These are Abraham’s two sons, whom he wanted to sacrifice to God.)

Al-Hallaj is not the only emblematic figure of voluntary death in the Bektachi ritual. The name of Nasimi (1417?), Who was skinned alive for his ideas, judged to be contrary to the law of Islam, appears in the poetry of  Alevis-Bektachies, as well as in versions of the ritual of reception where a symbolic gibbet  is also dedicated to him.


Can he taste to drunkenness one who has not drunk the nectar of love of alast?

Can he reach God who has not mowed himself with the sickle of the cry of despair?

Can he fall in love with someone who, like Nasimi, was not executed?

He was not tied up who did not go to the gallows, like Mansur.

Asik Omer (18th century)

(“nectar of love of alast”: Reference to Koran 7: 172, assembly at which men have recognized God as their Lord.)

In the Alevis, the execution of the reception ritual presents some differences of ritual order, but also and especially of interpretation. It seems that the dar sometimes designates the whole of the room dedicated to the ceremonial. In another case, among the Alevis Tahtaci, the delivery of the tikbend is performed on a mattress (dágk) or a piece of cloth, corresponding to the dar and called” mattresses of the Men’s Cháh”, the Cháh of Men being none other than ‘Ali’.

In the case of married couples’ receptions, which is generally the rule in Alevism, recipients are sometimes laid down, then covered with a veil and then lifted up, “as if waking from a very long sleep”, frequently related to death.

The symbolism of voluntary sacrifice also permeates the ritual Alevi where the initiates are presented, like Bektashism, like “young rams” ready to die. The Alevis also put forward the phrase “die before dying“, to which several lines are devoted in the Buyruk (Commandments), a work attributed to Imam Shi’ite Ja`far Sádiq (765), which summarizes most of their dogmas and practices .

Finally, there is a notable difference between the Alevi reception ceremonies, which correspond to a rite of passage that a closed community imposes on its members, and the same ceremonial  for the the future Bektachi , which undergoes it freely and individually to join this brotherhood. (to bring closer to the distinguo “rite of puberty” and “specialized initiation” at Mircea Eliade ‘”.)

For Alevi, initiatory death is a societal necessity that allows it to integrate a new class of its own. In this way, the bektachi, the initiatory death, gives it access to a personal experience of transformation with a spiritual character: it is its inner world that is transformed, despite the similarity of the ritual, therefore, voluntary death is not lived on the same register in both organizations.

I left my being on the gallows, I put my face on the ground,

I made a commitment to Multammad-Ali.

At this moment, I saw the nectar of paradise,

I drank a lot and I experienced drunkenness.




The specificity of the Bektashi brotherhood and the Alevi communities is, as we announced at the beginning of this study, to ritualize the ideal of voluntary death, as illustrated by the theme of ‘Ali’s camel and to base this ritual on Koranic mythology, more precisely on the sacrifice of Abraham. Indeed, in the other Arab and Persian Sufi currents, the regime of voluntary death is not, or rarely, related to this Koran episode, and if it is, it is not ritualized, with the sole exception of the Persian brotherhood of Kháksárs, which shares a common origin with the Bekashis.

The mystical model of bektachis and Alevis  is not the Prophet of Islam, but Ishmael first, and then Ali. if the first one inspires the ritual, it is  Ali ,the Risen One, who gives him his meaning.

Unlike the son of Abraham saved by the angel who stops his father’s arm, the Bektachi initiate takes the place of the “young ram” who is driven to a gibbet; but it is as a man, just as he is hanged.

The ritual knows slight variations, in the Bektashi as in the Alevi, with regard to the more or less dramatic intensity that masters of ceremonies wish to bring to the experience of death. Thus, the recipient is sometimes, but not systematically, covered with a shroud, which could mean that he evolved then, in the reception room, as a “living death”.

On the other hand, the infiuence of Sufism and its spirituality, principally its conception of voluntary death, is markedly more marked in Bektashism than in Alevism. In fact, like the Sufis linked to other brotherhoods, thegoal of bektachis is, as the poets wrote, to reach God, reliving the ascension (miraj) of the Prophet and by moving to the highest possible place of proximity with the deity .

These themes are, it is true, taken up by Alevi poets, but the interpretation they give is different from that of the Bektachis to the extent that the regime of voluntary death generally aims, in the first, an ethical ideal and society that boils down to the good functioning of their community. The best example is given by the Alevi ritual of gorgu (experience) or gorulme (of being seen) which encourages, once a year, the Alevis to confess their bad actions, thus anticipating the interrogation which will take place, according to Islam, after their death, in the presence ofGod, when all the mechanisms are gathered together.

The Buyruk indicates on this subject: “Die before you die and make the accounts before the day of the resurrection.”

It will not be denied that this confession is implicitly associated with a commitment to perfect and “kill”, under the direction of a master, the passionate self inclined to evil and error, the Alevi ritual then privileges, in this case, certainly the community, but we can see that the well-being of it passes the bektachi will incline more, because his membership of the brotherhood is voluntary – unlike the Alevi to which the initiatory death is imposed as a rite of passage and integration and insofar as its attachment is part of a strong spiritual quest, to think this improvement in an ascetic-mystical mode by associating it with exertions of introspective and contemplative character.

The implorants [the bektachis] hide themselves from the eyes of their enemies

 They cover themselves with the shroud and reach the house of annihilation.

Mehmed Hilmi Dede (1907)

 Read also: Ritualising ascetism and Symbolizing mortification

In the course of time, the sacred stones worn by Qalandar and Bektashi dervishes have undergone many changes. At the beginning a symbol of asceticism and austerity, the stone has become a polysemic symbol hinting at mythical, gnostic, and Sufi ideas. But it has also been a stone used for divination and healing (especially the pálhang), similar to the rain stone in the shamanic Turkic world. It appears that there is a close link between the stone and the belt, since they are two objects physically associated and frequently considered to be only one object in the girding ritual of Qalandariyya and Bektashism. Hence, this is the substitution of the belt for the stone with the word pálhang… and a continuing confusion. The pálhang as a stone put upon the stomach, however, is quite different from the stone suspended from the neck. The first one is a symbol of asceticism while the second one is a symbolic conservatory of many Sufi beliefs and practices.