Thursday, October 18, 2007

Part of a series on Twelver Shia Islam Alevism Ali-MuhammadShah Ismail Hajji Bektash WaliAtaturk
Haqq-Ali-Muhammad Four DoorsInsan-i Kamil The Qur'anThe Buyruk Wahdat-ul-WujoodAlevi ZahirBatin
FastingSemahMusic CharityIntercessionTaqiyya Dushkunluk Meydani
DedesMurshidPir RehberDargaJem Cem EviBabas NowruzAshura Hindrellez
BektashiKizilbash MarxistsKemalists
Alevis or Alevi-Bektashis (Turkish: Aleviler or Alevilik,Kurdish: Elewî) are a religious community in Turkey, making up approximately 20% of the population of the country. There are also familiar Bektashi communities in Albania, Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Bulgaria due to the presence of the Ottoman Janissaries during Ottoman times.
Alevism is a Shia Islamic belief, meaning that they are politically attached to the 4th Islamic Caliph, Imam Ali and the Imamah and do not recognize the first 3 Caliphs. However, this is the extent of similarity between Alevism and Orthodox Shia beliefs. Shia is a term used for any beliefs having its main structure relying on following the path of Imam Ali, no matter how different they are. Other Shia groups are Ismailis (Nizaris & Bohras), Zaidis, Jafaris, Oveyssi, Kubrawiya, Alawis, Bektashism, Nurbakshis.
Contrary to the mainstream orthodox Muslims of the World, Alevism is a heterodox belief. Whilst orthodox Islam possess a tradition of authoritative religious scholarship backed by carriers of formal learning, Alevism lacks both.
The influence of Alevism can be seen in various related movements, doctrines, ideas, rituals and traditions such as Qizilbashism, Bektashism, Hurufism, Qalandariyah, Wafaism, Haydarism, Babaism etc., its strength lying in shared local traditions and esoteric interpretations of Islamic belief and practice.
Modern Alevi theology has been profoundly influenced by humanism and universalism. Thus, while many of the older generation view Alevism as a religious belief, many of the younger generation prefer to term it a philosophy, some even making connections with Marxism. Alevi communities are strong supporters of Kemalism due to its strong secularist ideology.

Adherents of Alevism (Alevîlik) are called Alevis. The exact number of Alevis is not known, with estimates varying between 15% to 35% of the population of Turkey alone, i.e. 10 - 25 million believers in Turkey.
Besides the Alevis of Turkey there are significant number of Bektashis scattered around the Balkans with Albania being the center of these Bektashis.
In Northwestern Iran and Northern Iraq there are similar beliefs such as Ibrahimi, Sarliyya, Kakai, Shabak and Ahl-i Haqq. The adherents of these beliefs are mainly Kurds and some Turcomans. The number of these adherents are not accurately known, but estimates points toward some millions.
Both Bektashis Qizilbash Alevis revere Hajji Bektash Wali, a saint of the 13th century. The Turkish language and Kirmancki language is used in Alevi rituals and while worshipping.

After the death of Muhammad his followers were divided into who should lead the Muslim community. The modern day Sunni majority elected Abu Bakr, while the modern day Shia maintained that Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, was his legitimate successor. This rift was widened when Hüseyin, grandson of Mohammed was killed in the Battle of Karbala, an event which is memorized intensively by Alevis and Shias alike. The Alevis also recognize twelve Imams similar to the Twelver community.
Sufism has also had an important influence on the Alevi traditions. The Sufi philosopher Hajji Bektash Wali, who spent most of his life as a missionary from an Iranian based sufism sect among Turkish tribes in Central Asia and Anatolia during the 13th century, is highly revered. Most of his followers belonged to the Turkmen tribes. The tribes, who tried to keep their traditional customs, often stood in opposition to the Seljuk and later the Ottoman Empire. In the late 15th century, a militant Shia order, the Qizilbash, fought with the Safavids against the Ottomans. After Safavids lost their power, they were assumed to have been absorbed into the Anatolian Alevis. Kurdish Alevis are sometimes still called Qizilbash ("Red head", derived from the head wear of the believers which included a red piece of cloth, hence the name). Even as far East as Pakistan, many Shias have "Qizilbash" as their family names. [1]
According to Alevists, one of Imam Ali's most revered quotes addressing his followers had been, "Be a child of your own times!", meaning, go with the requirements of the historical era in which you live; follow what is best for you as the changes in time and place might change the course of your personal as well as your ethnic life.

Ethnic groups that have Alevi adherents mainly include Turks (Turks & Azeris), Kurds (Kurmanji & Kirmancki/Zaza) with a particular concentration in central Anatolia in a belt from Chorum in the west to Mush in the east. The only province within Turkey with an Alevi majority is Tunceli, formerly known as Dersim.
In addition, many Alevi have migrated to the large cities of western and southern Turkey, as well as to western Europe, especially Germany.
Today, the Alevi community in Turkey is heavily urbanised due to mass migration (1960s to present) from their often mountainous and barren rural home districts to cities.
There are also large communities of Alevis in some regions of Iranian Azerbaijan. The town of Ilkhichi (İlxıçı), which is located 87 km south west of Tabriz is almost entirely populated by Alevis. For political reasons, one of which was to create a distinct identity for these communities, they have not been called Alevi since the early 20th century. They are called various names, such as Ali Illahi, Ahl-i Haqq and Goran. Groups with similar beliefs also exist in Iranian Kurdistan. Interestingly both the Dersim (Kirmancki / Zaza) people and the Gorani, who are both considered as belonging to the Hawramani branch of the proto-Kurdish language, adhere to a form of Alevi faith which resembles in many significant respects, such as the perpetuation of a caste system, the religions of the Druze or Yazidi.


Beliefs and Practices
The nature of Alevi faith can be hard to define, as they do not have a central authority and are based on an orally transmitted tradition, which has been kept secret from outsiders for centuries. So various descriptions of Alevism can be found by different groups.
Despite disputes regarding the non-Islamic origins of Alevism, most Alevis believe their path is true Islam originated with Mohammad and Ali.
Many Alevis stress the liberal and humanistic values of Alevism as a world-view, while others deny that Alevism is an Islamic sect, and claim that it is an independent religion with origins in the pre-Islamic religions that the Turkic people came into contact with during migration to Anatolia. The predominant religions which are claimed to have shaped Alevism are Yazidism, Yazdânism the Ahl-i Haqq and Yarsanism, still present in the area where Kurds live and its vicinity. All three of these religions do not claim to have Islamic origins, nor do their adherents claim to be Muslims.
While the Sunnis recognise the four caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, the Twelver Shias (incl. the Alevis) recognise Ali as the first of the 12 Imams of the Muslim community.
The fundamental Shia beliefs within Alevism are more similar to Nizari Shia-Imami-Ismailism than with Ithna'ashari Shiism (otherwise known as Twelver Shiism), and the likenesses are striking.
The basis of most Alevi beliefs is found in the Buyruks, written by Hajji Bektash Wali and many other notable Alevi 'holy men.' Some of the more doctrinal beliefs are only considered static by the Bektashi Order of Dervishes, which is like the monastic order within Alevism, and are interpreted freely within mainstream Alevi communities.
Alevis in their contact with Christians note that the difference between them and the Christians is "as thin as the inside lining of an onion."

The name Alevi can be simply translated into English as "of Ali" or "follower of Ali." It fits a pattern in Turkish for common names of two other major religious groups: Musevi, (follower of Moses (Musa), or Jewish); and İsevi, (follower of Jesus (İsa), or Christian).
There is much debate as to actually when the broad Anatolian population which today call themselves Alevis actually took on that name. For our purposes here, it is enough to simply know that today they do prefer to call themselves Alevi.
It is visibly obvious that Ali ibn Abi Talib is extremely important to modern Alevis. His picture is prominent in every Alevi worship place and association, and it often appears on the cover of Alevi publications. Many families place pictures of him in their homes. And some, particularly young people, wear small gold replicas of Ali's sword, Zulfikar, attached to chains around their necks.
While there is a wide variety of opinions among Alevis about exactly who Ali was or is, almost all Alevis agree on the following:
1. Ali was Muhammad's cousin (amca oğlu) and son-in-law (damat), marrying the latter's daughter, Fatima.
2. Ali was the first to believe in Muhammed's prophethood; therefore he became the first Muslim.
3. Ali was the closest human being to Muhammad.
4. Ali was Muhammed's intended successor, and therefore the first caliph, but competitors stole this right from him. Muhammad intended for leadership of Muslims to perpetually stem from his family line Ahl ul-Bayt beginning with Ali, Fatima, and their two sons, Hasan and Hussain. Ali, Hasan, and Hussain are considered the first three imams, and the other nine of the Twelve Imams come from Hussain's blood line.
Most Alevis believe that the 12th imam, Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Ali, grew up in secret to be saved from those who wanted to wipe out the family of Ali. Many Alevis believe that he is in occultation and will return as the Mahdi.
Apart from these basic ideas, there is a wide spectrum of opinion even among Alevis as to the true nature of Ali. The following ideas are all based on a combination of Qur'anic verses, hadith, and folklore. Here are some of the most common concepts of Ali circulating among today's Alevis.
1. Ali is the ultimate example of the perfect human, apart from the prophets. Ali is attributed with nearly supernatural strength and spiritual wisdom, giving him a place almost as high as a prophet. An example of this thought is the saying (sometimes attributed to Muhammed):
"Muhammed is the city of spiritual knowledge, Ali is the door."
Muhammed ilim şehridir, Ali kapısıdır.
2. Ali is equal to Muhammed in enlightenment and authority. Ali and Muhammed are likened to the two sides of a coin, or two halves of one whole apple, as in the following poem:
"Ali is Muhammed, Muhammed is Ali;
I saw one apple, praise Allah"
Ali Muhammed'dir, Muhammed Ali
Gördüm bir elmadır, elhamdü-lillâh
Again, from a saying attributed to Muhammed:
"Before the creation of Adam, we were one glorious light; the light of glory on Adam's forehead was divided into two; one half appeared on my forehead, the other on Ali's."
Hz. Âdem yaratılmadan önce tek nur idik; Hz. Âdem'in alnındaki nur ikiye bölünmüş ve birisi benim, birisi de Ali'nin alnında doğmuştur.
3. Ali is deity in a trinity with Allah and Muhammed.
Most Alevis recite this phrase in their prayers: "For the love of God, Muhammed, Ali" (Hak-Muhammed-Ali aşkına). When many say this and the phrase, "Allah-Muhammed-Ali" they are intentionally equating the authority of the three.
4. Ali is deity by himself.
In a poem written by a Bektashi lodge leader named Hilmi Dede Baba and commonly quoted by Alevis, the poet says that wherever he looked - at Adam and Eve, at Noah, at Abraham, or even in the mirror - "Ali appeared before my eyes" (Ali göründü gözüme). I understand the poet to mean that Ali is timeless and present everywhere. The poem also declares:
"He is Jesus, the spirit of God,
He is king of this world and the next,
He is the protector of the believers,
Ali appeared before my eyes"
İsa-yı ruhullah O'dur
İki alemde Şah Odur
Müminlere penah O'dur
Ali göründü gözüme
The poem's final stanza says,
"Ali is first, Ali is last,
Ali is inner knowledge,
Ali is external knowledge,
Ali is pure, Ali is glorious"
Ali evvel Ali ahir
Ali batın Ali zâhir
Ali tayyib Ali fâhir
One more poem cited by Alevis is attributed to Jalaladdin Rumi (Mevlana), who was among the greatest of Turkish mystics, but himself not considered an Alevi.
"At the coming into existence of the world,
Ali was present.
While the world was forming,
Ali was there.
Until the world took its basic form,
The one present was Ali."
Cihan var oldukça Ali var idi.
Cihan var olurken de Ali vardı.
Cihan'ın temeli suret buluncaya kadar
Var olan Ali idi.
VI. Alevis, Haji

Essential Views
Debated Views Ali
All of the Twelve Imams share the same 'light' or Noor as Ali, therefore Ali ibn Abi Talib was the 'First Ali' (birinci ali), Hussayn ibn 'Alī was the 'Second Ali' (ikinci ali), Hassan ibn 'Alī was the 'Third Ali' (Ūçüncü Ali) etc.. up to Muhammad al-Mahdi the 'Twelfth Ali' (Onikinci Ali).

Twelve Imams
Like other heterodox Islamic beliefs, Alevism also belongs to the Batini (Esoteric) interpretation of Islam. The Batini groups are almost exclusively Shiitic, which Batini groups claim, is an indication that the True Path of Imam Ali was a Batini one.
The contrast to Batin (Esotericism) is Zahir (Exotericism). Alevis belief that the Quran possesses both a Zahiri and Batini meaning, but the Batini meaning is held as a Holy Secret (Sır) and teaching the Secret to strangers has been strictly forbidden. But these rules are not being followed in modern days. Most Alevis believe the Quran is missing hundreds of verses about Ali.
The Zahiri part of Islam is believed to be the 1st (Sharia) of the total 4 Doors, in Alevi theology. Alevis believing to have passed the Sharia Door, therefore do not adhere to the normal Sharia, the Islamic legal code, including;
but instead follow the demands and rules of the 2nd Door, Tariqa.

Not performing the Salah (namaz) ritual.
Not performing Wudu, the ritual ablutions of Muslims.
Absence of mosques in Alevi communities, they have their own ceremonial halls called Cemevi.
Men and women pray together in all religious services and they are not segregated in secular life. Esotericism (Batinism)
Alevism has a concept of God at different levels, all being emanations of Haqq the Ultimate Reality. The underlying concept within Alevism is that there only exists one and the same religion and that each religion usually degenerates into establishing a priesthood and a hierarchy, uses as time passes, invariably degraded knowledge to control fellow men and societies in order to obtain privileges. Consequently new prophets emerge to preach the original message, which briefly can be summarized as 'love thy neighbor.' But underneath any exoteric concept of God, there is a chain of emanation from God to spiritual man, man on earth, animals, plants and minerals. This concept is called Wahdat-ul-Wujood.

Haqq-Muhammad-Ali. In the Shia Islamic context Ali is given the dominating role - like Christ for many Christians. In the Alevi context God seems to be beyond reach and Muhammad is clearly eclipsed by Ali. These aspects of the instruction were scanty and unclear and it shall not be excluded that I have over-interpreted them in order to arrive at a comprehensible picture. Drawing comparisons of the Alevi concept of 'trinity' to the Christian concept it can be explained thus: God the Father seems to be pure spirit or pure truth, and accordingly taking no interest in the lives of individual human beings. God the Son seems to correspond to Perfect man 'Insan-i Kamil who has achieved union with God, represented by i.e. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad and Ali according to denomination. God the Holy Spirit seems then to correspond to the Spiritual Self, the Voice of Conscience, guiding man on his way to perfection and union with God.

Muhammad and Ali ibn Abi Talib are identified as one being in such a way that the two are like two sides of a coin.

Müsahiplik; a covenant relationship between members of the community. In a ceremony in the presence of a dede, the members make a life-long commitment to care for the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of each other and their children. The ties between couples who have made this commitment is at least as strong as it is for blood relatives. So much so, that müsahiplik is often called spiritual brotherhood (manevi kardeşlik), the children of covenanted couples may not marry.

Spiritual Brother/Sisterhood
The central Alevi corporate worship service is called a Jem (Turkish: Cem or ayini Jem, meaning congregational or assembly meeting). Alevis prefer to believe that the Jem has its roots in an original worship and teaching meeting of forty spiritual individuals Kirklar Majlisi (Turkish: Kırklar Meclisi) led by Ali.

The Jem
Alevi leadership does not follow the same model of Muslims, instead they have Dedes and Babas.

Alevis practice Taqiya, the dissimulation of one's Alevi identity or beliefs to outsiders. This is less true since the last quarter of the 20th century due to urbanisation and emigration.

According to Australian anthropologist, Dr Sevgi Kilic, while Alevi women do not experience gender segregation in the private and public domain they are however subject to traditional male values about women's sexuality and constructed within the honour/shame paradigm. Dr Sevgi Kilic, is of Alevi heritage and her family migrated to Australia some 40 years ago. Growing up in a western society she was unaware of the rich culture and traditions and the unique identity of the Alevi and she poignantly reveals how she 'learnt to be an Alevi' through the narratives of the women in her study. This ethnography is the first on Alevi women in Turkey and argues that Alevi identity is complex, diverse and rich in its theory and practice. Hence, while rural Alevi women ascribe to traditional conservative views about women's status in the family these ideas rapidly change within an urban environment where many are compelled to work as domestic servants, and in other low paid jobs. Unlike Sunni women in Turkey, Alevi women are not required to wear a headscarf or other bodily coverings. According to Kilic this is because Alevi identity is very much focused on the internal rather than the external representation and covering women's hair or concealing the female body in and of itself cannot legitimize women's moral, social, political and economic worth. Thus an unveiled Alevi women cannot impugn her honour or her communities. Thus Alevi women's bodies are what Kilic calls paradoxically 'neutral'and acts as an 'ideology of difference.'
Alevis are not the only Islamic sect in which women do not wear the headscarf. Ismailis do not only not wear it, but are forbidden from doing so by the Aga Khan.

Alevism has three fasts, different from the Islamic Saum. These are:
Also the dates can be different: Most use the mooncalender but some use the suncalender

The fast during the first 12 days of the Muslim month of Muharram (or Mâtem Orucu), which comes 20 days after Eid ul-Adha (Kurban Bayramı). Another Alevi fast is the three-day Hizir fast (Hızır Orucu), generally observed on the 13-14-15 February.
In addition to abstaining from food, the Alevi fast includes abstaining from drinking water both day and night. They will intake liquids other than water during the evening. During the fast, Alevis will also avoid any sort of comfort or enjoyment. The main exoteric purpose of this fast is to mourn the murder of Ali's son, Hussain, during the battle of Karbala. The main esoteric purpose is self-sacrifice for character building. At the conclusion of the fast of Muharram, a special food dish called ashure (aşure) is prepared from a variety (often 12 in number) of grains, fruits and nuts. Many events are associated with this celebration, including the salvation of Hussain's son, Zaynul Abideen, from the massacre at Karbala, thus allowing the bloodline of the family of the prophet to continue.
Many Alevis fast for three days in mid-February to honor Khidr (in Turkish: Hizir), a supernatural being akinned to the Green Man who they believe has been sent by God throughout history to save those who are in distress. Fasting
Alevis are not expected to give Zakat in the Islamic mode and there is no set formula or amount. A common method of Alevi almsgiving is through donating food, especially sacrificial animals, to be shared with worshippers and guests. Alevis also donate money to be used to help the poor, to support the religious, educational and cultural activities of Alevi centers and organizations (dergâh, vakıf, dernek), and to provide scholarships for students.

Ritually visiting Mecca is not an Alevi practice. However, visiting ziyarat and performing dua at the tombs of Alevi-Bektashi saints or Pirs is quite common. Alevis are not commanded or required to make these visits. They do not go to gain credit in heaven. Their purpose is to ask for spiritual cleansing and blessing for themselves or others. Some of the most frequently visited sites are:
1. Hacibektas, Kirshehir Hundreds of thousands of Alevis gather in the memory of Haji Bektash at his lodge (tekke) and tomb every 16 August.
2. Abdal Musa, Tekke Koyu, Elmalı, Antalya
Its special celebrations are held in June.
3. Shahkulu Sultan, Merdivenköy, Istanbul
Jem services are held here every Thursday and on Alevi holidays.
4. Karacaahmet Sultan, Üsküdar, İstanbul
Jem services are also held here every Thursday and on Alevi holidays.
5. Seyit Gazi, Eskishehir
6. Pir Sultan Abdal Kültür Etkinlikleri, Banaz Koyu, Yildizeli, Sivas
Celebration held every year (23-24 june) in honur of Pir Sultan Abdal

'Semah' is the Alevi ritual dance characterized by turning and swirling, this dance of worship has many varieties. 'Semah' is quite similar to pre-islamic Turkish religous worship dances made by shamans. Performed by men and women to the accompaniment of the Bağlama, the semah is an inseparable part of any ceremony. It symbolizes the putting off of one's self and union with God.

Ritual Dance
'Four Doors, Forty Levels (Dört kapı kırk makam)'
One key way Alevis describe how they are different than those who follow Islamic law Shari'a, but also love the family of the prophet, is with the concept of Four Doors, Forty Levels (dört kapı kırk makam). This is the process by which an individual commits him or herself to a living spiritual guide (dede, pir, mürşit) and that spiritual leader guides the person through a series of four "doors" (kapı), each of which has ten "levels" (makam). The individual enters the first door as a novice. The person who makes it through to the fourth door achieves oneness with ultimate truth (hakikat). The doors' names are religious law, spiritual path, spiritual knowledge/skill, and spiritual truth (şeriat, tarikat, marifet, hakikat).
To Alevis, anyone who only believes in the rule of religious law has not advanced beyond the most basic level of spiritual knowledge. Whoever has entered the next level through a relationship with a spiritual guide has left religious legalism behind and started on the path of inner, deeper spiritual insight.
This belief is shared with Ismailis.

Four Doors
The "Perfect Human Being" or "Insan-i Kamil" is an important Alevi concept, it is the prototype human being, pure consciousness, our true identity, to be contrasted with the material human who is bound by its senses and materialism. A human task is to fully realise this state whilst still in material human form and thus become liberated from sin.
Somewhat comparable to the and the Purusha of Samkhya Hinduism and the Adam Kadmon of Lurianic Kabbalah, it also has similarities with the Anthropos of Gnosticism and Manichaeism.
Today's Alevis would define the perfect human in practical terms as one who is in full moral control of his or her hands, tongue and loins (eline diline beline sahip), treats all kinds of people equally (yetmiş iki millete aynı gözle bakar), and serves the interests of others. It is the goal of all Alevis to achieve the moral standards of the perfect human being. One who has achieved this kind of enlightenment is also named "Eren" or "Munavver."
This concept is oftentimes explained as the esoteric meaning behind practicing the Sharia, as well as explaining the Qur'anic concept of human beings not having original sin, because the centre of consciousness is pure and perfect. However, esoteric explanations (known as Batini Ta'wil) are commonplace and varied amongst Alevis due to the plurality of meanings.

The Human Prototype
Alevi mysticism is essentially monistic, therefore Alevism has the concept of the worshipper becoming one with Haqq, that is, Reality, the "Ultimate Truth." Mansur Al-Hallaj, a 10th century Sufi uttered the phrase, "I am Truth" (Ana al-Haqq). Religious authorities interpreted this statement as Mansur's literally equating himself with Allah. He was assassinated in Baghdad for his so-called blasphemous mystic beliefs. This is often narrated by Alevis.

Union with God

lighting candles at the tombs of saints;
kissing door frames of holy rooms;
not stepping on the threshold of holy buildings;
seeking prayers from reputed healers;
writing wishes on strips of cloth and tying them to trees that are considered to be spiritually powerful;
making 'Lokma' and sharing it with the people which is believed to give prosperity and luck Folk Beliefs
A Turkish scholar working in France has distinguished four main groups among contemporary Alevis, which cautiously show their distinctive features in modern Turkey}.
The first is mainly represented by the urban population and emerged during the Republic. It has for decades belonged to the political left and regards Alevism as an outlook on life more than a religion. The followers hold ritual unions of a religious character and have also established cultural associations named after Pir Sultan Abdal. Man enjoys a central role as illustrated by the phrase 'God is Man' quoted above in the context of the Trinity.
The second group is more directed towards heterodox mysticism and stands closer to the Haci Bektashi Brotherhood. St Francis of Assisi and Mahatma Gandhi are considered better believers than many a Muslim.
The third group regards themselves as true Muslims and are prepared to cooperate with the state. It adheres to the way of Jafar as-Sadiq, the sixth Imam. Its concept of God is closer to orthodox Islam but as the two groups already mentioned it considers the Qur'an to have been manipulated by the early Sunni Caliphs in order to eliminate Ali.
The fourth is said to be under active influence from official Iranian Shia, to be confirmed adherents to Twelver Shia and to reject Bektashism. It follows Sharia and opposes secular state power. Information on strength and location is not available.

Internal Groups
An Alevi dede is the equivalent to a socio-religious leader in the Alevi community.
The institution of dede is the most important of all the institutions integral to the social and religious organization of the Anatolian Alevis. Although much weakened as a result of the socio-economic transformation experienced in Anatolia towards the end of the nineteenth century, and particularly due to accelerated migration from the rural to the urban areas after the foundation of the Turkish Republic, it played a primary role in the survival of Alevism until today.
The institution of dedes is based on a three tiered hierarchy:
1-Murshid 2-Pir 3-Rehber
In some regions this hierarchy is modified in such a way that the Pir and Murshid change places. This is exclusively a functional hierarchy, as all involved come from a dede family. They fulfill functions that are complementary in nature, and would be meaningless in isolation from each other. The dede families, all of them called 'ocakzades', had distributed these duties among themselves.

Alevi dede
According to the books of the Buyruk which include the basic principles of the Alevi faith, and the traditions that survive among the Alevis, a dede must have the following qualifications:

To be a descendant of the Prophet (ocakzade)
To operate as an educator and a moral guide (mürebbi) for the community
To be knowledgeable and exemplary in his character and manners (insan-i kamil)
To follow the principles written in the Buyruks, as well as the established traditions of Alevism. Qualifications of a Dede
The main functions of the dedes can be summarized as follows:

To guide and enlighten (irşad) the community in social and religious matters.
To lead the religious rituals
To punish the criminals, and to serve as an arbiter between conflicting sides.
To lead ceremonies during occasions such as a wedding or a funeral.
To fulfil certain legal and educational functions
Provide health provisions.
Provide socio-political leadership.
In some exceptional cases, such as in the Dersim province, dedes share the leadership position with the large landowners, the Agas. Legal Functions
The resolution of Alevi community disputes or problems in a Dushkunluk Meydani (Turkish: Düşkünlük Meydanı) or 'People's Court' presided over by the Alevi dede.

Dushkunluk Meydani
The institution of Dedes have played an important role and fulfilled important function among the Alevis. While today it seems the Dede function is being revived in a different shape and with different functions that correspond with the needs of the contemporary Alevi community.

An Ojak (Turkish: Ocak) is a form of Alevi hearth linked to the Alevi dedes.
In terms of their internal organization, every Alevi-Bektashi community follows a particular dargah [convent] or ocak [hearth]. Socially, the discipline connected to one's affiliation with a dargah or ojak is of primary importance.

The relationship between Alevis and Sunnis is one of mutual suspicion and prejudice, dating back to the Ottoman period. Sunnis have accused Alevis of heresy, heterodoxy, rebellion, betrayal and immorality. Alevis, on the other hand, have argued that the original Quran does not demand five prayers, nor mosque attendance, nor pilgrimage and that the Sunnis distorted early Islam by omitting, misinterpreting, or changing important passages of the original Quran, especially those dealing with Ali and ritual practice.

Relations with other Muslim groups
Nowruz (Turkish: Nevruz) literary means the new day is the day of 21 March is known by most Turkic people and Alevis as a day of newness, reconciliation, and the start of spring. Many Alevis also believe that 21 March is the birthday of Ali. Some also believe that it is the wedding anniversary of Ali and Fatima, the day Joseph was pulled out of the well, and the day God created the earth. Noruz is celebrated with jems and special programs. Nowruz is the Alevi New Year. The same day has been celebrated by Iranians as the New Year for thousands of years. Originally, Nowruz was a secular festival. March 21 is the first day of the spring equinox.
According to legend, Khidr (known in Turkish as Hizir) and the prophet Elijah or Ilyas drank of the water of life. Khidr comes to the rescue of those in distress on land, and Elijah helps those at sea. It is believed by many that they meet at a rose tree in the evening of every 6th of May. The festival is also celebrated in parts of the Balkans by the name of "Erdelez" and always falls on the same day as Djurdjevdan or St. George's Day.
Ashura is marked as the conclusion of the Muharram fast and as a commemoration of the martyrdom of Hussain.

Ashura Festivals
Alevi religious musical services are referred to collectively as cem or âyîn. Their purpose is not only to focus on spiritual exercises that include elements of zikr (without controlled breathing but with some elements of body posturing) and ritual dance (sema) accompanied by sung mystical poetry in the vernacular and the sacred ritual instrument known as balama or saz (plucked folk lute with frets). They also serve to reinforce social solidarity and correctness of behaviour through inculcating the beliefs and doctrines of the sect and saintly figures as well.
Music is performed by individuals recruited from Alevi communities and descended from holy lineages of religious leaders known as dede. These specialists are viewed with respect and known as zâkir, aik, sazende or güvende, depending on regional usage. Many are also known to be poet/minstrels (aik, ozan) who perpetuate the tradition of dervish-lodge (tekke) poets such as the much loved and admired Yunus Emre (13th century), Nesîmî (14th century), Pir Sultan Abdal, Hata'î and Genç Abdal (16th century) and Kul Himmet and Kul Hüseyn (17th century). The poetry was composed in the Turkish vernacular and follows the principles of folk prosody known as hece vezne in which the focus is the number of syllables.
The specialized sacred musical repertoire of Alevi musicians includes deyi (songs of mystical love), nefes (hymns concerning the mystical experience), düvaz or düvâzdeh imâm (hymns in honor of the 12 Alid imams), mersiye (laments concerning the martyrdom of the imam Huseyn at Kerbela), miraclama (songs about the ascent of the prophet Muhamad to heaven) and sema (ritual dance that is accompanied by folk lutes and sung poetry). The dances are performed with dignity by couples, and choreographies employ circle and line formations as well as arrangements where couples face one another, thus synchronizing their movements more closely. As the tempo of the music increases, the figures become more complex and intense. There are many regional variants of sema, but the most widespread and important are the Dance of the Forty (Krklar Semah) and the Dance of the Cranes (Turnalar Semah) where the movements of the dance illustrate links to a shamanistic legacy and the transformation of shamans into birds who take flight.
The gathering of the forty saints refers to the moment, after the Prophet's ascension to heaven, when he beheld the manifestation of Divine Reality in Ali. The Alevis believe that this gathering can be viewed as the prototype for their central rite (âyîn-i-cem, görgü cemi), the Rite of Integration. This is a complex ritual occasion in which a variety of tasks are allotted to incumbents bound together by extrafamilial brotherhood (musahiplik) who undertake a dramatization of unity and integration under the direction of the spiritual leader (dede). The dede interacts formally with his 12 assistants and the body of worshippers as he applies Alevi religious idioms that reinforce links to Sunni Islam, the Bektai order of Dervishes and Shii Islam as well. The âyîn-i-cem can be heard on the JVC CD Turkey. An Esoteric Sufi Ceremony. Unfortunately for non-specialists, the notes are very vague and give no indication of location, performers, musical genres or poetic forms. The recording was made in Istanbul in 1993, and the ceremony includes in an order typical of a cem: a deyi that reiterates the line of descent of the sect in a historical framework, two düvaz (one based on the poetry of Hatayi, and the other on the poetry of Kul Himmet), prayer formulas, the illâllâh genre that incorporates the tahlîl formula into the poem to create an atmosphere of zikr while sect members create rhythmic intensity by hitting their knees in time to the music and sway their bodies slightly, the Dance of the Forty (Krklar Semah), the Dance of the Cranes (Turnalar Semah) and prayer formulas.

Alevi Music
Alevis have a significant role in Turkish music and poetry. Pir Sultan Abdal, a 16th century Alevi poet whose poems and songs often contain spiritual themes, is revered as a saint and hero. Important figures are the Sufi poet Yunus Emre, widely regarded as having been Alevi, and Kaygusuz Abdal. Their poems shape Turkish culture up to now, and are also performed by modern artists. Songs attributed to these poets have been embraced by left-wingers in the 20th century. The aşık bards are also influenced by Alevi tradition.
Many of the major traditional musicians in Turkey are Alevi, including Arif Sağ, Musa Eroğlu, Erdal Erzincan, Neşet Ertaş, Muharrem Ertaş, Aşık Mahzuni Şerif, Aşık Feyzullah Çınar, Aşık Veysel Şatıroğlu, Ali Ekber Çiçek, Sabahat Akkiraz, Belkıs Akkale. Other non-Alevis, such as Ruhi Su and Zülfü Livaneli, have recorded many Alevi songs. Mercan Dede, an artist whose music combines electronic and traditional sufi elements, has made some songs involving Alevi themes in cooperation with singer Sabahat Akkiraz. [2]

Music and poetry

Video Clips
Below are a series of videos from Turkish television showing a Jem services, otherwise known as "Aynul Jem." See above section on the Jem for a description.
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven

Other Videos

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