Candles and Crescents
Sufi-Shia, New page on Shi'i esotericism
"The center of the image is the Bektashi Teslim Tasi: the symbol of the abandonment of human individuality in the eternal truth that is the unity of Allah, Muhammad and Ali" Dejong

"The center of the image is the Bektashi Teslim Tasi: the symbol of the abandonment of human individuality in the eternal truth that is the unity of Allah, Muhammad and Ali" Dejong

Some of my drawings
Sketch for a Celtic Zulfiqar I put together.

Sketch for a Celtic Zulfiqar I put together.

Ibn Fadlan and the Viking Muslims

"The most famous Arabic source concerning the descriptions of the Vikings is Ibn Fadlan who wrote an account of a journey from Baghdad to the Volga Bulgars in 921-2. His main task was to spread the Muslim faith to this people… He tells that he saw among these people 5,000 men and women, who had all converted to Islam. They were called al-baringâr, which is interpreted as an Arabic rendering of the Old Norse name vœringar, another name for Vikings… Ibn Fadlan built a mosque of wood for them to perform Islamic service and he taught them to pray. There are some difficulties in interpreting this part of the Arabic source… It is, however, interesting if Vikings really were converted to Islam in Volga Bulgar, although the number of converted is probably highly overstated… Amin Râzi, describing Rûs among the Volga Bulgars, says that they highly valued pork. Even those who had converted to Islam aspired to it and were very fond of pork…"

 E. Mikkelson, The Viking World

Ethnicity and Bektashism

Structure lends itself to variety more so perhaps than De-institutionalized modes of religious organization. Perhaps because in it’s self-declared separateness, it forfeits claims to supplementing, or replacing the state, culture, people around whom it takes root. It may appear strange to people that the Salafis, in their hatred of hierarchy and extracurricular gathering have produced the most uniformity by bypassing or attacking their host culture. On the other hand what Gibbs calls (not entirely incorrectly) the Catholic tradition of Islam whether the Orthodox Ulema and Dervish orders or the more home sprung folk traditions have proliferated and been enhanced by the peoples who were initiated into this system. Bektashism is perhaps one of the most institutionalized sects of Islam, not to say that it is homogenous, far from it. But that it lends itself more to a naturally defined religious hierarchy that other manifestations which maintain a distinctively charismatic basis for recognition. 

It seems strange to me then that many attempt to stress an ethnic dimension above all else to retroactively bring a Turkish/Albanian religion into existence. No doubt there is a Turkish Bektashism and an Albanian Bektashism (hypothetically there could a Japanese Bektashism) but to reduce the secret to an ethno-tribal dimension seems to be missing the point. After all the structure of the order has largely remained more or less intact since the reforms of Balim Sultan. Even a great deal of the practices such as the most public display of faith, the Nefes maintain a largely uniform melodic pattern though their content is culturally specific.  

As an Arab, I wholeheartedly agree with common Bektashi criticisms of modern Sunnism as facilitating some kind of inferiority complex vis-a-vis the presumed guardianship of the faith by Arabs but by that same token we should be wary on attempts to replicate the same process within our own theologies. Especially an order which has historically opened it’s doors to all humanity.

Our Imams are Arab; our Patron Saint is Persian, our order in Turkish and our Homeland, Albania.      

Desire of the Shah

When I looked at the beloved with the eyes of God. How my heart was broken for desire of the Shah

Baba Ali Tomori

Përmet, Albania (by Elena Miari)

Përmet, Albania (by Elena Miari)

Islam of the Forest

I’ve recently had the pleasure of conversing with a fellow Aşık of the Bektashi path (be sure to check out his beautifully contemplative Fire of Ashk blog which is both a treat for the eyes and soul). When trying to describe the Islam in which we had discovered harmony as Europeans and Americans through a familiar cultural medium, a polar tradition as it were, a phrase was blurted out that I think beautifully encapsulates the aim of this particular blog. 

My Islam is the Islam of the Forest, not the plains"  

"The point we wish to make is that the turban is deemed to give the believer a sort of gravity, consecration and majestic humility; it sets himapart from chaotic and dissipated creatures - the diillun,the “strayers,” of the Fatihah -fixing him on a divine axis- as-sirat al-mustaqzm, the “straight path” of the sameprayer- and thus destines him for contemplation; in briefthe turban is like a celestial counterpoise to all that isprofane and empty. Since it is the head, the brain, which isfor us the plane of our choice between true and false,durable and ephemeral, real and illusory, serious andfutile, it is the head which should also bear the mark of thischoice; the material symbol is deemed to reinforce thespiritual consciousness, and this· is, moreover, true of everyreligious headdress and even of every liturgical vestment orsimply traditional dress. The turban so to speak envelopsman’s thinking, always so prone to dissipation, forgetfulnessand infidelity; it recalls the sacred imprisoning of hispassional nature prone to flee from God.” Frithjof Schuon

"The point we wish to make is that the turban is deemed to give the believer a sort of gravity, consecration and majestic humility; it sets him
apart from chaotic and dissipated creatures - the diillun,
the “strayers,” of the Fatihah -fixing him on a divine axis
- as-sirat al-mustaqzm, the “straight path” of the same
prayer- and thus destines him for contemplation; in brief
the turban is like a celestial counterpoise to all that is
profane and empty. Since it is the head, the brain, which is
for us the plane of our choice between true and false,
durable and ephemeral, real and illusory, serious and
futile, it is the head which should also bear the mark of this
choice; the material symbol is deemed to reinforce the
spiritual consciousness, and this· is, moreover, true of every
religious headdress and even of every liturgical vestment or
simply traditional dress. The turban so to speak envelops
man’s thinking, always so prone to dissipation, forgetfulness
and infidelity; it recalls the sacred imprisoning of his
passional nature prone to flee from God.” Frithjof Schuon