I haven’t been posting much lately though I’ve been doodling quite a bit these past few weeks. Check out my deviantart page to see some of the concepts I’m working on.
"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
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.
When I looked at the beloved with the eyes of God. How my heart was broken for desire of the Shah
Baba Ali Tomori
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"