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date: 24 March 2017

The Alevis

Summary and Keywords

The Alevis are a religious community on the periphery of Shia Islam. The name “Alevi” means “Adherents of ʿAli,” alluding to Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin ʿAli ibn Abi Talib, who enjoys extraordinary veneration among Alevis. Alevism was developed in Central Anatolia during the 13th century by itinerant Muslim mystics. It includes elements of pre-Islamic Turkish shamanism and aspects of mainstream Shia Islam, which influenced it through cultural contacts with Safavid Iran. Alevism never was a unified and homogeneous community but has always had a variety of sub-groups. For centuries Alevis practiced their rites in secret, which created suspicion and rumor among Sunnite Muslims. Today’s Alevis still have to struggle with this distrust, and are often regarded as heretics by the Sunnites. The designation “Alevi” came into use in the early 20th century as a collective term for a number of religious groups such as Bektaşi, Tahtacı, and Abdal, and today is used instead of the former, pejorative term Kızılbaş (“Red-Heads”). The Alevis are the largest religious minority group in the Republic of Turkey, where their estimated number is around 15 million. Large Alevi groups also reside in the Balkan states as well as in Central and Western Europe, particularly Germany and Austria. Roughly two-thirds of the Alevis are Turkish speakers. The other third speak Kurdish and Zazaki.

In the 1980s, the community underwent the so-called “Alevi revival,” a process of exposure and openness that can be partly explained as a reaction against the re-Islamization of Turkish society. Today Alevis perform their rites and express their beliefs openly.

Although they share certain features with them, the Alevis should not be confused with the Alawis (Nusayris), who live in southern Turkey and Syria and who are all Arabic speakers.

Keywords: Alevi, Bektaşi, Kızılbaş, Turkey, Shia Islam, Islamic sects

“Alevi” is a collective term for a variety of Shiite religious groups that share many common features, especially a pronounced reverence for ʿAli b. Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. “Alevi” in this context means “people or adherents of Ali.” This term, although occasionally found in older texts, became common around the beginning of the 20th century, gradually replacing the former “Kızılbaş,” a generally pejorative term. The word “Kızılbaş” appeared in the 15th century in the time of Sheikh Haydar of the Safaviyya order; it literally means “redhead” and refers to the headgear of Haydar’s politico-religious warriors, a red cap with twelve folds, one for each of the Twelve Imams of the Shia.

Groups included in the term Alevi/Kızılbaş are the Tahtacı, Çepni, Avşar (all Turks), Abdal (Turks, Gypsies), and the Kurdish-speaking Didimli, Kızılbaş, and Dersimli.1 For the term Bektaşi-Alevi and the similarities and differences between the Bektaşi Order and the Alevis, see the end of this article. Because the Turkish census does not collect statistics on Islamic sub-groups, the numbers of Alevis in Turkey only can be estimated. Research agrees that roughly 20 percent of Turkey’s population is Alevi, which would be about 15 million people (2014),2 two-thirds of them with Turkish, and one-third with Kurdish or Zazaki, as their mother tongue. The majority of the Alevis live in the Republic of Turkey, but there are also large Alevi groups in the Balkans, including Albania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. They have large diaspora communities in Western Europe, especially Germany (c. 500,000) and Austria (c. 60,000). In Austria, the Alevis are—uniquely in Europe—officially recognized as a religious group separate from Sunnite Islam.

Origins and Historical Development

The Kızılbaş movement was a response to social, political, and religious developments in Asia Minor from the 11th century onwards. In 1071, the Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan defeated the Byzantine emperor Romanos IV Diogenes near the eastern Anatolian town of Mantzikert, which ended Byzantine rule in most of Anatolia and was followed by the establishment of the Turkish dynasty of the Rum-Seljuks. The eastern border thus became open to waves of immigrants, most of them nomadic Turkmen. During the first half of the 13th century, this immigration received new impetus when the Mongols started moving westward, inducing not only nomadic groups, but also city dwellers from Iran and Khorasan,3 to seek refuge in the Seljuk towns of Anatolia. Within a short time there developed a polarity between the sedentary population and the nomadic or semi-nomadic groups who accepted only the authority of their tribal system and who therefore were frequently unruly, rebellious, and even anarchic.4 This polarity was also evident in religion—in the “orthodox,” Sunnite Islam prevailed; but the nomadic groups practiced a quite different form of Islam, being under the influence of various charismatic itinerant dervishes,5 many of whom came from Central Asia and belonged to such mystical orders as the Qalandariyya, Yasawiyya, and Haydariyya. As Mélikoff points out, these dervishes included in their doctrines not only many features of pre-Islamic Turkic shamanic beliefs, but also features of other religions, such as Manichaeism and Buddhism,6 with which they had contact in Central Asia. These mystics (also called babas) enjoyed considerable influence among the nomads, who were socially marginalized and only superficially Islamized, and in chronic conflict not only with the central government but also with sedentary rural dwellers over pasture grounds. At that stage, the Islam they practiced could not yet be clearly characterized as “Sunnite” or “Shiite.” It was a form of Islam, remote from written culture and characterized by belief in miracles, saint-veneration, and a mortuary cult. Nevertheless, their reverence for and distinctive veneration of ʿAli b. Abi Talib may indicate a certain affinity for Shiite milieus.

In the 13th century, the Mongols invaded Anatolia, prompting the collapse of the Rum Seljuk sultanate and the fragmentation of Anatolia into small Turkish emirates. Several sheikhs and babas led social-revolutionary uprisings, including the Babaʾi revolt and, later, the movement of Sheikh Bedreddin.7 These rebellions strongly influenced the development of the Kızılbaş movement.

The Babaʾi revolt in 1240 shook the whole of Anatolia, particularly its southeast and central regions, and northern Syria. This was a purely nomadic revolt led by the charismatic dervish Baba Ilyas, a Turkmen sheikh who had immigrated from Khorasan and claimed to be the legitimate ruler of Anatolia, calling himself “Prophet” and “Mahdi.”8 Ocak concludes that this uprising was essentially political and economic;9 but Dressler stresses the interconnection of these factors with religion10—the religious milieu of the revolt gave this uprising its emotional and military impetus. The Babaʾi revolt attracted tribes and the followers of various Sufi orders. The Seljuks were finally able to defeat and hang Baba Ilyas in Amasya; but the revolt so weakened them that they proved easy prey to the Mongols and were defeated at the battle of Köse Dağ in 1242.

The Safaviyya

The Kızılbaş movement is closely connected with the Safavids. The order of the Safaviyya was founded in 1301, in the northern Iranian town of Ardabil, by Sheikh Safi al-Din (d. 1334). From its very beginning, this order had many followers among the Turkmen tribes in Anatolia more or less loosely connected with it. Under Sheikh Junayd, in 1477, the order gradually adopted elements of ultra-Shiism11 and transformed from a modest, mystical, popular Islamic movement into a militant religious order. It steadily grew. When political circumstances sent Junayd into exile, he spent several years in Anatolia and Syria, where he found fertile soil for his religious ideas, which included the adoration of ʿAli. After Jundayd’s death, his son Haydar, still a child of nine years, was made the head of the order in Ardabil. During the leadership of Haydar, the number of pilgrims coming from Anatolia to Ardabil multiplied. He organized and armed his followers, undertook forays, and created a militant movement of religious warriors (ghazis), who venerated him not just as a spiritual leader but as a saint and even as the Mahdi. Haydar’s son Ismail, crowned Shah of Iran in 1501, instituted Twelver Shiism as the official religion of Iran.

If and to what extent the Safaviyya order could be called Shiite before Ismail is not clear. Nor is it clear why Ismail opted for “orthodox” Shia.12 Some scholars claim that he was not aware of what it actually meant.13 His religious poetry, which he wrote in Turkish under the nom de plume of “Hataʾi,” displays ultra-Shiite features: he attributes divinity to ʿAli b. Abi Talib, of whom he claims to be an emanation.

In spite of Ismail’s turn to Twelver Shiism, the Anatolian Kızılbaş still regarded the Safavids as their spiritual leaders. Contacts between the two groups remained close, and representatives (khalifa, pl. khulafa) of the Safavids, frequently charismatic preachers, propagandized in Anatolia.14

In the first decades of the 16th century, the so-called Kızılbaş revolts shook Anatolia. Probably most dangerous for the Ottomans was the revolution of Şahkulu, the son of a Turkmen baba who had a convent near Antalya. Şahkulu declared himself Mahdi,15 mobilized large numbers of pro-Safavid followers, and defeated the Ottomans in several battles. Sources do not agree about his end, but he probably was finally killed in 1511.16 The Ottoman sultan Bayezid II and especially his son Selim I (1512–1520) ruthlessly suppressed the Kızılbaş revolts, including mass executions of Kızılbaş followers. Selim’s campaign against Ismail and the Battle of Çaldıran 1514, in eastern Anatolia, settled the Ottoman-Iranian border, which is almost unchanged today. This ended the steady stream of Kızılbaş groups to and from Iran.

The harsh reaction of the Ottomans and the increasing orientation of the Safavid sultans toward “orthodox” Twelver Shiism cut the Kızılbaş off from their Safavid spiritual leadership and drove them back into a self-imposed isolation. At the beginning of the 17th century they retreated into remote mountain regions, avoiding contacts and possible conflicts with the central government. During this time they developed their socio-religious organization and transformed into a closed society practicing endogamy, avoiding contact with the state and its institutions, and keeping the doctrines of their religion to themselves.

The 20th Century

At the beginning of the 20th century, after a long period of isolation and marginalization, the Alevis’ situation changed. The nationalism of the Young Turks during the Second Constitutional Period (1908–1918) gave rise to voices declaring that the Alevis were the representatives of the “genuine Turkish Islam.” After the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey, their isolation gradually ended. The most important step towards secularization was the abolishment, in 1924, of the caliphate and the Shariah Courts by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In the constitution of 1928, secularism was officialized with the clause renouncing Islam as the state religion of the Republic of Turkey.17 Atatürk was aware of the potential value of the support of the Alevi community, and, though there are many stories concerning the true extent of his sympathy for Bektaşis and Alevis, he had contact with the Çelebi branch of the Bektaşi Order. Many Alevis regarded Atatürk as a “white knight,” and, as contemporary Alevi poems show, some even regarded him as the Mahdi of that era. He is still esteemed by the Alevis, who conform well to the Turkish national profile—the language of their cult and religion is, like those of the Kurdish Alevis, Turkish; and the Alevis had come to be seen as the keepers of the original Turkish pre-Islamic traditions, the preservers of the shamanistic elements of old Turkic religions, and the adherents of true Turkish Islam.

The Alevis’ physical isolation came to an end through such factors as improved roads, the development of modern communication, and the compulsory free education for all children, introduced in 1926. Many Alevis left their villages and moved to the cities. This urbanization and its resultant secularization led to the dissolution of the Alevis’ centuries-old socio-religious organizations. In the 1970s, many young Alevis, Turkish as well as Kurdish, engaged in socialist and Marxist left-wing groups: they regarded leftist ideologies as consistent with Alevi ideas of equality and justice; even old religious leaders like Ali, Pir Sultan Abdal, and Hacı Bektaş were re-interpreted as early socialists. The Alevi issue became a political factor in Turkey.18

In the early 1980s, it was predicted that Alevism would soon die out because of the shift of Alevi identity from a religious to a political basis.19 But in the early 1990s, the so-called “Alevi Revival” began. This was the result of several factors. One was the breakdown of the socialist systems in Eastern Europe, which made leftist ideas less attractive to the Alevis. Another was the gradual re-Islamization of Turkish society; the Alevis found it necessary to more clearly distinguish themselves from Sunnite Islam, redefining and reorganizing their own culture and creed, much of which had already been lost. Traditional Alevi ideals like endogamy, intentional isolation, and spiritual brotherhood were re-evaluated. The importance vouchsafed their religious leaders declined, and the religious cem meetings (see in Institutions, Rituals, and Feasts) were no longer regularly held. The old religious institutions had to be re-examined in the light of new conditions. Alevi associations and cultural societies were founded, conferences held, and a flood of publications on Alevism printed.20 The Alevi “coming out” included the opening of the esoteric religious elements, and today rites like the cem meeting are public.

This, however, does not mean that Alevis are yet accepted as full members of Turkish society. Apart from the continuing prejudice against them by the Sunnite Turkish majority, the Alevis continue to struggle for basic rights, including the right to keep their children from attending the compulsory classes on “religious culture and ethics” based on Sunnite Islam. Although the Alevis won this case in the European Court for Human Rights, the Turkish Government has not yet accepted it into law. Moreover, the Alevis’ demand, that their places of prayer (cemevi) receive the same recognition and privileges as mosques, has been ignored.

Outline of the Alevi Belief System

There are difficulties to clearly defining “the” Alevi belief system. First, “Alevi/Kızılbaş” does not refer to a homogenous group but several groups that share some basic features of creed, though retaining individual differences. There are no strict doctrines; such beliefs as exist are not set out in writing in a sacred book, but are expressed in a rich corpus of religious poetry. Furthermore, the Alevi Buyruk (“commandment”) books are not canonized and exist in many different versions. Herewith, the basic features and characteristics of the Alevi religion are outlined, some of which are shared by other Shiite sects.

The Alevis have several features in common with the Twelver Shia. The basic Muslim testimony, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God,” is supplemented with the phrase “and ʿAli is God’s friend.” The Twelve Imams are especially venerated, particularly the first, ʿAli b. Abi Talib, his sons Hasan and Husayn, and the sixth imam, Jaʿfar al Sadiq (d. 765), who is believed to have been instrumental in the consolidation of the Shia. Also the employment of takiyye, that is, the hiding of one’s true faith in public, is a common feature. Alevi dietary taboos are in accordance with Shia practice, though the consumption of alcohol is permitted and, in many groups is even part of the rites. But Alevis do not pray openly five times a day, do not visit mosques, and do not make the pilgrimage to Mecca. However, pilgrimage (ziyaret) to sacred places such as the tomb of Hacı Bektaş near the Turkish town of Kırşehir and to other Alevi-Bektaşi saints is very common.

In Alevism as well as in several other communities, such as the Kurdish Ahl-e Haqq and the Arab Nusayri-Alawis, the degree of veneration of the Twelve Imams and ʿAli goes far beyond ʿAli’s position with the Twelver Shia. The latter were counted among the ghulat (“exaggerators”) movements in early Islam. The term ghulat is used by both orthodox Sunnite and Shiite theologians pejoratively.

ʿAli’s position in Alevism, and especially his relation to Muhammad, is the subject of several Alevi traditions. Some legends in the buyruk literature place ʿAli higher than Muhammad and even consider him divine. In Alevi hymns, the expression “Muhammad ʿAli”—without “and” between the two names—frequently occurs, expressing the fundamental identity of the two. The Alevis’ belief that ʿAli and Muhammad are both manifestations of the divine light, and hence one with Allah, has fostered the notion that they have some sort of “Trinity.” Perhaps the most important Alevi tradition concerning the status of ʿAli with respect to Muhammad is that of their encounter during the Prophet’s ascent to heaven (miʿraj) and the meeting of the “Forty” (Kırklar Meclisi), which today is commemorated in the cem ceremony. According to legend, during the Prophet’s ascent to heaven he found a lion blocking his way. He was frightened; but God’s voice told him not to fear but to give a small gift to the lion. So Muhammad gave the lion his ring. When Muhammad arrived in God’s presence, they talked, separated by a curtain, about the ninety thousand mysteries. When the Prophet asked God to raise the curtain, he found that it was ʿAli who was behind. Before Muhammad’s return to earth, God gave him grapes for his grandchildren. The Prophet’s Companion Selman al Farisi, who also was present, asked for one of the grapes. On his way back to earth, Muhammad came across the forty hidden saints, which included Selman. As he talked with the “Forty,” the grape Muhammad had given to Selman was squeezed by an invisible hand and one of the Forty drank this juice. All of them became intoxicated and began to dance, playing instruments and reciting God’s name. ʿAli was dancing in the middle and suddenly took from his mouth the ring Muhammad had given to the lion. Thus Muhammad understood the true nature of ʿAli.21

Alevi myths about the creation of the world and of humans, and their concepts of the afterlife, are less elaborate than those of the Nusayri-ʿAlawi and the Ahl-e Haqq. The belief in reincarnation (tenasukh) is basic in such Shiite sects as the Nusayri-ʿAlawis and the Druses, and allusions to reincarnation are also found in Alevi hymns. According to Mélikoff, reincarnation is part of the Kızılbaş creed. Birge itemizes a wide variety of beliefs about immortality among the Bektaşis, who share many concepts with the Alevis (see section on Alevis and Bektaşism); but Kehl-Bodrogi observed observes that today’s Alevis have only vague concepts, if any, concepts about reincarnation.22 Van Bruinessen notes that the belief in metempsychosis was more pronounced among the Kurdish Dersimi Alevis than in other similar groups, something they share with the Ahl-e Haqq.23

Thus the Alevi creed can be characterized as basically Shiite, though strongly influenced by syncretistic elements, which are evident especially in ceremonies and rituals. Irène Mélikoff—among others—pointed out that numerous features of Alevism could be traced back to Central Asian Turkish shamanism, imported to Anatolia by itinerant dervishes who had adopted them into their mysticism. She coined the term “chamanisme islamisé.”24 Certain practices, such as special ways of treating the bones of sacrificial animals, the importance of the threshold, and the ceremonial staff sometimes used by Alevi spiritual leaders (dede) during the cem, possibly were derived from Altaic shamanism.25 However, recent research questions this exclusive emphasis on Turkic shamanism,26 as this view is too narrow and dismisses the role of Kurdish and Iranian influences, both of which obviously were much stronger than hitherto suspected.27 Nature worship, solar and snake cults, sacred mountains and the belief in metempsychosis are not unique to Turkic shamanism; they also exist in other religious groups of Iran and Anatolia, such as the Ahl-e Haqq and the Yezidis,28 both of which are Kurdish.29 M. van Bruinessen, who carried out research on the Kurdish Alevis from Dersim (a Turkish province in Eastern Anatolia), speaks about the remarkable similarities between them and the Ahl-e Haqq in features such as nature worship and mythology.30

Christian influence can be posited in the Alevis’ monogamy and their severe restrictions on divorce. A kind of cleansing from sin that is part of the cem ceremony probably can also be traced to Christian doctrines.31 The drinking of alcohol during the cem ritual has been interpreted by some scholars as an influence of the Christian Eucharist, though others attribute it to Turkic Central Asian sacrificial feasts, which included the consumption of alcohol.

One of the central axioms of the Alevis expressing the fundamentals of a moral community life is the Turkish phrase “eline diline beline sahip olmak”—to control one’s hands, tongue, and loins. This axiom echoes the three principles of ancient Manichaeism.32

In Alevi belief, women are not inferior to men—a significant difference from the Nusayri-ʿAlawis. Though religious functions are filled only by men, women can take part in all rites together with men and do not need to cover their hair, nor are they excluded from education.

In general, so many elements of Alevism differ from those of mainstream Shia that it could possibly be regarded as a separate religion. Some Alevi groups do just that, though others prefer to be seen within the framework of Islam.

Among the central principles of the Alevi creed are the “Four Gateways” (dört kapı) and “Forty Levels” (kırk makam), a well-known concept of Islamic mysticism, and also taught by the Bektaşi Order. The Four Gateways are the four stages one must traverse to acquire the highest goal, union with God. These stages are şeriat (“religious law”), tarikat (“path”), marifet (“knowledge”), and hakikat (“truth”). Şeriat includes the outward or visible rules of religion and is, as the Alevis would say, “only on the tongue.” Even Sunnites can acquire şeriat, whereas the next stage, the “path,” reveals the inner rules; to acquire this one must become a talip (disciple), instructed and guided by a spiritual guide/teacher (rehber). Marifet involves acquiring knowledge for the ultimate experience of God (hakikat). Each of the Gateways are associated with ten levels or duties (makam), which are clearly defined commandments. There are differences among buyruk texts as to exactly which ten of the forty levels belong to each of the four gateways.33

Religious Texts

In contrast to other Shiite sects, most of whom revere the Koran—though often re-interpreting it through Batiniyya for its inner, hidden meaning—the Alevis do not acknowledge the Koran as God’s word because they believe the text to have been corrupted by alterations. They recognize it, but it plays little role within their sacred texts. Most important of the latter are the Buyruks, which contain the basic principles of Alevi belief plus legends, guidelines for the rituals, religious poetry, moral advice, narratives from early Islamic history, and instructions for the “path.” Buyruks are written in Turkish, but contain some prayers in Arabic. There are basically two kinds of Buyruk: those (the more frequent) traced back to the Safavids and called Şeyh Safi Buyruğu, and those attributed to the sixth Shiite Imam Jafar al-Sadıq. Most Buyruks came to light after the Alevi Revival and therefore are still not thoroughly researched. Religious poetry plays an important role in Alevism, and these songs and poems are also an important part of Turkish folk poetry and folk music. They are called nefes (“breath”) or deyiş (“saying”) and are sung by bards (aşıks) at religious gatherings, backed by the saz, a long-necked lute. These songs and poems are a key to Alevi religious concepts and ideas. A dervish by the name of Kaygusuz Abdal (d. 1444), about whom we have no reliable information, is regarded as the founder of Alevi poetry. Other important poets include the Safavid Shah Ismail (who, as has been mentioned, had the pen-name “Hatai”), the 14th-century Hurufi poet34 Seyyid Nesimi, Pir Sultan Abdal, Kul Himmet, Yemini, Virani, and Fuzuli. The Alevis call these the “Seven Great Poets” (yedi ulu ozan).35 Another important book to the Alevis, regarded by many of them to be sacred, is the Vilayetname-i Hacı Bektaş-i Veli, the hagiography of Hacı Bektaş, which exists in both rhymed and prose versions.

Institutions, Rituals, and Feasts

As mentioned in the chapter on history, Alevi institutions, their socio-religious organization, the holy lineages as a whole, and the function of the dede in particular underwent significant changes during the last hundred years. Urbanization, secularization, and involvement in leftist politics went hand in hand with the decline of the religious institutions, and only with the Alevi Revival did the re-thinking and re-structuring of Alevism begin. In this section, the basic principles behind Alevi religious institutions, rituals, and feasts are discussed. But not much will be said concerning modern developments in Alevism, which is still in a state of flux because of rapid changes in modern Turkey. For contemporary developments in Alevi religious institutions consult Kehl-Bodrogi on musahiplik, Dressler on the modern dede, Yaman on the cem ritual, and Tee on ocak families.36

The Alevis’ socio-religious organization is structured in two groups: “followers” or “disciples” (talip), who constitute the majority of believers; and the ocakzade, who are members of the ocak families (literally, “hearth”) and trace their patrilineal descent from saintly men. Intermarriage between disciples and members of the sacred lineages is forbidden because the latter symbolize the “parents” of the disciples. The spiritual guides (rehber) who instruct the disciples on the path to tarikat usually belong to sacred lineages, as usually do the dedes (literally, “grandfather”; also pîr, with the Kurdish Alevis seyyid). The spiritual guides are assigned to the disciples by the dedes and are the liaison between the two. They assist the dedes and are directed by them. A dede has the central function in the religious organization. He sanctions the admittance of the disciple into the religious community as well as the spiritual brotherhood (musahiplik), and he leads religious ceremonies and mediates in conflicts. At least once a year the dede visits and conducts the cem ceremony in each village associated with his lineage.

Ocak families claim descent from the Twelve Imams, from the family of the Prophet (Ehl-i Beyt), or from saintly men associated with Hacı Bektaş. The latter accept the head of the Bektaşi Order as their authority (mürşit), whereas the others have mürşits from certain other ocak families. Ocak families generally accept the dedes and mürşits of each other; but how exactly the connections and networks among the various ocak families are organized is still a matter for research.37

The central ceremony of Alevism is the cem (ayin-i cem). These are held periodically, frequently once a year; but there are communities in which it is celebrated at shorter intervals, even weekly, especially in winter.38 Furthermore, there are special cems for certain feasts. Cems today are held in congregational houses (cemevi) built from the 1990s on for this purpose, in Turkey as well as in the diaspora. The ceremony, in which both men and women participate, is guided by the dede. The ritual language is usually Turkish; among the Kurdish Alevis either Turkish or Kurdish is used. The ceremony can begin only if all the members are in peace among themselves. If this is not the case, the problem between the two parties is referred to the dede, who publicly mediates and attempts to settle the conflict. The cem ceremony itself includes religious instruction, the remembrance of the community’s dead, the confession of individual wrongdoings and the intended amends for them, prayers, ritual dancing (semah), ritual drinking (dolu) of wine, arrack, or sherbet, the performance of religious songs (nefes/deyiş), a common meal (lokma), and animal sacrifice (kurban). An integral part of the cem are the “twelve services” (oniki hizmet) carried out by twelve helpers designated by the dede before the ritual. These services include supervision of the orderly run, the lighting of the “eternal light,” lute music, the cleaning of the house of prayer, distribution of ritual food etc. Today, cems are open to the public, but for most of Alevi history, the ceremony was practiced secretly in private houses. This secrecy caused many speculations and anti-Alevi prejudices among the Sunnites, prejudices from which Alevis suffer even today.

The state of spiritual brotherhood (musahiplik, literally “companionship”; also yol kardeşliği “brotherhood of the path”) is necessary for full membership in the community. In some groups a disciple not in the state of musahiplik is not even allowed to take part in the cem.39 This bond of brotherhood is entered into by two young men, in many communities only by married men, and includes the wives of the musahips. Such a relationship implies mutual responsibility and support. The children of musahip families are forbidden to intermarry for at least two (in some sources, seven) generations. Information concerning musahiplik ceremonies is scarce because of differences between practice and Buyruks, and among the Buyruks themselves.40

The Alevi calendar of feasts includes the Feast of Sacrifice (Kurban Bayramı), which is celebrated by both Sunnites and Shiites, and feasts particular to the Shiites. Nevruz, the Iranian New Year at spring equinox, which they equate with ʿAli’s birthday, is celebrated with a special cem, the Nevruz Cemi. In the month of Muharrem, the time of mourning in remembrance of the passion of al-Husayn and the Battle of Kerbela (680 ad), Alevis fast for twelve days, the Fast of Grief (matem orucu). The end of this fast is celebrated with the Ashura feast. Iranian Shiites celebrate Ashura on the 10th of Muharrem, but Alevis three days later, after the fast. Another three-day fast is the mid-February Hızır fast in honor of the legendary Hızır, a popular helper-saint. The conclusion of the Hızır fast is celebrated with a special cem, the Hızır Cemi. Mélikoff points out that the date of the Hızır feast corresponds to the New Year of the old Turkic zodiacal calendar.41 Specifically Alevi feasts are in honor of Hacı Bektaş and his disciple Abdal Musa. Alevis also have an additional commemoration day in Muharrem for al-Husayn. Hıdrellez, the night of May 5th to 6th, is also observed: but this is not a uniquely Alevi celebration because many other people in Turkey and the Balkans celebrate it as well.42

Alevism and Bektaşism

The term “Bektaşi-Alevi” is frequently seen in the literature, suggesting they are one and the same group. Though there is a close connection between the two groups, not all Alevis accept the Bektaşis as their spiritual leaders. The Bektaşiyya is a mystical order founded by a dervish named Hacı Bektaş (d. c. 1270), who emigrated from Central Asia to Anatolia in the 13th century and was a disciple of the famous Turkish mystic Ahmad Yasawi. The Bektaşiyya, which of all the Anatolian groups probably practiced the most features of popular Islam, quickly spread among the Turkmen population, and even during Hacı Bektaş’s lifetime many khalifas settled in Anatolia, maintaining close contact with the order’s main convent. Bektaşi convents were soon founded in great numbers in the Balkans and northern Greece, lands newly conquered by the Ottomans. In the 15th century, the order split into two branches over the question of legitimate leadership: while the babas were the leaders of those dervishes who entered the order by oath (“sons of the path,” yol evlatları), the çelebis, whose rank was hereditary, claimed descent from Hacı Bektaş (“sons of the loin” bel evlatları). The latter, the Çelebi Bektaşis, took over the spiritual support of the Kızılbaş during the times their connection to the Safavids weakened. From the 17th century on, most Kızılbaş acknowledged the head of the Hacı Bektaş convent instead of the Safavids as their mürşit, the ultimate religious authority.43 Bektaşis and Kızılbaş not only share Turkmen roots, but also many theological and religious principles, rites, and most sacred texts. Nevertheless, they are not interchangeable. There is a famous saying: “Every Alevi is a Bektaşi, but not every Bektaşi is an Alevi.” The Bektaşis are a well-structured order that accepts anyone who believes; but to be an Alevi one must have been born as one. In contrast to the “heretical” Kızılbaş, the Bektaşi Order, as the “house order” of the Janissaries, was more or less accepted by the Ottoman state.

A number of Kızılbaş groups are not closely affiliated with the Bektaşis, but instead recruit their mürşits from the ocak families. However, this does not mean that these Kızılbaş groups necessarily differ much in beliefs or rituals from the Bektaşi-Alevis.

Review of the Literature

Scientific interest in the Alevis began at the turn of the 20th century. Early studies on the group in Turkey approached the issue mainly from the perspective of nationalist and Turkist ideas, regarding the Alevis as representatives of the “genuine” Turkish religion because of the pre-Islamic, shamanic Central Asian elements in their creed.44 There are numerous Turkish publications on Alevism, which are dominated by politics and ideology. Studies that review these publications are by Dressler and Ocak.45

In general, up to the 1990s, more research was done on Alevi religion and its origins than on Alevi ethnology and sociology. Many important sources, including Alevi religious poetry, hagiographies, and legends had been published by that time,46 and some good studies on the Alevi religion were carried out by Kehl-Bodrogi,47 Vorhoff,48 Gökalp,49 and Mélikoff.50 The latter’s view, that the elements regarded as “heterodox” by Sunnite Muslims are shaman rituals in Muslim/Sufi disguise, and her hypothesis that Alevism/Bektaşism is a kind of “Islamized shamanism,” has attracted the attention of many scholars and is frequently quoted in publications on the Alevis.

The beginning of the Alevi Revival prompted a publishing boom on Alevism, including up-to-date books and articles dealing with the transformation process, the Alevis’ role in Turkish politics, the new conditions and issues they face, and the re-invention and re-structuring of their belief system. Perhaps the first scholar to intensively examine modern Alevi issues was M. Dressler.51 His work was followed by a number of publications dealing with single aspects of Alevism, such as identity, transformation of rituals, and trans-nationality. Today’s rapidly changing Turkey, the gradual re-Islamization of large parts of Turkish society, and the resulting intra-Alevi discussions provide much material for further research.

Due to the increasing accessibility of hitherto privately held primary sources (see Primary Sources section), in the near future we can expect scholarly focus to be on socio-religious studies that will accomplish and question earlier research. Our knowledge of many aspects of Alevism is still inadequate. For example, we do not know the real nature of Alevi–Bektaşi relations in history: While Bozarslan regards their terminological interchangeability as a myth,52 Karakaya-Stump, on the basis of newly accessible documents, views the relationship as symbiotic.53 Also the question of the continuity and intensity of contact between the Anatolian Kızılbaş and the Safavids is not settled. And further research is necessary concerning the Kızılbaş’s relations and contacts with the Ottoman central administration during the time between their retreat to remote areas of the Ottoman Empire and their re-emergence in the late 19th century.

More research can also be done on intra-Alevi networks, relations among ocak families, and their interactions with mystical orders. For instance, in a small group of family documents Karakaya-Stump found hitherto unsuspected hints about ocak relations with the Wafaʾiyya order and pilgrimages to Iraq.54

The Anatolian Alevi/Kızılbaş never were a homogenous ethnic, social, and religious community, and the new sources should shed more light on differences among their various groups and sub-groups.

Primary Sources

The statement by Jenkins that “. . . the primary sources for the beliefs of the kızılbaş are their Alevi descendants”55 is true to a certain extent because the oral transmission of hymns recited by bards (ozan, aşık), of legends and of pious stories about saintly men, was how this mainly rural and illiterate society preserved its creed.

Written primary sources on the Alevi religion consist of religious poetry and hymns (nefes), hagiographies about specific spiritual patrons (vilayetnames or menakıbnames), quasi-sacred books called buyruk, and various other documents kept in the private archives of ocak families.

Alevi poetry includes many references to various elements of Alevi belief and thus is of crucial importance for understanding the Alevi world-view. Most Alevi/Bektaşi poetry is easily accessible through printed editions of anthologies of poems and of volumes of poetry by single poets, including the “seven great bards.” Gölpınarlı is one of the best anthologies and includes a large number of Alevi/Bektaşi poems that were recited with lute accompaniment during Alevi religious gatherings.56 A selection of the most important editions is in the section Primary Sources bibliography that follows.

There exist several Bektaşi vilayetnames (or menakibnames), probably originally written at the end of the 15th century. The earliest manuscripts date from the first half of the 16th century. The hagiography of Hacı Bektaş (Vilayetname-i Hacı Bektaş-i Veli), perhaps written by Firdevsi-i Rumi (d. after 1512), has a very special place among them. There are several editions of this book57 and one translation into German.58 Vilayetname manuscripts—in rhyme, prose, and mixed versions—are in libraries in Turkey and the Balkans.59 Kissling repeats important pious popular legends and ballads from the Bektaşi-milieu of Anatolia and the Balkans.60

The buyruks (order) are the most promising sources of future research on the religious and social life of the Alevis. They exist in many manuscripts, most of them still kept privately by dede families. Buyruks basically are of two kinds: the early ones of the 16th century can be traced back to Sheikh Safi, and the later ones to the sixth Imam Jaʿfar al-Sadıq. It is still unclear which groups used which of the two types of buyruk. The buyruks are of various lengths and far from identical in concept and content. To date few have been published, and systematic or comparative studies have yet to be done. Aytekin published the first collection of buyruks in Latin letters.61 It contains various manuscripts, which he had collected throughout Anatolia. In recent years, as the result of the opening of the community, a few buyruks have been published by diaspora Alevi cultural centers.62

Alevi documents and manuscripts have come to light in the wake of the Alevi Revival in Turkey. These documents, often privately held, illuminate various aspects of Alevi socio-religious structure and networks, including genealogical information regarding the descendants of the dedes, documents on commercial and criminal cases, and information about family connections with mystical orders. The best study on this group of documents, including good references for further reading, is Karakaya-Stump.63

Aslanoğlu, İbrahim. Şah İsmail Hatayî: divan, dehnâme, nasihatnâme ve Anadolu hatayîleri. İstanbul: Der Yayınları, 1992.

Aytekin, Sefer. Buyruk. Ankara, Turkey: Emek Basım Yayınevi, 1958.

Bayrı, M. Halit. Âşık Viranî divanı, hayatı ve eserleri. İstanbul: Maarif Kitaphanesi, 1955.

Gölpınarlı, Abdülbaki. Vilâyetnâme, Manâkıb-ı Hünkâr Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî. İstanbul: İnkılâp 1958.

Gölpınarlı, Abdülbaki. Kaygusuz Abdal-Hatayi-Kul Himmet. İstanbul: Varlık Yayınevi, 1962.

Gölpınarlı, Abdülbâki. Alevî-Bektâşî Nefesleri. Istanbul: Remzi, 1963.

Gürgen, Fevzi, ed. Yeminî. Hz. Ali’nin faziletnamesi. Istanbul: Can, 1960.

Gross, Erich. Das Vilajetname des Haggi Bektasch, Ein türkisches Derwischevangelium. Leipzig: Mayer & Müller, 1927.

Köprülüzade, Mehmet Fuat. Eski şairlerimiz divan edebiyatı antolojisi: XIII ve XIV üncü asır; Mevlâna, Sultan Velet, Şeyyat Hamza, Yunus Emre, Hoca Dehhanî, Tursun Fakih, Gülşehrî, Âşık Paşa, Sait Emre, Kaygusuz Aptal, Nesimî, Mes’ut, Şeyhoğlu, Ahmedî, Kadı Bürhanettin. İstanbul: Halit, 1931.

Kissling, Hans-Joachim. Dissertationes Orientales et Balcanicae Collectae. Vol. I. Das Derwischtum. Munich: Trofenik, 1986.

Noyan, Bedri. Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî Velâyetnâmesi, İlk Velâyetnâme. Aydın, Turkey: B. Noyan, 1986.

Öztelli, Cahit. Pir Sultan Abdal. Bütün şiirleri. Istanbul: Gün Yayınları, 1996.

Further Reading

Andrews, Peter A., and Rüdiger Benninghaus. Ethnic Groups in the Republic of Turkey. 2 vols. 2d edition. Wiesbaden, Germany: Reichert, 2002.Find this resource:

van Bruinessen, Martin. “‘Aslını inkar eden haramzadedir!’ The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of the Kurdish Alevis.” In Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East: Collected Papers of the International Symposium “Alevism in Turkey and Comparable Religious Communities in the Near East in the Past and Present,” Berlin, 14–17 April 1995, edited by K. Kehl-Bodrogi, Barbara Kellner-Heinkele, and Anke Otter-Beaujean. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.Find this resource:

Dressler, Markus. “Alevīs.” In Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, edited by Gudrun Krämer; Denis Matringe, John Nawas, and Everett Rowson. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2011.Find this resource:

Dressler, Markus. Writing Religion: The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam. Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Karakaya-Stump, Ayfer. “Documents and Buyruk Manuscripts in the Private Archives of Alevi Dede Families: An Overview.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 37.3 (2010): 273–286.Find this resource:

Karolewski, Janina. “Ayin-i Cem—das alevitische Kongregationsritual: Idealtypische Beschreibung des İbadet ve Öğreti Cemi.” In Migration und Ritualtransfer.Religiöse Praxis der Aleviten, Jesiden und Nusayrier zwischen Vorderem Orient und Westeuropa, edited by Robert Langer, Raoul Motika, and Michael Ursinus, 108–131. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2005.Find this resource:

Karolewski, J., R. Langer, and R. Motika, eds. Ocak und Dedelik: Institutionen religiösen Spezialistentums bei den Aleviten. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2013.Find this resource:

Kehl-Bodrogi, Krisztina. Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten: Untersuchungen über eine esoterische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Anatolien. Islamkundliche Untersuchungen, 126. Berlin: Schwarz, 1988.Find this resource:

Langer, Robert. “Alevitische Rituale.” In Aleviten in Deutschland. Identitätsprozesse einer Religionsgemeinschaft in der Diaspora, edited by Martin Sökefeld, 65–108. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript, 2008.Find this resource:

Mélikoff, Irène. “L’Islam hétérodoxe en Anatolie. Non-conformisme—Syncrétisme—Gnose.” Turcica 14 (1982): 142–154.Find this resource:

Mélikoff, Irène. Hadji Bektach: un mythe et ses avatars; genèse et évolution du soufisme populaire en Turquie. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1998.Find this resource:

Ocak, Ahmet Yaşar. “Un aperçu général sur l’hétérodoxie musulmane en Turquie: Réflexions sur les origines et les caractéristiques du Kızılbachisme (Alévisme) dans la perspective de l’histoire.” In Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East: collected papers of the International Symposium “Alevism in Turkey and Comparable Religious Communities in the Near East in the Past and Present,” Berlin, 14–17 April 1995, edited by K. Kehl-Bodrogi, Barbara Kellner-Heinkele, and Anke Otter-Beaujean. 195–204. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.Find this resource:

Shankland, David. The Alevis in Turkey: The Emergence of a Secular Islamic Tradition. London: Routledge, 2003.Find this resource:

Sökefeld, Martin. Struggling for Recognition: The Alevi Movement in Germany and in Transnational Space. New York: Berghahn, 2008.Find this resource:

Tee, Caroline. “Holy Lineages, Migration and Reformulation of Alevi Tradition: A Study of the Derviş Cemal ocak from Erzincan.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 37.3 (2010): 335–392.Find this resource:

Vorhoff, Karin. Zwischen Glaube, Nation und neuer Gemeinschaft: alevitische Identität in der Türkei der Gegenwart. Berlin: Klaus Schwarz, 1995.Find this resource:


(1.) Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten: Untersuchungen über eine esoterische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Anatolien. Islamkundliche Untersuchungen, 126 (Berlin: Schwarz, 1988), 73–94; Paul J. White, “The Debate on the Identity of ‘Alevi Kurds,’” in Turkey’s Alevi Enigma: A Comprehensive Overview, ed. Paul J. White and Joost Jongerden, 17–29 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003), 17.

(2.) This estimate is based on the 2014 total population of 77,695,904; Turkish Statistical Institute.

(3.) The Safavid Empire in Iran, from the early 16th century, covered more or less the same area as the modern state of Iran. Khorasan today is a province in northeastern Iran, but historically, it also occupied parts of today’s Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

(4.) Mehmed Fuad Köprülü, The Origins of the Ottoman Empire, trans./ed. Gary Leiser (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), 50.

(5.) A dervish is a mendicant member of a Muslim mystical brotherhood (tariqa).

(6.) Irène Mélikoff. Hadji Bektach: Un mythe et ses avatars, 4f.

(7.) For details on the Babai uprising see Ahmet Yaşar Ocak, La révolte de Baba Resul ou la formation de l’hétérodoxie musulmane en Anatolie au XIIIe siècle (Ankara: Publications de la Société Turque d’Histoire, 1989); For Sheikh Bedreddin, see Michel Balivet, Islam mystique et révolution armée dans les Balkans ottomans: vie du Cheikh Bedreddîn le “Hallâj des Turcs” (1358/59–1416) (Istanbul: İsis, 1995); and H. J. Kissling, “Badr al-Dīn b. Ḳāḍī Samāwnā,” Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed., ed. P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs (Brill Online, 2015).

(8.) Muhammad al-Mahdi is the twelth Shiite Imam, who, according to Shia Islam, is hidden and will return near the Day of Judgment as the Redeemer.

(9.) Ahmet Yaşar Ocak, La révolte de Baba Resul, 135.

(10.) Markus Dressler, Die alevitische Religion: Traditionslinien und Neubestimmungen (Würzburg, Germany: Ergon, 2002), 38.

(11.) The term “ultra-Shiism” refers to those Shiite groups that attribute to ʿAli ibn Abi Talib near-divine status, above and beyond his position as the first Imam of the Shia.

(12.) The official Twelver-Shia (Jaʿfariyya), which is the most widespread branch of Shia and the dominant religious sect in Iran and Iraq.

(13.) N. R. Keddie, “The Roots of Ulama’s Power in Modern Iran,” Studia Islamica 29 (1969): 39; Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten, 18. Dressler, too, remarks that Ismail probably was not aware of the discrepancy between his “Kızılbaş-Islam” and the Twelver-Shiite theology. Cf. Dressler, Die alevitische Religion, 79.

(14.) After the Battle of Çaldıran, many of Ismail’s khulafa escaped to Iran. Cf. Dressler, Die alevitische Religion, 82.

(15.) Şahkulu was not the only individual during the Kızılbaş revolts who was regarded by his followers as Mahdi. Cf. Dressler, Die alevitische Religion, 82, 83.

(16.) For this revolt especially, and for Kızılbaş-Safavid relations in the 16th century, see Hanna Sohrweide, “Der Sieg der Ṣafaviden in Persien und seine Rückwirkungen auf die Schiiten Anatoliens im 16. Jahrhundert,” Der Islam 41 (1965): 95–223.

(17.) Temuçin F. Ertan, “Türk Cumhuriyeti Anayasalarında Laiklik,” in Ankara Üniversitesi Türk İnkılâp Tarihi Enstitüsü AtatürkYolu Dergisi 39 (Mayıs 2007): 411.

(18.) On this religio-political Alevi discourse in modern Turkey and on the various Alevi associations, see Dressler, Die alevitische Religion, 124–214. For a concise overview of the Kurdish Alevis’ ambiguous identity see Martin van Bruinessen, “‘Aslını inkar eden haramzadedir!’ The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of the Kurdish Alevis,” in Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East: collected papers of the International Symposium “Alevism in Turkey and Comparable Religious Communities in the Near East in the Past and Present,” Berlin, 14–17 April 1995, ed. K. Kehl-Bodrogi, Barbara Kellner-Heinkele, and Anke Otter-Beaujean (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997), 1–23.

(19.) Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten, 242.

(20.) Cf. Karin Vorhoff, “The Past in the Future: Discourses on the Alevis in Contemporary Turkey,” in Turkey’s Alevi Enigma, 3–16.

(21.) For this and other legends that circulate among both Alevis and Bektaşis, see John Kingsley Birge, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes (London: Luzac 1937), 131–148; and Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten, 122–130.

(22.) Cf. Mélikoff, Hadji Bektach: Un mythe et ses avatars, 19; Birge, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes, 87; and Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten, 142–143.

(23.) Martin van Bruinessen, “‘Aslını inkar eden haramzadedir!’ The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of the Kurdish Alevis,” in Syncretistic Religious Communities, 4.

(24.) Cf. especially Mélikoff, Hadji Bektach: Un mythe et ses avatars, chapter 1.

(25.) Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten, 234–240.

(26.) van Bruinessen outlines these problems in a clear, concise way in his review of Mélikoff’s book quoted above. Cf. Turcica 31 (1999): 549–553.

(27.) Cf., for example, Martin van Bruinessen, “‘Aslını inkar eden haramzadedir!’ The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of the Kurdish Alevis,” in Syncretistic Religious Communities, 4–6; Martin van Bruinessen, “Dersim and Dalahu: Some Reflections on Kurdish Alevism and the Ahl-I Haqq Religion,” in Ötekilerin Peşinde. Ahmet Ayşar Ocak’a armağan/In pursuit of the others: Festschrift in Honor of Ahmet Yaşar Ocak, ed. Mehmet Öz and Fatih Yeşil (Istanbul: Timaş 2015), 613–630; see also Ahmet T. Karamustafa, “Ḳalenders, Abdals, Ḥayderîs: The Formation of the Bektâşîye in the Sixteenth Century,” in Süleyman the Second and His Time, ed. Halil İnalcık and Cemal Kafadar (Istanbul: Isis, 1993), 121–130. The latter deals with the many religious influences of various dervish groups on early Bektaşism.

(28.) For information on these two esoteric religious groups, both of them mainly Kurdish, see V. Minorsky, “Ahl-i Ḥaḳḳ,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2d ed. ed. P. Bearmanet al.; and P.G. Kreyenbroek, “Yazīdī,” Encyclopaedia of Islam.

(29.) van Bruinessen, “‘Aslını inkar eden haramzadedir!’ The Debate on the Ethnic Identity of the Kurdish Alevis.” In Syncretistic Religious Communities, 4–6.

(30.) van Bruinessen, “Dersim and Dalahu: Some Reflections on Kurdish Alevism and the Ahl-I Haqq Religion,” In Ötekilerin Peşinde,” 613–630, esp. 615–617, chap. “Similarities.”

(31.) Birge, The Bektashi Order of Dervishes, 215. Birge deals with the Bektaşi, but the cem ritual is part of Alevi religious practice as well. Cf. also Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten, 240.

(32.) Mélikoff, Hadji Bektach: Un mythe et ses avatars, 163.

(33.) Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten, 154.

(34.) The Hurufiyya (from Arabic ḥurūf “letters”) was a mystical Sufi movement, with gnostic and cabalistic tendencies, founded in the 14th century in Iran by Fazlullah of Astarabad. For details see A. Bausani, “Ḥurūfiyya,” Encyclopaedia of Islam.

(35.) For details on their lives and poetry see Mélikoff, Hadji Bektach: Un mythe et ses avatars, chapter 7.

(36.) Kehl-Bodrogi, “On the Significance of musahiplik among the Alevis of Turkey: The Case of the Tahtacı.” In Syncretistic Religious Communities, 119–138; Markus Dressler, “The Modern Dede: Changing Parameters for Religious Authority in Contemporary Turkish Alevism,” in Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies, ed. Gudrun Krämer and Sabine Schmidtke (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006), 269–294; Ali Yaman, “Ritual Transfer within the Anatolian Alevis: A Comparative Approach to the Cem Ritual,” In Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual V: Transfer and Spaces, ed. Axel Michaels (Wiesbaden, Germany: O. Harrassowitz, 2010), 269–276; and Caroline Tee, “Holy Lineages, Migration and Reformulation of Alevi Tradition: A Study of the Derviş Cemal ocak from Erzincan,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 37.3 (2010): 335–392.

(37.) See for example the recent article of Bruinessen, who deals with Ahl-e Haqq sacred lineages and points out interesting parallels and probable common origins with the (Kurdish) Alevis. Martin van Bruinessen, “Dersim and Dalahu: Some Reflections on Kurdish Alevism and the Ahl-I Haqq Religion,” In Ötekilerin Peşinde, 613–630.

(38.) Caroline Tee, “Holy Lineages, Migration and Reformulation of Alevi Tradition: A Study of the Derviş Cemal ocak from Erzincan.” Mélikoff, Hadji Bektach: Un mythe et ses avatars, 204.

(39.) Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten, 182.

(40.) For details see Kehl-Bodrogi, Syncretistic Religious Communities, 119–138.

(41.) Mélikoff, Hadji Bektach: Un mythe et ses avatars, 179.

(42.) The list of feasts in this article follows the official constitution of the Alevi Community in Austria. Deniz Karabulut, Statuten der Alevitischen Religionsgemeinschaft in Österreich. Vienna, Austria, 2009; 10–11. Not all of the mentioned feasts are celebrated by all Alevi groups, or not on the same date. Thus, for example, some communities celebrate Nevruz on March 9, not on the 21st.

(43.) Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten, 45f.

(44.) For this emphasis on Central Asian Turkic influence, see the section Outline of the Alevi Belief System.

(45.) Markus Dressler, Writing Religion: The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 2013; and Ocak, Ahmet Yaşar: “Alevilik ve Bektaşilik Hakkındaki Son Yayınlar Üzerinde Genel bir Bakış ve Bazı Gerçekler – 1,” Tarih ve Toplum 91 (1991): 20–25.

(46.) Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı, Vilâyetnâme, Manâkıb-ı Hünkâr Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî (İstanbul: İnkılâp, 1958); Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı, Kaygusuz Abdal-Hatayi-Kul Himmet (İstanbul: Varlik Yayınevı, 1962); Abdülbâki Gölpınarlı, Alevî-Bektâşî Nefesleri (Istanbul: Remzi, 1963); Mehmet Fuat Köprülüzade, Eski şairlerimiz divan edebiyatı antolojisi: XIII ve XIV üncü asır; Mevlâna, Sultan Velet, Şeyyat Hamza, Yunus Emre, Hoca Dehhanî, Tursun Fakih, Gülşehrî, Âşık Paşa, Sait Emre, Kaygusuz Aptal, Nesimî, Mes’ut, Şeyhoğlu, Ahmedî, Kadı Bürhanettin (İstanbul: Halit, 1931); and Cahit Öztelli, Pir Sultan Abdal. Bütün şiirleri (Istanbul: Milliyet Yayınları 1996).

(47.) Kehl-Bodrogi, Die Kızılbaş/Aleviten.

(48.) Karin Vorhoff, Zwischen Glaube, Nation und neuer Gemeinschaft: alevitische Identität in der Türkei der Gegenwart (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz, 1995).

(49.) Altan Gokalp, Têtes rouges et bouches noires: une confrérie tribale de l’ouest anatolien (Paris: Société d’Éthnographie, 1980).

(50.) Irène Mélikoff, “L’Islam hétérodoxe en Anatolie: Non-conformisme—Syncrétisme—Gnose,” Turcica 14 (1982): 142–154; and Mélikoff, Hadji Bektach: Un mythe et ses avatars, 1998.

(51.) See especially Dressler, Die alevitische Religion; and Dressler, Writing Religion.

(52.) Hamit Bozarslan, “Alevism and the Myths of Research: The Need for a New Research Agenda,” in Turkey’s Alevi Enigma, 3–16.

(53.) Ayfer Karakaya-Stump, “Documents and Buyruk Manuscripts in the Private Archives of Alevi Dede Families: An Overview,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 37.3 (2010): 273–286.

(54.) Karakaya-Stump, “Documents and Buyruk Manuscripts,” 273–286.

(55.) Gareth Jenkins, Political Islam in Turkey: Running West, Heading East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2008), 34.

(56.) Abdülbâki Gölpınarlı, Alevî-Bektâşî Nefesleri (Istanbul: Remzi, 1963).

(57.) Editions include Abdülbaki Gölpınarlı, Vilâyetnâme, Manâkıb-ı Hünkâr Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî (İstanbul: İnkılâp, 1958); and Bedri Noyan, Hacı Bektâş-ı Velî Velâyetnâmesi, İlk Velâyetnâme (Aydın, Turkey: B. Noyan, 1986).

(58.) Erich Gross, Das Vilajetname des Haggi Bektasch, Ein türkisches Derwischevangelium (Leipzig: Mayer & Müller, 1927).

(59.) Ahmet Yaşar Ocak, “Hacı Bektaş Vilayetnamesi,” DVİA 14 (1996): 471–472.

(60.) Hans-Joachim Kissling, Dissertationes Orientales et Balcanicae Collectae, Vol. I. Das Derwischtum (Munich: Trofenik, 1986).

(61.) Aytekin, Buyruk (Ankara, Turkey: Emek Basım-Yayımevi, 1958).

(62.) For details see Karakaya-Stump, “Documents and Buyruk Manuscripts,” 278.

(63.) Karakaya-Stump, “Documents and Buyruk Manuscripts,” 273–286.