Given the fact that poetry and music have indispensable significance in Alevi culture and spirituality, it is understandable that most of the virtuous personalities in Alevism are poets. In fact, Alevis specifically revere seven poets as their ‘grand poets’ or Ulu Ozanlar.These are: Seyyid Nesimi (14th century), Yemini (15th century), Pir Sultan Abdal, Virani, Kul Himmet, Hatayi and Fuzuli (16th century).
In addition to these seven grand poets, certain sainted persons are further recognised as sa-cred in Alevism. These include Hace Bektash Veli (13th century), Güvenç Abdal, Abdal Musa (14th century), Yunus Emre (13th century), Kaygusuz Abdal (15th century), and the 12 Imams (7th century)
The Twelve Imams
Each Imam represents a different aspect of the universe which are recognised as the twelve services or oniki hizmetler which are performed by members of the Alevi community within the cem. The Twelve Imams are Ali, Hasan, Hüseyin, Zeynel Abidin, Bakır, Cafer, Musa, Ali Rıza, Taki, Naki, Askeri, Mehdi.
Imam Huseyin is the 3rd Imam of the 12. Alevis respect Huseyin because of the way he lived and stood up against the tyrant Yezid in Kerbela in 7th century. When Huseyin clashed with Yezid’s army of 3000 he and his followers totalled 72. Huseyin famous dying words are “I prefer to die with honour rather than to live with dishonour.”
An important figure in Alevi history, known mostly for his presentation of the term Ene’l-Hakk (I am one with God, who is the truth), which has become the saying explaining the relationship between the cosmos, Hakk and humans in Alevism. Hallac-ı Mansur was tortured to death in 922 in Bagdad because his thoughts were considered as blasphemous against Islam.
Hace Bektash Veli
(The master of the Bektashi Dergah, Academy), is the founder of Bektashism, a Sufi spiritual order, established in the 13th century. His spiritual doctrine is accepted as one of the earliest forms of universal humanism symbolised with the unity of a gazelle with a lion. The heat is from the flame, not from the cooking plate,The miracle is in the head, not in the crown,Whatever you are searching for, search in yourself,Not in Jerusalem, or not in Mecca!
(A student of Hace Bektash Veli), one of the most impressive poets of the Anatolian Sufi tradition, is believed to have lived in the 13th century. His poetry exemplifies uncon-ditional tolerance in Alevism: If you break someone’s heartThis prayer you perform is no goodNone of the seventy two nationsof the worldCan wash the dirt off your hands and face
Seyyid Nesimi was born in 1369 in Bagh-dad, and is considered to be a great Sufi poet. His poetry advocated the philosophy of vahdet-i vücud (unity of existence). His ideas were regarded as blasphemous by the Ulema in Aleppo, and he was execut-ed through being skinned alive in 1417.
Come, come nearer, There is a way to make up for missed prayer and fastBut not of the time passed without youPious people called this wine of love a sinI fill my goblet myself and drink it myself, it doesn’t interest anyone Sometimes I fly to the sky and watch over the world, Sometimes go down to the ground and the world watches me, Sometimes I go to Madras and study in the name of Allah Sometimes I go to a tavern and have fun of wine, it shouldn’t interest anyoneSome asked “is Nesimi” happy with his darling?”I am happy or not, she is mine, it shouldn’t interest anyone.
Shah Ismail (Hatayi)
A descendant of the Azeri Sufi saint Safi-ad-din Ardabili and the founder of the Safavid Empire. Among Alevis, he is known by his poetry under his penname, Hatayi. His poetry is still recited in Alevi rituals as deyiş (hymn). Hatayi died in 1524.
Pir Sultan Abdal
(A follower of Hace Bektashi Veli) was a legendary Alevi poet who is believed to live in the first half of the sixteenth century. He was put on trial and was obligated to deny his adherence of Shah Ismail (see above) but he refused to obey and was executed by hanging by the Ottoman Empire in 1550.
It is believed that he lived in the 16th cen-tury. In his poems, he reflected the hidden interpretations of letters and numbers in an enthusiastic and fluent manner.I am a town crier in a great cityI am the crier; Ali is the warden of the marketIf I buy less or if I sell more, it is still a profitI am the crier; Ali is the warden of the market.
Edip Harabi was a poet born in 1853, in Istanbul. He worked as a clerk until he passed away in 1917 in Istanbul. He was known as an important Bektashi follower. His poet pseudonym, Vahdetname (the poem of sacred unity) perfectly portrays how Alevis see the relation between God and humans. Before Allah and the world came into being We created it in an instant and announced it Before God had any worthy habitation We took him in and became his host.He didn’t yet have a name He didn’t yet have material form He didn’t yet have an appearance We gave him a form and made it just like a person.We became one with Allah here We entered the place of pre-eternity and became one We conversed there about the secret of the hidden treasure We gave him the sacred name Compassionate.Before the world came into being in the hidden secret of non-existenceI was alone with Reality in his onenessHe created the world because thenI formed the picture of Him, I was the designerI became folded in garments made of the elementsI made my appearance out of fire, earth and waterI came into the world with the best of menI was of the same age even as AdamI came as Seth from the loins of AdamAs the prophet Noah I entered the floodOnce I became Abraham in this worldI built the House of God, I carried stone I appeared as Ishmael once, O Soul.I became once Isaac, Jacob, JosephI came as Job, I cried out for mercyWorms ate my body, I was in bitter mourningThey coy me in two along with Zachariah With John they scattered my blood on the groundI came as David, There were many who followed meOften I carried the seal of SolomonThe blessed rod I gave to MosesI became guide to all the SaintsTo Gabriel the Faithful I was the right hand companionFrom the loins of my father came Ahmed the chosenThe two-edged sword made its arrival from among those who guide on the wayBefore the world was, friend to the People of the HouseI was, while a slave, a fellow sharer of the mystery with GodI mediated much within myselfWithout beholding a miracle I came to believeWith the Prince of Heroes I rode on DüldülI bound on the Zülfikar, I carried the sword