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[Masters of Our Culture]

AHMET YESEVI (1093 - 1166)      

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He is one of the greatest saints grown up in Turkmenistan. His name is Ahmet bin Ibrahim Ilyas Yesevi but he is called Pir-i Turkmenistan, Hodja Ahmet, Kul Hace Ahmet at the same time. His father Hace Ibrahim is a descendant of the family of the son of Holy Ali, Muhammet bin Hanefi. He was born approximately in 1093 in Sayram town which is 157 km far from Yesi city of Kazakhstan and died in 1166 in Yesi, which today bears his name.

The great Turkish mystic Ahmet Yesevi is one of the most important figures and symbolic names Turkish World has grown up to today.

Ahmet Yesevi lost his father at his early age and then his mother at the age of 7. A theosopher, Arslan Baba (Father), who came to Yesi, took the responsibility of Yesevi’s initial education and training. Following the death of Arslan Baba, he went to Buhara. There, he commited to Yusuf Hamendani, who is one of the learned of Sunni Muslims. He took authorization (madrasa diploma) from him in order to show people the right way.

At those times Buhara was under the sovereignty of Karahanli Nation and was one of the biggest centers of science. Students coming from various parts of the world would get an education there. In Buhara, there was a strong Hanefi Fıkhi tradition. Although Hodja Ahmet Yesevi got the guidance post following the death of his guide Hamedani, he assigned his post to someone else and turned back to Yesi. Up to his death he continued to enlighten people.

The fame and the name of him spread through all Transoxiana, Khorasan, and Harezm. With a deep knowledge of inward and outward sciences Ahmet Yesevi, was also accepted as one of the greatest and superior saints and comrades of the God. He would spend most of his time praying and mentioning the name of God; teaching outward and inward sciences to his students and the rest of his time he would make wooden spoons and ladles to earn his life.

The fact that Karahanli Emperor Saltuk Bugra Khan announced Islam as the official religion of the empire in 940s had been a turning point for Turkish world. Turks, who had converted to Islam, entered into the world of a totally new culture and this new culture shaped their social order as well as their world and state views.

The most string aspect of Ahmet Yesevi is that although he knew Arabic and Persian languages very well he wrote “Hikmet (Wisdom)” poems, which teach the rules of conduct and sect customs of Islam, in a very plain and pure Turkish and that they affected the Turks in Turkistan very much.

Ahmet Yesevi founded a madrasa in Yesi, which takes Islamic mysticism as a basis and gives importance to science, literature and art. The language of the madrasa valid for speaking, correspondence, literature; writing poems; education and teaching was Turkish. The people taking their education there spread all over the Turkish world. They vocalized the poems of Yesevi written in Turkish, that is, his wisdom again and again. By this way a new Turkish literature emerged. On the other hand, the ones who used Persian in literature would criticize Yesevi for writing in Turkish.

Ahmet Yesevi delivers his replication to those who criticized them with one of his wisdom (poem):

Sevmiyorlar bilginler sizin Türkçe dilini
Erenlerden işitsen açar gönül dilini
Ayet - hadis anlamı Türkçe olsa duyarlar
Anlamına erenler başı eğip uyarlar
Miskin Hafız Hoca Ahmet yedi atana rahmet
Fars dilini bilir de sevip söyler Türkçe'yi

which literally means:

The scholars do not like your Turkish. If you hear from the saints it would open up the mouth of your heart. If the meaning of verses and hadiths are in Turkish they would hear it. The ones who understand the meaning would bow their heads before them and accept them. Helpless Grind Hodja Ahmet Effendi grace to your seven ancestors, he knows Persian well but loves Turkish so tells his poems in Turkish.

Ahmet Yesevi was aware of the socio-economic conditions of Turkish society, and the fact that they were a semi-nomadic community riding horses in the steppes and they all lead a very active life regardless of gender or age, and also that they got caught in-between new religious beliefs; worships, which they could not have the time to get accustomed to and the old traditional and religious beliefs of them, Yesevi would introduce the warm, intimate, tolerant aspect of Islam together with its real face based on the love of human and God to those who newly converted to Islam and who have difficulty in following the orders of Islam. Instead of discussions full of difficult rules, terms, and concepts; he saw that presenting the religious and ethical rules and concepts which advise a sincere and unshakable faith, in one’s own language in a relevant discourse would bring success and so he applied it. With the verse types he took from Folk literature of Turkic Clans, he taught people friendship, love, solidarity, and to embrace the world with the love of God and human. In the works of Ahmet Yesevi one cannot encounter special images or glances which would cause the believers to doubt.

Young Turkish followers of Islam, who had newly converted to Islam, had gathered around him. With his students, each of whom he educated and sent to various places and also with his collected poems named “Divan-i Hikmet”, he served a lot in order to spread Islam and to make it understandable, and be loved among Turks.

Although Ahmet Yesevi never came to Anatolia he was known and favored by Anatolians. His spiritual role in making Anatolia a Turkish homeland is undeniable. His students and the students of them came to Anatolia with his spiritual sign and with the efforts of these students Anatolia has become a Turkish homeland forever.

Ahmet Yesevi, who is the founder of Turkish mystic tradition, had impacts on the following saints such as Yunus Emre, Mevlana, Haci-Bektasi Veli and others. His plain style of understanding and describing Islam, his being the architecture of excellent Turkish, his advocating the high values needed by all human beings and his thoughts based on the brotherhood, friendship, love and tolerance which he spoke of even at those times, increased his value even more.

Yesevi Ocagi (Organization) developed as a mystic sect. Yeseviyye sect is the first sect formed by a Turk among Turks. It also affected profoundly some mystic schools such as Naksibendîlfmutaik, Kubrevi, Cestiyye, Bektasi, Mevlevi. Even there are some who regard them as the branches of Yesevi sect.

There were some principles regular customs and necessary elements and terms the disciples had to obey. At the beginning of these terms come the belief of the existence and uniqueness of the God, to obey Kuran, to live in accordance with Islam, to tame one’s bodily appetites, to evaluate one self. It was also required that the one who accepted Yesevi sect had to know themselves and the God, to have the love of God and human in their hearts, and he also had to be well-informed, generous, merciful, content, believed, modest, sincere, open-hearted, dominant of his essence, distant from superstitions. Among these characteristics the most striking is the high value he gave to human being. In Islam, human being is accepted as the essence of the universe. Everything is at the service of humans. Then, the duty of human being is trying to be a “Kamil Insan (Mature Human Being) “. The duty is to take the Prophet Mohammed as an example and to make your morals reach at maturity. One of the ways of it is to love the creations of God and not to hurt them, not to get hurt. Ahmet Yesevi, who regarded everything existent in universe and the universe itself as a consequence of divine love, indicates that one can only reach the God and take his consent by way of love.

Yesevi dervish lodge was a shelter for the poor, the orphan, and the helpless. In one of his wisdoms he advises his students as follows: “even if he is an unbeliever do not break the heart of him, because to break one’s heart is to break the God. If you see someone whose heart is broken try to console him, be a friend and fellow of him.”

These dervish lodges are also the places where Divan Literature was first represented. Ahmet Yesevi is the first representative of tekke literature. That’s why he prepared the base for the flourishing and the development of Turkish literature and enabled the growth of great poets such as Yunus Emre.

In Anatolia, some followers such as Ahi Evran, Haci Bektas, Mevlana, Taptuk Emre, Yunus Emre followed the way Ahmet Yesevi has shown and tried to transfer Turkish language, culture, and especially Islam religion to next generations.

Ahmet Yesevi collected his poems, which are in the manner of a talk and in the form of Turkish verse types, named “Hikmet (wisdom)” in his book Divan-i Hikmet and by spreading from China to the Balkans he became a spiritual light for the Turkish world.

The tomb on the grave of Ahmet Yesevi was constructed after 200 years of his death by Timurlenk. According to hearsay, Timurlenk was given the precursor of his future victories by Ahmed Yesevi in his dream. Then, following Turkistan triumph Timurlenk comes to Yesi and has this tomb build as a means to show his gratitude.