The Sufi Journey of Baba Rexheb
by Frances Trix
For centuries, Bektashis were a pillar of the Ottoman Empire, the spiritual guides of the Janissaries – soldiers created mainly through the drafting of Christian boys and their forcible conversion to Islam. With the abolition of the Janissary corps in 1826, the Bektashis also fell out of favor, eventually being officially suppressed (along with other Sufi orders) by Atatürk in 1925. In response, the center of the movement shifted to Albania where Beqiri was born.
The Bektashi foundation established in Michigan in 1954 remains important mostly among Albanians in the Balkans and elsewhere in their diaspora communities. The Bektashi Sufis are avid supporters of America. At their first Ashura celebration commemorating Imam Hussein, grandson of Muhammad, Beqiri praised the imam for defending a constitutional attitude toward religious rule, liberty, and the welfare of the people. Following the 9-11 al-Qaeda attacks, the Bektashi leader in Albania, the late Reshat Bardhi, referred to America as "the pride of this world . . . May Allah be, as always, on the side of the American people and the American state!" Although ignored by Trix, Beqiri's thoughts are best summarized by his comments in 1954: Hussein, he said, "kept alive the flag of liberty, the prestige of religious democracy." By this, Beqiri meant democracy within religion, not a political system based on religion as in the spurious kind claimed by the Muslim Brotherhood. As Beqiri also noted, the Muslims rebelled against the injustices of their rulers at the Battle of Karbala, but evil usurpers replied with "terroristic actions." In his own way, Beqiri anticipated the challenge to Islam in the aftermath of the atrocities of September 11, 2001.
Trix's account touches on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the history of Sufism in its Turkish, Persian, and Arab varieties, and numerous other matters, illustrating the overlap of Muslim Asia with the Muslim Balkans. She has contributed a volume worthy in its detail, if somewhat overshadowed by personal sentimentality - she fell under Baba Rexheb's profound influence - making this book "ethnographic" in its methodology rather than manifesting the "doctrinal" approach visible in many studies of Sufi mysticism.
 The 500 Most Influential Muslims, Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Amman, accessed Dec. 7, 2012.
 Stephen Schwartz, "Ashura in America," The Weekly Standard Blog (Washington), Jan. 18, 2009.
 Stephen Schwartz,"Kryegjysh Boterorë Haxhi Dede Reshat Bardhi, 1935-2011," Illyria (New York), Apr. 15, 2011.
 Schwartz, "Ashura in America."
Related Topics: Albanian Muslims, American Muslims, Balkan Muslims, Bektashi Sufis, European Muslims, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Muslim-Christian Relations, Shiism, Sufism, Turkish Islam receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free center for islamic pluralism mailing list
© 2023 Center for Islamic Pluralism.
home | articles | announcements | spoken | wahhabiwatch | about us | cip in the media | reports
external articles | bookstore | mailing list | contact us | @twitter | iraqi daily al-sabah al-jadid