Love, mahabbah, is the essential theme in Sufi that is embraced by the Bektashi order. It is, in truth, the real reason for the existence of man. For this principle Bektashis rely on the Qur’anic verse as well as the words of the exalted Prophet Muhammad:
“Say: If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your faults, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”
“One who loves God and who gives his life for the sake of His love shall be the martyr and shall be compensated.”
True Love is the source of all virtue, and the only way to reach God. Spiritual love is the only essence in this world, and it provides human beings with true meaning of feeling. The foundation of love is not to love one's own self, but to love the source of love, God. Love is existence. It is the life one lives. Real death comes when love ceases to exist. True love knows no death.
Chemicals in a solution separate copper from gold; love turns a man into a diamond. No one can stop the arrow of love once released, and no power on earth can break this arrow. The Qur’an describes love as the greatest spiritual domain.
Love is symbolized as a poison (pers. Zeher) that is found inside the precious stone (pers. Pazeher, i.e. Bezoar). True love in the heart of the lover is both pain and remedy at the same time. Love does not rise or set like the sun but it shines forever and fills all with splendor wherever its rays rest. Love makes the weak strong and the coward brave. It melts iron and makes the stone soft like mud.
The mystics advise:
“Why do you desire the daughter of your neighbor? Rather, long for the eternal beauty of God. Long for beauty which never ages and stays forever fresh and alive. If the water of your life flows without love, it would be like a tree which bears no fruit.”
“Love erases your failings and desires. If you strive to erase them without love, it would be hypocrisy.”
“God himself, for the sake of this love said, ‘Be!’ And the world became.”
“The Illustrious ‘Ali said, ‘If man aspires to an everlasting state he should melt his own self for the love of God.’”
“Real love becomes total when man loves both the Beloved and the lover of the Beloved.”
“Imam Ali once again said: ‘The friend of my enemy is also my enemy, even if he were to show great affection toward me.’”
“Love is the foremost possession that God offered the world. Love made Him create the heavens and the earth. Love rules the throne of the heart.”
“Without love, the heart remains a vacant throne.”
“Love is fire without smoke, a road without end, and a lock without keys. Whoever enters through this door will be forever secure.”
Among the members of the Bektashi Order true love still remains the central theme of their mystical beliefs.
Who is a Lover ?
The lover is that person who keeps the love for God in his heart, and whose goal in life is complete union with God. The lover is both a king and a slave and is ready to relinquish his body for the sake of Divine Love. Only those who love God the way lovers do are able to comprehend Him. He is alive and eternal and holds a treasure of diamonds inside his heart. He soars like Sulaiman and like the Son of Ali [Imam Husain] he soars away and reaches the state of baqa billah [annihilation in God].
The lover is filled with the utmost joy in the love of God. He sees the whole sun in a single ray and the whole tree in a single seed. An ordinary man has to bring his fingers close to his face in order to see them while the lover knows the fruit just by seeing the pit. He can taste and smell it. He can see the trunk, the branches, the leaves and the whole tree if he sees a single pit.
The body of man is like a dry stick. If touched by love the stick turns into a body with head and limbs, takes on a life of its own just as the blessed staff of Musa (alaihi-salam). The genuine lover, withered in this Divine Love, first becomes a yeasty mixture and finally turns into bread. He dusts off the mirror of his heart, and for forty days he boils it in the cauldron of love until all vanishes from it and nothing is left. He sees in that mirror whoever he chooses to see, the lover or the Beloved. He endows himself with the goodness of Divine Love and he is open and ready to give an account of himself. The mystics see the lover dissolved into the Divinity of Love and resting there near the Throne of God, fana fillah and baqa billah.
To Bektashis, the Beloved is God Almighty, the Creator of the whole universe. Bektashi poets sing the beauty of the magnificence of the Beloved. They feel closer to Him than the black of the pupil is to the white of the eye, or the jugular vein is to the neck. They comprehend Him as a king and let their imagination flow:
“The Beloved lives in the eye of the lover. God has intoxicated him and conquered his heart so that he sees none other than God. Even in the mirror he does not see himself; he sees only the Beloved. He sees and he feels the Beloved in everything, and in the Beloved he sees and finds himself. Filled with love and overcome with it, he sees himself fused with God.”
The lover feels that both he and the Beloved are filled with infinite light that shines over the world like a rainbow. The beauty of the Beloved covers the earth, the sky and the whole universe. The Beloved adorns the garden of his heart and fills it with sweet aromas. It is a love which only the lover can describe in a way he alone can understand.
A mystic poet perceives the Beloved:
“You alter your shape and vary your color just to deceive me so that I would not be able to see the places you hide; but no matter what You do You will never leave my side.”
Another mystic says:
“Rely on God and do not despair; surrender to Him and do not seek selfish desires. If God is to love you be free of arrogance, and with all your power love Him, no other but Him.”
The true Beloved brings greater joy to the lover than paradise. He relinquishes for His sake all that exists in this and in other worlds. He knows no other joy, except the Beloved, the almighty God.
The famous poet Nesimi (d.1417) addresses God:
“Let the world be all yours,
I only want You to be my Friend. “
And from the words of the Prophet (alaihis-salawatullah):
“He who knows himself, knows his Lord.”
The poet Naim Frashëri (1846-1900) wrote:
“I looked everywhere in vain to find the True God;
I searched around and did not know I had Him in my heart.”
The Lover & the Beloved Together
The mystics of the Bektashi Order see the lover and the Beloved as being together always. They are one and cannot be separated. They are as close to each other as the jugular without which the body cannot be sustained. They are like the soul and the body; one cannot exist without the other. Otherwise, words like lover, Beloved and love would be empty words.
The goal of the lover is to reach the Beloved. He relinquishes everything, including his own existence, in order to succeed. He will wither away totally so he can render himself unto the Beloved. All essences disappear and all distinctions fade away and the lover and the Beloved become one. Then eternal life, the Supreme Essence, which neither the sky nor the earth can contain, somehow finds a space in the heart of the lover. He, the Beloved, sanctifies that heart and turns it into a Ka’bah for the faithful. Thus the lover develops into the Beloved.
Shams Tabriz-i relates his understanding of God by saying that he would not want to live a single minute if he knew he would have to be without God.
The Mystic Fuzuli (1488-1556) stated:
“If I were I then what would You be? A lover?
If You were You then what would I be?”
The lover, approaching the beloved, begins to take his appearance, his color, and all his characteristics. Then, totally dissolved, he becomes akin to him.
God Almighty, who is completely independent and needs no one and nothing as He is the source of everything, becomes the Lover of all lovers and as such He is adored. The lover submits his body to Him and surrenders his total existence, his emotions, and enters unto Him. He becomes the owner of the Divine Treasure and represents at the same time the lover and the Beloved.
The poet Nesimi again writes:
“I found in the sight of the lover the sight of ar-Rahman,
Those who read this sight shall find the words of the Qur’an.”
If the lover is resolute, the Beloved would not wait for him at the end of the road but will begin approaching him at the start of his spiritual walk. The Beloved becomes his Lover, and soon there is no distinction between the two. No human eye or logic can see all of this. God knows what no man can ever know. Flesh and bone cover the sight of God to men. Only the eye of the perfect man is able to see God.
This is how mystic poets see the sight of God:
Do not think of Him as being apart from you.
Search inside yourself; you shall find Him there.
He is surely in your heart.
Search, you shall find Him there.
You look for God among rocks in tales and deceit;
You will never find Him.
Indeed, He is alive inside yourself.
The man who is king of both worlds,
He alone grants salvation.
Go to Him and find the sight of God
Hand all your needs to Him.
He becomes thus the Prophet, the Messenger and the Saint. He becomes his own Messenger and there is no else but Him. Ibn al-‘Arabi says:
You are not you; He is you, and not you.
Since He is not inside you, or you inside Him.
He is not outside you, and you are not outside Him.
The poet Nesimi:
I long to reach Him, although I myself am He.
Whoever seeks to separate me from Him attempts the impossible.
Thus, the lover is the mirror in which everything fades away and neither the lover nor the Beloved remain. Once the lover strips away all that is selfish in himself, no one remains in him but the Beloved alone. As Imam Ali said, “Love of this world fades over time. True Love only increases as never dissipates.”
As Seyit Nizam (d. 1550) says:
Strip me of selfishness O God, so that You alone can remain in me.
When man meets the lover of his heart, he understands the divinity of love:
I thought I was apart from Him, but when I saw and heard,
It was He, the Beloved himself in me.
The Beloved has never been seen anywhere, except in the heart of the lover, the perfect man. That man becomes His emissary, walikullah fi’l ard. He is in a state of Haqiqat because in the house of his heart there is no one but God. Such a man is called faqir, because in his heart he has nothing but God. This is the meaning of the words of the Prophet Muhammad, who said, “Poverty is my pride.”
This is also the meaning of true Ka’bah, the highest heavenly station, which one can reach only through fana fillah and baqa billah. And it is the meaning of Nesimi's line: “As I become the house of God of eighteen thousand worlds, I became His face, a hidden treasure.”
For the believer, the only mirror is another believer. One should take that mirror into his hands, look at himself and find the virtues he seeks. The Prophet said:
“Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord.”