Salih Niyazi Dedebaba 1876-1941

 

Salih Niyazi Dede was one of the most important figures in Bektashi history. He was born in the year 1876CE/1292AH near the town of Kolonjë, located on the great coastal plain of central Albania. It was there that he completed his elementary education. In his youth he left for Istanbul and then to Anatolia where he took up residence in the Grand Tekke of Haji Bektash Veli. He returned for the first time to Albania in 1908, the year of the Young Turk revolution. It was in that year that he obtained the grade of Baba. In 1913 he succeeded Haji Feyzullah Dedebaba as the postnisin of the Tekke of Haji Bektash.  In the chaotic years following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Salih Niyazi Dede became a keen supporter of the Nationalist movement headed by Mustafa Kemal Pasha. He was a man of great intellectual depth and he even personally financed the construction of the only school in sacred town of Hacibektas in the 1920's.

 

Nevertheless, Atatürk's reforms brought an end to the open practice of Sufism. On November 30th, 1925 all Sufi orders were outlawed and all tekkes were ordered closed. The Tekke of Haji Bektashi was no exception. Salih Niyazi Dede vacated the tekke and left to Ankara where he stayed for a few years managing a hotel. He constantly aroused the ire of authorities since he tried to use his new location as a clandestine tekke.

 

Salih Niyazi Dede grew weary of the hostile environment of Republican Turkey and left for his homeland of Albania on the 17th of January, 1930. Since the abolition of the Sufi orders in Turkey, the Bektashi of Albania began restructuring themselves to continue their survival under the latest state of affairs. Shortly after Salih Niyazi Dede's coming to Albania he was selected to lead the country's Bektashi community which numbered at the time well over 100,000. He also held jurisdiction over the few remaining tekkes in Kosova, Macedonia, Greece and Egypt. For nearly a decade he successfully directed the reorganization of the Bektashi Order by which he earned a grand reputation enriched though the many other distinguished personalities. He was responsible for strengthening the Bektashi community both in Albania and in neighboring lands.

Salih Niyazi Dedebaba was murdered in November of 1941, during the height of the struggle between the Italian occupiers and the Albanian resistance (both communist and non-communist). The various accounts of his death are contradictory as far as responsibility is concerned. Some point to an assassination by the Italians for anti-occupation sympathies, while others blame the communist partisans, since it was known that most Bektashis supported either the royalists or the anti-communist Nationalists. One report stated that he was simply murdered by brigands intent on stealing the tekke funds. Allah knows best! Al-Fatiha for the soul of Salih Niyazi Dede.

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