Ahmed Sirri Dede 1895-1965

 

Ahmed Sirri Baba was born in the village of Glina located near the southern Albanian town of Leskovik in 1895CE (1313AH). His father, Shahin Efendi was one of the key persons in Leskovik. Ahmed completed his elementary course study in the town’s mektep but he showed a predilection for the mystical sciences. At the age of seventeen he decided to abandon the worldly diversions of youth and he took his nesib into the Bektashi Order. He eventually became a dervish and he went into the tekke that was under the guidance of Sulayman Baba. About this move he later wrote in his Risalah, “He who is aware and enlightened seeks perfection, while he who is ignorant seeks the world.”

 

Shortly after he took up residence in the tekke of Leskovik in 1912, Greece declared war on the Ottoman Empire and began to take the offensive in southern Albania. While their armies terrorized the Muslim populations of the region, burning towns and villages, raping and pillaging, the Greeks unleashed their bands of bloodthirsty and fanatic irregulars who only inflicted more misery and death on the innocent Muslims often at the encouragement of their priests. These very same bandits captured the town of Leskovik burned the tekke to the ground and forced the dervishes to leave. As a result Sulayman Baba and his dervishes fled to the important Albanian town of Janina (Ioánnina) some 40 miles to the south. After a year of brave resistance to the Greek onslaught the Ottoman garrison at Janina surrendered in 1913. A mass exodus of the town’s Muslim population followed, which included Dervish Ahmed Sirri. With the entire Balkans in chaos and war Dervish Ahmed with one Shaban Baba left Albania for Italy where they lived as refugees for four months. After that the two men travelled to Cairo where they took up residence in the Bektashi tekke of Kaygusuz Sultan. Ahmed Sirri stayed in Cairo for a few years and then he began to tour Anatolia during which he spent two years in the Pirevi, the main tekke of the Bektashis in Hacibektaskoy. In 1922 he left to the city of Tarsus, where he took up the directorship of the local Bektashi tekke. These must have been terribly trying times given that the Ottoman Empire was engaged in a brutal struggle against the allied powers and the depredations of the Greek army in Anatolia.

 

Shortly after settling in Tarsus, Ahmed Baba returned to Cairo in 1924 the master of the Kaygusuz Tekke, Mehmet Lufti Baba, made it known that Ahmed was to succeed him on his passing from this life. Following an illness Ahmed Baba traveled to his homeland of Albanian and then went on a tour of the holy places in Iraq. He then left for Salonika and became the guide for the Bektashi tekke locate near the town of Katerini, one of the few of many that was once found throughout Ottoman Greece. Ahmed Baba stayed in Greece for two years and was then ordered back to Egypt by Mehmet Lutfi Baba.

 

The following year (1925) saw a great blow to the Bektashi Order in Turkey. On Atatürk’s decree institutionalized Sufism was outlawed and all tekkes within the new Republic of Turkey were closed. The Cairo tekke became one of the major centres for Bektashism outside Albania. In 1930 Ahmed Baba received his ijazah for the rank of halifebaba (dede) from Salih Niyazi Dedebaba. In 1935 Mehmed Lutfi Baba passed away and he was succeeded by Ahmed Sirri Baba.

 

Ahmed Sirri Baba did much in the early years of his administration to expand the influence and property of the Kaygusuz Tekke. Many of Egypt’s expatriate Albanian community could be counted among its sympathizers and supporters.

 

Following the end of the Second World War the situation for Bektashism in Albanian did not bode well. Following the murder of Abbas Hilmi Dedebaba, the communists installed a more compliant leader over the order. This move caused a rift between those Bektashis living outside Albania and those living within. On January 30th 1949 a general assembly took place in the Kaygusuz Sultan Tekke in which it was decided that Ahmed Sirri Baba be raised to the rank of dedebaba. For the most part, many Bektashis living outside of the communist world (in Egypt, Turkey and Greece) recognized this elevation. He travelled to Turkey in 1950’s to visit the Bektashis who lived among Istanbul’s sizable Albanian community. Ahmed Sirri Dede tried to have Turkey’s Bektashi tekkes placed back into the hands of the community by entering into negotiations with the Democratic Party of Adnan Menderes. Despite favourable overtures between the two parties, Ahmed Sirri Dede was arrested by Turkish police in 1953 for “illegally” performing the ritual of the Ayin-i Cem in one of Istanbul’s old Bektashi tekkes and promptly deported back to Egypt.

 

In the meantime the menace of Gamal Nasser’s 1952 revolution had placed a considerable strain on the tekke. King Faruk (who was of Albanian descent) and many wealthy and influential Albanian émigrés (including King Zog) were all forced to flee the country. Many of these individuals had regularly sent stipends for the upkeep of the tekke and the maintenance of its dervishes. Nasser’s neo-communist regime also nationalised the tekke’s waqf property, further depriving it of income. In 1957 the Egyptian government confiscated the tekke, claiming the land was needed for a new military base. Ahmad Sirri Dede along with the five remaining dervishes were resettled in the Ma’ani district in a former royal villa. Life was difficult in this new location and it became very difficult for the dervishes to even scrape together enough money for food. In 1965 Ahmad Sirri Dede passed from this life due to complications from diabetes. Ahmed Sirri Dede was the composer of several collections of nefes as well the author of two large editions of an Arabic-language history of the Kaygusuz tekke and its shaykhs titled the ar-Risâlat ul-Ahmadîyyah, which contained a fair amount of autobiographical information.  

 

Ruh-u revan-i shad-i handan olsun! May Allah grant contentment and happiness on his soul!

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