Baba Rexheb 1901-1995
The first days in Gjirokastër were somewhat challenging for the newly arrived Ali Hakkı Baba. It seems that in the months following the death of its previous baba, the local mühibs often came to the tekke to drink and sing. When Ali Hakkı Baba discovered that vulgar songs were being recited during these “muhabets” instead of the traditional nefes, he smashed the liquor bottles and forbade any further use of alcohol in the tekke. The locals were noticeably upset by this and told him that he had no place in the tekke and a plot was fermented against him. However, it was subdued in due course on account of the baba’s remarkable personality.
In the early 1870s Ali Hakkı Baba traveled once more to the Pir Evi to be bestowed with the rank of dede. With this added authority and the force of his personality, Ali Hakkı Baba played a major role in the spread of the Bektashi Order throughout southern Albania. It is said that he initiated scores of dervishes and that he had some two thousand mühibs (both men and women), among whom were many muftis, kadis, begs and other local notables. In time, Ali Hakkı Baba’s reputation for piety spread far beyond the borders of Albania and he was even asked to once more travel to the Pir Evi and assume the position of dedebaba after the death of Haji Mehmed Ali Hilmi Dede in 1907. However, Ali Hakkı Baba declined this offer and remained in Gjirokastër where he passed away shortly thereafter, having presided over the Asım Baba Tekke for more than four decades. His nephew, Selim Ruhi Baba, succeeded him.
Selim Ruhi Baba was born in the Elbasan in 1869CE/1285 AH. Bektashism, unsurprisingly, played a significant part in the formation of his youth, as his mother was the sister of Ali Hakkı Baba and his father, Xhemal, was the brother of Mustafa Baba Qefshi. Like his two uncles, the young Selim studied in the main medrese of Elbasan. At the age of sixteen, his father took him to Gjirokastër to be looked after by his maternal uncle, Ali Hakkı Baba. Selim remained there from then on. He continued to study in the city’s medrese and he acquired not only an education in Islamic theology but was able to master Turkish, Arabic and Persian. In 1887 he received his diploma (icâzetname) from the medrese. A year later he made the oath to Baba Ali to enter into the Bektashi Order and three years later, in 1891, Selim donned the garb of a Bektashi dervish. For the next sixteen years he served both his uncle and the Asım Baba Tekke with great devotion. Because the turbulent political climate in the Ottoman Balkans during the late 19th century made travel to the Pir Evi impractical, Dervish Selim took mücerredlik (vows of celibacy) at the hands of Ali Hakkı Baba. He also received the rank of baba from him as well and when Ali Hakkı Baba left this world in 1907, he appointed Selim Ruhi to be his successor and spiritual guide of the Asim Baba Tekke.