Mulhid Vahdeti


Mulhid Vahdeti became recognized for his ability to express in the form of poetry the very same teachings that caused the head of many a Bosnian to be severed on the executioner’s block. Poetic pseudonyms (mahlas) were quite common among Ottoman poets of the time, but for our Bosnian it carries a very significant meaning. The name Vahdeti makes clear his enthusiasm for the concept of vahdet-i vucud – unity of being. In addition, the name Mulhid (heretic) may have been given to him by his enemies from the ranks of the ulema or it may have been willingly adopted as a badge of open dissent.


Mulhid Vahdeti (whose given name was most probably Ahmet) was born in the small eastern Bosnian town of Dobrun, where he spent a considerable period of his life. He acquired a deep passion of poetry and the Persian language in his youth, which encouraged his spiritual predisposition and, more importantly, opened him to the world of Fazlullah Astarabadi. Vahdeti spent much time traveling, from Bosnia to Istanbul and beyond, but it is unknown as to why he did so. In all probability his unmistakably Hurufi beliefs made many enemies, a reality that would hinder settling in one place for very long.


Despite the survival of his poetry, little is clear about Mulhid Vahdeti’s life. The dates of his birth and death are unspecified, although we do know that he was still alive in 1603 CE, a date that conveniently places him in the period of the Hamzevi uprisings in Bosnia. It is also unclear as to what specific tarikat Mulhid Vahdeti was affiliated with, if any. Except for a poem that exalts the great mystical master Rumi (d.1270 CE) which has lead a number of scholars to conclude that he was a Mevlevi of some sort, Vahdeti presents no further references to any other Sufi şeyhs or tarikats, even to Hamza Bali. Even so, his radical understanding of vahdet-i vucud and constant references to Fazlullah, among other things, conclusively mark his Hurufi leanings, a fact that has led others to presume that he was a Bektashi.


A more relevant question to ask here may be this: when and how did Vahdeti become committed to the Hurufi movement? It is probable that he did so during one of his many travels throughout the empire, which, if so, would open up a myriad of possibilities regarding his tarikat affiliation. Furthermore it is possible that Mulhid Vahdeti came into contact with Hurufi material while he lived in Bosnia. If this were the case, Vahdeti could almost certainly be linked to the Hamzevi movement which was active in his native eastern Bosnia during his lifetime. In 1573 CE Ottoman authorities put to death several Hamzevi leaders in Bosnia, which was followed ten years later by a failed insurrection in the same region. If Mulhid Vahdeti was indeed affiliated with the Hamzevis, he may have been involved in this unsuccessful uprising, which would have caused him to flee Bosnia in order to escape persecution from the authorities.



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