A Story from Abdu’l-Baha: The Pious Man and the Bektashi Dervish

What follows is a provisional translation (in other words, not official or authorized; see here for more) of a Tablet of ʻAbduʼl-Bahá, the original text of which is published in Muntakhabátí az Makátíb-i-Ḥaḍrat-i-ʻAbdu’l-Bahá, vol. 3, pp. 11314 (selection no. 161). Necati Alkan and I worked together to produce this joint translation. 

It is narrated that a pious man said to one of the Bektashi dervishes,* who spent day and night in oblivious intoxication: “Why do you not say the obligatory prayer?” In response, the Bektashi said, “It is difficult and requires effort.” That mystic remarked, “O Bektashi! Follow me for forty days and perform the obligatory prayer; you will grow accustomed to it. You will not be able to give it up afterwards, and you will continue to do it.” The Bektashi said, “Why prolong it that much? Follow me for one night and drink a cup to your heart’s content. If you find that you are not able to give it up, I will concede.”

The situation today is similar. People are quick to form bonds with things that invite them to baser desires. Summon a child to his playthings, or call on him to leap and jump about, and he will rise up at once. He will be roused to ecstasy and excitement, happily enjoying himself and feeling the gratification of his desires. But counsel him to attend school and learn from a scholar, and he will hate you and curse you. In the nature of humanity, there is an inclination to a lifestyle and freedom that are wild and animalistic, but divine training is superior. When children grow up, they themselves will give up their playing, and find that they have no need for foolishness.


* Bektashis are followers of Haji Bektash Veli (1209–1271), a mystic from Khurásán who settled in Anatolia and is the namegiver of the unorthodox and non-conformist Sufi Bektashi order with pre-Islamic and Shiʻih concepts. Bektashis are known in Turkey for being friendly with other religions, witty, and humorous. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had contact with them in Edirne (see Ahmad Sohrab, Abdul Baha in Egypt, pp. 17–18, 218–219, 220). There are many stories and jokes about Bektashis that are told in Turkey.

A typescript of the original Persian text of this Tablet appears below.

حکايت کنند که شخصی از اهل اللّه به نفسی از دراويش بکتاشی که شب و روز بيهوش و مدهوش بود گفت که، چرا نماز نخوانی؟ در جواب بکتاشی گفت که سخت است و زحمت دارد. آن شخص عارف گفت ای بکتاشی چهل روز پيروی من کن و بنماز بپرداز عادت خواهی نمود و الفت خواهی کرد بعد ترک نتوانی نمود و مداومت خواهی کرد. شخص بکتاشی گفت چرا اينقدر طول ميدهی يک شب تو متابعت من نما و قدحی بکام ريز اگر توانستی که ترک نمائی من تسليم شوم.

حالا چنين است خلق با منادی شهوات زود ارتباط کنند اطفال را به بازيچه و جستخيز بخوان رستخيز بنمايند فوراً بجذب و وله آيند و خوشی و شادمانی کنند و کامرانی دانند ولی دلالت به دبستان و درس و سبق اديب کنند نفرت کنند و نفرين نمايند. در طبيعت بشر ميل به زندگانی و آزادی وحش و بقر است ولی تربيت الهی عاقبت فائق است اطفال چون بمقام رشد رسند خود ترک بازی کنند و از سفاهت بی‌نيازی نمايند.