BÜLENT KENEŞ

What befell Niyazi-i Misri in the past is happening to Fethullah Gülen now

Lemnos -- I immediately accepted an invitation from my dear teacher Ziya Kesiriklioğlu, »»

Lemnos -- I immediately accepted an invitation from my dear teacher Ziya Kesiriklioğlu, who had taught my religious course at high school and who I hadn’t seen for more than 25 years, to an event in Lemnos to commemorate a major Islamic scholar from my hometown of Malatya who had lived 300 years ago and was buried on the Greek island.

My visit to the island of Lemnos proved to be extremely enjoyable and beneficial. I had the opportunity to spend time with chivalrous and enthusiastic people from Malatya, a city I was unable to visit frequently. At the same time, I am ashamed to admit, I had the honor of finding out more about Niyazi-i Mısri, the highly-respected Sufi and a distinguished spiritual leader from my hometown who became famous across the Muslim world.

As I listened to the presentations made by scholars who studied Niyazi-i Mısri and his teachings and who knew much about him and his ideas, I learned more about Mısri’s ideas and views which were far beyond his time and the boundaries of his spiritual and cultural climate. And I was grieved to learn about the trials and tribulations Mısri had suffered at the hands of the ruling elite of his time because of his views and ideas on how to become a perfect man (al-insan al-kamil).

Mısri was a Sufi who came at a relatively later time but he was as great as Rumi or Yunus Emre. And as with almost all spiritual and opinion leaders who were not properly understood by the rulers of their time, Mısri suffered from similar misfortunes devised by the worried and undiscerning ruling elites.

The suffering Mısri went through are full of lessons that speak to the people of our time, more than they would have to the people of Mısri’s time. Indeed, there are people today who face situations similar to Mısri’s because their ideas are misunderstood, not sufficiently understood or because they are falsely considered to be dangerous.

If you aren’t familiar with him, Niyazi-i Mısri is one of the most significant and major representatives of the Halwati order of Islamic Sufism who lived in the 17th century. Mısri was born in Malatya in 1618 and pursued his studies in Diyarbakır, Mardin, Kerbela, Egypt, İstanbul, Elmalı, Uşak, Kütahya and Bursa. He died in 1694 in the island of Lemnos while in exile. He is known as “Mısri” (from Egypt) because he pursed his studies primarily in Egypt. A 17th-century follower of the ideas of Ibn Arabi, Rumi and Yunus Emre, Mısri can be considered to be a synthesis of these three great Sufi leaders. He published numerous books and about 250 of his poems were arranged into hymns. In this respect, he ranks second after Yunus Emre, who had more poems that were arranged into hymns.

Famous for his straightforwardness, enthusiasm and his profound knowledge, Mısri purported some ideas that were not favored by some politicians of his time, and he was exiled to the island of Rhodes once and to Lemnos twice. Faced with extreme oppression from the ruling elites of his time, Mısri spent 16 years in dungeons or under custody. Baseless and delusional fears of rulers resulted in slanders about Mısri and this great Sufi suffered needlessly.

Some political figures of his time were disturbed by the fact that his ideas and teachings were influential with the general public, and they accused him of attempting to trigger a riot. They hobbled his feet despite his old age and exiled him to Lemnos as a criminal. He died at the age of 76 while in exile and was buried with the 17kg hobbles on his feet. After Lemnos was lost to the Turks in 1912, Mısri fell into gradual oblivion by the people of Malatya in particular and Turkey in general, and he was only remembered in recent years.

Today, there is no trace of where he was buried. His dervish lodge and the mosque bearing his name are today being used by as a bar and cafe by the natives of Lemnos, and a street and road had been built over his grave.

We should draw lessons from the innumerable tyrannical acts and unjust exiles imposed on this great scholar of Islam as well as from the lack of interest and boundless negligence and insensitivity by the general public. These lessons are important as the oppressive acts imposed on such exceptional personalities and paragons of humanities are not errors or bad memories that belong solely to the past.

The tyrannical acts and tortures which Mısri was subjected to in his time are unfortunately being subjected in different forms and methods on a figure who can be considered as the Mısri of our time. Without any concrete evidence, some people inflict great injustice onto him fearing that he might share their power. They voice slanders that he intends to become prime minister or president although he has no such expectations. And although he has been leading a life in exile and in partial reclusion thousands of miles away from his beloved homeland and his people for 13 years, people have cruelly and audaciously accused him and his followers of plotting to infiltrate the state, the media, the economy, and even a soccer team.

As I accompanied fellow townspeople to visit the island of Lemnos and commemorate the great Sufi Mısri, my conscience was hit by sorrow, because the tyrannical acts inflicted on Mısri are similar in scope and size to those that Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi is currently experiencing at the hands and words of certain political, bureaucratic, media and business elites, and because the heavy accusations hurled at him are more hurtful than those tyrannical acts.

2012-05-27

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Columnist:: BÜLENT KENEŞ