A visit to the Saadi and Bektashi Tekkes and a history of the Ali Koc Lodge
A recent visit to Gjakova in Kosovo gave me a glimpse into two Islamic Orders; the Bektashi and Saadi, and how they use initiation and secrecy, while also providing a journey of spiritual discovery for the initiate in a learning environment of signs and symbols, achieving levels of spiritual knowledge – a journey reminiscent of the spiritual journey some may experience within Freemasonry. On a past visit to Prizren in Kosovo, I attended a Halveti Tekke, a visit that can be read here. Indeed Halveti, Bektashi and Saadi are but three of the twelve Muslim Orders that can be found in Kosovo, other examples being Bajrami and Mevlevi.
The Saadi Order instructs its brethren in a form of collective meditation within the tekke (shrine), where a collective chant or mantra is performed, which, so the Master indicated, allows the brethren to find God within themselves.
The Master informed me that the Saadi Tekke was founded before the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans, and he produced a ‘sword’ that he said belonged to the founder, who came from Persia.
The Bektashi Tekke, which is also located in Gjakova, has a similar feel to the Saadi Tekke. While in Kosovo, I met a number of Freemasons who were also Bektashi, and they explained to me the similarities to the spiritual progressive journey in both. Indeed, there is a historical example of a Masonic lodge in the Balkans that attracted Bektashi members.
This was the now famous Ali Koč Lodge, founded in 1850 in Belgrade, Serbia, which contained a mixture of Bektashi followers, adventurers and mercenaries, having around 140 members in all, creating a rebellious mix of Freemasons that cultivated a feeling for revolution, attracting Polish brethren that wanted independence from Russia. It was also reported by a Hungarian spy that ‘the Turkish members of the lodge want to bring back the rule of the Janissaries and that the Christians are republicans’, and also how the Bektashi Order had similarities to that of Freemasonry.1
The Janicari had been abolished in 1826 by Sultan Mohmud II, resulting in a revolt. After the revolt was supressed, the surviving Janicari were either exiled or executed. The Ali Koč Lodge thus became a hotbed of revolutionary spirit and political intrigue, with it being reported at that the time that the lodge was ‘in contact with the revolutionary organisations of all countries’, the Master of the lodge – a Turk named Mehmet Sait Ismail – travelling often, it was reported, ‘for the benefit of the political activities of the lodge’.2
It has also been commented on how the architecture of the Bektashi Shrine conveys a common Islamic architectural language, with the shrine, the courtyard, the archway, the portal and tomb. Indeed, the Halveti Tekke, Saadi Tekke and Bektashi Tekke I had visited, all had a similar architectural structure, with the inner courtyard which provide a sense of sacred isolated peace from the outside world; once you walked through the gateway, it was as if you had traversed into a world of peace where one could meditate and reflect. All had a room that housed the resting place of the Order’s past Masters, and from talking to the Masters of the respective Tekke’s, the architecture represented a sacred space, a space that was separate from the outside world.3
1. RW Bro Celil Layiktez P.Ass. GM., Lodge Ali Koc – The Role of Freemasonry in the Liberation of Serbia and the Polish Independence Movement, The Masonic Magazine of the Grand Lodge of Turkey.
3. See Dhiamandi, Joana & Kristo, Saimir. (2016). TYPOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF THE BEKTASHI TEKKE IN ALBANIA. Conference Paper, 1st International Scientific Conference on Professional Sciences, Durres, Albania.