Bektasi Female Leadership in a Transnational Context: The Spiritual Career of a Contemporary Female Dervish in Germany

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Abstract

In this article, I bring premodern and contemporary Bektaşi perspectives to the current ethical debate on gender equality in the Bektaşi Sufi order. While there is tremendous potential in the historical legacy of Kadıncık Ana, the spiritual successor of Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli (d. ca. 1271), and her peers who served as female spiritual leaders in the proto-Bektaşiyye, the institutionalization of the Bektaşi order resulted in the marginalization of women and their exclusion from certain opportunities and positions in religious practice and leadership. This article explores the spiritual journey of Güllizar Cengiz (today also known as Neriman Aşki Derviș after becoming a Bektaşi “dervish”), including her foundation of an Alevi-Bektaşi cultural institute in Cologne, Germany, in 1997 and the opening of a Bektaşi Sufi lodge (dergah) in the Westerwald near Bonn in 2006. I explore the impact of Hacı Bektaş’s teaching that both men and women have the same spiritual potential to become the ultimately ungendered insan-ı kamil, or spiritually and ethically completed human being. I also discuss the time-honored Bektaşi principle of “moving with the times and staying one step ahead of the times” and how it can inform contemporary understandings of ethical and spiritual prerogatives within Bektaşism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number970
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalReligions
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 504014 Gender studies
  • 603905 Islam
  • 603908 History of religion
  • 603103 Ethics

Keywords

  • Bektashim
  • gender and Sufi ethics
  • gender equality
  • female spiritual leadership
  • mystcism
  • Sufism
  • Bektashism
  • mysticism

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