FROM KHORASAN TO ANATOLIA OUR TRADITION OF WISDOM AND ELVAN ÇELEBİ
Social scientists, with historians in particular, have been heavily involved in the debate of determining how the Islamification of Turks took place and which historic and cultural climates it went through. This historic process has not only resulted in the great Turkish migration towards the west, Asia minor, Anatolia due to various reasons including Mongolian invasion in particular, but it also led to the Islamification of Turks and Turkification of the geography accompanied with the conquests by the newly formed Turkish-Islamic states. In fact, this newly formed Turkish-Islamic civilization went past the Balkans and spread as far as central Europe. Representing the ancient Helen and Roman civilizations, this geography has rapidly turned into the centre of Turkish-Islamic Civilization and the reasons for as well as the consequences of it are issues that ought to be reviewed and researched.
Hence in this historic process, the powerful representatives of our wisdom tradition previously called Turkistan, Khorasan saints and then assumed the name of Abdalanı Rum after arriving in Anatolia, contributed in changing and transforming a whole nation and geography with a divine love and compassionate stance by using the significant role of our wisdom tradition. These friends of the heart had read the oneness understanding of Islam in a correct way and embedded it in their hearts, and their great approach of civilization seems to have played a great role in this historic transformation, as they have equalled a whole existence in the servantship to Allah, loved all created ones in the name of their creator and invited everyone to their dinner table believing in the motto “come, just come whoever you are”.
This symposium has been organized to understand and attach a meaning to these processes and the leading names of our wisdom tradition who played an active role in these processes, their acts, deeds and words, beliefs and minds, religious, social and cultural values by also accounting for Elvan Çelebi and his family.
Literature does not contain much information about Elvan Çelebi’s life or even his date of birth but his place of birth is thought to be Kırşehir. Fleeing from the Mongolian invasion at the first half of XIII century and settling in Central Anatolia , he was a member of an extended Turkmen sheikh family who had significant social, cultural and political influences both during the latter years of the Anatolian Seljuk Empire and during the early years of Ottomans. His father Âşık Paşa was a prominent figure in XIV century Anatolian Sufi life, his grandfather Muhlis Paşa was involved in the founding of Karamanoğulları State while his great grandfather Baba İlyas-ı Khorasani was the leader of a religious-social public movement known as Babai Rise which took place in 1240.
With two brothers named Süleyman (Selman) and Can, Elvan Çelebi spent most of his life in a hermitage he built in Çorum - Mecitözü and named after himself. According to Mecdi, he came here right after his father left to Egypt in 726-(1326) and never left afterwards. Mustafa Vâzıh b. İsmail Amâsî narrates that prior to Elvan Çelebi, his grandfather was already settled in the same village. According to him, Muhlis Paşa went to Ellez (previously Çat, now known as İlyas) where the grave of Baba İlyas was located and built a shrine over his grave before leaving for Elvan Çelebi Village with his saints, where he settled, built homes and earned his livelihood through farming. His body was buried there after his death. Following the path of his grandfather, Elvan Çelebi received the approval of his father Âşık Paşa and moved from Kırşehir to the same village. Afterwards the village became known as Elvan Çelebi Village. According to Hüseyin Hüsâmeddin, the author of “History of Amasya”, the name of the region was known as Tanuk Özü –Tanun, prior to the arrival of Elvan Çelebi in the village. A further narration by Semavi Eyice indicates that Elvan Çelebi Village is located very close to a city called Eukhaita, which was a well-known place during the Byzantine times.
Upon arriving to the village, Elvan Çelebi got a mosque, shrine, lodge and bath built there. Hüseyin Hüsâmeddin conveys that these structures were built in 753 (1352), rich foundations were allocated to Elvan Çelebi during the times of Eretna Bey’s deputy, Alâu’d-Din Ali Şah-ı Rûmî and even the village along with the surrounding land had been granted to him. It is not clear when Elvan Çelebi died. However, looking at the final part of his semi-anecdotal autobiography “Menâkıbu‘l Kudsiyye” the date of completion of the work is cited 760 (1358-59), hence it can be said that he passed away a few years afterwards. His tomb is inside the shrine of his lodge in Elvan Çelebi village. The shrine is still a popular attraction among people.
The expressions found in the literature about Elvan Çelebi indicate that he was a very well-known scholar of his time. The poem called “Letâyifname” by Hatiboğlu in 817(1414), a poet from the XV century, lists the scholars and poets he sees as masters and Elvan Çelebi is mentioned among them. In his work named “Hızırname”, the XV-XVI century scholar Muhyi’d-Din Çelebi names the greatest existing and past saints of his time in Anatolia and mentions Elvan Çelebi with the name “Elhen Paşa”. All these records indicate that his fame was still existing even two centuries after his death. Having been taken hostage by Turks in XV century, Hungarian Georg’s Latin book introduces Elvan Çelebi’ with the expression of “Alwan Passa” and describes him as a great guardian. French Michel Baudier authored a number of books on Turks in XVII century and mentioned Elvan Çelebi as “Van Passa”, which is again an indication that he was known as a great and respectable guardian even in those days. Based on the beliefs of the public, whenever someone begs anything from him, Elvan Çelebi helps them in the form of a tall, slinky boy or a respectable old man with a glowing face. Based on all these given expressions, it can be said that during his life time, or most probably right after his death Elvan Çelebi was loved by the public, deemed as a guardian, a holy person and various anecdotes started to be forming around his name.
No records were seen in literature regarding the sect followed by Elvan Çelebi and even his work “Menâkıbu’l-Kudsiyye” does not make any mentions about it. However, being the grandchild of Baba İlyas, it can be assumed that he followed the order of Baba İlyas, Muhlis Paşa, Aşık Paşa and assumed the role of sheikh within the family and was a member of the Vefai sect which was being represented in Anatolia by his great grandfather Baba İlyas. The only work of Elvan Çelebi that existed to this day is “Menâkıbu’l-Kudsiyye” which has the status of a family history or even a familial statement of defence.
“Menâkıbu’l-Kudsiyye” was accidentally discovered by Necati Elgin in 1957. It is a really unique type of work considering that it provides typical examples of the religious understandings of Turkmen minorities in XIII.-XVI century Anatolia as well as the traces of pre-Islamic beliefs in these understandings. In this sense, it is said that this work of Elvan Çelebi is one of the main sources of Anatolian Turkish heterodoxy. Major researchers such as Mertol Tulum, Ismail E. Erunsal and Ahmet Yasar Ocak have done extensive studies.
Elvan Çelebi’s Hermitage played an important role not only in XIII century Anatolia but also during the foundation of the Ottoman State, and become an important centre of religion following Vefâî sect and the Heritage of Baba Ilyas located in İlyas village in Amasya. The famous historian Aşıkpaşazade, a member of the extended family of Baba İlyas has also lived in this hermitage and offered assistance to II. Murad during the throne skirmishes between II. Murad and Mustafa the Impostor. As the hermitage was also located on one of the busy trade routes, it became a stomping road for European travellers and stayed so for a long time. Having lodged there during mid-XVI century, German lodgers H. Dernschwam and O. G. Busbecq conveyed some information about the place. Dernschwam narrated that the resident derwishes of the lodge stayed in the surrounding humble homes and were dearly loved and respected by the locals.
In his Pinnacle, Katib Çelebi describes this place only as “There is Sheikh Elvan Lodge a bit further east from Çorum. It is a great place for feast and they take care of the guests.”. Evliya Çelebi also narrated the same place: “In the city of Çorum there is Sheikh Elvan Çelebi bin Aşık Paşa lodge, built by the student of Orhan Gazi, and there are several written sources about it.”
ERÜNSAL, İsmail E. - OCAK, Ahmet Yaşar; Menâkıbu’l-Kudsiyye Fî Menâsıbi’l- Ünsiyye Baba İlyas-ı Horasânî ve Sülalesinin Menkabevî Tarihi, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, Ankara, 1995.
EYİCE, Semavi, “Elvan Çelebi Zâviyesi”, TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi, ttps://islamansiklopedisi. org.tr/elvan-celebi-zâviyesi (02.08.2019).
EYİCE, Semavi; “Çorum’un Mecidözü’nde Âşık Paşaoğlu Elvan Çelebi Zâviyesi”, TM, XV (1968): 211-246.
OCAK, Ahmet Yaşar; “Elvan Çelebi” TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi, ttps://islamansiklopedisi. org.tr/elvan-celebi (02.08.2019).
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