Turkestan, Chodscha Ahmad Yasawi, Ahmed Yasavi, Khwaja Ahmad Yasavi, Ахмад Яссави

Ahmad Yasawi

Ahmad Yasawi: A Spiritual Journey through the Teachings of Sufism

Ahmad Yasawi (1103-1166) emerges as a prominent figure in Central Asian history, revered as a Sufi poet and preacher of significant influence. Composing his verses in Chaghatai, he left a lasting legacy through his renowned collection of mystical spiritual poems known as “Hikmat,” first published in 1878. The enduring appeal of his work lies in its incorporation of vernacular forms, resonating deeply with diverse audiences. Moreover, his language reflects a rich tapestry, interwoven with elements of the Oghuz dialect, enhancing its cultural significance and accessibility.

Despite the scarcity of documented biographical details, Ahmad Yasawi’s life is steeped in legend and revered tales. Born in Sairam, present-day Kazakhstan, in 1103, he experienced the loss of his father, Sheikh Ibrahim, at a young age. Subsequently relocating to Yassy, modern-day Turkestan, he embarked on a journey of spiritual enlightenment under the guidance of Arystan-Bab. Later, upon the passing of his mentor, he sought knowledge in Bukhara, becoming a disciple of Yusuf Hamadani. Assuming leadership of the school upon Hamadani’s demise in 1140, Ahmad Yasawi eventually relinquished this role, returning to his homeland.

Despite humble circumstances, Ahmad Yasawi devoted himself to disseminating the tenets of Sufism, particularly amidst the burgeoning Islamic influence among Turkic tribes along the Syr Darya. Revered as the “Holy Father,” he played a pivotal role in nurturing religious and spiritual awakening among his followers, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries. His teachings resonated profoundly with a populace grappling with the complexities of faith and spirituality, cementing his legacy as a revered figure in Central Asian history.

Ahmad Yasawi’s distinction among Muslim scholars of the East lies in his propagation of Islam through the Turkish language, rendering his ideas accessible to a broad audience. Leveraging the linguistic nuances of the Kipchak dialect, he imbued his works with local wisdom, fostering a deeper connection with his audience.

Central to Yasawi’s literary legacy is “Diwani Hikmat” (The Book of Wisdom), a poetic anthology revered and scrutinized worldwide, transcending cultural and linguistic boundaries. Its successive publications in prominent cities like Istanbul, Kazan, and Tashkent during the 19th century underscore its enduring relevance and impact.

At the core of Yasawi’s oeuvre lies a profound contemplation on the ephemeral nature of existence and the futility of worldly pursuits. Advocating for spiritual asceticism over material accumulation, he challenged the prevailing norms of power and wealth, urging his followers to embark on a journey of inner enlightenment.

The disciples of Ahmad Yasawi, including Suleiman Bakirghani, Allayar, and Ahsani, embraced his teachings, becoming torchbearers of Sufism and perpetuating his legacy. His aphorisms and insights permeated society, shaping collective consciousness and moral ethos.

Moreover, “Diwani Hikmat” serves as a repository of Kazakh culture, offering profound insights into literature, history, and ethnography. Yasawi’s profound understanding of his cultural milieu shines through, enriching the scholarly discourse on Central Asian heritage and spirituality.

The mausoleum erected at the site of Ahmad Yasawi’s burial has evolved into a grand architectural complex, now revered as a national treasure. Over time, it became the final resting place not only for Ahmad Yasawi but also for eminent figures of Kazakh history, including Yesim Khan, Jahangir Khan, Tauke Khan, Ablay Khan, and notable Biys. This sprawling complex, epitomizing the opulence of medieval Eastern architecture, stands as a cherished heritage, resonating not only within the Turkish realm but also among Muslims worldwide.

Ahmad Yasawi is celebrated not just as a preeminent religious luminary of the East but also as a gifted poet and philosopher, distinguished by his profound wisdom and boundless compassion. His acute intellect comprehended the intricacies of contemporary life, fostering contemplation on the future of society, the spiritual integrity of its leaders, and the moral fabric of influential public figures shaping destinies.

The works of Yasawi permeated society, disseminated through oral tradition, akin to a moral compass guiding societal norms. Rooted in religious principles, his teachings espoused self-betterment, compassion, mercy, tolerance, and resilience. Through his writings, he exhorted individuals to embark on a journey of self-discovery and ethical refinement, nurturing a more enlightened and humane society. For example:

In the realm of Islam, my hikmets stand as guides,
To all, I say, turn your gaze towards Allah’s might.
Share my wisdom with those whose hearts comprehend,
And in prayer, extol Allah’s mercy without end.

If an unbeliever stands in your midst, hold your tongue,
For Allah turns not to those in guilt, their deeds unsung.
O Allah, the Ever-Truthful, hear our plea,
Such souls, destined for Hell, may they find mercy.

The great Hodja Ahmad Yasawi wrote when he spoke about mercy, humanity and kindness:

If wisdom guides your path, tend to the needy’s plight,
As Mustafa did, embrace orphans with love and light.
Shun the grasping, the hearts that with greed convene,
Guard your soul fiercely, a torrent, bold and serene.

Or such a warning:

Those devoted to the Divine have seen their aspirations fulfilled,
Beware, feigning affection may bring disgrace untold.
Upon the bridge of Sirat, slender and keen,
Sharper than the edge of the mightiest sword, falsehood finds no path…

Yasawi paid great attention to the development of empathy, compassion, magnanimity and pity. Let us note the following lines:

In the path of faith, walk with the Prophet, towards the Divine.
With reverence and devotion, honor their name, let your praises shine.

One of the psychological techniques that perfected a person’s personality was repentance, which purified a person’s soul and heart of impurities. Self-examination of actions, self-recrimination and self-judgment also eliminated vices.

The artistic value of the pictorial-expressive devices and poetic details used in Hikmets is high.

Amidst the vast expanse of love for the Divine,
I aspire to embody the nightingale, serenading sorrowful tunes at dawn.
In these moments, I long to behold the resplendent countenance of my Allah – through the eyes of my soul.
May my heart be nurtured by the essence of love,
Enveloped in the garment of blissful serenity.
Empowered by love’s essence, I yearn for transcendence,
Descending like a bird onto the branch of consciousness.

Until one savors the essence of love’s nectar,
Until donning the attire of ardent lovers,
Until seamlessly merging faith and devotion,
The visage of the Creator remains veiled.

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