“Let Me Tell You How it All Began”—A Creation Story Told by Nesimi Kılagöz from Dersim
By Erdal Gezik
Oral Tradition, 35/2 (2022):363-88
The circumstances when we met were far from ideal.1 It was in 2009, in a suburban Istanbul hospital while I was leaning against the wall, that I became aware of his presence on the other side of the corridor. For a while we stared at one another, and then he patted the chair next to him. Without hesitation I accepted his invitation. Under the curious looks of the people around us, we started a cautious conversation. I asked him about the man-headed cane he was holding in his hand. He wanted to know where I was from. I told him. With a pleasant look, he said: “So, it is the homeland that brought us together.”
For years I have been interested in the Alevi creation myth. Due to the absence of any written material or relevant research, I began to record scattered bits and pieces still recalled by elderly people. It was especially the very popular introductory part that led me to ask questions. God is said to create angels and later to want to test them on their awareness of His existence. Thus Gabriel, who is to become God’s favorite angel, is asked: “Who am I?” Gabriel, not knowing that there is any other being, is unable to answer the question and is punished for this by Him. In order to find the answer, he must fly away in the endless universe. The questioning and punishment are repeated three times, and only the last time, when Gabriel is almost exhausted, he hears a voice whispering to him how to answer: “You are superior, I am subordinate.” Precisely this happy ending did not fit with the overall image of a God that I had learned from Alevi narratives; a God who is not directly involved in the events and definitely does not punish. On the other hand, why was Gabriel, the first angel to be named, characterized by such a shortcoming? This and other questions kept my belief alive that the story we knew might have some missing pieces.
The physical appearance of the man on the other side of the corridor left me with no doubt that he was from Dersim (Tunceli). A white-bearded, elderly face of a type that one could encounter in each village of the region until recently. Indeed, Nesimi Kılagöz was from Dersim or, to be exact, from the village of Loto, which belongs to Mazgirt, a southeastern district of the province. After his wife passed away a few years ago, he was no longer able to live by himself in his village during the harsh winters. Therefore he had moved to Istanbul, where most of his family members and other villagers from Loto had migrated since the eighties of the last century.
1 I am grateful to Prof. Philip Kreyenbroek for the editing support he has given to me.
Although he was surrounded by many coreligionists in this city, there really was no one who was interested in his stories, which he called “our true history.” The few people of his generation with whom he had shared these stories had passed away in the eighties. For the educated, younger members of the family the grandfather’s memories had little appeal, as they were more engaged with political activities and discussions. Also in the many Alevi foundations and “religious houses” in Istanbul, which Kılagöz did visit from time to time, he could not find anyone who was interested. The activists of the so-called “Alevi awakening” in Turkey, a new urban phenomenon since the eighties, were more focused on written and legitimate historiography than his stories, which for most of them were of no more than superficial interest.
That attitude was partly determined by the overall effect of the modernization the community has been subjected to for the last decades (Shankland 2003:133-85); another reason for their lack of interest was the official Turkish historiography about the Alevis, which was deeply influenced by nationalist ideas. According to this narrative, the Alevis were descendants of Central Asian Turcoman tribes that migrated to Asia Minor during the second half of the Middle Ages. These tribes were accompanied by religious leaders who represented a sort of folk Islam or belonged to popular mystical orders that were active in the late Middle Ages. (At that stage, a Sunni-Shi’a division did not exist. Shi’ite tendencies would become dominant only after 1450 CE, through Safavid propaganda.)
Clearly such a view of history would make it preferable to ignore someone like Kılagöz who, from an ethnic perspective, did not fit into the categories postulated there, and whose religious worldview was difficult to classify as either Sunni, Shi’ite, or Sufi.
Dervish Gewr (Dewrêş Gewr)
Nesimi Kılagöz belongs to one of the Sayyid (that is, hereditary religious leader) families of the Kurdish Alevi community. The Dewêş Gewran family, as they are known, are called after their ancestor, Dewrêş Gewr, who, according to the oral tradition of the family, belonged to the circle of two other famous Sayyids (Baba Mansûr and Kureş) of his time. The name Gewr, which means “grey” in Kurdish, is a reference to a miraculous deed of his. To prove his saintliness, he was thrown into a burning stove by the order of Seljuq Sultan Allā’uddin Kayqubād (d. 1237). Later on, when the stove was opened, first a white bird flew away and then they saw Dervish Gewr coming out unharmed and totally covered with ashes.
Within the religious organization of the tribes and Sayyids, the Dewrêş Gewr family represents the hereditary position of rayber/rêber or delîl (“guide”), a rank below pîr (“master”) and pîrê pîran or murshid (“grandmaster”). Although Kılagöz himself did not actually perform the religious tasks incumbent on a rayber, he had always been attracted to religious matters since his youth. As a young man he regularly accompanied the well known Sayyid Veyis of Baba Mansur on the yearly visits he made to his talibs (“disciples, followers”) and in the secret meetings he had with other Sayyids. In these meetings Kılagöz witnessed lively discussions on religious matters, and he listened with great interest. A second source of his knowledge, mentioned by him explicitly, was his brother Xerîb. Blind from birth, in winter Xerîb used to travel from village to village in Dersim, and on returning he would share all the stories he collected with Nesimi.
Apart from Kurmanji, Xerîb also spoke Kirmanjki (Zazaki), and that made it possible for him to communicate with everyone in Dersim. The language of the main part of the Dervish Gewran, including Nesimi Kılagöz, is Kurmanji. However, there are also small Zazaki-speaking branches of the lineage.
When Xerîb passed away in 1987, Nesimi Kılagöz knew that he was left with the stories they had shared so enthusiastically. Since then, he frequently asked people around him to write these down so that they would not be forgotten, but he soon noticed the general lack of interest in such an undertaking. In his view, therefore, the eventual fulfillment of his wish was due to a miraculous act of “Dewrêş Baba,” the name he had given to his staff. During our second meeting, I asked him why he didn’t interrogate me about my past and family, like all the elderly people in this region did when they talked with a stranger. He told me about a dream he had before our encounter in the hospital. In his dream someone had wrapped up his notebooks and books in a white cloth and handed them over to him. The next morning, Nesimi Kılagöz told his children that someone would come soon and fulfill his wish. Therefore, from his point of view, our meeting in that hospital in Istanbul was not an accident. However, the fact that the place was a hospital, rather than a remote village, did actually say, at least for me, more about the general state of the community itself than about Nesimi Kılagöz.
Gabriel and Melekî Tawûs (“The Peacock Angel”), Who Is Who?
Despite his advanced age and the physical restrictions of someone over ninety years, Kılagöz had an admirable memory and a dedication to share his knowledge. During the many meetings I had with him later, our conversations took four to five hours each time. It was clear that he had waited for a long time to tell his stories. During my first visit, when I asked him a general question on religion, he said: “Let me tell you how it all began, then. There you will find all your answers.”
Kılagöz subdivides “our true history” into three categories: the stories in the first category were those that could be shared with everyone. For the second, I had to “have the sword Zulfiqar in my hands” before publishing it, because of the risk that these polemical stories could anger others and lead to conflicts.2 The last category was only for those who were able to “keep the secret.” Accordingly, I will here only deal with the first category, which will be divided into four chapters. The first focuses on the story of angel Gabriel and Melekî Tawûs (“the Peacock Angel”) and narrates how this evolved into the creation of the first man, Adam. The second chapter consists of a narrative about Adam and Eve, their expulsion from heaven, the birth of Naci (also associated with the figure Seth), and the arrival of the female angel Naciye. It is believed that the Alevis belong to the progeny of Naci (“the saved one”) and Naciye, a group that is also designated as “the seventy-third faction.” The third chapter includes a list of the prophets,
2 Zulfiqar is the name of the sword of Imam Ali, the cousin of Prophet Mohammed, to whom the Alevis trace back their name and their creed. According to the Alevis, this sword is also equivalent to justice.
which interestingly differs from the names given in the Buyruks (Ayyıldız 2002:222-33).3 The last chapter contains a collection of allegorical comments on the creation, the core elements of the Alevi religion, and additional, short stories.
One of the threads of this cosmogony includes the importance of the number two, or, as Kılagöz designates it, “looking for one’s second-self.” In his view the number two is the basic feature of their creed. All beings in the universe come into existence only when they meet their second self. God exists, but the knowledge of His existence is only realized by introducing angel Gabriel. When, later on, Gabriel’s act unwillingly opens the door to the error of Melekî Tawûs, he cannot see himself anymore as the proper second and punishes himself by leaving the celestial world to look for his second inside the universe. Melekî Tawûs, on the other hand, is expelled by water after polluting the celestial realm and begins his own journey to look for his second. After long travels, Gabriel sees in the depth of the sea a shining vault, and within it he meets Muhammed and Ali. As an answer to Gabriel’s search, they decided together to create the first man, called Shah (“King”), who became the brother of Gabriel.
The expression “looking for one’s second self” is used in references to the celestial world; in worldly matters, Kılagöz prefers to use brayê axiretî or musahib (“brother of the hereafter”) as a term for it. The concept of the “brotherhood of the hereafter” is one of the main pillars of the religion and social life. The brotherhood is a bond between two non-related and unmarried young men for the rest of their lives. It is consecrated by the pîr and demands absolute solidarity between the two men and later between their families. The keeping of the commitments of this brotherhood is seen as the main proof of how far the “brothers” have committed themselves to the conditions of the religion. Therefore, it is believed that they also play the role of witness at the judgment of the soul in the hereafter. A prayer for the brotherhood ritual, recited by Kılagöz in Kurmanji, shows its dimension:
Wan navên Xadêyî Xadeyê xwelîyê Xwelîyê avê. Avê jî genimê
Genimê cane. Can jî dayê, Bav e, lawik e, gizîk e. Him zaye, him mirine.
Him meyman, him minç. Him can, him ceset. Him li vê dinê, him li wî dine.
Him cennet, him cehenem. Herkes ber xwe bi xwe tev hev ra dî.
These are the names of God. God of the earth. Earth of the water. Water is [i.e., produces] wheat.
The wheat of life. And life [belongs to] the mother. The Father, son, and daughter. Both of birth and death.
Both guest and enemies. Both living and dead. Both in this world and in the other world.
Both heaven and hell. Each saw only the one belonging to him.
3 For the Alevis, Buyruk is one of the few books which contain and represent their doctrines. The earliest copies of Buyruks were in the possession of Alevis from the middle of the sixteenth century. The books are the result of attempts to connect the Anatolian Alevis to the Safavids. The content has a significantly Shi’i and Sufi character. The central role is reserved, respectively, for Muhammed, Alī, the Imāms, and Shāhs, as the grand masters of the religion. Although the Safavids adopted Twelver Shi’ism after establishing their state in Iran, they continued to propagate Kizilbashism in Anatolia by means of Buyruks.
The importance of the number two also has another important outcome: Nesimi Kılagöz rejects the holy Trinity (Allah, Muhammed, Ali), which is accepted by many as a fundamental tradition of the Alevis and Bektashis (Birge 1937:132-34). He claims there is a holy Quaternity: God, Gabriel, Muhammed, and Ali. This was the way of thinking that he was taught by his religious masters in Dersim.
The creation story told by Kılagöz contains many interesting features, both as a narrative and in its details. It is beyond the scope of this article, however, to offer a detailed analysis of all these aspects (on some of which see Gezik 2016). Therefore, I will only discuss three important aspects of Kılagöz’s creation story. The first is that this narration should be set against the background of the cosmogonies (and beliefs) of other Alevi communities in Anatolia. At least since the sixteenth century, there have been written sources describing the Shi’ite and Ghulāt (“exaggerators; those who exaggerate the status of Ali”) tendencies in the Alevi and Bektashi worldviews (cf. Yıldırım 2018:189-93). The creation story published here clearly differs from those of other communities; particularly important is Chapter I, where Gabriel and Melekî Tawûs play a prominent role.4
Secondly, this cosmogony should also be compared to the Yezidi and Ahl-e Ḥaqq traditions (Asatrian and Arakelova 2003; van Bruinessen 2014). Here it is relevant to offer a brief discussion of the position of Melekî Tawûs in these traditions. This angel is especially known for its prominent role in the Yezidi religion (Kreyenbroek 1995:245-48). However, in the story of Nesimi Kılagöz, we find a very different account of Melekî Tawûs, which has not been recorded till now. As the head of 366 angels, he holds a remarkable position that he will lose, not because of refusing to prostrate before Adam as some Muslims believe, but because of polluting the celestial realm. Because of this, it is the water that will punish him and not God. The fact that the Peacock Angel is led to commit an error by an act of the Angel Gabriel brings us to the third point.
Who is Gabriel? Why is he the angel who is associated with the first doubt, and not Melekî Tawûs? It should be added that in the Dersim tradition, Gabriel is more than the revealer of His word or a mediator between the Almighty and His servants. He is seen as the representative of the aqil (“intellect”). He is the patron angel of the raybers. He is the “brother of the hereafter” of Adam (and thus of mankind), and of the four basic elements, he represents the earth. Nevertheless, these attributes do not prevent him from doubting, not the existence of God, but rather the perfection (!) of a building that was ordered by God. Kılagöz designates Gabriel’s attitude as guman, a term that interestingly has a double meaning in Kurdish: both “doubt” and “belief.” This complexity brings us, on the one hand, to the cosmogonies of Late Antiquity, and, in connection with these, to the discussions of philosophers and sects in the Middle East after the eighth century CE, especially those of the Isma’ilis (Halm 1978). On the other hand, it is also strongly reminiscent of ancient western Iranian traditions, notably Zurvanism (on Zurvan’s doubt see Zaehner 1972:54-79).
4 The cosmogony of other Alevi groups in Turkey is mainly based on two narratives. In the first one, God initially manifested Himself in the light of Mohammed-Ali. The rest was created from these two lights. Because of this view, most Alevis designate the two as Mohammed-Ali, as one entity, and not as Mohammed and Ali. In the second narrative Ali is represented as the direct manifestation of God. In the story of Kılagöz, on the other hand, their manifestation comes after Gabriel and Melekî Tawus.
Kılagöz’s cosmogony begins in the celestial realm and turns into a mundane event when Gabriel’s wing catches fire after being blown on by God. The wing turned to ash, and this was thrown into the water. The water dried up and became earth. According to Kılagöz, the first piece of earth that appeared, and where Gabriel came down, was the village of Loto, where Kılagöz was born. In remembrance of this, the family is given the name of Gewr and the position of rayber, a responsibility that they have taken over from Gabriel. Now, the story may be seen as completed.
The translation of the knowledge that Kılagöz has entrusted to me has involved more than looking for the right word. In one of our meetings he said: “There are two kinds of writing: the one is invisible and is written with white letters, and the other with black. We have had our education in the invisible alphabet, but nowadays nobody can read this. Therefore, someone has to write [our knowledge] in black.” Here, with his permission, I have made a careful attempt to pass on his knowledge in “black letters,” and for the first time in its entirety in English.
Definitely, the recording of Kılagöz’s narratives demonstrates the contribution oral history can have to the study of the religions in the Middle East, and underlines the need for more field research so that other missing parts of this and other stories might be discovered.
When the earth was water and the sky was smoke,
God said: “I exist.”
When existence came into being, Gabriel—peace be upon him—greeted.
To him God said: “If I tell you about a building, would you be able to construct it?”
Gabriel: “O God, you give me a task, how could I not do it (?)”
God: “Construct a building in such a way that it does not contain the tiniest deficiency.
When you have completed it, hand over the key to me.”
Gabriel came, and he called Michael, he called Israfil, he called Azrael,
and said: “I will give you a task. Carry it out, and then hand it over to me,
but you shall make no deficiency in it.”
They said, “Yes, yes,” and accepted the task.
They constructed a beautiful building.
They brought the key to Gabriel who could not find any deficiency.
They made a very perfect building.
Suddenly, he thought to himself and started to doubt:
“What if this building turns out to have a flaw when I show it to God.”
Then he said: “On condition that three of you will be present, prepare a feast for this building. Call all the 366 angels wherever they are, let them enjoy the feast. It is allowed to eat and drink, but there is one condition: No one shall move and all have to look at that building.”
When Gabriel ordered this, the order was carried out.
None spoke a word for twenty-four hours, all stayed where they were.
Only the head of the angels, Melekî Tawûs stood up.
Gabriel asked: “What is it?”
Melekî Tawûs: “My ablution is nullified.”5
Gabriel: ‘‘What to do now?”
Melekî Tawûs: “I will perform my ablution.”
Then Gabriel acting as if he would not know the consequences of his act, said: “Go!”
Melekî Tawûs came out among the angels and went to the fountain.
There was a watering can near the fountain.
When he took the can in his hands, the can began to speak: “What are you doing?”
Melekî Tawûs said: “My ablution is broken.”
The can: “So what?”
Melekî Tawûs: “I’ll perform ablution.”
The can said: “Perform it then.”
He grabbed the can and headed towards the water.
When he poured the water, the water began to speak, and they talked about the same matter. He did what he did a few steps away from the fountain.
When he put the can back, the water asked the can: “What did he do?”
The can said: “He only cleaned his body.”
The Water asked Melekî Tawûs: “Why did you do it?”
Melekî Tawûs: “What good is the inside to me?”
The Water replied: “Ah, the soul that does not know! So, he [Gabriel] also acted as one who did not know how to act, and gave a feast. What is ablution, what is prayer? How good for you if one day you would be able to answer this. Don’t you know that the beginning and the end were earth and water? How can one perform one’s ablution with water and earth? Tell me!
Wherever you go, make sure that your inner being is fulfilled. Save yourself, do not lie. Look for the answer as to who your God is. Ablution, prayer, belief, and devotion to God are one and the same. Thank God. Work with your second self if you can; if you cannot, there is no relief for your pain. There are seven hells (tamu) and eight heavens (uçma). The truth about you will be revealed there. Find your answer and tell it to me. If you do not, the door of the seven hells is open. Leave now, I do not want to see you anymore. Leave and look for your community, where will you find it?”
5 The allegorical story told here is related to the question as to whether it is sufficient to take part in rituals after cleansing oneself externally only. The Alevis are of the opinion that “inner” (esoteric, batini) confession, that is, a clean heart, should be taken as the essence of the religion. According to the story, Melekî Tawûs was the first one who went against this and believed that by using water he could clean himself.
While Melekî Tawûs was leaving,
Gabriel realized his fault.
Given the condition of bringing the key to God,
He set out to look for his second self.
He wandered for many thousands of years.
He did not see any corpse, he did not see any life.
Finally he reached the water,
He found a shining vault.
As he approached the vault, he heard a voice: “Who are you? Who am I?”
Gabriel: “You are you, I am I.”
Gabriel was ordered to fly.
He flew for another hundred years.
When Gabriel returned to the vault, he was asked the same question. He gave the same answer. He flew again and this was repeated three times.
The fourth time, Gabriel heard the voice in the vault, now from the sky.
The voice said: “When asked, say: You are superior (haluk), I am subordinate (maluk), you are Sultan, I am your subject.”
Thus spoke Gabriel.
The ones who were in the vault saw each other. Same body, same life (can).
Those who were in the vault have the same body and two heads.
One of them is Mohammed, the other is Ali.
The one who leads Gabriel is Mohammed, and his master is Ali.
Three bodies of universe saw each other and said:
“If we are wayfarers on this path,
Let us be brothers, because the path is greater than us.”
Mohammed became a brother to Ali.
Gabriel was left alone.
And to him the King (Shah) was given as brother.
This is the King:
Earth, water, sky, smoke.
May water draw away and become earth.
May smoke be drawn away and become frost.
When the smoke was drawn away, moon and sun saw each other.
So they joined the brotherhood.
A living body is needed for Gabriel as a brother.
What shall we do?
Let’s make one body from our bodies; Father Adam, the purest one of God, was made from our body? Do you ask how?
This is how. His holiness Ali gave a command:
“O messenger of God, may you blow on the wing of Gabriel who travels like a pigeon. It will catch fire and become dust.
Throw the dust into the water, the water will dry and become earth.
Then you shall call Michael for salutation,
Then you shall call Israfil for salutation,
Then you shall call Azrael for salutation.
On the condition that the four angels, with Gabriel as the first, witness,
Let us make the body of Adam, he shall look like us.”
All that should be done has been done.
Gabriel went to take a piece of earth. The earth wept, the earth would not give (from itself).
Then Michael went so that he would take earth. The earth wept, the earth did not give.
Then Israfil went and the earth wept again and did not give from itself.
Then Azrael went, and the earth wept again. He said:
“O earth, do not cry anymore, we are working on something:
What we take will return to you at the end.”
Then he took and brought a piece of earth.
He brought the fire and the wind, and mixed them to form mud.
The mud remained mud for thirty-nine days.
Corpse, shape, and body were formed in forty days; the same body.
They hold it up, yet it became mud again.
They left it behind.
They went to Mohammed and told him:
“We made the same body, we held it up, it became mud again.”
This is what Gabriel told Mohammed.
Mohammed went to Ali.
Ali said: “O Messenger of God, it is happening. It does not hold together because there is nothing of our blood in it.”
Gabriel took Mohammed and Ali’s blood together with his own blood, and gave it to the body. The body became alive, they held it up. Gabriel saluted him.
Father Adam saluted Gabriel back: “Peace be upon you, o Head of the Light, noble Shah.”
Then they became loving friends.
Gabriel and Adam joined the brotherhood.
It was at that time that they told each other about the Path that we take till today.
This is how it happened:
Gabriel became brother to Adam,
Mohammed to Ali,
Sky and earth became brothers,
So did sun and moon,
Day and night,
And cloud and thunder.
These are from the sky.
They exist on earth, too:
On earth, there are Mohammed, Ali, Gabriel, and Adam.
In the sky, there are Sun, Moon, Day, and Night.
Cloud and thunder became the weapons of the sun and moon.
The weapon on earth is Zulfiqar, and its owner is Ali.
These inventions were fulfilled.
This is how the four gates were created.
The world is created with four corners:
East, west, north, south;
Sky above, earth below.
God is the first gate,
Gabriel is the second gate.
Mohammed is the third gate
And Ali became the fourth gate.
What a happiness it would be
If these four gates were to meet, knowing the twelve pillars on the path of “body and soul.”
When the sky and earth were created,
Day and night were formed
And the decision of twelve months was taken,
By that decision,
Father Adam came, and by the knowledge that two is the origin,
Admitting that God exists, Gabriel came.
He told Father Adam:
“I am asking you now, beloved Father Adam:
What is on your head?
What is on your eyebrow?
What is in your eye?
What is in your ear?
What is in your nose?
What is in your mouth?
What is in your chest?
What is ahead of you?
What is behind you?
What is on your right?
What is on your left?”
Father Adam said:
“There is the Crown on the Head,
The heavenly pen (Levh-i Kalem)6 on the eyebrow,
The Light of generosity (Nur-i Mürüvvet) in the eye,
Goodness and justice (Shepper u Shupper) in the ear,
Pureness (Musk-i Evren) in the nose,
Religion in the mouth,
Belief in the chest,
Gabriel ahead of me,
Israfil behind me,
Michael on my right,
Azrael on my left, and
There is God the beloved, who loves all of them.”
After that, to create the bond of husband and wife,
The woman was made from the left rib of Father Adam.
They left them untouched for a while.
Then Gabriel asked Father Adam: “Who is it standing facing you?”
Adam said: “It is a woman.”
“What is her name?”
Adam said that her name is Eve.
Adam replied: “Because no one saw her when she was created.”
Adam said: “Because she is my wife.”
So Adam and Eve went on living on earth.
One day Father Adam said to the earth:
“Earth, earth, you are the earth, you know all the creations, (but) only one percent knows you; what will you do about the ninety-nine percent?”
Earth was silent, then Adam asked again:
“Earth, earth, were you there in the Beginning, or was it me?”
Then the earth began talking. As if it didn’t know the (answer to the) first question,
and not wanting to hurt him, it said: “Now I will ask you: O Adam, Mother, Father, when you were born from me, were you man or woman? Do answer me.”
Hence Father Adam knew:
You are I, I am You;
6 Levh-i Kalem is the name of the tablet on which God has written the destiny of humans.
You are water, I am earth;
You are religion, I belief,
You are the Father, I the Mother;
Our [mutual] devotion is complete.
Then Adam said: “O God, Gabriel, Mohammed, Ya Ali.”
After saying that, Gabriel took Father Adam and Mother Eve to heaven.
He showed them heaven.
Whatever exists in the world of today, existed in heaven.
He gave it to Father Adam so that he would wander and live free.
Only when it comes to wheat,
He told him that it was forbidden.
What was the reason?
If they eat it, they would die.
Father Adam never ate it.
He stayed in heaven with Eve for 800 years,
They lived without becoming man and woman.
The wheat was not eaten.
During these 800 years, Father Adam said only once:
“Eve, does anyone live in this heaven except you and me?”
When he uttered these words,
Gabriel heard them, and went to God:
“Beloved God, Father Adam spoke these words.”
And (the Presence of) God replied:
“Go and see Father Adam, raise him from the lower level of heaven to the upper level. There, open the door to space. Let Adam enter. He will see whatever or whoever will be there.”
Gabriel brought Adam to the upper level of heaven and opened the door.
When the door was opened, Father Adam saw.
Gabriel said: “Enter Adam.”
Father Adam replied: “My beloved brother Gabriel, my feet do not move.
Who is this person standing there?”
Then Gabriel spoke:
“She is Fatima Zahra,
Mohammed Mustafa’s daughter,
The wife of Ali Murtaza,
The mother of Hasan and Husayn.”
Father Adam saw her.
There were signs on Fatima’s head.
There was a crown on her head. He asked about that crown.
What is it?
Gabriel: “It is her father, it is Mohammed Mustafa.”
There was a belt on her waist, what is it?
Gabriel: “It is Ali. It is her husband. Of her earrings one is Hasan, the other is Husayn, Shepper and Shupper.”
And her shoe?
Gabriel: “These are the ‘spiritual seekers’ (talip) who love her.”
Father Adam saw and accepted them.
When he had seen it, Gabriel brought Father Adam back to the lower level.
When this happened, Melekî Tawûs saw them.
He turned into a peacock, and from the form of a bird he entered the skin of a serpent.
As a snake, he slipped through the keyhole of heaven and got inside.
After having been inside, he turned back into a peacock.
He looked for Eve and found her.
He wandered around with her. While he chatted with her, brought her near the wheat,
Melekî Tawûs asked: “What is this?”
Eve: “It is a food, but forbidden to us.”
Melekî Tawûs: “Now you are telling me that God brought you to heaven because God loves you. What exists on earth and in the hereafter is all here. Life and death are both here. And this is forbidden to you? What kind of love is that? How does God love you?”
When he finished, Eve asked him again: “What is this?”
Melekî Tawûs: “Whatever this is, eat it and you will see.”
Eve, without even looking, ate it.
Her clothes slipped off.
As she stood naked, she saw her place of shame.
When she saw this,
She wanted to go right, (but) had forgotten the word “right.”
She went left, (but) had forgotten the word “left.”
She went back, (but) had forgotten the word “back.”
She went forward, (but) had forgotten the word “forward.”
Melekî Tawûs turned into a serpent, slipped through the keyhole and went away.
Father Adam came. Eve was totally different.
Adam asked: “What is it, Eve?”
Eve: “Adam, do not even ask about it. I ate this grain. This is why.”
Adam: “This grain was forbidden to us, tell me the truth.”
Eve: “I am telling the truth. If you do not believe me, eat it yourself.”
Adam ate and he became like Eve.
He could go neither left nor right, neither back nor forward.
There was no place for him in heaven.
Gabriel became aware of it, and, instead of God, he went to tell Mohammed-Ali
And Mohammed-Ali ordered Adam and Eve to be banished from heaven.
Adam (found himself) on the top of Mount Judi (Cûdî), and Eve near the Indian Sea,
They wept for 200 years, and did nothing but weep.
During these 200 years, Father Adam woke up once.
When he woke up, he said:
“In the name of God the all-compassionate, the most merciful, praise be to the Lord of the Universe, to the Messenger of God.”
Gabriel heard and went to Mohammed-Ali.
He said: “O Messenger of God, have compassion for Adam.”
Ali replied: “Adam is banished, (I have) no compassion for him.”
Gabriel said: “He pronounced your name.”
Then Ali and Mohammed, from the same mouth in heaven, told Gabriel:
“Go as fast as you can, reach them and do what you have to do!”
Gabriel came and awakened Father Adam.
How did he wake up?
“In the name of God the all-compassionate, the most merciful, the messenger of God, Ali is the Friend of God, and the Friend of God is Ali.”
Gabriel asked: “Father Adam, where did you see them, how do you know about them?”
Father Adam: “My brother, when you brought me to the upper floor of heaven,
when you showed me Fatima, I saw what is written on the crown of Fatima.
I read it there, saw it there.”
Gabriel said: “Then wake up.”
Adam woke up and his first question was, where Eve was.
Gabriel: “She is weeping near the Indian sea, she is weeping and calling your name.”
Then he brought Adam to Eve.
The vast world is empty: Adam, Eve, and Gabriel.
There is no one else.
They asked each other what to do, what not to do.
Gabriel said to Father Adam: “From now on you are husband and wife.
You will have children, all of them twins: One girl, one boy.
You will marry the younger girl off to the older boy, the older girl to the younger boy. Feasting and wealth will result in this world.”
To this command, Father Adam gave his acceptance, and children were born.
When they reached the age of marriage,
he told them: “I will give you in marriage.”
The children said: “Father, how can we be married? We are sisters and brothers.”
“Yes,” said Adam, “but this is God’s command. This should be done because there is no one else. Younger sister to older brother. Older sister to younger brother.”
When he said these things, the older brother did not accept it.
“I want my own twin,” he said.
But Father Adam did not accept.
Father Adam issued a decree, and by that criterion he would make a decision.
He wanted a piece of produce from everyone, according to their profession.
He told them that whoever would arrive first, would have the older daughter.
The older son was a farmer, the younger was a shepherd.
The field of the older son was far from home.
The younger son grabbed a ram from among the animals, and came to his father.
When the older son came, he realized that his younger brother has arrived before. Father Adam said: “God’s Command shall not be broken. The older daughter belongs to the younger son, and the younger daughter to the older son.”
The older brother Cain (Kabil) did not accept it.
Once a year Father Adam used to visit a holy place to worship, and stayed there for eight days. Cain waited for this moment, and when his father left, he took the younger brother to the forest. He killed him right there. He took the body with him, because he did not know how to hide it. In the sky he watched a crow killing another one. Then he saw how the crow dug a grave and buried the other.
So he repeated this: he dug a grave and buried his brother.
When he returned home her mother asked him: “Where is Abel (Abil)?”
Cain: “Am I Abel’s keeper? He may have gone with my father.”
When the eight days had passed, Father Adam came home.
He saw everyone except Abel, and asked for him.
They said: “We thought he was with you, he has not been here since you went away.”
Then Father Adam immediately left to look for Abel.
He could not find him.
He was about to give up when he lay down near a rock and fell asleep.
Gabriel came while he was sleeping and woke him up.
He asked: “Why this sadness, my brother?”
Father Adam: “O brother, my son is lost.”
Gabriel: “Your son is not lost. Cain killed him, his grave is right there.”
Adam stood up and went towards the grave. He took Abel and brought him with him.
The ritual duties for the dead were performed for Abel.
This ritual began with him.
Once the rituals had been performed, he said:
“My God, I am a body and soul who believed (in you) and prayed to you. I accepted your command. But my son accepted neither your command nor mine. I repudiate him as my son. You, too, ban him from your dwelling. I will do whatever you order.”
Then Gabriel came as the messenger of God.
He told him: “Your prayer was accepted by God. Take him away and leave him on a mountain that is so remote that you will not see him and he will not see you.”
Then Father Adam took him away, to leave him behind on a mountain.
Before this, Melekî Tawûs was banned from the celestial realm.
When Father Adam had been created from earth, all angels, fairies, and giants were ordered to prostrate themselves before Adam.
Melekî Tawûs was called (again), to give him a second chance.
All prostrated except Melekî Tawûs.
Not aware of the light in Adam, he said:
“I am an angel made from fire, whilst he is a body made from earth. I will not prostrate myself (before him).”
He wanted to hit Adam, but he could not.
He wanted to spit on him but his own saliva became a ring and stuck on him.
So then he prayed—he realized his fault and said:
“O God, I did wrong.”
God replied: “You did wrong to yourself, now go and save yourself.”
And He banned him.
Since then, Melekî Tawûs, as one who does not know himself, is called Satan.
Melekî Tawûs heard about Cain, and found him on the mountain.
To see whether he was conscious, he asked him a question:
“How did your father perform the ritual for your brother?”
Cain answered that he did it with fire.
When he got the answer to his question, he understood that Adam had a religion.
Then he told Cain: “My origin is fire and wind. If I want I burn the world, you will be burned with it. If you listen to my word, I won’t burn the world. The world has four corners. You shall take three of them, and the remaining one will be your father’s. But I have some advice for you.”
Cain said: “What advice would you give me?”
He said: “I will make five idols for you. Their names are: Yakut, Yatuk, Yasuk, Nasuk, Nasır. Do not leave those five idols, and three-fourths of the world will be yours. And your father will always have to live with less.”
A long time afterward, Mother Eve bore seventy-two children in all.
After a while, Father Adam and Eve did not get along well.
Adam became miserable and prayed to God: “What was my fault?
You created me, and I live in this coldness.”
And God knew it.
God called Gabriel.
“Go,” said God, “there is a girl named Naciye among the houris in heaven. Take and bring her, give her to Father Adam. From now on, Naciye shall serve Father Adam.”
Gabriel carried out God’s command, betrothed Naciye to Father Adam and came back.
He said to God, “I have done it and carried out your command.”
Father Adam had not seen Naciye, because he was not at home yet.
Eve was the first to see her before Father Adam did.
Eve approached her and asked: “Who are you?”
Naciye: “I have been sent by God from Heaven as an angel.”
“Oh!,” said Eve.
She left her work and went directly to Father Adam.
“Father Adam! I have committed a lot of mistakes against you. Forgive my mistakes. From now on, whatever your wish is, I shall do it.”
Father Adam: “If you really mean it, I will forgive you.”
“Only on one condition,” Eve said then. “You will not marry anyone after me.”
Father Adam: “I will not marry if you keep your word.”
Then Father Adam came home; saw that a girl was sitting on his bed.
“Who are you?” he asked her.
“I am Naciye, one of the houris. You had prayed to God in your grief, and God sent me to you as your wife so that I can serve you from now on.”
Then Father Adam thought:
“An oath is a serious matter.”
He did not approach Naciye, and this became known to God.
God sent again Gabriel: “Go to ask Adam what is going on.”
Gabriel came and asked.
Father Adam told about the promise he had given to Eve.
After Gabriel’s warning, Father Adam wanted to carry out God’s command,
but at the same time he did not want to breach his promise to Eve, because keeping one’s promise is an obligation.
Father Adam thought again.
To solve the problem,
He read all the history books,
written before and after him.
He could not find an answer.
The oath is (a) solemn (thing); he did not want to breach it.
Then he asked Eve: “I am (created) from nur (“light”). And you?”
Eve said: “I am from nur too.”
Thereupon they said: “Both of us will breathe into a jar, and see what will happen.”
And they did so. Adam breathed into his jar, Eve into hers.7
Eve, curious to know the outcome, went and opened the jar on the thirty-ninth day.
In her jar, she saw all the creatures on earth that walk on their bellies.
7 To have a clean heart, one has to master one’s nefs/nafs (“lower ego”). This is translated by Alevis as one should not lie, should not steal, and should not commit adultery. Nefes (“breath”) here symbolizes the nefs.
In Adam’s jar she saw a child of light.
Out of anger she shook the jar for a bit and went away.
On the fortieth day they came together. In Adam’s jar the child was still alive, but he was lame.
This time Eve admitted (she was in the wrong) and agreed with the rightness of Adam’s decision.
The child was called Naci (“the saved one”), and when he grew up, they gave Naciye to him in marriage.
The Forty8 came from them.
From Adam’s breath and the angel Naciye.
And they called them the “Group of Naci” (Güruhu Naci).9
This is what happened:
Father Adam is the father of the Forties,
All Prophets, Imams, and all of us,
All seekers of this Path,
All of us are from this lineage:
Bismi Şah Allah Allah
Ya Adam Ata Ya Safi Allah
Şit aleyh selam Güruhi Naci
Enus aley selam
Yardi aley selam
Kenan aley selam
Heno aley selam
Ramak aley selam
Nuh naci Allah
Sam aley selam
Yunus aley selam
Yahya aley selam
In the name of King God
O Father Adam, the innocent one of God
Seth—peace be upon him—the descendant of Naci
Enoch, peace be upon him
Yardi, peace be upon him
Canan, peace be upon him
Heno, peace be upon him
Ramak, peace be upon him
Noah, the saved one of God
Sam, peace be upon him
Jonah, peace be upon him
John, peace be upon him
8 This is a reference to the forty celestial beings. It is believed that they were the first ones who held a jam (cem) ceremony in the esoteric world. Cem is the main ritual meeting of the Alevis.
9 Kılagöz also added a second version of this story, called the story of Güruhu Naciye: When Adam told Gabriel about the promise he made to Eve, Gabriel said: “What is the promise you gave to Eve compared to God’s command?” Thus, Adam and Naciye became husband and wife. Naciye got pregnant just once by Father Adam. But she gave birth to forty children at one birth. She left thirty-nine of them in the cave Xar. She brought one home, they called him Seth. She fed him with breast milk, and until she brought him home he had no speech. When he began to talk, they gave him water, but he did not drink water. They gave him bread, but he did not eat bread. His parents asked: “Why don’t you eat, son?” Then he said: “My thirty-nine siblings are in the cave Xar, how could I eat?” Then Adam asked Naciye: “What does this mean?” “The child’s word is true,” said Naciye. “I gave birth to 40 children in one birth.” Then Father Adam said, “Go and bring them quickly.” Naciye left and brought the children, who were fed better than this child. Then these children became Güruhu Naciye (“The Group of Naciye”).
Zekeriya aley selam
Yakup aley selam
Ya İbrahim Halil Allah
İsmail aley selam
İshak aley selam
Eyüp aley selam
Harun aley selam
Lüt aley selam
Zubeyir aley selam
Cergivis aley selam
Ya Davud Nur Allah
Musayi Kerim Allah
İsayi Ruh Allah
Muhammed Resul Allah
Imam Ali Al Murteza
İmam Hasan, Halki Rıza
İmam Husayn, Şahı Kerbela
İmam Ali Zayn Al-Abidin
İmam Muhammad Al-Baqir Dünya
İmam Ja’far Al-Sadiq, Nuri Nur Allah
İmam Musa Al-Kadhim Rayber
İmam Ali Al-Ridha, Piri Horasan
İmam Muhammad Al-Taqi
İmam Ali Al-Naqi
İmam Hasan Al-Askeri
İmam Muhammad Al-Mahdi.
Zechariah, peace be upon him
Jacob, peace be upon him
O Abraham, Friend of God
Ishmael, peace be upon him
Isaac, peace be upon him
Job, peace be upon him
Aaron, peace be upon him
Lot, peace be upon him
Zubeyr, peace be upon him
Cergivis, peace be upon him
O David, the light of God
Moses, the generous one of God
Jesus, the spirit of God
Mohammed, the messenger of God
Imam Ali, the chosen one
Imam Hasan, the contented one of the community
Imam Hussayn, the King of Karbala
Imam Ali Zayn al-Ābidīn
Imam Muhammad al Baqir, the World
Imam Ja‘far al-Sādiq, his light is the light of God
Imam Musa al Kādhim, the Guide
Imam Ali al-Ridā, the Pir of Khorasan
Imam Muhammad al-Taqi
Imam Ali al-Naqi
Imam Hasan al-Askeri
Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi.
And the prophet Khizr, always being there for us.
Gabriel is beloved by God,
Ali is beloved by Mohammed;
Michael, Israfil, and Azrael are witnesses.
God, Gabriel, Mohammed, Ya Ali. All of them are apparent in this world.
All together is Haq (“Truth”) for us.
The only witnesses to them are the angels.
And Father Adam is the head of the Sayyid lineage.
When you will reach the gate of Heaven, all these (questions) will be asked forever.
Just as these were asked of Gabriel.
“Who are you?”
At this time, you will need to know who you really are.
You shall answer,
Whoever you are, when called upon;
If allowed, go on; if not, turn back.
(Then) Hell’s gate will be opened for you.
Always be ready for these questions:
“Who are you, whose child are you?”
“The body and soul are one, they function as two.
One is the mother, one is the father.”
They said about this:
“God exists, God in two:
One is Gabriel, one is Himself,
One is sky, one is earth.
One is east, one is west,
One is sun, one is moon,
One is morning, one is night.
One is water, one is soil,
One is sky, one is earth,
The corpse came alive,
Body and soul became Father Adam.
From Father Adam, mother and father,
God’s secret, God’s light.
As the inner secret in the endless sea,
When the Imam is known,
That gate shall be opened.”
No one sees Gabriel, Mohammed, and Ali;
Murshid, pir, and rayber exist in their place.
When they are not known they retreat too.
When one retreats, (then) his place is known.
It is called Seven Tamu (“hells”).
It is asked, as it was asked in heaven:
“Who is the one who will intercede for you?
With 124 thousand names, four gates, twelve pillars;
With 366 ropes, 1,001 names, 80,000 words,
With 90,000 forms of wisdom, 6,666 words of advice,
And as four elements, and six creations, (answer) by saying:
“O God, we possess body and soul.”
By saying: “In the name of God, in the name of Shah.”
Swearing by God, at the gate of heaven;
“What is crude, what is refined?
Who is the friend, who is the foe?”
All (this) shall be asked.
Answers to all questions have been given in white letters, but not in black letters.
When the creation of Adam happened,
God called him first a prophet.
While he was a prophet, who were his believers?
What was the blessing of the first prophet Father Adam?
There was no body and no soul.
If there was, it was not a human being.
But if there was, it existed under different names:
Days, devils, angels, houris, and all living beings.
No one knows what it was.
Adam went to Heaven to see his believers.
That building in heaven is the body of all that has been created,
It was Father Adam himself.
Gabriel said to Father Adam:
“If you know yourself, you are holier than God;
if you do not know yourself you are lower than God.”
And Father Adam commanded this to be his miraculous creation.
His miraculous creations are the daughter and son, as he called them mother and father.
You shall not forget: our secret, hidden in Dervish Earth,10
Comes from the earth, and returns to the earth.
This path was given to us in this form,
On condition that we shall be held responsible for it.
To remember the path, to remember Him.
Therefore we pray facing the sun every morning:
Cemalê Elî Mıhemmed
Me ra dest bide
Me ra ji cemalê xwe mahrum meke
Em kulê te ne
Ji te zêtir em kesî nas nakin
The Face of Ali Mohammed
Do not deprive us of your face
We are your servants
We do not know, no other than you
10 Hardo Dewrêş (“Dervish Earth”) is a popular expression used in Dersim with a double meaning. First, it is a reference to the earth as the home of wandering dervishes in search of the Truth. Secondly, the expression is also used as a synonym for Dersim, a region known for its many holy places and wandering dervishes and sayyids.
Tu him zayê me ye
Him mirinê me ye
Navê te yî Xadê ye
Xadê yê mezin e.
You are both our birth
And our death
Your name is God
God the great.
God is one, but He creates through His second-in command.
While Gabriel was living with the soul of God,
He conveyed all sciences to those who existed.
Gabriel conveyed this knowledge to Father Adam.
Father Adam became Mother and Father.
Man and woman came from Mother and Father.
The Levh-i Kalem came from that, and son and daughter came from that.
And birth and death came from that.
God exists in all words, in all creations
But if body and soul did not exist,
no creation could see and know any other creation.
God exists, yes, God exists as the owner of the world,
But God exists when the questions “what is God, how is God?” are asked.
It is necessary to get the answer.
If there is no answer, there is no learning and no knowledge.
That is because there is a statement for that.
Haq (“Truth”) is mother and father.
There is no halāl and harām in God’s name,
All that God does is halāl, halāl is from God.
God will not punish anyone,
Everyone will be punished for their own actions.
Everyone will see what is caused by their own deeds,
So nothing of this affects God,
His name will not be connected to evil.
Satan is the devil, being mutated from an angel,
Made from an element that does not offer a remedy for his suffering.
He is neither woman nor man.
And harām exists in everyone who is like Satan,
In all who repeat that first fault.
Heaven and hell exist in everyone.
That is because the faithful one becomes unfaithful.
Cain (descended) from Father Adam, Ham from Prophet Noah.
Therefore 124,000 floods occurred in the world.
Because the bodies of Satan and Cain are in the world.
That is why, first and above all, God created heaven and hell,
He saw these things coming.
God, Gabriel, life, the body, water and earth are one.
Earth is our body.
And our soul and our life are both God and Gabriel.
All of them are water, earth, and blood.
When it completed (its development) in the endless sea,
The External World becomes a rose and a rose garden.
We live as if we have seen God.
It seems that God is here.
His name has become the Endless Sea.
If we do not know, the First Man inside us will be disappeared.
If the External World exists,
that is in order (for us) to know the secret of the universe.
Zulfiqar is in the hands of the one who knows the Internal World.
Then he will read that great book, the four (holy) books are contained in it.
Let us find that book.
Let us find that master, learn the lesson.
There will be absolutely nothing immature in it.
The world was once water.
The Master of the World (speaking) as water said:
“This world was once thus:
It was neither sea nor water.
It was both sea and water.
I wonder what this world was and what it is?”
It is necessary to have the answer to this too.
When this world had been created, it was restless in the universe,
A yellow cow existed.
They brought this yellow cow.
There was a distance of five centuries [of traveling] between the horns of this yellow cow. They put the world between the horns.
The world remained restless in that position too.
Then, when a great mountain appeared, there was no life, so how could anyone see it?
The breadth of the mountain also measured the distance of five-centuries’ (travel).
They put the world on it, and still the world remained restless.
No remedy could be found yet.
There was a fish in the water.
The Master of the World held the head of the fish;
He took the fish from the water and traveled the distance of five centuries’ (travel) while dragging it after him.
But the fish could not yet come out of the water.
And they put the world on it, but still the world remained restless.
And when the first human was created,
The knowledge of the world was put in the brains of this body and soul,
So it could find its place and find its peace.
And it found (peace), but now the human became restless.
I wonder who was this first body and soul?
Only the owner knows it.
However, God exists as the secret of all wisdom.
And it is in the body and soul (i.e., the human existence).
We should look for Him, in order to know Him.
We know God through water, through earth, through the body, and through the soul.
God, Gabriel, Mohammed, Ali are one in the secret of the universe.
When coming into the external universe,
They are Father Adam.
God means faith and devotion.
Mohammed is the Teacher (murshid).
And Ali is the Master (pir).
His origin, his essence, and his outer form are the Prophet Khizr.
And Gabriel is the Guide.
The Twelve Imams are hidden in it (i.e., in the External Existence).
Anyone else is a seeker.
They are the children of Father Adam.
Whoever exists in time, he or she is a child.
Whoever likes this Path,
When knowledge and devotion are present,
With mother and father,
With water and soil
Let him come to our court.
His origin, his essence comes from water and earth,
Our secret comes from water and earth.
Come my child, come my child,
Come my child, come my child.
University of Amsterdam
Asatrian and Arakelova 2003
Garnik Astarian and Victoria Arakelova. “Malak-Tawus: Peacock Angel of the Yezidis.” Iran and the Caucasus, 7.1-2:1-36.
Hasan Ayyıldız. Buyruk: İmamı Cafer Buyruğu Hakiki Din Yolu. Ankara: Ayyıldız Yayınları.
John K. Birge. The Bektashi Order of Dervishes. London: Luzac.
Martin van Bruinessen. “Veneration of Satan among the Ahl-e Haqq of Gûrân Region.” Bulletin of Kurdish Studies, 4.3:6-41.
Erdal Gezik. “How Angel Gabriel Became Our Brother of the Hereafter (On the Question of Ismaili Influence on Alevism).” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 43.1:56-70.
Heinz Halm. Kosmologie und Heilslehre der frühen Ismāʾīlīya: Eine Studie zur islamischen Gnosis. Wiesbaden: Steiner.
Philip G. Kreyenbroek. Yezidism—Its Background, Observances, and Textual Tradition. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen.
David Shankland. The Alevis in Turkey: The Emergence of a Secular Islamic Tradition. London: Routledge Curzon.
Rıza Yıldırım. Geleneksel Alevilik İnanç, İbadet, Kurumlar, Toplumsal Yapı, Kolektif Belek. Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları.
Richard C. Zaehner. Zurvan: A Zoroastrian Dilemma. New York: Biblo and Tannen.
This page is intentionally left blank.