The Bektashi Institutions in Southeastern Europe: Alternative Muslim Official Structures and their Limits

In: Die Welt des Islams
Nathalie Clayer Paris

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There has always been a plurality of trends within Islam, to which Sufism also belonged. Within the Ottoman Empire, mystical groups remained among the uncentralized forms of Islam until the end of the 19 th century and the creation of an association of the dervish orders, which, however, provided only a very partial structure for them. In 20 th -century Balkans, the Bektashis, one of the major Sufi orders present in the region, secured an official and institutionalized structure in Albania from the beginning of the 1920s. After the collapse of the Communist regimes in Albania and Yugoslavia, which had put strong obstacles against the free development of religion (especially in Albania where it was banned in 1967), a Bektashi organization was reestablished in Tirana. The paper discusses the main normative features of this organization, called Komuniteti Bektashian. Kryegjyshata Botërore Bektashiane (“Bektashi Community. World Bektashi Grandfather”). Special reference is given to the changing power relations within the community caused by this novel structure (its members being often linked to other Albanian or foreign actors—Albanian politicians, Iranian Shi'i networks, Turkish Alevi networks, etc.). The article also examines the complex and disputed relationship of the Bektashi organization with the official Islamic religious institutions, its international, or rather pan-Albanian, dimension, and also its inner functioning which is not as centralized as it is supposed to be.

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