Ahmet Yasevi (1093-1166) was born in the town of Sayram in western Turkistan and educated and lived in the towns of Yesi and Bukhara. He is the author of Divan-i Hikmet (Book of Wisdom). Although he knew Arabic and Persian languages, he wrote in Turkish. He followed the line of Ebu Hanife in terms of religion. He also strove to transform the system of “folk piety” which existed among Turks in villages as well as among nomads as a way of religious life into a model for Turkish Sufism. He was successful in merging ancient Turkish wisdom with Islamic concepts.
It may be argued that the “first Turkish Sufism line” is in fact a moral and scientific philosophy, which was present among Turkish people before Islam, which later reconciled the collective “Turkish wisdom” with Islamic elements. For this reason, it has characteristics, which contradicted with the perceptions of “Persian Sufism” which was starting to develop in that period. The first period of Turkish Sufism appears to have been easily understood as a moral system for a moral purpose, with concepts like devotion to one’s own country, repentance, renunciation and soul advice. In his explanations, Yesevi gives examples from his own life and experiences. That he is simple and easily understood brought about the spread of his views very quickly and he was accepted as a saint (veli) and became the one who was followed. Hence “Khorasan dervishes” who came to Anatolia from Central Asia took the views of Yesevi wherever they went and gave rise to the spread of Divan-i Hikmet in Anatolia. In this way it may be said that Ahmet Yasevi merged the Central Asian Turkish culture and Turkish way of life with Islamic elements and thus constituted a “Turkish-Islamic life model” and had these views spread throughout Anatolia and the Balkans via wandering dervishes.
Reference: Prof.Dr. Hanifi Ozcan, “Philosophy among the Early Muslim Turkish States,” The Turks, Vol.2, Istanbul: Yeni Turkiye Yayinlari, 2002.
Pictures from the Tomb of Hodja Ahmet Yasevi in Western Turkistan, Kazakhistan below:
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):