Once there was and once there wasn’t, when the flea was a porter and the camel a barber, when I was rocking my father’s cradle, ‘tingir mingir’.
It was the twelfth century and the Seljuks battled their way through Central Asia, withstanding the dangers that came upon their path towards Anatolia. The Mongols were everyone’s nightmare as the Turkish beyliks fought to protect their provinces. Finally, in 1071, the Seljuqs defeated the Byzantines in the battle of Manzikart, providing a secure settlement for the beyliks.
We had many intellectuals that shaped the way of the Ottoman understanding. Great thinkers and writers like Ahmad Yesevi, Haci Bektashi Veli, Mevlana Rumi, Sari Saltuk and my sheikh Tapduk Emre, the master of Turkish poets. He is buried in a tomb in Emre village, Kula, Turkey. His tomb is visited by thousands of visitors each year.
Some may claim that I was born in the year 1238, some may argue otherwise. While my tomb is yet to be found, it is true that I had been around at the beginning of the thirteenth century. My poems are the lasting evidence.
Islamic tradition dictates my life. I found peace through Islam, as well as the ability to question what is and what is not. Is this reality? What is real and what isn’t? Am I Yunus? Yunus Emre? Or is Yunus me? Are we all Yunus, like the prophet Yunus, making us feel the need to repent and be in constant repentance – towbah?
Submission: an integral part of what it is being a Muslim.
God permeates the whole wide World,
Yet His truth is revealed to none.
You better seek Him in yourself,
You and He aren’t apart – you’re one.
Come, let us all be friends for once,
Let us make life easy on us,
Let us be lover and loved ones,
The earth shall be left to one.
The reason for studying is to know one’s self
If you do not know yourself
What good is this studying
Since Mevlana Hudavendger looked at us
His majestic glance is the mirror of our heart
The person who calls himself
A Muslim should know requirements of it
He should follow the order of God and pray five times daily
Haci Bektashi Veli was my guide and he advised me to follow the way of Tapduk Emre and so I joined Tapduk Emre’s dergah, a word of many meanings: portal, place, threshold that gives dignity, order, stature.
If I don’t say that O love,
The pain of love strangles me.’
If you want to clean the dust of the hearts
Tell that word, what is the essence of the word.
It is Your love that has taken me from me
What I need is you, You
I have been burning day and night
What I need is You, You
The dervish chest must be cut
His tearful eyes ready to weep;
He must be as docile as sheep.
You cannot become a dervish.
If anger exists, if it’s true,
Muhammad would have felt it too;
So long as you have wrath in you,
You cannot become a dervish
I spent thirty years at Sheikh Tapduk’s dergah, but felt like I had gained nothing. Instead, I felt disingenuous and felt like I had lost my connection with God. I believed it was time to leave, before I fell deeper into the pit of doom. I set off on a journey, hoping to find answers for my disorientation and despair. On my journey, I crossed paths with several dervishes that were also travelling. We enjoyed each other’s company and decided to continue our journey together.
When night fell, one of the dervishes raised his hands to the sky and prayed to the Lord. Lo and behold! As soon as he completed his prayer a magnificent feast lay before us. The very next evening, the same thing happened after the second dervish opened his hands in prayer.
On the third night, it was my turn. I could not bring myself to tell the dervishes that I had fled my dergah in shame. And so, I raised my hands and prayed: ‘Whoever these two asked, I also ask through that person’. I willed for my prayer to be accepted in order to save face. Alas! To my amazement an even bigger feast was spread before us. Before I could process how this had happened, my companions expressed their amazement and begged me to tell them who I asked through. I insisted they first tell me who they asked through, to which they replied,
‘We were asking through the dervish, Yunus Emre, the one who worked at the great Tapduk Emre’s dergah for 30 years’.
O God, if you would ever question me,
This world, be my outright answer to Thee:
True, I sinned- brutalised my own being,
But what have I done against you, my King?
Did your dominion become any less?
Did I usurp any of your prowess?
You built me a bridge to cross, thin as hair;
Out of your traps I’m to choose my own snare.
You can see everything, you know me – fine;
Then, why must you weigh all these deeds of mine?
Do you still seek revenge though you killed me,
Since I rotted, the darkest soil filled me.
No harm ever came from Yunus to you
Open, secret – all things are in your view.
Ego can get the better of man. I have learned this by seeing many people fall into the trap of narcissism.
Don’t boast of reading, mastering science
Or of all your prayers and obeisance.
If you don’t identify Man as God,
All your learning is of no use at all.
The true meaning of the four holy books
Is found in the alphabet’s first letter.
You talk about that first letter, preacher;
What is the meaning of that – Could you tell?
It has been said that I had three thousand poems and collected them in a Divan. Through them, I share my soul. I belong to this World. I deal with the pain and happiness of this material World:
I am not here on earth for strife,
Love is the home of the loved one;
I came here to build a true heart.
And yet, I remind myself that life is short. At the end of our lives, we will sit in front of the Judge and be called to account for our deeds:
We have no knowledge of whose turn has come:
Dashing through men’s lives as His own orchard,
He damns and strips anyone He chooses.
It is hard to find any references to my time period within my poems, but what can be found are references to never-ending social problems which have endured long past my time. The problems in my poems are universal and timeless:
Masses become righteous if you become righteous,
One cannot find righteousness if you are crooked.
Oh dervish Yunus,
Don’t tell this word
In a bent and devious way
A Molla Kasım comes and questions
Yunus to Mevlana: “You have written too much. If I were you I would say:
‘I wrapped myself with flesh and bone
I’ve appeared as Yunus…’
Call me Yunus, the wandering dervish, one who seeks knowledge and wisdom. That is the way of the Sufi, mystic Yunus, the student of Tapduk Emre.
I am Yunus, the wandering dervish.
You are Yunus.
We are Yunus.