I heard the name Yaman Dede when I came across a poignant letter of his in a book. A poet born in Kayseri Talas in 1884, whose family migrated to Kastamonu when he was a baby, a lawyer who graduated from Istanbul Faculty of Law, and a Turkish Greek who later adopted Islam. Famous poem praising the Prophet Muhammad beginning with the verse “The heart is covered in blood because of your desire…” belongs to him. Diamandi means diamond. It is pronounced as “Yamandi” in Anatolia. His master Ahmed Remzi Dede gave the name “Yaman” (Strong) to this beautiful soul who adored Mevlânâ and later adopted Islam. Yaman becomes a Dede, a title bestowed to spiritual, wise men. Then he is called Yanar (Burning) Dede because he was burning with his love for the God. He taught in numerous minority schools. He taught his students Turkish and Mevlânâ. I wrote Yaman Dede’s poignant life story as a novel, and preferred letter format. I also benefited from his letters. I present you with a short passage. Novel is soon to be released.
“My chIld with a beaut Iful heart,
My mother was a member of a foundation in Kastamonu. She would frequently go to foundation meetings despite my father’s complaints. When I go all the way back to the days I first became able to understand, I remember her prompting us to behave in accordance with the practices of her religion. She would observe fast four times a year, would not eat meat and fish, but only before the Easter. Wednesdays and Fridays were of utmost importance. She made sure to observe fast the day before. She enjoyed Saturdays more. Saturday was the holiest of days. She made us wear gowns with half sleeves, and a cap in the same color. She invariably wore a long, black robe. I remember going to weddings several times. How the bride dressed up meticulously. An outcome of days of thinking, and hours of effort. In pure white… Like an angel. All eyes are sparkling. Hearts of parents sink. Sadness is mixed with pride. Bride and groom walk reverently to the Priest, accompanied by their godparents, hand the Priest the ring, and wait together. As the Priest prays, a crown interlaced with a leaf in golden color is held over bride and groom’s heads. After the prayer, couple makes several tours hand in hand, followed by their godparents. A glass of wine is served. First the groom drinks it and offers it to the bride, and after she takes a sip, they repeat it for a second time, then glass is given to the Priest and after he drinks the rest, he breaks the glass. This is the part I enjoyed the most, breaking of the glass… I would look forward to it.
My beautiful child,
You ask me how I am doing. I, too, do not know. Now I do not have as many denials as I used to. I listen to my heart. There is almost no denials left. Now that I think, us emigrating from Talas to Kastamonu was just another stop for my soul… We had no other capital but love. Now I understand better why I often told my students “ Becoming an imam or a priest does not matter, my child. Can rocks begin to talk when imam preaches in the mosque or priest in the church? This is what matters. Work and give such a sermon, and I will proudly come and kiss your hand.” Kastamonu was the first word on a new page in my life. It was a part of Bolu sanjak once. Sheik Şaban-ı Veli came to Kastamonu from Bolu range. Nothing is coincidental. And there is nothing new my daughter, everything happened in eternity. Now the image is reflected on the curtain and we see it. What happened happened, and what will happen took place too… We are comprehending now. Today I received sad news. My uncle-in-law is hopelessly sick with pneumonia, the doctor gave up on him. I went and begged my Saint, asked for his benevolence. I returned to find the patient a hundred percent different, doctor was also surprised that evening. He is Christian but he believed that he gained the benevolence of the Saint. He came along with me on Friday to visit and expressed his gratitude, and promised to visit from time to time. That night before the Friday prayer in Eyüp Sultan, when they were reading the Koran, that desire started to burn in me and continued throughout the night. I said to myself: “After the prayer, I will leave the mosque before everyone, toss myself to the marble and cry: O believers, those who love God and his lover, trample me!” It was as if I experienced this joy in my imagination. It was as if all Muslims trampled me. I broke down with that joy. Stones envied my bliss, pigeons composed my joy with their melodies. I am now writing these sentences with the blood of my heart. I wonder which one of my students would understand these sentences the best. I am not in a state to comprehend what I am writing. A sacrifice that is about to be slaughtered on the doorstep of the Sultan, does he have even a tiny bit of understanding? This will go on until the resurrection, they will slaughter me until the moment I am born again, my blood will continue to flow until resurrection… As the holy sword of a mighty sultan strikes my bloody neck, I die with overwhelming joy. I die each moment. God sends me a new life, I offer each and every one of them to the sultan. What you see before you is my soul separated from its mold by sultan’s sword at the doorstep of the holy of the holiest, just one of those lives… No matter how much I explain, it is in vain my daughter, because it is him who is speaking. My real identity is that of the sacrifice who continually dies under the feet and sword of that sultan.
My dear daughter ,
Today I went to Taksim to visit a friend. I stopped by at the small mosque next to German Embassy on my way back. When I listened to the prayer, I felt faint and performed my prayer with difficulty. It was hard for me to stand when I went out. So I leaned on mosque’s wall. I was breathing excessively. I was enfeebled. I could not hold my head up. One of my students came out of nowhere, and he was shocked to see me like that: “Are you okay, Sir? Are you sick?” he asked. I could not control the tears from my eyes. “No, son, no,” I said, “I am fine. There is nothing wrong. They
said Prayer of Muhammad a moment ago. I lose myself when I hear his name. I do not have enough strength to stand on my feet. I must either lean on somewhere or sit down.” The fire fell on poor kid’s heart too. We should not upset one another. I tried really hard not to hurt my wife and child. I tried to worship in secrecy to not to hurt them. When I was not comfortable at home, I would go to the mosques not visited by many to perform my prayers. There is no other like me who knows the small mosques at remote corners of Istanbul. Many times I ran into an acquaintance in these mosques and sadly returned before I could perform my prayer. There is no harm in performing a prayer before coming out as a Muslim, but how to explain that… What to do when one does not have the eye to see another heart?
My dear daughter, I don’t know what to write! Words are increasingly running short. Silence becomes more meaningful. There is a lot to explain but keeping quite better explains the state I am in. Today I read Mevlânâ and Fuzuli in the lesson. When the bell rang, I observed my students… Some were wailing like they received a blow from a dagger. Those were the ones who read the first 18 verses of Masnavi, burning…
My darling ,
The immortal flowers of happiness grow when watered with tears. We are in the house of bride, my mother took us to a henna ceremony in a Greek wedding, I am watching the bride, sitting with my legs crossed and my chin between my hands. Her bridesmaid wipes bride’s sweat with the small handkerchief in her hand. Then she says “an ksanagatso nifi, ksero na gamaroso”, bends over to look at bride’s face, she implies her to repeat when wiping her sweat, bride repeats: “an ksanagatso nifi, ksero na gamaroso…” “I know how to swank next time, if I become a bride again…” I liked the basil song the most: “My basil, my petite one, my manzurana*. You are the one who will take me away from my mother and father. My basil, my tiny one, my carnation. You are the one who will take
me away from my father. Come and let me kiss you, you kiss me too, and if I confess, you confess too! Come and let me kiss you and leave immediately. Let no one see you, and tell that you are their lover. There is a mole on your lips and one on my cheek. Come my beautiful bird, let me kiss you, my basil, my petite one, my coy one, come to the glazed window so I can see your face which resembles a bagel.” They cheerfully sang it several times. The wedding began on Monday and still continues, how many days have passed? At one stage, I went into the dowry room, quilts are covered as people played instruments, they do it with their hands using a quilting needle. The woman who married just one time starts the process. Later other ladies come to help. They cover it with a fabric called Istanbul cotton kerchief. Today is Wednesday. The most lively day of the wedding. Two more days to go. Guests are frequently offered coffee, Turkish delight, biscuit, sherbet and cigarettes. I loved the basil song. Let me seeMyour face which resembles a bagel.
My precious child,
This morning I opened a page for you from Divan. “You circle around my heart. And I walk around in front of your door. I am like a divider in your hand. I circle around you. I feel dizzy. I am in water, in earth, in fire. I get upset with the winds. My four elements around you. But I am not from any of these our. I am from you…”
My dear child,
You again asked difficult questions. You are right. One wonders one’s own future. Sometimes what we desire does not come true. Sometimes we come across something we have never thought of. You ask yourself, what is destiny? What is fate? Predestination, destiny, incident… These are beyond me, my child. If it is in fate and destiny, all happens by itself, paths open. One is called to that path. They say that one who comes without the call is required but destiny calls one. Finally sun came up in me in Üsküdar, I reached my Sultan there. In the Mevlevi Lodge on Doğancılar Avenue. Hail to the spirituality of our Numan Halil Dede… Other saints… In the period of gentlemen office, he revived this place as a small monastery. Dervishes from Anatolia would lodge here. A twostorey wooden building… Mausoleum, mosque and the monastery next to it. I enter through the door opening to Doğancılar Avenue, to that wide beautiful garden… It is as if I step into the heaven. A wooden niche on the wall near the garden, serves as a minaret. With the light coming through the mosque’s windows, the interior is transformed into a color and light festivity. I climb the rock stairs. A well at the garden on the left, a forbidden area on the right with eleven tombs. The house of sheik across the whirling house. My sultan is there. There is an oriel carried by two columns over the door, sultan combined both inside like glory and beauty. I open the door. It is as if I am diving into the ocean. I get rid off why’s, how’s, doubts, anxieties. I peel off my reason. When I peel off my reason, I become the reason from head to toe. I plunge my bucket, like releasing a hose to the ocean, I quaff the truth.