Mystical Poetry of Yunus Emre
Mystical Poetry of Yunus Emre
THE LITRARY WORK
A collection of 415 poems set in northwestern Anatolia sometime between the late-thirteenth and early-fourteenth centuries; composed in Turkish (as Divan-i Yunus Emre) in the fourteenth century; published in part in English in 1972.
In couplet form and a highly accessible Turkish, the poetry conveys Sufi, or Islamic mystical, ideas.
Although the poetry of Yunus Emre (c. 1240–c. 1320) is well-known throughout the Turkish-speaking world, little reliable information exists about the life of the poet. What can be ascertained comes from the probably apocryphal legends and scant autobiographical allusions in his poetry. According to a frequently repeated legend, one year when the harvest in his village was scant, Yunus Emre approached a local dervish lodge to solicit food. There he met Haci Bektaş Veli (1201-1271), founder of the Bektaşs, a mystical order that later had close ties to an elite Ottoman military guard known as the Janissary Corps. When Yunus Emre begged for wheat, Haci Bektaş offered him blessings instead. Three times Yunus refused this offering, and finally he received the wheat. On the way home, realizing his mistake, Yunus turned around and headed back to the dervish lodge for the blessing. But he had missed his chance, said Haci Bektaş, who referred Yunus to Taptuk Emre. Thus began 40 years of spiritual instruction with this teacher, during which Yunus Emre began to compose mystical poetry. From the verses themselves, it seems that he was fairly well educated; his poetry shows knowledge of the sciences of his day, and of some Persian and Arabic as well as the Turkish language. The poetry reveals more personal biographical details too—the poet was married, had children, and traveled throughout Anatolia and to Damascus. He appears to have devoted his life to putting his inspiration into poetic form in a manner that would be accessible to common people. Yunus Emre was one of the first to communicate such ideas in language close to the Turkish popularly used in Anatolia in his day.
Anatolia—from the Seljuks to the Ottomans
Yunus Emre was born in Anatolia, the peninsula that today forms the Asian part of Turkey. At the turn of the thirteenth century, before his time, Anatolia was already an international crossroads. It linked Persia and Central Asia to Byzantine Europe from east to west; from north to south, it linked the Russian steppes and Caucasus Mountains to the Arab world. Turkic nomads were already living on the peninsula by this time. They had in fact been emigrating from Central Asia to parts of the Middle East since the tenth century. After the victory of Sultan Alp Arslan, near Manzikert in 1071, a Turkic presence established itself in Anatolia under a branch of what was known as the Seljuk (also known as Seljukid) royal family. The Seljuks of Anatolia made Iconium (Konya) the capital of their domain—the sultanate of Rum. They fostered the growth of a materially rich, culturally vibrant civilization, complete with mosques, hospitals, and inn-like caravanserais. Many of these buildings, famous for their fine stonework and ceramic tiling, still stand today. In the medieval era, great intellectuals, such as the philosopher Ibn al-Arabi (1165–1240) and the Persian-born Sufi poet Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207–73) found patronage in the sultanate of Rum (see Rumi’s The Spiritual Couplets , also in WLAIT 6: Middle Eastern Literatures and Their Times).
Destructive popular rebellions (1230–40), followed by the Mongol invasion of 1243, ended Seljuk dominance and radically altered the political landscape of Anatolia. Power devolved into a patchwork of minor Turkic principalities, such as the Chandaroglu, Karesi, and Danishmand. During Yunus Emre’s lifetime, another leader, Osman (1258–1324), son of Ertugrul, appeared at the head of a border principality in northwest Anatolia. His followers emerged as the major Muslim rival of the declining (Christian) Byzantine Empire. Within a century under Osman and his successors, the Ottomans assumed control of most Byzantine territory in Anatolia. The Mongol conquerors meanwhile pursued one of two courses: they either exacted tribute and returned to Persia, or they remained in Anatolia and acculturated to Turkic society. By the time Yunus Emre began to compose his poetry, some parts of Anatolia had gained stability; emerging family dynasties, though still often involved in political competition, began to support the arts and to reestablish civic life. During the final days of Mongol overlordship (late thirteenth century), the Anatolian emirates entered an especially prosperous period. In essence, Yunus Emre was the product of a culturally sophisticated but often politically troubled environment.
The Sufis of Anatolia
The term Seljuk derives from the name of a Central Asian leader of a loose collection of Turkic tribes known as the Oghuz peoples. A grandson of Seljuk, named Tugril, directed the conquest of Persia and Iraq in 1055, and it was the line of successors who followed him that became known collectively as the Seljuks. While still in Central Asia, the group underwent a religious transformation, converting to Islam largely because of Sufi missionaries. Some authorities maintain that the Sufis succeeded so well with the Turkic population of Central Asia in part because they assumed the civic roles of the pre-Islamic spiritual leaders, or shamans. The belief is that these shamans held a prominent place in the nomadic societies, furnishing spiritual guidance about everyday problems, political advice to tribal leaders, and healthcare. Stepping into these roles themselves, the Sufis blended so smoothly into the Central Asian communities that it often became hard to distinguish them from shamans.
After 1071, when the Seljuk family consolidated authority in Anatolia, the Sufis moved there too. The Seljuks were powerful advocates of the Sunni subdivision of Islam (as opposed to the Shi ite subdivision), in which there was a mystical or Sufi branch. It is thought that some of the Sufis filled the same civic roles in Anatolia as they had in Central Asia. When the Seljuk government in Konya weakened in the thirteenth century, Sufi organizations assumed political roles and performed such governmental and administrative services as the policing of towns and roads. The Sufis helped form trade guilds in the towns and introduced new technologies to agricultural areas, including peach cultivation to the region of Bursa, which remains famous for its peaches today.
Generally, Sufis organized themselves into groups, each of which recognized a primary “guide” or “mentor” (shaykh, pir, murşid) whose name became identified with that “order” (tarikat) henceforth. The guide or mentor possessed absolute discretion in the training of his disciples, exercising an authority that was considered essential to the well-being of the order. Disciples had to undergo the rigors of training and observe the order’s guidelines, however challenging they might be. Sufi orders advocated broadly similar methods of enlightenment, but under the tutelage of successive leaders, they diversified into groups with distinct practices. Each order developed a set of rituals to aid instructors in the grooming of disciples and to set standards-of-conduct for them in everyday life. Some orders, such as the Mevlevis and Bektaşis, showed an appreciation for music and poetry. During their rituals, shaykhs and disciples recited Quranic or other verses. Sometimes these Sufis played musical instruments such as the nay (reed flute) and saz (a long-necked lute), which Yunus Emre mentions when recalling his participation in a Mevlevi ritual. In contrast, other orders—the Naqshbandiyah, for example—prohibited music, dismissing it as non-Islamic. This order taught that Satan lurked in the making of music, whereas the poet Rumi, associated with the Mevlevis, compared music to the sound of the opening of the doors to Paradise.
On the whole, Sufis had no aversion to orthodox Islam. They were in fact full members of the Islamic community themselves. One of the most important forms of devotion for the Sufi and non-Sufi alike was the statutory prayer (salat in Arabic, namaz in Persian and Turkish) offered five times a day at specific hours. Sufis shared the common view that these were opportunities to reach out to God and surrender the soul to the Divine. They likewise accepted and adhered to the four other basic prescriptions of Islam—the fast from dawn to dusk during the holy month of Ramadan, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the distribution of alms, and the proclamation of faith in God (shahadah): “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His servant and messenger.” Together with the obligatory daily prayers, these prescriptions formed the five pillars. Although a few Sufi orders diverged from the mainstream observance of these pillars, they did not question their importance.
Where Sufis differed from the larger community of Muslims was in their use of rituals to hone one’s understanding of God as the central force. Sufi rituals were performed individually or in groups. Most importantly, they included a ritual for the recollection or remembrance of God (dhifcr), either silently hafi, kalbi) or aloud (jahri). The subject of the dhikrs could be verses of the Quran, prayers ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad (the shahadah), or religious poetry of the dervish lodges. The object was to focus attention on God.
Another significant ritual was “hearing” (sema). Sana took the form of a dance, or a series of rhythmic movements to the accompaniment of music, with the dancers frequently whirling around a director-shaykh. For Sufis, the symmetry and movement in the ritual symbolized the orderliness of the divinely guided cosmos. In many sema, the supplicant would lift one hand into the air with palm raised while the other hand faced downward toward the ground; the idea was to make the dancer an intermediary between heaven and earth. One hand reached up for knowledge from and the blessing of God; the other down toward the transitory and base material world. The sema of the Mevlevis has become world famous.
Among the Sufi orders of Anatolia, the Mevlevis and Bektaşis were known for their tolerance and inclusiveness. It is this sentiment that Yunus Emre expresses in the line “we love the created beings because of the Creator” (Yunus Emre in Golpinarli, p. 56; trans. Z. Baskal). These Sufis facilitated interaction between different religious, ethnic, and linguistic groups. Rumi, for example, composed his poetry in three languages: Persian, Turkish, and Greek.
The tolerant attitudes and well-structured organizations of Sufi orders in Antolia during the
THI BEKTAŞI ORDER
Popular legend assigns Yunus Emre to the Bektaşi (sometimes I spelled Bektaşhi) order of dervishes. This order was established in the thirteenth century (a few years before his birth), under the leadership of Haci Bektaş Veli it has mostly been characterized as a heterodox order, meaning that its members held unorthodox opinions. Some claim that Yunus Emre exhibits heterodox beliefs in his poetry that were alien to mainstream Islam because of his purported association with the Bektasis (I. Z. Eyuboglu, pp. 59, 95; Başgöz, pp. 16, 133). They note that the eastern branch of the order was influenced by the mixed religious environment of eastern Anatolia, which included Christian and shamanistic tendencies as well as practices from the other major branch of Islam, Shi’ism, which found their way into Turkey from neighboring Persia. The western branch, however, was wholly orthodox in nature. Seated in the Ottoman heartland in the lower Balkans and western Anatolia, the western Bektaşis were officially affiliated with the Janissary Corps, the Ottoman government’s primary infantry until 1826.
Seljuk period survived the Mongol invasion and carried over into the early Ottoman period. In keeping with their practice in Seljuk society, many Sufis would assume roles within Ottoman society, helping to educate the masses, establish social tranquility, and preserve and enhance particular cultural traditions.
At its philosophical core, Sufism proposes to explain the metaphysical meaning behind the universe. Sufis contend that all substances and forces that exist are physical manifestations of a divine plan—God created the world so others may appreciate His greatness and glory. Human beings hold a special place among all of existence because they alone possess the ability to reason and can therefore choose to love God of their own free will. In a well-known and often repeated saying, or hadith, of the Prophet Muhammad, God told him, “I was a Hidden Treasure and I desired (loved) to be known and I created the creatures so that I might be known” (Chittick, p. 250). It follows, say the Sufis, that the principal relationship between God and human beings is one of love, a reciprocal bond that exceeds all others. Sufis, who view the love of and for God as the central focus of their lives, try to reduce the material world to a realm of metaphor. To them, all things in the world are outward signs of God; yet to accept these things at face value or to idolize them is to be deceived, because the will of God cannot be comprehended through reason, intuition, or the senses, but only through love. The world is a transitory place of trials to attain the love of God. Love is both the cause and the goal of existence.
Accepting the religious worldview outlined above, the various orders and individuals elaborated on it in further ways. Yunus Emre’s poetry, for example, shows that for him there are three degrees of Islam—belief (iman), application or rules (islam), and doing the beautiful (ihsan). Yunus Emre uses the word Sufi or dervish for someone who has already achieved the first two degrees and is searching for the third, living the beautiful, in mind, body, and soul.
The oldest-known manuscripts of Yunus Emre’s poetry date to the fifteenth century, although at least some of the poems must have circulated orally from their inception. As is typically the case, the poems are untitled and their arrangement in the manuscript collections is not thematic The lack of an autograph manuscript or authoritative early version makes difficult the task of establishing decisively which poems are authentically Yunus’s. Nevertheless, the work is unified by the overriding idea that one can overcome base human nature and aspire to spiritual perfection through union with God. The poems suggest that Sufism is the true way to attain spiritual perfection. They are replete with Sufi ideas and images, founded on a basic devotion to developing a greater awareness of God through careful contemplation of the universe and the self. Likewise the poems conform to the Sufi conception of God as omnipresent, just, and beneficent.
There are three didactic elements in the poetry: first, death is an absolute certainty so material existence is transitory; second, one must strive to understand the order and purpose of the universe and share this knowledge; third, the ultimate goal of the human soul is to love and to praise God in appreciation of creation and in hope of reunion.
Death, the absolute certainty
The inevitability of death is a major theme in Yunus Emre’s poems. To stress the ephemeral nature of life, they portray death grotesquely as a way of warning readers (or listeners) not to form false attachments.
[Death] takes away the young and old, burns
the mother’s heart.
It untangles the hair of blonde girls on
benches where corpses are washed.
It takes away young lads in their prime.
It mixes the henna of brides with dirt.
(Yunus Emre, Yunus Emre Divani, p. 211; trans. Z. Baskal)
As in other poems, this one portrays steps in the process of death with great interest. First the angel of death takes the life out of a body. Then the corpse is carried to the graveyard. The verse goes on to describe the deceased’s separation from loved ones and the burial. Finally, angels interrogate the deceased in the grave. The scene closes with the living quickly forgetting the dead (Yunus Emre Divani, p. 23).
In this macabre manner, the poetry reminds readers that they too must leave this world and that life is a brief sojourn. Even beautiful things will pass. Couplets such as the following attest to the world’s sensual attractiveness: “This world is a bride dressed in green and red/One cannot get tired of looking at a new bride” (Yunus Emre Divani, p. 116; trans. Z. Baskal). Other couplets warn the reader not to be taken in by the world’s outward beauty: “Worshipping the world is like savoring a poisonous meal/The one who cares about the end of life abandons the meal” (Yunus Emre Divani, p. 88; trans. Z. Baskal). The aim is to redirect the reader’s focus from worldly things to the transitory nature of life.
Devotion to God becomes an alternative to fears of mortality: “The world is the enemy of people; the goal is the Soul (God) of the souls/One should know that the world passes, abandon the world, my dear” (Yunus Emre Divani, p. 170; trans. Z. Baskal). Contrasting earthly time with cosmic time, the poetry beckons readers to prepare for inevitable death. In one of the most masterful and harmonious couplets of Turkish literature, Yunus Emre holds out the eternal reward of salvation for the faithful: “Why are you afraid of death? / Don’t be afraid! You will live forever” (Yunus Emre Divani, p. 49; trans. Z. Baskal). As a Sufi, Yunus Emre believes that all life is dedicated to God and all souls must return to God, which brings them an immortality that makes human mortality inconsequential.
Understanding and explaining the order of the universe
According to the Sufis, to direct one’s heart to God requires a long mystical journey. Everyone is able to reveal the attributes of God in him or her self and to strive for perfection. An understanding of God’s totality accrues by degrees (maratib) and involves contemplation of both the natural world and human nature. As noted, there is an obligation to share the understanding one attains with others, which Yunus Emre accomplishes through his poetry.
The Beloved is with us all the time; He is not
ifferent to each person.
The length of the road depends on our selves,
I have found that the Friend is close, my friend.
Eventually, I got to know myself and I have
found the God I desired.
I was fearful until I found Him, I was rescued
from fear, my friend.
(Yunus Emre Divani, p. 373; trans. Z. Baskal)
In other couplets, Yunus Emre shares what he himself has learned by striving to understand the natural world and human nature. Underlying his strategy in the following verse is the belief that God has two visible aspects (sifat) from which to begin the journey of enlightenment. On the microcosmic level, God is manifested in certain human features. A human being possesses attributes, such as rationality and free will, which mirror divine powers. On the macrocosmic level, the order and integrity of the universe demonstrates God’s control. The human being is the more tangible aspect of God because of the accessibility and density of the representation. Yunus Emre speaks of gaining awareness of God through introspection about his own human nature.
While I was searching my self, I came upon
the Astonishing Mystery.
You should see in your self the Friend I saw
in me, the Friend.
I have looked into my self and saw the One
who becomes me within my self in my self.
I understood the One who becomes the soul
of my body, my friend.
(Yunus Emre Divani, p. 373; trans. Z. Baskal)
In this and other poems, “Friend” refers to God, whereas “friend” with a lower case “f” refers to the reader or listener. The reason why both God and the reader or listener have the same name is not only because God is a benevolent presence but also because aspects of God are evident within everyone.
The same poem alludes to Ibn Mansur al-Hallaj (857–922), a major Sufi figure. The poem later mentions al-Hallaj by name because the tenth-century mystic was a major exponent of the theory of the unity of being (wahdah al-wujud), which states that God is disclosed in all things. “I wanted and found Him, if He is me where am I? / I could not distinguish me from Him; once I became Him, friend!” (Yunus Emre Divani, p. 373; trans. Z. Baskal).
Both al-Hallaj and Yunus Emre maintain that humans and God are in fact one. In his well-known
ENLIGHTENMENT BY DEGREES
In Sufi thought, the degrees of development that an individual must undergo in the process of understanding God’s to talrty are determined by his or her knowledge (ma’rifah), Although a master (murşid) can help a seeker (murşid) tune the heart and mind to Cod, fulfillment ultimately depends on the seeker’s devotion and eagerness to find the right path. In the words of Ibn al-Arabi, “Just as the one and the same light is variously colored as it passes through pieces of gfass of various colors, the same Form of the Absolute is differently manifested in different men with different capacities” (Ibn al-Arabi in Izutsu, p. 139).
statement “I am God” (Ana’l Haqq), al-Hallaj argued that human identity is inextricably bound to its divine origin and nature. According to al-Hallaj, God’s presence within the human essence obviates the need for identification with the self. Even to say “I” is a mistake since this implies a duality. Many Sufis supported al-Hallaj by pointing to the passage in the Quran that states, “To Allah belongs the east and the west: Whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence of God” (Quran, 2:115). Still, al-Hallaj’s actions attracted the ill will of hostile authorities, who ultimately convicted and executed him (see Murder in Baghdad , also in WLA1T 6: Middle Eastern Literatures and Their Times). In death, he became a martyr for many Sufis, a revered symbol of a perfected human being who died for his enlightenment.
In love and praise
Sufis contend that the mind’s capacity to reason and to exercise free will links human beings to God, but the heart (gönul) is the dwelling place of the soul. The mind, they maintain, has its purposes but also its limits. Despite all the evidence of God in others and the natural world, a mind alone cannot fathom the essence of God. The heart, on the other hand, intuits the inherent truth of God: “My heart does not obey the one who says the human form is clay / I made the essence of this clay attain God, friend” (Yunus Emre Divani, p. 373; trans. Z. Baskal). To Sufis, one who depends solely on intelligence and
MOLLA KASIM, A CRITIC OF YUNUS EMRE
Legend has it that one day a stern teacher named Molla Kasrm found a collection of Yunus Emre’s poetry. When he sat down by the river and began to read the poems, he found them contrary to his dogmatic religious understanding. He threw 1,000 poems Into the river and 1,000 poems into the air. When Molla Kasim came to the 2,001 st poem, he noticed that the couplet said: “O Yunus! Do not tell your words in a crooked way,/Or Molla Kasim wiH come and straighten you,” The prescience of these words made Molla Kasim reafize the insightful ness of the poet whose words he had just discarded and he decided to keep the poems he still had in hand to pass on to future generations. Some interpret the story to mean that although Yunus Emre had his critics from the religious establishment, the power of his poetry eventually won them over. The legend goes on to say that fish recited the poems thrown into the river; birds sung out the ones thrown into the air These details link the poems to the creatures of nature and the divine order of the universe, an important connection from the viewpoint of Sufi cosmology.
reason to judge the world sees the “form” but not the “essence” beyond the form. (In some Sufi texts, to be called intelligent or reasonable is more a criticism than a compliment.) As shown by the couplet above, Yunus Emre’s poetry speaks of the heart’s relative importance. In other verses, he asserts that to break someone’s heart is to nullify all the good deeds performed over a lifetime. The overriding goal of the human soul is to love and to praise God in appreciation of creation and in hope of reunion. Love, the Sufis teach, has a transformational power that affects all human faculties and can bring one’s heart closer to God. In the following verses, the speaker is an impassioned lover who expresses devotion to his beloved—God. As the beloved, God has the power to negate the egoistic self: “It is Your love that has taken me from me / What I need is You, You / I have been burning [with love] day and night / What I need is You, You” (Yunus Emre Divani, p. 383; trans. Z. Baskal).
Fixing on God as the beloved helps Yunus Emre, along with other Sufis, to negate the ephemeral distractions of a passing world and to submerge himself into a higher consciousness. In the following couplet, he expresses his pleasure at being freed from materiality by love: “Neither do I become happy for wealth / Nor do I become sorry for poverty / I am consoled with Your love, / Wiiat I need is You, You” (Yunus Emre Divani, p. 383; trans. Z. Baskal). God reciprocates. In this sense, the lover becomes the beloved of God, who uses omnipotence to free the individual from worldly concerns:
Your love kills lovers
It makes the lovers dive into the ocean of love
It fills them with manifestations
What I need is You, You.
(Yunus Emre Divani, p. 384; trans. Z. Baskal)
For the Sufi who has attained a high level of awareness of God, life becomes an interminable waiting period. Detaching from the world, a perfected Sufi “dies before dying” and awaits the afterlife, the soul’s true destination—reunion with God.
Yunus Emre and the Turkish language
Yunus Emre’s use of an accessible dialect of the Turkish language is one of the most important aspects of his poetry. Previously few poets wrote in the dialect that common people could speak or understand. The poetry became groundbreaking in part because Yunus Emre structured his poems around Turkish root words and an elementary Turkish grammar so that he could convey Sufi ideas to a broad audience, whether they were literate or nonliterate. The comprehensible nature of his poetry was a major innovation, since other major poets of the day had been composing their verses in a Turkish that relied heavily on words and constructions of Arabic and Persian origins. Because of the political history of the region, these two languages long remained dominant in the literature, theology, and administration of the reigning Muslim kingdoms. One of Yunus’s contemporaries, the Turkish poet Aşik Paşa (1271–1332) went so far as to say, “Nobody would look at the Turkish language [as a poetical tool]” (Aşik Paşa in Gibb, p. 182). After Yunus Emre, an increasing number of poets wrote in accessible Turkish. Yunus Emre demonstrated that everyday language was indeed suitable for the expression of didactic and aesthetic sentiments. In doing so, he straddled the lines of social stratification in Turkish society. It became common in the twentieth century for nationalist literary historians to consider Yunus Emre the first exponent of “pure Turkish” (öztürkçe, Turkish expunged of foreign loan words, grammatical forms, and syntax) and the progenitor of a genuine Turkish literature (Köprülüü, p. 1). In his day, most Sufi orders used Arabic or Persian, predominantly in their poetry and their rituals. Whether Yunus Emre was aware of his role or not, his poetry led to wider use of Turkish in Sufi orders throughout Anatolia.
Sources and literary context
Arguing either that he was an inspired folk poet or that he was inspired directly by God, some critics have asserted that Yunus Emre was illiterate. Recent scholarship has proven that Yunus Emre was not only well educated but intimately familiar with the major religious and literary texts of his day. His poems draw on these texts, along with his real life experiences. The concerns expressed in his poetry surface surfaced earlier in the works of such figures as Ahmed Yesevi (d. 1166), Rumi (1207–1273), Fahr al-Din Iraqi (1213– c. 1289), and Ibn al-Arabi (1165–1240). Many of Yunus Emre’s couplets are interpretations of Quranic verses and hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad).
The earliest references on record to the poetry of Yunus Emre appear in fifteenth-century sources. From these and subsequent writings, it is clear that his verses enjoyed widespread favor. A broad range of dervish brotherhoods used his poetry for devotional and training purposes. Other poets imitated his choice of style and subject matter, which led to some confusion over attribution. Even poems that did not belong to Yunus Emre’s body of work were ascribed to him in later centuries.
General interest in Yunus Emre’s poetry has grown over the years, especially since Fuad Köprülü’s landmark study Turk Edebiyatinda Ilk Mutasavviflar (1918; The First Mystics in Turkish Literature). Yunus’s writings have inspired hundreds of books, poems, and plays about him. His poetry has also been honored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which proclaimed 1991 the International Yunus Emre Year, recognizing his poetry as a quintessential representation of humanistic values.
From his verse, scholars have tried to determine to which order Yunus Emre belonged, his degree of literacy and familiarity with Islamic and mystical literary traditions, the genuineness of his Sufi beliefs, and the extent to which pre-Islamic Anatolian and Turkic elements influenced him. Fuat Kopriilu stresses Yunus Emre’s intellectual ties to his Central Asian Turkic predecessor Ahmed Yesevi (Köprülü, p. 1). Burhan Toprak compares the use of Turkish in Yunus Emre’s work to Dante’s use of Italian in The Divine Comedy (Toprak, p. 19). Others portray Yunus Emre as an opponent of Islamic dogmatism, a missionary who brought the spirit of Islam to the Turks, or one of many dervish poets who played a role in the Islamization of Anatolia (Halman, Yunus Emre, pp. 2–3, 41–57; Karakog, p. 44). One reviewer of a late-twentieth-century English edition of his poetry speaks of Yunus Emre as “probably the greatest folk mystic writing in the Turkish language …. his universalism, his humanitarian and ecumenical spirit, his quintessential lyrics, and hymns, his simple and straightforward style make his verses relevant to our age”; he might well be regarded, adds this reviewer, as the premier folk poet of the whole Islamic tradition (Halman, Review, p. 693).
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