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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Turkish Humanism In The 13th Century

Contemporary humanism replaces the importance of God with the importance of the human being. But 8 centuries ago, one religious Sufi mystic was already advocating humansim of an arguably similar kind.

Mystic is what they call me.
Hate is my only enemy;
I harbor a grudge against none.
To me the whole wide world is one.

-Yunus Emre

From humble beginnings as a Turkish peasant, Yunus Emre followed the arduous journey of "The Way" to become a famous sufi mystic in the 13th Century like Mevlana.

Although not much is known about Emre, legend also has it that part of his long life was spent following the tradition of the Asik - a type of wandering minstrel who would sing his thoughts, sayings or spiritual findings aided by a stringed Turkish musical instrument similar to a lute and known as a saz, to all who would listen, to educate villagers and townsmen, the rich and the poor, the prince and the pauper, the sultan and the slave alike about God, humanism and love.

However, more specifically known through the Turkish literature he left behind is that he shocked the fundamentalist and extremists of his day as he forced forward the thought that God and people are One, one came from the other and thus was the other in a sense. You could not love God if you did not love your neighbour, irrelevant of colour or creed. He valued human beings as the most important of all; Emre made humans "Godly", therefore they should all be equal, regardless of "nation", religion or any philosophy. The love of humanity and the love of God are therefore indivisible.

Contemporary humanism is closely related to what is in general referred to as the "left" or socialism in today's world. Emre inspired another great Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet. Hikmet was a prominent Marxist exiled from Turkey who ended up in Moscow right by the side of Lenin and Stalin. Hikmet wrote of Emre:

I have a different appreciation of Yunus
Through him the Turkish peasant gave voice to a whole age
Of his concerns not for the world to come
(i.e about religious dogma of the after-life)
But for this world.

Emre's philosophy, metaphysics and humanism have been examined in various symposiums and conferences on a regular basis both in Turkey and abroad. UNESCO named him as one of the main cultural figures of world, and dedicated 1991 as "The International Yunus Emre Year".

Some of Emre's more metaphysical poetry are sang as folk songs today.

The man is in his sayings. Here are some of Emre's more widely known sayings translated into English from Turkish:

I am not at this place to dwell,
I arrived here just to depart.
I am a well-stocked peddler, I sell
To all those who'll buy from my mart.

God is our professor and love is our academy.

We regard no one's religion as contrary to ours.
True love is born when all faiths are united as a whole.

Be without hands when someone hits you.
Be without tongue when cursed.

If there is any meaning of the four books (Torah, Psalms, Gospel, Kuran)
This is that meaning:
Whatever you wish for yourself
Wish for the others,
Love the creation
Because you love the Creator.

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