The Childhood of Sheykh Ahmet Yesevi (QS)

In the city of Sairam in Turkistan {Sairam is just east of Shymkent in modern Kazakhstan], there was a Sheykh named Sheykh Ibrahim Rehmat’Allah Alaih, a descendant of Hazrat Ali Karam’Allahu Wajh. When he passed from this earthly life, he left a grown daughter named Gawhar Shahnaz and a seven year-old boy named Ahmad. From the time he was very young, Ahmad received various manifestations of God’s grace and displayed extraordinary qualities that belied his age. In Sheykh Ahmad Yasawi’s work entitled Diwan-i-Hikmat, he recounts succesively, in a language appropriate to the Sufis, the spiritual gifts that he had received.

At age seven, when he was orphaned by the loss of his father, Ahmad, who since childhood had received the guidance of Khidr (AS), was raised by another spiritual father. This was Sheykh “Baba Arslan or Arslan Baba (RadiAllahu ta’Ala anhu), – one of the Companions of the Prophet (Alahi Salaatu Was’Salaam). Guided by spiritual direction {manevi isaretiyle} from the Prophet (ASWS), he went to Sairam to become Ahmad’s teacher. Arslan Baba (RA) was one of the foremost Companions {of the Prophet(ASWS)}. One well known report states that he lived to age 400, and another – to age 700.

His traveling to Turkistan and being charged to teach Ahmad Yasawi(QS) were based on spiritual direction. It seems that during one of the Prophet(ASWS)’s military expeditions, his noble Companions came to him hungry and requested for something to eat. The Prophet (ASWS) uttered a prayer and {the angel} Gabriel (Alahis’Salaam) brought a dish of dates from Paradise. One of the dates fell on the ground, wherepon Gabriel(AS) said, “This date is the portion of a member of your religious community named Ahmad Yasawi(QS)”. Because anything held in trust was naturally to be given to its owner {cf. Quran IV:58}, the Prophet(ASWS) proposed to his Companions that one of them undertake this duty. None of them responded save for Arslan Baba (RA), who said that by apostolic favor he would be able to underatake this task. The Prophet(ASWS) then put the fallen date into Arslan Baba’s mouth with his own hand and added a bit of his own blessed saliva. A covering immediately formed over the date, and the Prophet(ASWS) instructed Arslan Baba how he would find Ahmad Yasawi and commanded him to devote himself to young Ahmad’s education. Arslan Baba(RA) then went to Sairam(or Yasi) and, after completing there the task that he had taken upon himself, died the following year. It is recorded in the Diwan-i Hikmat that “the Angel of Death took his soul, the huris{female denizens of Paradise} cut out a shroud from silk garments, and 70,000 weeping angels appeared and transported him to Paradise.

By age seven, Ahmad Yasawi(QS) had already advanced through a series of high spiritual stages and then, under the direction of Arslan Baba(R.A), the young Ahmad reached a high level of maturity and slowly began to win fame from every quarter. His father Shaikh Ibrahim had already been renowned in that region for performing countless miracles{karama} and many legends were told of him. Consequently, it was recognized that, with respect to his lineage as well, this quiet and unassuming young boy, who always listened to his elder sister, held a spiritually important position. Around that time an extraordinary event occurred that spread Ahmad’s fame throughout Turkistan. A ruler named Yasawi was ruling as sultan in Transoxiana and Turkistan. He spent the winters in Samarqand and the summers in the mountains of Turkistan. Like all Turkish rulers, he was fond of hunting and used to pass the time in this pursuit in the mountains there. One summer he wanted to go hunting on Qarachuq Mountain, but because it was so rugged, he gave up hope of doing so. He was never able to hunt on Qarachuq. Consequently, he wanted to get rid of the mountain. He gathered all the friends of Allah {the saints/awliya} in the lands that he ruled and requested them to remove this mountain by the blessing of their prayers. The saints of Turkistan agreed to the ruler’s request. They wrapped themselves in ihrams {the garb of pilgrims going to Mecca} and for three days prayed and pleaded for this mountain to disappear. Contrary to expectation, however, all their prayers could not accomplish this task. Searching for the reason, they asked, “Was there anyone among the ‘arifs {those who have knowledge of God} and saints of the country who did not come?” It turned out that Shaikh Ibrahim’s son Ahmad Yasawi had not been summoned because he was still very young. They immediately sent men to Sairam to summon him. The boy consulted with his older sister and she said to him, “Our father had some testamentary advice {for you}. The thing that will show wether or not your time to appear has come is a table cloth that is tied {in a knot} in our father’s place of worship. If you can untie it, then go ahead{in response to the ruler’s summons}, for that means the time of your appearance has come.”

The boy then went to the place of worship and untied the table cloth, and then continued to this city of Yasi. All the saints were present there. He indicated {they should} pray over a piece of bread that was on the cloth. They agreed and recited the Fatiha {opening sura of the Qur’an}. He divided the bread among those who were assembled and there was enough for everyone. There were 99,000 people present composed of the saints, the ruler’s officers {umara}, and troops. When they saw this miracle, they had a better understanding of the greatness of Ahmad Yasawi (QS). {Meanwhile} Ahmad Yasawi expected that the answer to his prayer was inside his father’s dervish cloak. Suddenly, torrents of rain burst from the sky and all the land was flooded. When the prayer rugs of the sheykhs began to float on the waves, they pleaded and cried out. Ahmad Yasawi (QS) stuck his head from the cloak. The storm immediately subsided and the sun appeared. And what should they see! But that Qarachuq Mountain had disappeared. Where the mountain once stood there is now a town called Qarachuq, where most of Sheykh Ahmad(QS)’s descendants reside. The ruler Yasawi, who had witnessed this miracle, entreated Ahmad to ensure that his name would remain on earth until the Day of Judgement. Ahmad accepted his wish and said, ” Whoever in the world loves me, may he recall me together with your name.” Thus, from that day forward, he has been called, “Khwaja Ahmad Yasawi.”

Early Mystics in Turkish Literature, Ahmad Yasawi and His Influence – Mehmet Fuat Koprulu

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