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Istanbul Maarif edition cover 1966While working on a chapter of my PhD devoted to identity issues concerning Kul Himmet and Kul Himmet Üstadım for the thesis it seemed a good time to introduce Kul Himmet to the blog. Kul Himmet ranks with Şah Hatayi and Pir Sultan as the third in the triumvirate of great lyric and didactic Alevi poets. Even less about Kul Himmet is known than of Pir Sultan and certainly Hatayi (Shah Ismail). We do generally understand from the internal evidence of the deyişler that Kul Himmet was the murid (disciple) of Pir Sultan and provides the connection to another great aşık of Alevi ritual culture, Kul Hüseyin; also that he was educated. I will leave the issue of Kul Himmet Üstadım for another day.

This düaz-ı imam is another favourite of Alevi expressive culture. In performance it is sung to a powerful and deeply mysterious melody, somewhat unusually for Alevi music using a garip tetrachord for the lower part of the melody; although this modulates to the hüseyni ayağı for the third, sixth and ninth verses. The tune can be heard in the opening of the unbearably tragic film Journey of Hope.

The main difficulties in translation arise from names and some specific Alevi concepts that are reluctantly translated. For example, what to do with ‘erenler‘? My instinct is to leave as Erens, but I try a translation of ‘enlightened‘. A good translation for ‘vird‘ continues to elude. I have succombed to ‘prayer’ but not happily. This düaz goes beyond the twelve imams and brings in other identities such as Kanber, Salman and Fatma and the especially interesting Bibi Shahrbanu (Şehriban). Will perhaps add some explanation later.

Interestingly the earliest printed version of this text in Besim Atalay’s Bektaşilik ve Edebiyat (1924; republished in modern Turkish translation by Vedat Atila in 1991) does not take the form of a düaz-ı imam and does not include reference to the twelve imams though it does retain the references to Fatma, Şehriban and İmam Hüseyin. The text translated here is from Cahit Öztelli’s Pir Sultan’ın Dostları (2nd ed 1996) with one change to the order of the verses. The verse beginning “İmam Zeynel paralandı, bölündü” appears in Öztelli as the second last verse. Following the recordings by Arif and Tolga Sağ I have moved this to the fifth verse where it makes more sense logically and chronologically in respect to the invocation of the imams.

Kul Himmet ‘Ali bir Muhammed Ali diyerek’ (Düaz-ı imam)

Translation: Paul Koerbin

Every morning the birds sound together

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

The nightingale begins a lament for the rose

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Our fate shall turn upon the direction we face

Veysel Karani went to the land of Yemen

We are bees and we fly off for almighty manna

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Let us endure mourning for the Imams

Hear the true voice of the enlightened

Imam Hasan drank the poisoned challice

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

The one who seeks is sifted through a fine mesh

The one who believes turns to the True way

Shah Hüseyin was soaked in scarlet blood

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Imam Zeynel was torn to pieces and portioned

Humble respect was given to the Imam Bakir

The essence of direction was given to Cafer-i Sadık

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

The heart is a bird’s ramshackle nest

The Shah’s desire become our prayers

The prayer of Kâzım, Musa, Ali Rıza

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Shah Taki and Naki went on as light

Hasan-ül Askerî went on as the brave

The Mehdi went on mysterious in the cave

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Kanber, Salman, Fatma stood for the prayer

Shahrbanu was stripped and mounted on the camel

Jesus was distressed and passed unto the air

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali

Four books were written and passed to four faiths

The Kuran became Muhammed’s prayers

Kul Himmet passed to the sorrow of his saint

Saying Allah is one, Muhammad, Ali


Original text from Cahit Öztelli Pir Sultan’ın Dostları (2nd ed. 1996)

Her sabah her sabah ötüşür kuşlar

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Bülbül de gül içün figana başlar

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Kıblemizden kısmetimiz verile

Veysel’kara gitdi Yemen iline

Arıyız uçarız kudret balına

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Biz çekelim İmamların yasını

İşit gerçek erenlerin sesini

İmam Hasan içdi ağu tasını

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Tâlib olan ince elekden elendi

Mümin olan Hak yoluna dolandı

Şah Hüseyin al kanlara boyandı

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

İmam Zeynel paralandı, bölündü

Ol İmam Bâkır’a yüzler sürüldü

Cafer-i Sadık’a erkân verildi

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Gönül kuşun Kalb evinde yuvası

Virdimize düşdü Şah’ın havası

Kâzım, Musa, Ali Rıza duası

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Şah Takî’yle Nakî nur oldu gitdi

Hasan-ül Askerî er oldu gitdi

Mehdî mağarada sır oldu gitdi

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Kenber, Selman, Fatma durdu duaya

Şehriban soyundu, bindi deveye

İsâ kahreyledi, çıkdı havaya

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek

Dört kitap yazıldı, dört dine düşdü

Kur’an Muhammed’in virdine düşdü

Kul Himmet pîrinin derdine düşdü

Allah bir Muhammed Ali diyerek