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Alevis (Turkish language: Aleviler or Alevilik) are adherents of an endogamic religious community in Eastern and Southern Turkey, it also has communities in the Balkans due to the presence of the Ottomans, where they are more widely known as the Bektashi.

Most of the Alevi community consider Alevism to be a strand of Shi'a Islam, with pre-Islamic influence. The terms Alawite (Arabic: Alawī) and Alevi, although they share the same etymology, refer to different religious groups. The Alawites are found in Syria.

However, there are significant numbers of the community who view the existence of Alevism to be a syncresis of pre-Islamic Turkic religion with Shi'a influences. the government of Turkey recognises Alevism as the indegenous Anatolian religion, and it is recognised as such under Turkish Law.

Modern Alevi theology has been profoundly influenced by humanism and universalism. Thus, while many of the older generation view Alevism as a religious belief, many of the younger generation prefer to term it a philosophy, finding spiritual fulfillment in listening to traditional Alevi music "Nefes" in Alevi cafés.

Whilst Sunnism and Twelver Shi`ism possess a tradition of authoritative religious scholarship backed by carriers of formal learning, Alevism lacks both and is more a flowing together of various related movements, doctrines, ideas, rituals and traditions in a flexible synthesis, its strength lying in shared local traditions and esoteric interpretations of Islamic belief and practice.

Alevi communities are strong supporters of Kemalism due to its strong secularist ideology. Alevism espouses the separation of religion from state.


The name is derived from Ali ibn Abu Talib, son-in-law of Islamic prophet Muhammad and, along with Muhammad, the central figure of Shia.

They are not to be confused with the Alawite of Syria, who are another specific branch of the Shīa (though also named for Alī), with distinct, although related, beliefs.

However, according to the Kurdish linguist Jamal Nebez, the word Alevi is probably derived from the word Halav or Hilav meaning tip of the fire flame. [1] Alev also happens to be the Turkish word for "flame".


Adherents of Alevism (Alevîlik) are called Alevis. The exact number of Alevis is not known, with estimates varying to 15% of the population of Turkey alone, i.e. 21 million believers in Turkey, with perhaps as many as three million in Iran and Turkmenistan and half a million Iraqi Turkmen Alevis in Iraq. Alevism has integrated many diverse religious influences over time, such as pre-Islamic religions of the Near East. Both Bektashi Alevi and Kizilbash Alevi revere Hajji Bektash Wali, a saint of the 13th century. The Turkish language and Zaza language is used in Alevi rituals and while worshiping.


Ethnic groups that have Alevi adherents include Turkish people, Zaza people, Kurds, Turkmen people, and Azerbaijani people, with a particular concentration in central Anatolia in a belt from Çorum in the west to Muş in the east. The only province within Turkey with an Alevi majority is Tunceli Province, formerly known as Dersim. It must be noted that the Alevis in former Dersim (present-day Tunceli Province), Muş, and Erzurum provinces view their Alevism as non-Islamic.

In addition, many Alevi have migrated to the large cities of western and southern Turkey, as well as to western Europe, especially Germany.

Today, the Alevi community in Turkey is heavily urbanised due to mass migration (1960s to present) from their often mountainous and barren rural home districts to cities.

There are also large communities of Alevis in some regions of Iranian Azerbaijan. The town of Ilkhichi (İlxıçı), which is located 87 km south west of Tabriz is almost entirely populated by Alevis. For political reasons, one of which was to create a distinct identity for these communities, they have not been called Alevi since the early 20th century. They are called various names, such as Ali Ilahi, Yarsan and Goran. Groups with similar beliefs also exist in Iranian Kurdistan. Interestingly both the [Dersim] (Zaza) people and the Gorani, who are both considered as belonging to the Kurds (even though their languages differ from Kurdish language tongues Kurmanci and Sorani), adhere to a form of Alevi faith which resembles in many significant respects, such as the perpetuation of a caste system, the religions of the Druze or Yazidi.


The nature of Alevi faith can be hard to define, as they do not have a central authority and are based on an orally transmitted tradition, which has been kept secret from outsiders for centuries. So various descriptions of Alevism can be found by different groups.

Despite disputes regarding the non-Islamic origins of Alevism, all of its variants are infused with strong heterodox Shiite (otherwise known as Ghulat currents.

Many of the beliefs, rituals and practices are shared with followers of Yazidism, Yazdânism and Yarsanism, also present in the area of Kurdistan and its vicinity. All three of these religions do not claim to have Islamic origins, nor do their adherents claim to be Muslims.

While the Sunnis recognise the four caliphs: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, the Twelver Shias (incl. the Alevis) recognise Ali as the first of the 12 Imams of the Muslim community.

The fundamentally Shia beliefs within Alevism are more similar to Nizari Shia-Imami-Ismailism than with Ithna'ashari Shiism (otherwise known as Twelver Shiism).

Below is a list of the most widespread Alevi beliefs, some of the more doctrinal beliefs are only considered static by the Bektashi Order of Dervishes, which is like the monastic order within Alevism.

  • Alevism, if regarded as a branch of Islam, is clearly part of the Batiniyya group, due to the belief that there is an Esoteric or Batini and Exoteric or Zahiri interpretation of the Qur'an. According to the Institute of Ismaili Studies, the "Batini" is the inner or esoteric meaning of a sacred text, ritual or religious prescription, often contrasted with zahiri.
  • Alevism has a concept of God at different levels, all being emanations of Haqq the Ultimate Reality. The underlying concept within Alevism is that there only exists one and the same religion and that each religion usually degenerates into establishing a priesthood and a hierarchy, uses as time passes, invariably degraded knowledge to control fellow men and societies in order to obtain privileges. Consequently new prophets emerge to preach the original message, which briefly can be summarized as 'love thy neighbor.' But underneath any exoteric concept of God, there is a chain of emanation from God to spiritual man, man on earth, animals, plants and minerals ... \n

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