Fatih Usluer the Associate Professor of History at TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Ankara argues the idea of Hurufism in his recent book “Hurufi” published in 2014. He presents some core points of his book in the lecture “The Ocean of Letters: A Surfing Glance at Hurufism”.
Hurufism was founded in Iran by Fadlollal Astarabadi (d. 796-1394) in the Timurid (1370-1506) reign. Fadlollah was the son of Qazi al-Quzat (chief justice) of Astarabad. He was living with sewing taqiya (a kind of hat), but his journeys to Isfahan, Tabriz, and Mecca, his revelations, and also his dominance on oluma qariba (wonderful sciences) led him to introduce the school of Hurufism i.e. the philosophy of letters.
Spreading the ideas of Hurufism rapidly throughout Iran, particularly Azarbayezan concerned Timurids and so Miranshah (1396-1408), the son of Timur (1336-1405) who was ruling Azarbayezan killed Fadlollah preaching his ideas in Sharvan. His Javdannama is the main source of Hurufism. Oppressed drastically by the Timurids, Ali al-A’la and Ab, one of outstanding Fadlollah’s disciples migrated to Ottoman Empire to spread Hurufism in Anatolia. Supported by Muhammad II (1432-1481), Hurufism changed into a serious rival of Bakhtashism in Anatolia. However, they were not tolerated by the next Ottoman empires and so it migrated to Balkan.
Based on the Hurufi manuscripts maintained in Baltan and Turkey, Hurufi insisted on using Hurufi abbreviation ciphers. The nature of their ideas and the oppression the Hurufis experienced in Iran and the Anatolia made them convey their opinions by applying ciphers that could only be understood by certain followers. Their ciphers were composed of Persian and Arabic words and numbers.
On the basis of the philosophy of Zat and Sifat regarding God and his attributions, Kelam (Word) is one of God’s attributions. For example, to create and give the unity of existence, God says Kon (Be) and so everything is created. Hence, the objective of Hurufism is to contemplate God in all existence through letters. Since the human being is the only creature that can pronounce sounds, some parts of the human body possess meanings. Based on this idea, Hurufis count the teeth, bones, and holes of the human body to justify the number of Persian and Arabic languages i.e. 32 and 28 letters.
From this point of view, Hurufism has a privileged and unique position not only in the Islamic territories but also in the history of the world. Was Hurufism affected by Christianity? Fatih Usluer is removing the veil of mystery surrounding Hurufism by answering this and other relevant questions.
ed. by Maryam Kamali