The Safavid-Qizilbash Ecumene and the formation of the qizilbash-alevi community in the Ottoman Empire, c. 1500–c. 1700
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Alevis, the largest religious minority of Turkey, also living in Europe and the Balkans, are distinguished from both Sunnis and Shiʿites by their latitudinarian attitude toward Islamic Law. Conceptualizing this feature as “heterodoxy,” earlier Turkish scholarship sought the roots of Alevi religiosity in Turkish traditions which traced back to Central Asia, on the one hand, and in medieval Anatolian Sufi orders such as the Yasawi, Bektashi, Qalandari, and Wafaʾi, on the other. A new line of scholarship has critiqued the earlier conceptualization of Alevis as “heterodox” as well as the assumption of Central Asian connections. In the meantime, the new scholarship too has focused on medieval Anatolian Sufi orders, especially the Bektashi and Wafaʾi, as the fountainhead of Alevi tradition. Critically engaging with both scholarships, this paper argues that it was the Safavid-Qizilbash movement in Anatolia, Azerbaijan, and Iran rather than medieval Sufi orders, that gave birth to Alevi religiosity.