Turks owe him the development of Turkish language and true interpretation of Islam. Hoca Ahmet Yesevi, the first Turkish sufi (1093-1166) was born in the town of Sayram in western Turkistan and educated and lived in the towns of Yesi and Bukhara. He is the author of Divan-i Hikmet (Book of Wisdom). Although he knew Arabic and Persian languages, he wrote in Turkish. He followed the line of Ebu Hanife in terms of religion. He also strove to transform the system of “folk piety” which existed among Turks in villages as well as among nomads as a way of religious life into a model for Turkish Sufism. He was successful in merging ancient Turkish wisdom with Islamic concepts.
It may be argued that the “first Turkish Sufism line” is in fact a moral and scientific philosophy, which was present among Turkish people before Islam, which later reconciled the collective “Turkish wisdom” with Islamic elements. For this reason, it has characteristics, which contradicted with the perceptions of “Persian Sufism” which was starting to develop in that period. The first period of Turkish Sufism appears to have been easily understood as a moral system for a moral purpose, with concepts like devotion to one’s own country, repentance, renunciation and soul advice.
Pages from Divan-i Hikmet (Book of Wisdom):
In his explanations, Yesevi gives examples from his own life and experiences. That he is simple and easily understood brought about the spread of his views very quickly and he was accepted as a saint (veli) and became the one who was followed. Hence “Khorasan dervishes” who came to Anatolia from Central Asia took the views of Yesevi wherever they went and gave rise to the spread of Divan-i Hikmet in Anatolia. In this way it may be said that Ahmet Yasevi merged the Central Asian Turkish culture and Turkish way of life with Islamic elements and thus constituted a “Turkish-Islamic life model” and had these views spread throughout Anatolia and the Balkans via wandering dervishes.
Yesevi is currently the earliest known Turkic poet who composed poetry in a Turkic dialect. Ahmed Yesevi was a pioneer of popular mysticism, founded the first Turkic tariqah (order), the Yasaviyya (Yeseviye), which very quickly spread over the Turkic-speaking areas.
The followers of Yesevi preferred Turkish. Had Ahmed Yesevi not chosen Turkish as a means of delivering his messages, Turkish wouldn’t have spread such a large area in the world. Yunus Emre, a follower and student of Ahmed Yesevi, is the biggest poet of the order. Ahmet Yesevi was the source of inspiration for his poems. Moreover, some of his poems are a restatement of Yesevi’s Hikmets.
Map of countries and autonomous subdivisions where a Turkic language has official status:
Even when he was alive thousands of students brought the belief, knowledge and awareness they gained from Yesevi to the Turks in Khorasan, Anatolia and Europe.
Such moral founders of the Ottoman State as Sheikh Edebali, Haci Bektash Veli and Geyikli Baba, are also the followers of Ahmet Yesevi. Haci Bektash Veli, who was sent to Anatolia by Ahmet Yesevi, was the moral teacher (pir) of the janizaries which was the backbone of the Otoman army. Similarly, Sarı Saltuk, whom Ahmet Yesevi sent to assist Haci Bektash, was the person who helped Islam root in the Balkans.
A mausoleum was later built on the site of his grave by Tamerlane the Great in the city (today called Türkistan). The Yasaviyya Tariqah which he founded continued to be influential for several centuries afterwards, with the Yasavi Sayyid Ata Sheikhs holding a prominent position at the court of Bukhara into the 19th century. In the Yasaviyya Sufis one comes across the greatest number of the shamanistic elements compared to other Sufi Orders. The first Turkish-Kazakh university, Ahmet Yesevi University, and liceum, Hoca Ahmed Yesevi Lisesi, were named in his honor.