Baba Rexheb, a Muslim mystic from the Balkans, founded the first Bektashi community in America. This is his life story and the story of his communities: the traditional Bektashi tekke in Albania where he first served, the displaced persons camps to which he escaped after the war, the centuries-old tekke in Cairo where he waited, and the Bektashi community that he founded in Michigan in 1954 and led until his passing in 1995. Baba Rexheb lived through the twentieth century, its wars, disruptions, and dislocations, but still at a profound level was never displaced.
Through Bektashi stories, oral histories, and ethnographic experience, Frances Trix recounts the life and times of this modern Sufi leader. She studied with Baba Rexheb in his community for more than twenty years. As a linguistic anthropologist, she taped twelve years of their weekly meetings in Turkish, Albanian, and Arabic. She draws extensively on Baba's own words, as well as interactions at the Michigan Bektashi center, for a remarkable perspective on our times.
You come to know Baba Rexheb and his gentle way of teaching through example and parable, poetry and humor. The book also documents the history of the 700-year-old Bektashi order in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the Balkans and Egypt and its transposition to America. It attests to the role of Sufi centers in Islamic community life and their interaction with people of other faiths.
"A fantastic book, a rich source of unique information and insight, a great pleasure to read for anyone, and a must for any course touching on Muslim mysticism in practice."—Walter G. Andrews, University of Washington
"A rich story with many themes: exile, mysticism, the fall of empire, friendship, community building, and much more. I know of no other study like it."—Sholeh A. Quinn, Ohio University