Dedebaba Reshat Bardhi (March 4th, 1935 – April 2nd, 2011 CE)
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After months of battling illness and exhaustion, al-Hajj Dedebaba Reshat Bardhi, head of the Worldwide Bektashi Community, parted from this life shortly after 2:00pm on the 2nd of April, 2011.
Dede Reshat was born on the 4th of March 1935 in village of Lusën, in the region of the northern town of Kukës. In 1944, as the destruction of war raged around him, Dede Reshat moved to Tirana with his family. It was there that he received both his secular as well as Islamic religion education.
When he was fourteen years old, Dede Reshat visited the Mother Tekke of the Bektashi Sufi Order (asitâne-i madhe) and from that time took up residence there. Four years later, at the age of eighteen, he was initiated as a dervish, and served as rehber in the ceremonies that took place on the sacred premises of the Mother Tekke.
Between 1957 and 1967, Dede Reshat placed under house arrest by the communist government along with Dedebaba Ahmed Myftar in a small tekke near Drizar, Mallakastra. In the ten years of exile, this tekke served as the unofficial Mother Tekke of the Bektashi community.Believers would come here illegally from all over Albania, as well as Kosova, Macedonia and Montenegro.
With the closure of all houses of worship and the prohibition of religion by the communists in 1967 (which lasted until 1990), Dede Reshat was forcibly assigned work on a state-run farm, where he was continually harassed, both psychologically and physically, by state security officers. Meanwhile, his residence in Tirana was turned into an illegal center for keeping Bektashism alive.
Along with a group of devoutBektashi believers Dede Reshat reopened the Mother Tekke of the Bektashi Sufi Order on March 22, 1991, the day of the festival of Sultan Nevruz. During the communist period, the building had been used as state-run home for the elderly.
In November 1991, Dede Reshat made the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca together with the first Albanian pilgrims to go in a generation.There he was received by senior Saudi religious authorities and having made the pilgrimage took the title al-Hajj (or Haxhi).
In February of 1992 Dede Reshat travelled to the USA to visit the Bektashi community of Detroit,where he was received by Baba Rexheb and senior clerics of other faiths.Baba Rexheb was responsible for establishing the first Bektashi Tekke in America in 1954 and for keeping Bektashism alive during the dark days of communism.
In May 1993 Dede Reshat was received by the late head of Turkey’s Bektashi community Bedri Noyan Dede,who organized meetings with senior Bektashi religious leaders in Istanbul and Izmir.
The 6th World Bektashi Congress that was held in 1993 unanimously elected Dede Reshat to the head the Mother Tekke of the Bektashi Sufi Order, and thus he was given the title Dedebaba.
In August of that same year Dede Reshat visited the tekke/museum of Haji Bektash Veli in Turkey, where thousands of believers from the Asian parts of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkestan, and the Middle East came to greet him. The mayor of the town of Hacıbektaş received Dede Reshat with a special lunch of honor.
On every religious holiday from 1991 and until his passing Dede Reshat received Albanian’s presidents, prime ministers, speakers of the parliament,as well as ministers and ambassadors of foreign states.
In 1994 and 1995 Dede Reshat visited the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he was received by the highest leader of the Ahl al-Bayt Foundation, Mr. Mir Hosseini and senior religious leaders from Iran, India and Kuwait.
In March of 2001 Dede Reshat was invited to a special audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, where both men discussed their resistance to communism.
In August of 2002, Dede Reshat again travelled to Haji Bektashi in Turkey, where he met with the then Prime Minister of Turkey, Bulent Ecevit, who congratulated him on his role in preserving the Bektash way.
In October of 2002 Dede Reshat took part in the International Conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which was held in Azerbaijan. Dede Reshat spoke on behalf of Bektashis worldwide.
In October of 2003 Dede Reshat was invited to the Vatican to take part in the consecration ceremony for Mother Teresa, along with other religious leaders from around the world.Dede Reshat was again by Pope John Paul II and other high Catholic religious authorities.
In February of 2004 Dede Reshat also took part in the World Conference for Peace and Tolerance which was organized by Partiarkati Ekumenal and the Apel Ndërgjegjes Foundation. His words on their work received a standing ovation.
In April of 2004 Dede Reshat took part in a symposium held in Germany on Alevis and Bektashis in Germany. There he greeted participants on behalf of the Bektashi community.
On the occasion of the 7th World Bektashi Congress that was held in October of 2005 in Tirana, Dede Reshat hosted the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Turkey,Atilla Koç, as well as the mayors of the Turkish towns of Nevşehir andHacıbektaş.
In December of 2005 Dede Reshat was welcomed in Prishtina at thecongress of the Albanian World League.He was received by Kosovo’s Minister of Culture, Mr. Astrit Haraçia.
In May of 2006 Dede Reshat received the President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, at the Mother Tekke in Tirana. Among other things the Cardinal said, “Your excellency is the Bektashi Pope!”
In June of 2006 Dede Reshat hosted Turkey’s Parliament Speaker, Mr. Bülent Arınç at the Mother Tekke in Tirana. He presented Dede Reshat with a plaque from the Turkish Parliament honoring his outstanding service in spreading peace and goodwill.
In August of 2006, Dede Reshat participated in the eighth World Conference of Religions for Peace held in Kyoto, Japan. There he met with some of the most prominent religious personalities in the world.
In July of 2007, Dede Reshat was received in Pristina by Bernard Kushner, the French minister of foreign affairs. ON the occasion of the rebuilding of the Bektashi tekke in GjakovaDede Reshat was hosted by the Head of UN Acting Administration in Kosovo, Joachim Rüker.
In October of 2007, at the head a Bektashi delegation, Dede Reshat was received in Istanbul by the highest Islamic authority in Turkey, Imam Ali Bardakoğlu, as well as the mufti of Istanbul, Imam Mustafa Çağrıcı.
In November of 2007 Dede Reshat participated in the World Conference on Inter-Religious and Inter-Civilization Dialogue held in Ohrid, Macedonia. He was heartily welcomed to this conference and received there by Mr. Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia.
In June of 2008, Dede Reshat was invited to Ankara by the supreme mufti of the Republic of Turkey, Imam Ali Bardakoğlu. There he attended the artistic ceremony of the Sufi music ensemble and prayer in the various mosques of Ankara. He was also received by leading Islamic theologians.
Dede Reshat was decorated with the “Beacon of Democracy” medal and Golden Naim Frasheri award by the presidents of the Republic of Albania, and was an honorary resident of the cities of Tirana, Kruja, Kukes, Berat, ash, Kavaja, Bulqiza, Gjirokastra, Mallakastra and so on.
In September of 2008 Dede Reshat hosted a visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
On October 13, 2009, Dede Reshat hosted a visit to the Mother Tekke by Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Canadian Senate, during a visit to Tirana.
In addition to all of these public appearances Dede Reshat was a spiritual guide to thousands of Bektashis around the world. His kind ways and gentle demeanor have left an everlasting mark upon the hearts of all those spiritual seekers who had the honor of siting in his presence. We pray that Allah Almighty allows him to an honored place under the flag of the Prophet and to be counted as one of the lovers of the Ahl ul-Bayt and the Awliyullah.