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Bali Efendi türbe

Bali Efendi türbe

ul. "Preslav" 1, 1619 Knyazhevo, Sofia

RELIGIONS Islam, Orthodox


Bali Efendi was a 16th-century Islamic philosopher and religious leader. His mausoleum is located next to the church "Sveti Prorok Iliya" in the Knyazhevo district of Sofia. The türbe is just a few meters away from the Christian temple. For centuries the tomb has been worshiped by Bulgarians, Turks and Roma, Christians and Muslims. The interior of the tomb is decorated with blue faience tiles with floral motifs. The coffin is covered with a green cloth filled with flowers and other offerings for the saint.
During the lifetime of Bali Efendi, The Ottoman Empire grew rapidly - to the west, where the Turks conquered Hungary and threatened Vienna in the heart of Europe. In the East they defeated the Iranians. The struggle with Shi'a Persia also led to an antagonism between Sunni Islam, backed by the Ottoman Empire, and Shi'a Islam, whose related to the Alevi and the Kuzalbashi orders in the Balkans. Bali Effendi was an influential cleric living in Sofia. He studied in a clerical school in Istanbul, which was housed in the buildings of the former Christian complex "Pancrator". In the Imperial capital, Bali Effendi became a pupil of the Halti Sheik Kasam Effendi. It is there (perhaps in the first two decades of the sixteenth century) that he experienced the mystical meeting with the greatest teacher among the mystics Muḥyā-u'd-dīn Muhammad ibn 'Arabī , which shaped his further development. This happened at a time when Ibn Arabi enjoyed reverence in the Ottoman spiritual elite and governing stratum. Sultan Selim I himself commissioned the construction of a mausoleum and a mosque in Damascus at the grave of Ibn Arabi. Consequently, Bali Effendi became a Sufi mystic, philosopher and sage. He is considered to be among the greatest interpreters of the spiritual heritage of Ibn Arabi, referred to by Islamic scholars until the present day. In his letters to the Ottoman rulers, Bali Effendi criticized the religious practices of some heterodox Muslim as a deviation from Islam. Apparently, he was considered to be a champion and protector by the local Christian population. After the death of Bali Effendi, a whole religious complex - a mosque, a tomb, an inn, and a bath - was built in this memory. The whole village became known as Bali Efendi in honor of this saint, honored by Turks, Bulgarians and Gypsies. His grave was visited by pilgrims from across the Balkan Peninsula.
In the cult of Bali Efendi (called Ali Baba by the Roma people), the mystic is sometimes merged with the figure of Imam Ali. And in the Bulgarian folk tradition, Imam Ali is often identified with Elijah. It is customary for the local Muslim congregation to gather in the yard of the church on July 20th (the holiday of Prophet Elijah), light candles and pay homage to the saint at the Christian temple, and then visit Bali Efendi türbe to honor his legacy.
People believe that the grave has miraculous power to heal illnesses and protected pilgrims from evil. Bali Efendi is still venerated by the local Roma, albeit not in the scale of the recent past. One of their beliefs is that if one swears in front of the tomb, Bali Effendi becomes a witness and guarantees that the promise will be kept or punishes the one who fails to do so.
- Direct visit
- Classroom activity: Examine the shared values and syncretic spiritual practices of diverse religious communities as a basis for tolerance and interfaith dialogue. This could take the form of a discussion and a homework assignment. The topic could also be expanded to a research project encompassing two lessons and two homework assignments. For detailed instructions, refer to Research Project. (

Sveti Prorok Iliya Temple - bul. "Tsar Boris III" 357, 1619 Knyazhevo, Sofia




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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.