The town of Yasa (Turkestan) had its flourishing time in the 7th century. At that time it was motley, crowded with its abundant bazaars and endless caravans. Fame of the town had spread all over the Muslim world. To a certain extent, it was due to the name of Hodja Ahmed ibn Ibragim al Yasawi, a dervish, an advocate of Sufism, the founder of an ascetic brotherhood Yasavia who wrote verses in the language of ordinary people. His poems became very popular, his ardent sermons attracted a big number of pilgrims. It was at that time that Yasa was called “a second Mecca”.
There are numerous legends about Ahmed Yasawi saying that his lineage was originated from Prophet Mohammed’s daughter, the Muslim Virgin, the mother of all Prophet’s descendants.
In spite of its attractiveness the family tree was none other than a legend that was invented by Muslims who desired to attribute to Ahmed Yasawi Arab origin and his belonging to the founder of Muslim religion.
The real fact was that Ahmed’s parents — Ibragim-ata and Karachach-ana were pure Turks of Ispidzhab, engaged in farming. The boy was inquisitive and observant. He easily learned any knowledge that is why the parents sent him to a Sufi tutor.
After his tutor’s death, young Ahmed left Yasa and moved to Bukhara. There he took a complete course of Sufi, religious-moral self-perfection, under a well-known sheikh Hodja Yusuf al Hamadani and was granted the right to preach at Sufi theory of knowledge. Soon he became a well-known Sufi-preacher and even the sheikh of a local Sufi brotherhood. But his Bukhara period was not long. Sometime later he visited Saint Mecca, then came back to Yasa and organized a yasovite brotherhood there.
The sheikh’s coming to Yasa radically changed the status of the town. Now it was not only an important point of caravan trade but the center of Sufi, a religious teaching that combined orthodox Islam and popular beliefs.
By his private life and with the help of simple easily understood language Hodja Ahmed Yasawi called upon people to be kind, meek, obedient and not to be greedy.
Ahmed Yasawi remained in the people’s memory not only as a prominent preacher but as an outstanding popular Turkic poet. His poems went down in poetry treasure and are still popular and esteemed.
Ahmed Yasawi’s fame did not dwindle after his death. Thousands of pilgrims thronged to his grave. The first mausoleum built over the sheikh’s grave was very modest and became dilapidated as time passed. A new mausoleum was erected 233 years after his death by Timur’s order.
It is necessary to render the Iron Lame Man’s state wisdom who foresaw considerable benefits from building a new mausoleum. Ahmed Yasawi’s grave t had been the place of pilgrimage for a long time and three visits there were equal to a hadji to Mecca. But Mecca was very far away, whereas the remains of Ahmed Yasawi were near. A new magnificent mausoleum would draw more pilgrims to Yasawi’s grave and raise the money flow to Timur’s treasury. In Islam clergy the ruler found more devoted allies as they had benefits too. The last but not the least, protection of saints’ graves was esteemed greatly by the steppe people, thus the emir enhanced the prestige of his own. Finally, he realized that a structure like that would perpetuate his name. Anyone would say: i the tomb was built by Timur.
Castles and temples are created by the command of a ruler but they are built by people. Ahmed Yasawi’s mausoleum is, first of all, the material realization of people’s deeds, a monument of his art and mastership.
During the long centuries of its existence Akhmed Yasawi’s mausoleum has suffered earthquakes, parching heat of the sun, severe frosts; the walls of the mausoleum have been gun-fired at, fires have blazed in it. All that was a serious examination for the engineering design and materials the mausoleum was constructed from.
What is it that ensures such strength of the structure, its foundation, walls and domes? Why do the marvelous paints of tiles not fade?
The strength of the structure is ensured by an adequate engineering decision and high-quality building material. The walls are made of burnt bricks which did not contain any admixtures, either plant roots or humus. The clay mix was washed many times to remove sulphate and magnesium salts. Uniform calcination was achieved by painstaking working. Bricks were ringing like a mountain stream.
At present Ahmed Yasawi’s mausoleum has been restored to its original appearance. The town of Turkestan is becoming a major center of home and foreign tourism. The tourists are impressed greatly when they see the mausoleum. Of course, they want to know the past of the town. Now there is a special program worked out for reconstruction of old Turkestan. When reconstruction work is completed the tourist review will include the ruins of ancient Yasa, the Sufi center with underground mosques, ritual structures, remains of tombs of noble people, eastern baths, the medieval citadel and Shahristan, fortification work with defensive walls, towers, gates, barracks of Turkestan riflemen and a light-sound video-panorama “Ancient Turkestan”.
In the reserve part of the town there will be handicraft quarters reconstructed with trade rows, medieval houses with modern conveniences in which tourists can be accommodated very comfortably. Next to them there will be workshops of potters, gun-makers, jewelers and scribe-calligraphy. The atmosphere of the Silk Road epoch will be recreated with the help of food markets — as bazaars with a full set of eastern cuisine.
Rakip Nasyrov, “Along the Great Silk Road”, published by “Kramds—reklama”, 1991.