June 8

Newsletter Archive

This Day in the Life of the Church

June 8, 2024

A Dervish Who Turned a Martyr


Holy Martyr Alexander the Dervish reposed on this day in 1794.

Sufism is, probably, the most deep and tolerant of persuasions in Islam. The Seljuks, the first wave of the Turks, who penetrated into Byzantium in the eleventh century practiced Sufism, possibly combined with Shamanistic practices. This combination found converts among the Orthodox population of borderlands who often did not have priests available for a long time.

We do not know how Alexander converted to Islam. It happened in Smyrna. As a young man, originally from Thessalonica, he left his native place to escape the harassment of a certain Turk. During a pilgrimage to Mecca, he joined one of the Sufi orders.

As I wrote in my report on May 23 the new Greek martyrs were often those Orthodox Christians, who, having converted to Islam, decided to come back to their Christian faith. For 18 years, Alexander played the fool, in the guise of a dervish, wandering through the Ottoman lands scolding their rule. Once in Chios during Lent, he attended all Christian services without taking off his Sufi attire.

Returning to Smyrna, Alexander appeared in court, where he threw off the dervish turban and put on a Christian headdress, declaring himself to be a Christian. On May 26, 1794, the martyr, who did not succumb to threats and persuasion, was publicly beheaded for apostasy from Islam.


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Copyright 2023 Andrei Psarev.

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