PART 1: Who is Terzi Baba?
Terzi Baba (Necdet Ardıç) was born on December 15, 1938 in Tekirdağ (a small town roughly 84 miles west of İstanbul, Turkey). He is the second child of Sadık Ardıç Efendi (his father) and Melek (Meliha) Hanım (his mother) who earned their living from farming. He has two brothers: his elder brother Ahmet and younger brother Cevdet.
NECDET means brave, hero, and hector.
At the age of seven, Necdet started elementary school. His good character, intelligence, nobility, and maturity attracted his teachers' attention. His math teacher (also the school principal) showed him to his classmates as a role model. He was different from the other boys at school. For example, no one ever heard him curse, although the other boys cursed quite often.
Towards the end of his elementary school education, he started to show interest in religion; the love of Allah and His Messenger started growing in his heart. He particularly loved reading epic stories about Hz. Ali's bravery, which curbed his interest in religion.
When he graduated from elementary school, he was twelve years old. He wanted to continue his education. However, his family did not have the financial means to fund his education beyond elementary school.
Sadık Ardıç Efendi did not want his children to become farmers; he wanted them to become craftsmen. So, he arranged a job for Necdet to work as an apprentice for a tailor named Hüseyin Kuymu (Black Hüseyin) in Tekirdağ.
Necdet used to wake up before sunrise, do ablution, and walk about a mile in the dark to Çiftlikönü Mosque to perform the Fajr Prayer in congregation and after the prayer study Islam and the Holy Quran with the well-known imam of the mosque, Ahmet Elitaş. He used to pray the five daily prayers in congregation. His heart was very tender. He once fasted for three consecutive days to discipline his soul after missing a morning prayer.
He enjoyed his job at the tailor shop. He was hard working and very talented. After working there for three years, first as an apprentice and then as a foreman, he won his master’s and customers’ appreciation and love. His family, especially her mother Melek Hanım, was also very proud of Necdet. His first master once said: “This kid is such a gem and he is so talented!”
On one of the walls of the tailor shop, there was a couplet that was affecting him deeply every time he looked at it: “On the dawn, we open our shop with Bismillah, Hz. İdris (a.s.) is our grand master.” He was going to understand the true meaning of this couplet many years later.
After years of training in Islam and the Holy Quran with Ahmet Elitaş, Necdet started studying recitation and writing of the Quran with Behçet Toy Hocaefendi. He has the following memories from those days:
· One night, he was practicing the pronounciation of “A`udhu billahi min ash-shaytan ar-rajim b-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm” in his room. He kept repeating this phrase trying to train his throat to pronounce it the right way. In the meantime, his mother returned home from a visit and heard him recite the Quran. She quietly approached the door to listen to him from outside. She soon realized that he repeated the same phrase over and over again. She grew impatient, entered the room and said: “I have been waiting for you to recite the Quran, but you keep repeating the same thing, are you not going to recite something else?”
· His day job and religious studies put a lot of stress on his young body. One night, he was so tired that when performing the Isha Prayer after midnight, he fell asleep on the floor. When his father returned home and saw his son lying on the floor, he panicked and thought something bad happened to his son. When he approached Necdet and called on him, he woke up and responded. That comforted his father.
· When taking lectures on Quran recitation, Necdet needed a place to practice without disturbing anyone. The muezzin (announcer) of Orta Mosque, Ali Efendi, who liked Necdet very much helped him the following way. Every night, after the Isha Prayer Ali Efendi locked the mosque’s door and left the key at some secret place outside the mosque. After getting out of work around midnight, Necdet went to the mosque, picked up the keys from the secret place, and entered the mosque to practice. Some nights, when he was too tired, instead of going to Orta Mosque and unlocking the door, he practiced at Piyale Mosque’s patio normally reserved for people who came late to the congregation.
In 1953, when he was 15 years old, with the permission of his parents, Necdet moved to İstanbul to learn more about the art of tailoring. In İstanbul, he worked at a tailor plant at the city center (Beyoğlu) and at nights stayed at his aunt (father’s sister) Rahmiye Hanım’s house in Bebek. He was yet unaware of the value of (19 – 53) and how this was going to affect his life.
During the one-year period he stayed at his aunt’s place, he attracted the interest of his aunt’s husband, M. Nusret Tura, who was a Sufi dervish. Nusret Efendi addressed Necdet as “pehlivan”, which means strong wrestler. Necdet was going to understand the meaning of this word better in the years to come. A few years later, the street on which his shop was located was renamed “Hüseyin Pehlivan Street”.
After staying in İstanbul for about a year, his mother convinced him to return to Tekirdağ. He started specializing in women’s clothing. In his free time, he was learning Arabic. He also started memorizing the Holy Quran, but after a while he decided to stop memorizing because he did not have enough time.
When he was 18, he opened his first tailor shop in Tekirdağ.
In those years, the sudden death of his father Sadık Efendi shocked the entire family. His aunt’s husband Nusret Efendi, who recognized Necdet’s special character and love of Allah, told him to go and visit Uşşaki Sufi Master Hazmi Tura Efendi (who was also the principal of Süleymaniye Library and a certified instructor of Masnawi). Necdet went to Hazmi Tura with a letter of referral from Nusret Tura in his hand. He was accepted as a student and he started his spiritual journey. This was a way of struggle, ordeal, self-denial, and mortification.
When he had time, he visited his teacher, who lived at Burhaneddin Dergahı on Keçeciler Street in Fatih district, and attended his lectures. His teacher was very happy with his visits and hard work. During a visit, he told Necdet: “My son! I am pleased with two things about you. The first of these is you continue studying Sufism and the second is your dreams (in which you recited Sure-i Ikhlas and wore a crown).
Hazmi Tura Efendi was a scholar and a gnostic. Every Saturday, he gave Masnawi lectures at Beyazıt Mosque after the Asr Prayer. Necdet attended those lectures when he had the opportunity.
In 1958, Necdet joined the Turkish army to fulfill his compulsory military service. He served the military for a 24-month period at Presidency Armed Custodian Headquarters in Ankara. During his military service, he met Bekir Ceyhan, a graduate of Paris Tailoring Academy. Working together with him, significantly helped Necdet to improve his tailoring skills.
During the last part of his military service, he realized that he had to decide what to do with his life. He received attractive offers to stay in Ankara and continue tailoring. However, his goal was to either live in İstanbul or go to Paris, the center of fashion, and become a world-renown tailor. For a while, he even studied French.
After careful consideration, he decided that his spiritual studies were his priority, so he returned to Tekirdağ. He continued studying Sufism, Arabic, tafsir, hadith, and Islamic law.
He also opened a store and continued tailoring women’s garments. Because he produced high quality garments and used sophisticated techniques for his time, in a short period of time, he became very famous. He had customers from other cities. Some gave him the nickname: “The Dior of Tekirdağ”.