Mentorship in Akhi Organizations


In “The Travels Of Ibn Battutah” young akhis who lived in medieval(13th century) mentioned as: “They exist in all the lands of the Turkmens of al-Rum, in every district, city and village. Nowhere in the World are there to be found any to compare with them solicitude for strangers, and in ardour to serve food and satisfy wants, to restrain the hands of the tyrannous, and to kill the agents of police and those ruffians who join with them. An Akhi, in their idiom, is a man whom the assembled members of his trade, together with orders of the young unmarried men and those who have adopted the celibate life, choose to be their leader.

The Akhi builds a hospice and furnishes it with rugs, lamps and what other equipment it requires. His associates work during the day to gain their livelihood, and after the afternoon prayer they bring him their collective earnings; with this they buy fruit, food and the other things needed for consumption in the hospice. If, during that day, a traveller alights at the town, they give him lodging with them; what they have purchased serves for their hospitality to him and the remains with them until his departure . If no newcomer arrives, they assemble themselves to partake of the food, and after eating they sing and dance. On the morrow they disperse to their occupations, and after the afternoon prayer they bring their collective earnings to their leader.

The members are called fityan, and their leader, as we have said, is the Akhi. Nowhere in the World have I seen men more chivalrous in conduct than they are. On the day after that our arrival in this city one of these fityan came to the Shaikh Shibab al- Din al-Hamawi and spoke with him in Turkish, which I did not understand at that time. He was wearing shabby clothes and had a felt bonnet on his head. The shaikh said to me, ‘Do you know what this man is saying?’ ‘No,’ said I, ‘I do not know what he said.’ Then he said to me, ‘He is inviting you to a meal with him, you and your companions.’ I was surprised at this, but I said to him, ‘Very well’, and when the man had gone I said to the shaikh, ‘This is a poor man, and he has not the means to entertain us and we do not like to impose a burden on him.’ Whereupon the shaikh burst out laughing and said to me, ‘He is one of the shaikhs of the Young Akhis. He is a cobbler, and a man of generous disposition. His associates number about two hundred men of different trades, who have elected him as their leader and have built a hospice to entertain guests in, and all that they earn by day they spend at night.’ So, after I had prayed the sunset prayer, the same man came back for us and we went with him to the hospice. We found it to be a fine building, carpeted with beautiful Rumi rugs, and with a large number of lustres of Iraqi glass. Standing in rows in the chamber were a number of young men wearing long cloaks, and with boots on their feet. Each one of them had a knife about two cubits long attached to a girdle round his waist, and on their heads were White bonnets of wool with a piece of stuff about a cubit long and two fingers broad attached to the peak of each bonnet. When they take their places in the chamber, each one of them removes his bonnet and puts it down in front him, but retains on his head another bonnet, an ornamental one, of the silk taffeta or some other fabric. In the centre of their hall was a sort of platformplaced there for visitors. When we had taken our places among them, they brought in a great banquet, with fruits and sweetmeats, after which they began their singing and dancing. Everything about them filled us with admiration and we werw greatly astonished at their generosity and innate nobility. We took leave of them at the end of the night and left them in their hospice.

From Antaliyah we travelled to the city of Akridur (Eğridir), a great and populous city with fine bazaars and running streams, fruit trees and orchards. On our entry into this city, as we passed through one of the bazaars, some men came down from their booths and seized the bridles of our horses. Then certain other men quarreled with them for doing so, and the altercation between them grew so hot that some of them drew knives. All this time we had no idea what they were saying, and we began to afroid of them, thinking that they were brigands, who infest the roads in the environs of this city, and reckoning that they were out to rob us. At lenght God sent us a man, a pilgrim, who knew Arabic, and I asked what they wanted of us. He replied that they belonged to the fityan, that those who had been the first to reach us were the associates of the Young Akhi Sinan, while the others were the associates of the Young Akhi Tuman, and that each party wanted us to lodge with them. We were amazed at their native generosity. Finally they came to an agreement to cast lots, and that we should lodge first with the one whose lot was drawn. The lot of Akhi sinan won, and on learning of this he came to meet us with a body of his associates. They greeted us and we were lodged in a hospice of his, where we were served with a variety of dishes. The Akhi then conducted us to the bath and came in with us, he himself took over the Office of serving me, while his associates undertook the service of my companions, three or four of them waiting on each one of the latter. Then, when we came out of the bath, they served us a great banquet with sweetmeats and quantities of fruit and after we finished eating and the Qur’an readers had recited verses from the Exalted Book they began their singing and dancing….


We can say a lot of things about he above-mentioned the young Akhis from talent management, education, total quality management, consumer rights to first women’ NGO in the World. But we want to especially note mentorship skills based on father and son relationship In the thesis of Aysun Erginer named “A relational analysis between mentorship and Akhi organisation” mentorship in akhi organisations are defined as: “Mentorship is an agreement between two people who share their experiences, expertise and thoughts in order to promote personaland professional development. Concurrently, mentorship is a relation of cooperating and sharing which aims at education, learning and development. Within this relationship, the mentor endeavours and devotes time to help a less experienced person inknowledge and skill development. In this way, the mentor increases the other person’s productivity and achievement. The person receiving help shapes his personal and professional development by actively making use of mentor’s ideas and experiences.Mentorship, which is nowadays considered a professional and career development method and which can be accepted as one of the most ancient personal development methods, is also seen in the Akhi organisation. In the Akhi organisation, promotion in hierarchically-organised occupational degrees is conditioned to some circumstances. Promoting from assistantship to apprenticeship and then becoming a foremanand finally a master was enabled by the master’s devoting time and labouring overin order to share their knowledge and skills.

Based on three pillars of bravery, morality and art, Akhism had been an effective organisation in regulating the staff education, operation and controls of craftsman and artisan institutions in Anatolian cities, towns and villages. It was Ahi Evran to provide them with stamina and viability by establishing the Akhism organisation, the Turkish craftsman guild brought to light by the historical and economic hardships, uniting craftsmen and artisans under an association and guaranteeing the art and trade moral and interests of producers and consumers. The outstanding skills and morality of Ahi Evran made him the “Akhi father” of the organisation he established. Akhism, due to its structure and functions is not only a professional organisation, but also an organisation noted for its contributions to the network of societal relations. The characteristics of the educational system in Akhi organisations, which can be considered a kind of philosophical school in which moral values such as solidarity, bravery, honesty and assiduity are transferred to the next generations, are approaching humans as a whole; providing the individual with religious, moral and social knowledge besides professional knowledge; integrating on-the-job training with other education; approaching education as an activity that lasts for a life time; instructing by authorised people; and providing open and free education to everyone who adopts Akhism principles. In Akhi organisations that were fulfilling the moral, political, religious, social security and educational functions, there was a relation similar to mentorship process in terms of its hierarchical professional degrees of assistantship, apprenticeship, foremanship and mastery. In order to promote from one of these degrees to another, there were conditions such as learning the profession, acquiring the skills and professional ethics. It is thought that the relation established as apprentice-master in professional education in the Akhi organisation is similar to the mentorship process based on the aspects that can be listed as masters’ supervision to assistants and apprentices for occupational education; professionally inexperienced apprentices; enduring efforts of the masters, who have sufficient knowledge and experience, to raise their apprentices; masters being responsible for both good education and mistakes and defects of the apprentices; time consuming professional and personal education; the bilateral master-apprentice relation that comes into being in starting-up, implementing and monitoring steps, etc. According to this, master and apprentice in the Akhi organisation can be named mentor and mentee, respectively, and the professional relation in Akhism can be considered mentorship.

In conclusion, we can say there should be professional renewals in akhi organisations and for the members of this organisation should make innovations in their trades in order to being promoted and if they’re not in enough personel qualification they are not allowed operate their own shops. We can also say; in medieval times instead of menthors or coaches akhis provisioned the personel development in trades by using the lifelong learning method.

10/ 04/2013
Süleyman Demir