19 Aralık 2014 Cuma

Taqi al-Din and His Observatory

With the support of Hodja (Hoca) Sadaddin Effendi, who realized the talent and capacity of Taqi al-Din,  and an imperial edict by Sultan Murad III,  the financial and logistical supports were provided to build an observatory in Istanbul. Even though some of today's historians who are not aware of the Ottoman intellectual history claim that the observatory was mainly built for astrological purposes, there does not exist any evidence regarding this claim. On the contrary, there is evidence against this claim.  Ala al-Din Mansur al-Shirazi's poetic work in Persian, Shahinshahnama (Şehinşahname), provided detailed and remarkable information concerning the observatory's establishment, functioning and astronomical instruments [1]. Such detailed information in this work reminds us of the fact that the author very likely worked in this observatory.

In a conversation between the Sultan and Taqi al-Din, the Sultan asked Taqi al-Din about how the observations were going, and he replied, “O great leader, there were many uncertain points in Ulugh Beg's Zij (astronomical observations containing matrix listing of the periodic positions of the planets as seen from several locations on the earth). Zij has been corrected through these observations” [2]. As can be seen in this conversation, the purpose of the establishment of this observatory is to correct Ulugh Beg's Zij.

A stamp with a drawing depicting the workers in the observatory from Shahinshahnama [3]

What caused the end of the observatory on January 21, 1580 when everything had been going so well? Those who like vague answers refer to Atai's Zayl of al-Shaqaiq, which is an Ottoman Turkish zayl (continuation) of Tashkopruzada's al-Shaqaiq al-Numaniyya and covers the period between 1558 and 1634.  This source suggests that the observatory was destroyed due to a letter questionably attributed to the shayh al-islam Qadizade Ahmad Shamsaddin Effendi. However, Atai was born after the deconstruction of the observatory and he gave the wrong dates for beginning and ending of the establishment of the observatory in his book [4]. All of these facts require us to consider carefully what Atai wrote in this case. Furthermore,  the shayh al-islam at that time was a qualified scholar in both rational and religious sciences. He wrote super-commentary (hashiya) on Sharh al-Mawaqif, where philosophical, geometric and astrological issues were discussed. This hasiya is available in a hand-written form. In addition to this work, since Kamal al-din Ibn al-Humam died without completing his work, which is one of the most important commentaries (sharh) on Hidaya, the shayh al-islam completed this uncompleted work starting from Kitab al-Vakalah (book of ministry) and named it Nataij al-Afkar fi Kash al-Romoz  wa al-Asrar [5]. This commentary Fath al-Qadir is being publishing with this takmila (completion). It does not seem  realistic that such a scholar wrote this kind of letter.

According to the published archival documents, the observatory's employment and material requests, although costly, were fulfilled.  Some requested materials were provided from Egypt. According to the last of these documents, bearing the date of August 9, 1579, approximately 5.5 months before the destruction of the observatory, upon the death of one of the employees in the observatory, someone was assigned to this open position [6].

When looking to Ala al-Din Mansur's work again, we encounter a hint for the cause of the destruction.  In a continuation of Taqi al-Din's statements quoted above, he said that “The enemy is very unhappy and is writhing violently. Now you can order to stop the observations, whereby hurting those who are low-minded and envious”. After that, it is written that the Sultan had the chavush bashi, who was responsible for discipline in place ceremonies and meetings of the Imperial Council, and ordered to destroy the observatory [7].

Like many inventors, Taqi al-Din was probably quarrelsome. Hence although he was from the ulama (scholar) class, he could not form good relationships with the people in Istanbul, where he had moved already. Kunh al-Ahbar contains an event regarding the fractiousness of Taqi al-Din [8]. When taking into account both the statements of Taqi al-Din in  Shahinshahnama and the event in Kunh al-Ahbar, even though the Sultan and Hoja Sadaddin Effendi supported him, some had hard feelings against him. Furthermore, some unwanted and strange events, such as the black death and the comet, occurred after the establishment of the observatory. All of these sealed the observatory's fate. Since Taqi al-Din realized this, he requested that the observatory be destroyed after completing his observations.

References and Notes

[1] Besides the valuable information the book contains, due to its aesthetical drawings the book can be considered artwork.

[2] Aydın Sayılı, “Alâuddin Mansur'un İstanbul Rasathanesi Hakkındaki Şiirleri”, Belleten, 20, 1956, p. 459.

[3] Even though "Medieval Arab Astronomers" is written on the stamp, there were Turkish and Jewish astronomers in the observatory. http://sio.midco.net/danstopicalstamps/arabic.htm

[4] Atâullah Nevizâde Atâî, Zayl-i Shaqaiq, Istanbul: Tabhane-i Âmire, 1269, vol. 1, p. 286-287. This book can be downloaded here.

[5] Abdülkadir Atansu, Osmanlı Şeyhülislamları, Ankara, 1972,  p. 37-38.

[6] İsmet Miroğlu, “İstanbul Rasathanesine ait Belgeler”, İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi, Tarih Enstitüsü Dergisi, 3, İstanbul, 1973, pp. 75-82.

[7] Aydın Sayılı, p. 468.

[8] Gelibolulu Mustafa Âli Efendi, Gelibolulu Mustafa Âli ve Künhü'l-ahbâr'ında II. Selim, III. Murat ve III. Mehmet devirleri, Prep. Faris Çerçi, Erciyes Üniversitesi yayınları, Kayseri, 2000, vol. III, p. 424.

Hiç yorum yok:

Yorum Gönder