17 Şubat 2015 Salı

An Italian Ex-Jesuit's Impressions on Ottoman

After staying in Constantinople (Istanbul) between 1781 and 1786, Giambattista Toderini wrote Letteratura Turchesca in 3 volumes on Ottoman Literature in 1787. This work was translated into French and German under the title of De la Litterature des Turcs in 1789, and Litteratur der Türken in 1790, respectively. This important book on Ottoman intellectual history has not been translated into English yet. In 2012, its French version was translated into Turkish with many errors. Before this translation, the part of the third volume regarding typography had been separately translated and published in Turkish. The first volume of the work deals with sciences and arts in the Ottoman Empire, the second volume madrasas (higher educational institutions) and libraries, and the third volume the Ottoman typography and the books published between 1727-1787 in Istanbul. 

The cover page of Toderini's work

Evaluating narrations about the closing of Ibrahim Mutafarrika's press, he writes: “The pervasive and often repeated story that calligraphers stopped the press' service by putting pressure on the State is based on the gossip between the common people and is nothing but a baseless invention. It is true that many people make money from this occupation. But most of them copy mushaf (Quran), tafsir (Quranic exegesis), dua (invocation), hutba (sermon), tasawwuf (sufism) and religious books. At this time, these books are not published in the press. Moreover, if many manuscripts Turks order copied based on their need and pleasure are considered, it will become immediately obvious that one press in such a huge capital cannot damage the calligraphers. Turks like the hand-written books very much. It is easy to have Arabic and Turkish manuscripts, whose beauty and elegance are beyond the printed books. … Let me  state here that Baron de Tott's that the press was scorned and Ibrahim had to close his press is totally false” [1].

Toderini mentions the Ottomans' skills on arithmetic and geometry: “The Ottomans in Istanbul specialize in arithmetic. When young, they learn the fundamental concepts of this science in Arabic; after that they receive an education with thorough Arabic and Turkish arithmetic books under good teachers” [2]. “Geometry takes place in the Turkish syllabus, and there are mudarris (professor) in madrasas, who teach students this course. … Since Turks  have a strong tendency towards astronomy, they give much importance to geometry, which is essential for astronomical research. They also need this science in order to prepare their calendars, solar clocks, and maps” [3].


[1] Giambatista Toderini, Türklerin Yazılı Kültürü (Translation from French into Turkish by Ali Berktay, İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2012), p. 328, 330. 

[2] Ibid., p. 61.

[3] Ibid., p.65-67.

The First Book on the Historical Methodology

While dealing with daily affairs, we need to know the right way to figure out them. Likewise, we are required to do the same in the  scientific problems. Otherwise, our life would not be in order, and  scientific knowledge would not be coherent. The importance of methodology (usul – singular: asl) has been highly emphasized in Islamic scientific tradition. There is a saying in Arabic expressing this reality: “La vusula illa bi al-usul – success cannot be achieved without methodology”. Islamic scholars have written various books on the methodology regarding the field on which they specialized. There are other books in which the methodology was explained in their introduction, sometimes briefly, sometimes in great detail. For instance, Kitab al-Ibar written by Ibn Haldun might have the most detailed methodology in an introduction.

To my best knowledge, the first book dedicated to the methodology of history is al-Mukhtasar fi  Ilm al-Tarikh  (A Brief Compendium on Historiography), written by Muhyiddin Muhammad b. Sulayman al-Kafiyaji (d. 1474), a Hanafi chief mufti in the Mamluk era. Kasim Sulul not only translated this work into Turkish [Kafiyeci'de Tarih Usulu, Isltanbul, 2003], but did research on it. I will translate some parts from this book.

al-Kafiyaji received an education under Molla Fanari (d. 1431) and other well-known Ottoman scholars. p.18

al-Kafiyaji, who settled in Cairo, was involved in scientific talks with Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 1449) and other scholars. Scholars, such as Suyuti, benefited from his knowledge.  p. 19

While mentioning his own life, Suyuti (d. 1505) wrote: “I continued to follow al-Kafiyaji's public lectures, and took his courses on various sciences, especially on tafsir, usul, arabic, and maani, from him. I also benefited much from al-Kafiyaji by means of hearing subtle points, which I have not ever heard, from him”.  p. 20

al-Mukhtasar fi  Ilm al-Tarikh, which al-Kafiyaji completed on Thuesday, Rajab 8, 867, is known to be the first  book on the methodology of history. p. 25

What makes al-Kafiyaji important is that he tried to produce a methodology of history in a universal sense. Contents of the books are as follows:

First Section

The literal and technical meanings of history and time
The concepts of sun. moon, month, day and hour
The origin of history
The making of hijri calendar and other calendars
Definition of history and its subject
Necessity of the methodology of history
 Qualifications a historian should have

Second Section

The concept of history and its relation between other sciences
The purpose of a historian
History of humanity
Five methods in the historiography and their application
Necessity of history and its benefit

13 Şubat 2015 Cuma

Multaqa al-Abhur (The Confluence of the Seas)

From 16th century, Ottoman qadis (judges) were ordered to judge based on the strong precedents (asahh-i aqwal) of the Hanafi school. These precedents were compiled systematically by Ibrahim Halebi (d. 956/1594) in his book, Multaqa al-Abhur. In the time of Sultan Ibrahim's reign, this book was translated by Mawqufati Mahmad Efendi into Ottoman Turkish with commentaries. From that time on, this translation was used as a code of law in the Ottoman courts [1]. James Lewis Farley, Irish banker and diplomat, states in his book, “The Sultan rules over the Turks, but the Koran and the Multeka rule the Sultan” [2]. This statement is important to show that the Sultan's sovereignty is limited by Multaqa.

Ibrahim Halabi expresses his purpose for writing this book [3]: “Some students wanted me to write a book, which contains knowledge from Quduri, Mukhtar, Kanz, and Wiqaya,  whose sentences could be read easily. I have accepted their request. Furthermore I added necessary masail (judgements of fiqh) from Majma and  some from Hidaya to my book”.  The books mentioned in his statement, al-Mukhtar li al-Fatwa, Kanz al-Daqaiq, Wiqaya al-Riwaya fi Masail al-Hidaya and Majma al-Bahrayn, are four most esteemed books (mutun-i mutabara-i arbaa) in the Hanafi school. Quduri belongs to this group of esteemed books, if we consider the six most esteemed books. Hidaya is a famous Hanafi fiqh book.  

Many researchers doing studies on Ottoman do not even have fundamental knowledge about Ottoman law. Therefore, their analyses and citations are left unsupported. The following citation from Oral Sander's book can be given as an example [4]: “The Ottoman Empire got a more Muslim character  under the rule of Sulaiman; this required  a new legal arrangement. Hence, Halab of Molla Ibrahim was tasked with that; the emerged law was called Mülteka-ul-uther (Kinross, 1972, p. 206)”. If Sander looked at the translation of Multaqa instead of only citing from Kinross, he would have realized that Mulataqa was written for a different purpose and he could have written correctly the title of Multaqa. Moreover, according to Multaqa's manuscript written by the author in  Beyazit Library, this manuscript was written 3 years before the accession of Sultan Suleiman [5].


[1] Ekrem Buğra Ekinci, Osmanlı Hukuku – Adalet ve Mülk [Ottoman Law – Justice and State], Istanbul, 2012, p. 163.

[2] James Lewis Farley, Turks and Christians: A Solution of the Eastern Question, London, 1876, p. 156. This book can be downloaded here.

[3] Ibrahim Halabi, Multaqa Tarjumasi [Translation of Multaqa], Translation into Ottoman Turkish with explanation by Mawqufati Mahmad Efendi, Darsaadat, 1312, vol. I, p. 7.

[4] Oral Sander, Anka’nın Yükselişi ve Düşüşü - Osmanlı Diplomasi Tarihi Üzerine Bir Deneme [Rise and Decline of The Phoenix – An Essay on the History of Ottoman Diplomacy], Ankara, 1987, s. 57. This book can be downloaded here. For the citation from Kinross, refer to  Patrick Balfour Baron Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire, Cape, 1977,  p. 206.

[5] Şükrü Selim Has, “Mülteka’l-Ebhur”, Diyanet Vakfı İslâm Ansiklopedisi, vol. XXXI, İstanbul 2006, p. 550.

8 Şubat 2015 Pazar

Matn, Sharh, Hashiya, Taliqa, and Takmila in Islamic Intellectual History

Islamic civilization was built on ilm (knowledge). Since books were a medium through which ilm was transmitted to the next generation, they have taken an important place in Islamic civilization. Moreover, books have been treated as an art object due to different writing styles, ornaments on their pages and covers, and their binding  styles. This post considers different kinds of books in terms of their purpose of writing and explains what matn, sharh, hashiya, taliqa, and takmila are [1].    

Before explaining these types of books, I would like to bring up an important issue about these books. Some orientalists, such as Montgomery Watt, and their followers underestimate the value of the tradition of sharh-hashiya, and they also claim that these kinds of books do not demonstrate the originality. However, such a judgment has been made recklessly. In recent years, the works concentrating on sharh-hashiya books have nullified this judgment by showing the originality of these books [2]. Since this topic has attracted many academics, University of California, Berkeley, hosted Commentaries Conference (October 12-14, 2012) in order to discuss the tradition of sharh-hashiya in Islamic intellectual history [3]. It is estimated that the number of extant manuscripts is approximately 10 million. Unfortunately, only 10% of these manuscripts have been studied, which  shows that evaluating this tradition will take long time. Even though Turkey has the biggest manuscript collection in the world, the studies on the tradition of sharh-hashiya are just at the beginning stage [4].

Matn (Text)
These kinds of books are fundamental books for the sciences on which they are written. Students at the first level of the related science are taught through these books. Most of matn books are memorized. These books give fundamental concepts and a general overview for their subjects. They generally do not mention different opinions and do not make comparative analyses on the subject under discussion.

Sharh (Commentary)
Since matn books are brief, their sentences and content may be ambiguous and difficult to understand. The ambiguity and difficulty increase over time. For these reasons, sharhs (commentaries) are written on these books. Commentaries are either written in margins or integrated in the text. Sharhs not only explain the unknown words and ambiguous sentences, but also criticize information in the matn book.

Hashiya (Super-commentary / Gloss) and Taliqa
Hashiyas are generally written at the bottom of pages. While some issues in sharhs are explained, additional information is added. They are usually called taliqa, which consists of notes taken while reading the book. The taliqa and the hashiya often criticize information and evaluate the strengths of the arguments in the sharh and matn. Furthermore, the judgments in the sharhs are analyzed taking into account their evidence.

Takmila (Continuation)
If an author cannot complete his/her book or the context is lacking, the written text to complete this book  is called takmila.

We can consider the following example from Islamic jurisprudence: Timustashi's Tanwir al-Absar matn book was commented on by Alauddin Haskafi under the title of Durr al-Mukhtar. Ibn Abidin wrote a gloss (hashiya) on this commentary under the title of Radd al-Mukhtar. Since Ibn Abidin was dead before compiling all the drafts of his hashiya, his son, Alauddin Muhammad, wrote a takmila on his father's hashiya under the title of Qurrat al-Uyun al-Ahyar. Abdulkadir Rafii wrote a taliqa known as Taqrirat al-Rafii. Ahmad Mahdi Hidir of Damascus prepared a fihrist for Radd al-Mukhtar.


[1] Ekrem Buğra Ekinci, İslâm Hukuk Tarihi, Istanbul, 2006, p.151-152.

[2] Please refer to the following article for the evaluation of sharhs and hashiyas on the philosophical works in the Ottoman era and the previous centuries. Robert Wisnovsky, “The Nature and Scope of Arabic Philosophical Commentary in Post-Classical (CA. 1100–1900 AD) Islamic Intellectual History: Some Preliminary Observations”, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, vol. 47, pp.149-191, 2004.

[3] http://nes.berkeley.edu/MellonSawyer/conference.html

[4] Please refer to the following book (Turkish) for an introduction to the tradition of sharh-hashiya. İsmail Kara, İlim Bilmez Tarih Hatırlamaz – Şerh ve Haşiye Meselesine Dair Birkaç Not, Istanbul, 2011.

6 Şubat 2015 Cuma

Birgiwi's View on Positive Sciences

Birgiwi discusses which ulum (sciences) fall under the following three categories [1]: “Ordered (Fard) sciences”, “non-forbiden (mendub) sciences”, and “forbiden (haram) sciences” in his book al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya wa al-Sirat al-Ahmadiyya [2], which he completed one year before his death. Ilm al-kalam (theology), ilm al-nujum (astrology) and other philosophical sciences were gathered under the title of the forbidden sciences.

After narrating different opinions on ilm al-kalam, he states his opinion: “It is appropriate for those who are intelligent, religious, and diligent and do not have a tendency towards superstitious sects to learn and teach ilm al-kalam”.

In the section where he addresses ilm al-nujum, he declares that “the forbidden part of this science is to make judgments about future events when a solar eclipse, lunar eclipse or earthquake occurs”.

While considering the other philosophical sciences, he expresses his belief that philosophers are incapable of comprehending theology.

Taking all into account, it is clearly understood that Birgiwi is against the philosophers' statements only on theology and the pseudo-sciences, such as astrology, and not on the positive sciences.

There are some books, which ulamas (Islamic scholars) wrote for the purpose of advice to Muslims, containing statements which advise common people against learning theological sciences. Due to this fact, some academics arrive at inaccurate conclusion about the fate of Islamic learning tradition and madrasas. However, since the conditions regarding time and place are often not considered, an anachronistic approach  is being applied. The aim of the ulamas is to help people attain happiness in both this world and the hereafter. Therefore, this kind of advice the ulamas deliver should be understood as warnings that not everyone is capable of understanding all areas of sciences and people who do not have a sufficient scholarly background should know their limits in the sciences in which they lack knowledge. There is no negative attitude towards mathematics, geometry, astronomy, theology and logic. According to what Birgiwi wrote in his book, while some sciences are considered mubah (good to learn), some are regarded as fard al-kifaya (at least some people have to learn these sciences). If he had a negative stance on these sciences, how could one explain the fact that these sciences were taught in madrasas  and  many books were written in these sciences until madrasas were abolished?

In Islamic civilization there have always existed small groups which hold belief systems contrary to mainstream belief systems (i.e. Qadizadah movement in the 17th century [3]). The existence of these kinds of opinions can be regarded as a sign of tolerance [4]. However,  tolerance is shown for  extreme opinions as long as they do not threaten society.


[1] Huriye Marti, Birgivi, Mehmed Efendi, 2. edition, Ankara: Türk Diyanet Vakfı, 2011, p. 101.

[2] Birgivî, Tarîkat-ı Muhammediyye ve Sîret-i Ahmediyye, tahqiq Muhammed Hüsnî Mustafa, Translation of al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya wa al-Sirat al-Ahmadiyya into Turkish by Mehmet Fatih Güneş, İstanbul: Kalem Yayınevi, 2006, p. 157-187.  There are twenty commentaries (sharh) on this book. The two most prominent are: Abdulganî al-Nâblusî's (d. 1144/1731) commentary al-Hadîkatu al-Nadiyya Sharhu al-Tarîkati al-Muhammediyya and Abû Saîd al-Hâdimî's (d. 1176/1762) commentary al-Berîkatu al-Mahmûdiyya fî Sharhi al-Tarîkati al-Muhammediyya. Both Ottoman scholars specialized in both zahir (tafsir, hadith, kalam, fiqh) and batin (tasawwuf) ulums (sciences).

[3] Even though Qadizadas claimed that they benefited from Birgiwi's books, they differed from Birgiwi in understanding tasawwuf and bidahs. While according to Birgiwi Mahmad Effendi, some bidahs (innovations), which facilitate daily life, are considered proper, Qadizadas regard all the bidahs as haram (forbidden) and  those who apply these bidahs as infidel. Huriye Martı, Birgivî Mehmed Efendi, p. 180. Birgiwi often cites from the books of famous great sufis, such as Muhyiddin al-Arabi, and speaks in praise of them.

[4] There are worthwhile judgments regarding the difference of opinions in religious sciences in  Imam Gazali's Faysalu al-Tafriqa. Imam Gazalî, İslâm'da Müsamaha (Faysalü't-Tefrika Beyne'l-İslam ve'z-Zendeka), Translation into Turkish by Süleyman Uludağ, İstanbul: Dergâh, 2013.

4 Şubat 2015 Çarşamba

İslam İlim Geleneği ve İmam Gazali

İmam Gazali, yazdığı eserlerle hem İslam dünyasında hem de Batı'da haklı bir şöhrete sahiptir. Ancak bu şöhret, İmam Gazali'nin yazdıklarının İslam dünyası üzerindeki tesirlerinin doğru analiz edilememesine yol açmaktadır. İslam ilim geleneğinde hiçbir âlimin sözü mutlak, tartışılmaz doğru olarak ele alınmaz. Bu ilmin tabiatının gerektirdiği bir haldir. Her ne kadar dini ilimler nakli esas alsa da, bu naklin meseleye tatbiki ve nakil bulunmayan hallerde meselenin halli akli bir faaliyet neticesinde olmaktadır.

İlk devir müsteşrikler, bilhassa Eşari mezhebi ve İmam Gazali üzerinden İslam medeniyetinde akli faaliyetlerin en iyi ifadeyle yavaşladığını iddia etmişlerdir. Böyle bir iddianın geçerliliği de İmam Gazali gibi bir âlimin mutlak otorite olarak gösterilmesiyle olacaktır. Bunda başarılı da oldular. 

Beşeri bilimler ve mukayeseli felsefe sahasında doktora yapmış birinin makalesindeki ifadeler, oryantalist fikirlerin zihinlerdeki tahakkümünün hâlâ devam ettiğini hatıra getirmektedir. Makalede, İmam Gazali ve dolayısıyla İslam ilim geleneği hakkında şu iddialar yer almaktadır [1]: 
  • İmam Gazali'nin Tehâfütü'l-Felâsife adlı kitabında, ilahiyat sahasında hatalı fikirler ortaya koyan filozofların fikirlerinden sadece dinin temel ilkelerine muhalif olduğunu düşündüğü üç tanesinin küfür olduğu hükümüne varması "acımasızca"ydı. 
  • Bu hükme varmasında, siyasi gelişmeler de rol oynamıştır. 
  • Sünni kelâmcılar ve fakihler bu hükmü, felsefenin toptan reddi olarak yorumlamıştır.
İlmi eserlerde, duygulardan ziyade ilmin gerektirdigi şekilde hareket edilir. Makale sahibi, meseleye ilmilikten ziyade hissi yaklaşmıştır. İmam Gazali'nin hükmündeki "acımasızlık" denir? Bir din adamının inanç sahasına giren bir meselede, hüküm vermesi kadar tabii ne olabilir?

İmam Gazali'nin, el-Münkızu mine'd-Dalâl ve Tehâfütü'l-Felâsife gibi eserleri ve bilhassa Faysalü't-Tefrika adlı hacmi küçük ancak muhtevası mühim olan eserindeki tekfir hususundaki ifadeleri gözönüne alındığında, meselelere yaklaşırken ne derece siyasi ne derece ilmi saikle hareket ettiği rahatlıkla anlaşılmaktadır. Makale sahibinin, Gazali'nin değerlendirmelerinde siyasi gelişmelerin tesiri olduğu iddiası havada durmaktadır.

İmam Gazali'nin mezkur hükmünün kelâm ve fıkıh âlimleri arasında, tartışılmaz doğru kabul edildiği iddiası da, İslam ilim geleneği ile uyuşmamaktadır. Mesela, Gazali'nin küfrü gerektirdiğini ifade ettiği üç meseleden biri olan âlemin ezeli olduğu inancı, Şeyhülislam Kemalpaşazâde'nin (v. 1534) Tehâfüt Haşiyesi'nde tekfiri gerektirmeyen bir husus olarak ele alınmaktadır [2]. Ayrıca Osmanlı'da telif edilen eserlere göz atıldığında, İmam Gazali'nin tenkid ettiği İbn Sina'dan, mesela Kemalpaşazâde'nin varlık meselesine dair yazdığı risalelerde "Şeyh" lakabıyla sıklıkla iktibas yaptığı görülmektedir [3]. Fıkıh, fıkıh usulü ve ahlak sahalarında meşhur eserleri olan bir başka Osmanlı âlimi Hâdimî (v. 1762), İbn Sina'nın İhlâs suresi tefsiri üzerine bir haşiye yazmıştır [4].

İslam ilim geleneğinde, yasaklı kitaplar (Index Librorum Prohibitorum [5]) veya âlimler listesi mevcut değildir. Bu gelenekte, reddiye/tenkid literatürü geniş bir yer tutmasına rağmen, bu hiçbir zaman bir âlimin ve kitaplarının mutlak kötü veya yasaklı olduğu manasına gelmemektedir. 


[1] "With the political developments of his time in the background, Ghazali passed a merciless judgment on the philosophers and declared them outside the faith of Islam for holding three views: that the universe was eternal, that God did not know the particulars and that resurrection in the hereafter will be spiritual only. Sunni theologians and jurists took this verdict as a condemnation of all philosophy. The Orientalists declared this end of philosophical thinking in Islam. As Sunni theology and philosophical mysticism Ghazali and Ibn al-Arabi grew stronger, Peripatetic philosophy took a back seat. But philosophical thinking did not come to an end in the Muslim world. It took different forms". Makalenin tamamı için bkz. İbrahim Kalın, "Al-Ghazali and Wittgenstein on the limits of philosophy", Daily Sabah, 1 Kasım 2014. Makaleye buradan ulaşılabilir.

Makalenin Türkçesi'ne buradan ulaşılabilir. Kalın, twitter sayfasında bu tercümeyi retweet yaptığından, tercümedeki ifadeler kullanılmıştır. İktibas edilen kısmın tercümesi: "Gazali, dönemindeki siyasi gelişmelerin de etkisiyle filozoflar hakkında acımasız bir hüküm verdi ve şu üç görüşü savundukları için onları İslam inancından çıkmakla itham etti: Evren ebedi ve ezelidir, Tanrı cüz'iyyâtı bilmez ve son olarak, öldükten sonra diriliş cismani değil sadece ruhani olacaktır. Sünni kelamcılar ve fakihler Gazali'nin bu hükmünü felsefenin toptan reddi olarak yorumladılar. Oryantalistler bunu İslam dünyasında felsefi düşüncenin sonu olarak ilan ettiler. Sünni ilahiyatı ile Gazali ve İbn-i Arabi'nin felsefi mistisizmi güç kazanırken, Aristocu felsefe geri plana düştü. Ancak İslam dünyasında felsefi düşünce sona ermeyip farklı şekillere büründü".

[2] Kemal Paşa-zâde, Tehâfüt hâşiyesi, Trc. Ahmet Arslan, Ankara : Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, 1987, s. 25-26. Kemalpaşazâde, meseleyi ele aldığı yerde, Fahreddin Râzî'nin el-Metâlibü'l-'Âliye kitabından iktibas yaparak, onun da bu meselede İmam Gazali gibi düşünmediğini ifade etmektedir.

[3] Bu risalelerinden biri için bkz. Engin Erdem ve Necmettin Pehlivan, "Varlığın ve Yokluğun Ötesi: Kemalpaşazade’nin 'Leys ve Eys’in Anlamının İncelenmesine Dair Risale'si", İslam Araştırmaları Dergisi, 2012, sayı: 27, s. 87-116. Makaleye buradan ulaşılabilir.

[4] Bu haşiyeye dair bir değerlendirme için bkz. Harun Bekiroğlu, "Bir Felsefî Tefsir Örneği Olarak Muhammed Hâdimî’nin İbn Sina’ya Ait İhlâs Sûresi Tefsirine Haşiyesi", Hitit Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, 2013/1, c. 12, sayı: 23. Makaleye buradan ulaşılabilir.

[5] Index Librorum Prohibitorum, Katolik kilisesinin yasakladığı kitapları ihtiva eden listeye verilen addır. 1966 senesinde kaldırılmıştır.