27 Mart 2015 Cuma

How can Ottoman Intellectual Life be understood?

How advanced was the intellectual life in the Ottoman state, which lasted six centuries and has shaped the world history? How should research be conducted on this issue? What are the minimum requirements for researchers?

A system can be thoroughly understood through learning its characteristics. If this system is a state, it is essential to do research on common social and moral values and mind-set of people in this state. Researchers should refer to the existing written materials so as to succeed in their research. The ability to read and understand these materials can be gained  via learning grammar of the language in which the materials were written. However, learning only the language does not guarantee that one can correctly understand these works with different scientific levels. Since the works were written by the scholars who were risen from madrasas (higher educational institution in the Ottoman state), it is necessary for researchers to be equipped with the knowledge of fundamental sciences in the time when these works were written. Tahsin Gorgun wrote about the requirements for understanding works of Ottoman scholars [1]: “having good knowledge of philology and philosophy of language in both classical and modern senses; having good education on logic and metaphysics;  knowing principles of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) and knowing well at least one of the fundamental fiqh books, such as Hidaya, Durar [2]. What the word 'good' means here is that one should have sufficiently read classical works on linguistics, such as Maqsud [3] and its commentaries and super-commentaries on sarf (morphology) and should have mastered on commentary of Molla Jami's Kafiya (al-Fawaid al-Ziyaiyya) [4] and al-Mutawwal [5]; known at least Fanari [6] and sufficient parts of its super-commentaries on logic; read at least Matali [7] and Sharh al-Mawaqif [8] on metaphysics. Without knowing these sciences, one would not have any opportunity to understand even  the most basic treatise of an Ottoman scholar, as well as what his/her opinions on Ottoman intellectual life would not have any scientific value. What those who do not satisfy the aforementioned requirements for understanding Ottoman thought say or write about Ottoman intellectual life will be only made up of some words, which are not known in terms of how meaningful they are. … Taking all these statements into account, we can say that  approaching Ottoman thought is possible only through considering its presence. The presence of a thought is directly related to the presence of those who carry this thought. Since the carriers of the thought are not naturally carrier before getting formal education, they take this role afterwards. A must-have prerequisite for understanding Ottoman thought is to pass through stages which the carriers experienced”. 


Reference and Notes

[1] Tahsin Gorgun, “Osmanli Dusuncesi Nasil Anlasilir? - Osmanli Dusuncesi'nin Arastirilmasinda Karsilasilan Bazi Zorluklar Uzerine”, Türklük Araştırmaları Dergisi, no 13-14, İstanbul, 2003, p. 29-46. This paper can be downloaded here.

[2]  Ekrem Bugra Ekinci, Islam Hukuku Tarihi (Istanbul, 2006, p. 154-155). 
al-Hidaya was penned by Marginani (d. 593/1197). Marginani first wrote 80 volumes of Kifaya al-Muntahi based on Imam Muhammad's al-Jami al-Sagir and Quduri's Mukhtasar. Since he then found his book too long, before completing it, he abridged it under the title of al-Bidaya. Later, he commented on al-Bidaya under the title of al-Hidaya. al-Hidaya has been highly respected as in Ottoman as  in Turkestan because its topics are well-organized and its literary style is good. There are special expressions in this work to warn  students who are in the early stage of learning. 
Durar al-Hukkam was written by Molla Husraw (d. 885/1480),  grand mufti in the Ottoman State. The writer commented on his own work, Gurar al-Ahkam, under the title of Durar al-Hukkam. This work was one of the works which were used in Ottoman madrasas and courts. Durar al-Hukkam was translated into Ottoman Turkish under the title of Tarjuma al-Gurar wa al-Durar. This translation can be downloaded here.

[3] Maqsud, sarf (morphology) book, was taught after Amsila and Bina. Imam Birgiwi stated that Maqsud penned by Imam Abu Hanifa. 

[4] Kafiya, on nahv (syntax), is the work of Ibn Hacib (d. 646/1248)

[5] al-Mutawwal ala al-Talhis, on balagat (rhetoric), is a commentary which Sadaddin Taftazani wrote on Talhis al-Miftah

[6] Fanari ala Isagoji, on logic,  is  a commentary which Molla Fanari, Ottoman grand mufti, wrote on Isagoji

[7] Matali, on kalam (Islamic theology), is a commentary which Shams al-Din al-Isfahani (d. 746/1345) wrote on Tavaliu al-Anwar of Qadi Baydawi (d. 692/1292).

[8] Sharh al-Mawaqif, on kalam, is a commentary which Sayyid Sharif al-Jurjani (d. 816/1413) wrote on al-Mawaqif of Adud al-Din al-Iji (d. 756/1355).

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