During the sixteenth century there were many debates concerning Sufi adab (proper manners); some of these concerned Ibn Arabi’s views, the sama (dervish whirling), dhikr (remembrance of God) during the sama, and the state of the Prophet’s mother and father in the afterlife. With the arrival of the seventeenth century, new subjects were added to these. Particularly in that period there were debates on many subjects, and even physical fights between the group of preachers known as the Kadızadeli and adherents of Sufism. The Kadızadeli movement, which took its name from Kadızade Mehmed Efendi (d. 1635), a preacher during the era of Sultan Murad IV, was sparked first in the mosques. Then, it was the topic of debates in the sultan’s councils. For example, the debate between Mehmed Efendi and the prominent Halveti sheikh of that era, Abdülmecid Sivasi,on the question, “Do things remember (dhikr) God by word or through their condition?” (Eşyanın tesbihi hal ile mi yoksa kal (söz) ile midir?) moved from the pulpit into the presence of the sultan. However, the subjects of the debates between Kadızade and Sivasi were not exclusively related to Sufism. On the contrary, in addition to matters of Sufism, some debates were directly related to religious belief and worship, while others were related to social and political life. The subjects of the debates that took place during this period can be arranged as follows:

1. Whether dhikr (remembrance of God) and music during the sama are permissible;

2. Whether Khidr (a prophetic figure, supposedly having eternal life) is alive;

3. Whether the Pharaoh died as a believer;

4. Whether Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi should be considered an unbeliever;

5. Whether visiting graves is permissible;

6. Whether performing supererogatory prayers in congregation on the holy nights of Raghaib, Baraeh and Qadr is permissible;

7. Whether actions following prayers, such as shaking hands, kissing the hand/robe, bowing when greeting, are permissible;

8. Whether reciting the call to prayer, mevlid (Süleyman Çelebi’s poem, Wasila al-Najat, commemorating Prophet Muhammad’s birth) or reciting the Holy Qur’an with makam (melody) is permissible;

9. Whether tasliya (saying “salla Allah ‘alayh wa-sallam”) and tarziya (saying “radiya Allah ‘anh”) when the names of Prophet Muhammad and the Companions are mentioned is permissible;

10. Whether the Prophet’s mother and father had passed away in a state of iman (belief);

11. Whether cursing Yazid (the Umayyad caliph who ordered the murder of the Prophet’s grandson, Husayn) is permissible;

12. Whether one should abandon practices which emerged after the Prophet;

13. Whether pleasure-giving substances, like tobacco and coffee, are forbidden;

14. Whether it is permissible to study rational sciences like mathematics and philosophy;

15. The religious assessment of taking bribes.

Kadızade Mehmed Efendi took a negative stance on the sama; the study of rational sciences; reciting the call to prayer, mevlid and Quran in makam, tasliya or tarziya; visiting tombs and graves; praying supererogatory prayer in congregation; consuming tobacco or coffee; shaking or kissing another’s hand out of respect - considering all these to be forbidden. Moreover, he put forward that Khidr was not alive, that the Prophet’s parents and Ibn ‘Arabi were unbelievers, that the Pharaoh did not attain faith, that Yazid should be cursed, and that money received in exchange for some work carried out at state level is not bribery, but compensation. Abdülmecid Sivasi generally stated the opposite in these matters. After Kadızade Mehmed Efendi died, preachers who were among his supporters continued to push for the prohibition of some things for which the sharia did not establish a certain judgment. They declared that those who were engaged in such activities became apostates. These preachers also strongly opposed those who prayed supererogatory prayers in congregation, those who pronounced tasliya and na‘t-ı şerif (a poem praising the Prophet Muhammad) in makam. They as well opposed sama.

In the second phase of the Kadızadeli movement, Üstüvani Mehmed Efendi took over the leadership. Üstüvani Mehmed Efendi had been trained by Kadızade Mehmed Efendi and had risen to the rank of preacher at Hagia Sophia Mosque. Under the patronage of Sultan Mehmed IV’s teacher, Reyhan Agha, Üstüvani Mehmed Efendi became renowned for preaching to the sultan in the Has Oda (privy chamber). He thus became known as the “sultan’s sheikh.” He and a group of preachers in his circle had great influence in the palace. With the power that they possessed, they continued to take a hard line against the adherents of Sufism and from the pulpit in the mosque incited the people against Sufis. During this second phase of the movement, the leader of the Sufis was Abdülmecid Sivasi’s nephew, Abdülahad Nuri.

The failure of the Kadızadelis in the intellectual debates against the Sufis resulted in some incidents. First, in 1651 a buyuruldu (a command from government heads other than the sultan) was issued by Grand Vizier Melek Ahmed Pasha, and the dervishes who were performing the sama at the Halveti Lodge near Demirkapı were dispersed. Later, even though a period of calm had been established, Sheikh al-Islam Bahai Mehmed Efendi issued a fatwa, as a result of Üstüvani Mehmed Efendi’s efforts, forbidding the sama. The Kadızadelis’ influence at court continued until the Çınar Incident (Vak‘a-i Vakvakiye) in 1656 when the majority of this group’s supporters were killed. On the eighth day of Köprülü Mehmed Pasha’s appointment as grand vizier, Kadızadelis went into action in Fatih Mosque to prevent the muezzins (people who call for prayer in mosques) from reading na‘t-ı şerif during the Friday prayer; however, these attempts failed. Later, the Kadızadelis convened and decided to destroy all the dervish lodges in Istanbul. They decided to offer the dervishes a chance for tecdid-i iman (renewal of faith) and to kill those who refused to do so. In addition, they would go to the sultan to request the abolition of all forms of bid‘a (innovations), which would require leaving just one minaret but destroying all other minarets of royal mosques. The following day, a crowd carrying sticks and stones gathered in front of Fatih Mosque. The grand vizier obtained an edict from the sultan demanding the execution of the Kadızadelis. However, this penalty was later commuted to exile.

After the Kadızadeli movement had been pacified in 1656, the third phase began. This was during the era of the preacher Vani Mehmed Efendi. In 1663 Vani Efendi came to Istanbul and began to preach at Sultan Selim Mosque. Under the patronage of Sultan Mehmed IV, the preacher first became the sultan’s teacher, and then Prince Mustafa’s tutor. With his influence on the sultan and grand vizier, as well as his growing power in court, Vani Mehmed Efendi took a stance against Sufis. In 1666 the influence of the Kadızadelis led to the sultan prohibiting the Mevlevi sama and the ritual of Halveti dervishes, known as tahta tepmek (kicking a board). Visiting graves, another practice to which Vani Mehmed Efendi was opposed, was also forbidden on the orders of the sultan in 1667.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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