Before examining the intellectual life of Istanbul, one needs to underline some particularities and some subtleties of the subject. Firstly, while there are some studies on various madrasas, tekkes (dervish lodges) and certain individuals and institutions, no basic studies have been carried out on the issues that will be highlighted in this chapter. Moreover, most of the works on the subject, particularly commentaries and sharhs (glosses), have not yet been taken into a scholarly research. However, the area of our knowledge increases every day via scholarly works on these subjects, as well as those in many other fields.
It does not seem to be an easy question on how to decide what should be included and to what extent one thing should be included in considering both Istanbul in general and “the intellectual life and scholarship in Istanbul” in particular. It is not easy to decide on which activities of the individuals who contributed to the fields of thinking, scholarship and education belonged to Istanbul and which did not because of the dynamism provided by the state organization as well as the characteristics of Ottoman society.
The third matter can be described to as the difficulty of presenting the one that is expected from a history when writing about the history of Istanbul or the intellectual and scholarly life of the city. As is known, what is expected from a history is the presentation of what is permanent and what is changing within the context of their relationship to one another.1 This situation was not only applicable to the Ottoman State in its entirety, but also presented serious difficulties in relation to the scholarly and intellectual elements of Ottoman society. Institutions were the most important part of scholarly and educational life that were not subject to rapid change and it is probably these that ensured stability. Since changes that takes place in institutions are too slow to be recognized when compared to changes that take place in the lives of individuals, we can count them among those things that are not subject to rapid change. When one mentions institutions, the first thing that come to mind are madrasas, tekkes (dervish lodges), and the waqf (endowment) system, which provides financial support to the institutions and determines the curricula they follow, particularly for madrasas. It is not possible to understand or to present the stability of these institutions as a whole without taking the waqf system into consideration.
Another area that was subject to relatively less change was the textbooks taught at the madrasas. As textbooks were determined by vakfiyes (endowment deeds), there was both stability in relation to the texts and relative ease in finding out which subjects were taught. A similar situation existed in tariqas (Sufi orders). As with the textbooks in madrasas, it was not easy to change the rules of conduct (erkân) in tariqas; in general, these were defined by long-time practices. It has been established which textbooks were taught at the madrasas through contemporary research that studied the vakfiyes and other similar documents. Nevertheless, the question of “what reading and teaching these texts meant, and what the position of these texts was compared to the historical accumulation of the past, the problems of the day, and finally what needs to be done in the future” has yet to be asked.
The most important element that was subject to change was the instructors who gave the lessons and the students who took them. Even though the texts did not change, other changes occurred regarding the content of the courses; this was the result of a high turnover in instructors and students. Likewise, based on the students’ interests and abilities, differences naturally occurred in what was understood from the courses.
An important point on the subject of change was that the Ottoman State was also part of a larger Muslim civilization. The Ottoman State should not be considered without taking this fact into consideration, neither during the process of its rise nor while it evolved. That is, the Ottoman scholarly and intellectual world had a characteristic which sustained and developed the general scholarly and intellectual world of Islam. To trace developments requires evaluating the Ottoman scholarly and intellectual life over a period of time, paying attention to participation and receiving-undertaking role. In time the Ottoman tradition attained its own identity and assumed the role of carrier and transmitter. In this context, it becomes clear that Ottoman scholarly and intellectual life should be examined as a centralizing process that took place within the flow of Islamic civilization in general. In other words, scholarly and educational life in the Ottoman State corresponds almost completely to a period of Islamic civilization. This correspondence was affective at different levels at different periods, acting not only as a participant and a carrier, but also occupying a central position. It should be mentioned that Istanbul and its educational and scholarly institutions played a determinative role in achieving this central position. When dealing with Ottoman scholarly and intellectual life, it is necessary to describe see this life as a historical process; in other words, Ottoman intellectual life should be examined with its changing and unchanging/permanent aspects, and as a process that maintained its identity.
Another issue that needs to be mentioned here is the relationship of representation between Istanbul and the Ottomans. Even though Istanbul undoubtedly was the center of the Ottoman State in all aspects of its life after the conquest, it is necessary to be aware that this centrality was not without exceptions; that is, there were centers other than Istanbul. Many things that did not exist in Istanbul could be found elsewhere within the boundaries of the Ottoman territories. Likewise, it should always be questioned whether everything found in Istanbul represented all the Ottomans. For example, even though Turkish was mostly spoken in Istanbul, it is clear that other languages, such as Greek, Armenian, Arabic, Persian and many dialects, were spoken throughout the Ottoman lands. The essential issue here is by taking all the diversity into consideration to exanube giw this diversity created a unity and the levels of this unity realized in connection in connection with time and place.
The Institutions of Learning and Education in Istanbul
In general, all societies live by learning and within the framework of what they know. Since enhancing the social life is only possible by transmitting and developing knowledge, almost all societies conceive and conceptualize the forms of their existence and transmit them to subsequent generations.2 This principle, which is valid for all societies, manifests some variation in practice. Some societies are more aware of this issue than others. In time, this awareness creates significant differences, known as forms of high culture. As can be clearly understood from studies on this subject, Ottoman Istanbul was a highly educated city with a notable level of culture.3 One should not immediately consider only madrasas when speaking about knowledge, education and technology. Nor should one assume that everything said about madrasas is valid for learning, education and culture in Istanbul in general; the madrasa was not, after all, the only institution of learning and education. There were several other educational institutions. Considering the meager number of studies carried out on these institutions, we need to increase our knowledge with new research. Moreover, madrasas did not have a uniform system that provided only one type of educational program administered from one center. Decentralization was the natural state of the madrasas and generalizations which are made about them cannot be true for all the educational institutions; not even they should necessarily be true for the madrasas whose numbers exceeded thousands throughout the Ottoman lands. When we examine the varying levels of these institutions with other programs in Istanbul, we should keep in mind that people living in Istanbul, as in all societies or cities, lived by means of learning, that their knowledge had a certain content, and they produced and transmitted this knowledge in various ways. It is not easy to examine this issue historically or systematically, even in general terms.
A preliminary examination of “the institutions” that were found in Istanbul and where education was pursued can give a clearer idea about this matter. Firstly, the palace itself provided regular educational activities; thus, the palace should be considered a type of school that was primarily aimed at training Ottoman princes. Moreover, there was another very important educational institution, the Enderun, which regularly trained the qualified people needed by the state. In addition, the Meşkhane, which provided a thorough music education, should be considered as a separate educational institution. In the Ottoman social order, educational activities were also conducted to train people for military service in addition to training those needed for the functioning of the palace and government. Among those institutions, the Acemioğlanlar School, the Mehterhane and Cambazhane occupied very important places. Moreover, there were special art schools that offered the technical knowledge needed for military service and trained qualified people based on a certain field of science. Tophane (arsenal), Kılıçhane (swords house), Tüfenkhane (rifles house) and Humbarahane (sappers and miners) are just some examples. It can be said that every institution and office in the state also worked like an educational institution. This can clearly be seen in the judicial system. Even though their names and curricula changed according to time and place, the offices of the divan, defterdar, kazasker and şeyhülislam functioned as types of schools where the skills needed in bureaucratic jobs were gained. In fact, when knowledge is considered to be a faculty or skill, as we will examine in detail later, it is possible to say that learning and teaching carried an aspect of apprenticeship. Thus, novices were practically raised by masters who had been trained in a specific field. When examining the issues related to education, science and techniques in Ottoman Istanbul, one should keep this point in mind.
Generally, maintaining people’s knowledge at a certain level and establishing grounds for common knowledge among the public are among the essential principles of a coherent social life. In this context, sibyan schools,4 which were located in every district and where young children received their primary education and socialized outside of their families, and various madrasas, where people improved their knowledge and culture, commonly provided society’s general education.
Being institutions that systematically provided refined and serious education, madrasas in particular managed to advance learning and transmit it to the following generations. In every period they were effective at maintaining the social cohesion that sustained society. As with every institution, a few writers criticized some madrasas located in various regions at various times due to their failure to fulfill their responsibilities. This is related to the fact that madrasas have always occupied an important place in history. Indeed, madrasas are demonstrative of systematic achievement and the maintenance of unity within diversity, without neglecting the differences in society in conjunction with the rich diversity of the madrasas themselves. The existence of branches among the madrasas that trained qadis, preachers and imams in their fields and especially in hadith, medicine, algebra and Mathnawi demonstrates that they were in a position to satisfy the scholarly and intellectual needs of the society in which they existed.
Characteristics of Ottoman Thought
The Ottoman social and political order was not a new order, nor did Ottoman thought dealing with the intellectual principles of that order claim to be new in terms of its roots or position. However, this does not mean that Ottoman thought was a duplicate or a bad copy of that which had preceded it. As the perpetuation of social and political order depends on the reproduction and maintenance of knowledge, such advance is only possible by comprehending, perceiving and reproducing (ascertaining), not by repetition (imitation). Likewise, Ottoman thought defined itself by replicating/reproducing the tradition to which it belonged. It formed and developed in a manner that was intertwined with the issues of the society in which it developed. After the disintegration of this social order – due to various factors – Ottoman thought remained a witness to this disintegration and was an example of continuous intellectual efforts.
At the beginning of al-Mutawwal, one of the basic textbooks studied at Ottoman madrasas, the author starts by criticizing imitation.5 A similar approach exists in Mehmed Emin’s treatise.6 Likewise, in his Sharh Aqaid, Dawwani praises God’s saying “all praises due to Allah who protects us from imitation.” 7 How scholars such as Gelenbevi understood these and other similar statements is important in determining how imitation was perceived during the Ottoman period. When Dawwani describes the method that he followed in his commentary by saying “even if it was against the common beliefs, I preferred the clear truths. Even though it did not support the views of the majority, I acted in accordance with the requirements of the proof.” 8 As his book was one of the textbooks taught at the madrasas, it is possible that he influenced approaches about imitation at that time. It is remarkable that a book which was chosen to be taught as a textbook at the madrasas presents an unfavorable view of imitation. This situation is true for almost all of the books studied at Ottoman madrasas.
The concept of tahqiq seems to have had a decisive significance for Ottoman scholars. Since this concept was related to Ottoman understanding of both scholarship and education, it is a concept that should be specifically dealt with. If we need to find a one-word term, the term tahqiq is roughly the equivalent to the term “reconstruction.” Tahqiq means to reconstruct an expressed view from scratch, and thus to adopt it by accounting for it step by step. The scholars called muhaqqiqin al-ulama were not scholars who introduced “new ideas”, but rather adopted old ideas by taking / giving account of them, and who were, at the same time, open to new ideas that emerged throughout the process. Mehmed Emin Efendi’s treatise of Cihet-i Vahde shows how this process worked. This treatise first developed as a separate commentary to the beginning chapter of Fenari’s Isaguji. In his commentary, Mehmed Emin Efendi mainly reconstructed Molla Fenari’s ideas. In other words, he reconstructed them based on principles that made them admissible. In this way, he demonstrated that not only did he understand Fenari’s ideas and his understanding of them, but he was able to present the foundation/method that made these ideas acceptable. I think this was a general characteristic of the “commentaries.” Meanwhile, commentaries would sometimes oppose the main text, constructively criticizing it, and stating the view which was believed to be the correct one. These two matters, on the one hand, show the relationship between the text and its commentary, while, on the other hand, emphasizing that commentaries should be regarded as a separate book/writing style.
Statements such as “Ottoman thought, Ottoman madrasas, Ottoman understanding/concept of scholarship and education” do not essentially refer to a school, worldview or ideology. Rather, they only indicate various phenomena and approaches which developed within the borders of the lands under the rule of a political entity known as the Ottoman State, and therefore, it is not possible to attribute a beginning to the inferences of these statements. This does not mean that the Ottomans could not establish madrasas, that they did not have any scholarly or educational understanding or that all the above-mentioned points developed in a “unique and novel” way after the Ottomans started to rule over those lands. Ottoman social order (from the political, economic and intellectual, view) was a continuation of various aspects of Islamic civilization, which could be compared to a flowing river. The fact that the Ottomans preserved what had been available to them points to the fact that what they did could be understood when evaluated within the context of what preceded and followed them.
However, one of the things that should be mentioned here is that the Ottoman State was not seen merely as a political entity by the people of the time. Rather, it was perceived as encompassing various aspects, while being united despite all its flexibility. This is not a fiction of historiography that developed later, but corresponds to a way of understanding/conception the scholars who perceived themselves as Ottoman scholars and which distinguished the Ottoman lands from the outside world. Indeed Taşköprîzade, who passed away in 1561, studied a wide group of Ottoman scholars who lived until Sultan Süleyman I’s reign, rank by rank; he considered the beginning of the Ottoman State as “a birth” and historical start. His acceptance of the emergence of the Ottoman State as a unit in history and his separation of the ranks based on this is important for it shows “a consciousness of identity” or “an opinion about themselves” expressed by a prominent person during the reign of Sultan Süleyman I. This scholar, who was clearly part of the Ottoman State, accepted the Ottoman State as an independent unit and regarded it as more than the government of a dynasty. In a way, he reconstructed the scholarly and intellectual life which developed within this unit around the center of the Ottoman state, at least in theory.
This point indicates that the Ottoman State had an established order within its society and scholarly community and accordingly had a foundation that intellectually distinguished it from other states and dynasties. It is possible to say that in an environment of political fragmentation, the Ottoman State and its social and scholarly order developed as part of a scholarly tradition from Transoxiana. Despite its politically fragmented appearance, there was a “scholarly unity” behind that appearance and in consequence of using this scholarly unity as an effective tool, it managed to establish social as well as political unity. As a result, the political entity known as the Ottoman State was the “embodiment” of the unity of “knowledge and values” which essentially existed in society. From this perspective, the main framework and the process of social integration in the Ottoman State should be looked for in the area of “scholarly/intellectual and moral” unity. The Ottoman madrasa, as the center which achieved and reproduced this unity, should be considered as a special unit in parallel to the development of political unity and the political and cultural consciousness that emerged in the Ottoman State. This is an important point, as the term Ottoman madrasa could indicate a special unit, despite continuity and commonality in essential matters.
The subject of Ottoman intellectuals seems to be issues that were faced throughout the process of the reconstruction of the tradition to which the Ottomans belonged. These issues can roughly be examined under two categories: the ones which were faced during the adoption of the tradition and those related to essential matters that had only been superficially dealt with. The former was attempted to be resolved through madrasas and tekkes in fields related to education. Madrasas and tekkes, one formally and the other morally and spiritually, understood what had been inherited from the past and made continuance possible by intellectually and essentially reproducing it. They also determined matters related to Ottoman thought and because order in the Ottoman state was well-founded and generally accepted by the population, the quest for a total “new order” did not become an issue until the nineteenth century. In consequence, establishing new and great philosophical systems was not one of the goals of Ottoman thought. Instead, repairing the defects faced during the implementation of the available and effective order, which – according to Busbecque’s words – made the Ottomans superior, 9 constituted the main goal of intellectual endeavors. When Haji Khalifa, in Kashf al-Zunun, answers the question “why is a book written?” he also answers the question as to why Ottoman intellectuals did not take the path to develop extensive systems.10 Understanding the existing and valid order and debating some of the issues which emerged within this order was the most distinctive feature of Ottoman thought. From this perspective, the thought of Ottoman intellectuals was recorded in poetry and other arts. Since the beginning of the state, these records have been written in the genres of original compositions as well as in sharhs (glosses), hashiyahs (glosses of sharhs) and ta‘liqat (annotations).
Here, we should point out some matters related to the texts, their sharhs and hashiyahs. The texts are short books written in a summarized form to be studied in class and written in a simple style that can easily be memorized. Even though such works contain many concepts, they are not linguistically hard to understand. Even though a sharh is generally written with the aim of making a text more understandable, it is “a new book”, written by taking the entire text into consideration. Its language is more difficult than the original text and requires more knowledge and expertise in order to be understood. A hashiyah is, on the other hand, written “to explain” the ambiguous parts mostly found in sharhs, but is usually more complex and difficult to understand than the sharhs themselves. Understanding hashiyahs requires greater expertise and knowledge than the expertise and knowledge required for sharhs. Even though the main texts, their sharhs and hashiyahs are usually concerned with the same subject, they are different and separate books. In this context, with some exceptions, the main text, sharh and hashiyah are not repetitions of each other, but rather three different books written by three different authors on the same subject in the same tradition. This is almost always true for all sharhs written on a text and about all hashiyahs written on a sharh. The sharhs and hashiyahs written on al-Mutawwal entitled Talhis al-miftah, al-Mutawwal ala’ al-Talhis, and the hashiyah written by Hasan Çelebi on the same subject constitute one of the best examples of this.11
Some of the Main Issues of Ottoman Thought
In addition to technical problems of various disciplines, philosophical questions occupy a significant place among the subjects that preoccupied the minds of the intellectuals who lived in Istanbul, for the most part, during the Ottoman period. Among these, the following subjects occupy an important place: the issue of jihat al-wahdah, which was formulated by Molla Fenari and constituted the basis of many other discussions; tendencies to intellectually reunite the fragmentation of the sciences despite the unity of beings and to reveal the sciences and the basis of the division of sciences; treatises on nafs al amr which deal with the issues of appearance and reality, in other words whether appearance and reality are the same things; treatises on muqaddimat al-arbaa, which deal with the ontological status of values; and treatises of adab al-bahs, which deal with sound thinking and deduction along with the moral dimension. The latter is unlike today’s books that deal with controversial issues without focusing on the moral dimensions, which are presented as the “theory of argumentation” or “critical argumentation” or “informal logic” or “traite de l’argumentation”, etc. The field of adab al-bahs in particular turned scholarly and intellectual discussions into a science with a moral dimension. This field offers an important example of a society in which language and speech achieve a determinative position in social relations through discussions about their own state at an academic level. The issue of wad’ and the treatises of wadiyya written on this issue, which was developed into a science and fully discoursed by Ottoman scholars, but was a subject that emerged within the thought that had developed before the Ottomans - first being composed by Adud al-din al-Iji. Moreover, treatises in which the views of various philosophers who were still significant at the time were discussed are also important. It is known that many treatises written about Plato’s theory of ideas were among them.
The treatises of jihat al-wahdah take as their subject the response to the question “what is knowledge?”, whether there is a common aspect among the sciences despite their number and diversity, and the problem of achieving unity within the various sciences. This issue emerged out of the necessity to demonstrate how this diversity leads philosophically to unity at a higher level while people were living under a system that organized all of their fields of interest and necessities.
The treatises of muqaddimat al-arba‘a, which deal with the meaning of the existence of values, take their names from the introductions written by the great Hanafi jurist Sadr al-Shari‘ah in his book Tawdih. While speaking about the issue of husn and qubh (good and evil), Sadr al-Shari‘ah wrote four introductions to his book in order to explain the preconditions for correctly dealing with the issue. Later, many separate treatises were written on the subject and it became an accomplishment of Ottoman thought, addressing one of the most compelling questions in the history of philosophy, focusing on the ontological status of values.
The treatises of adab al-bahs deal with which kind of methods were generally employed to reach the truth, regardless of the issue being deliberated. The approach expressed in Goethe’s talks with Eckermann indicates that the Ottomans’ fame had spread outside the borders of the empire. This method of thinking, called “critical thinking” today, is examined in these treatises. This method can be briefly summarized as follows: when an argument is presented or the authenticity of a report is questioned, it is necessary to present evidence that proves that argument. However, many significant questions, such as how the authenticity of a report can be verified; when a proof, depending on the argument, is valid; which proof is valid about which arguments or which proofs can be argued through which arguments; the definition of proof and which proof is meaningful in which field; as well as many other issues, such as how coherence will be achieved among the proofs, what the coherent thinking mode is and what is the results of such a mode is, are examined in these treatises. The presence of more than one thousand treatises of adab al-bahs in the form of manuscripts in Istanbul libraries can be regarded as a sign of how seriously this field was examined and how much interest was shown in this field.
The treatises of wadiyya, on the other hand, were essentially developed in order to rationally and formally reconstruct the language and to realize epistemology through language. When the curricula of some of the major madrasas in Istanbul are examined, one can appreciate the intensity of the teaching of logic and linguistics, one that cannot be seen in any other civilization or culture in the world. Those scholarly fields were regarded as “the tools” and sine qua non of all kinds of scholarly and ideological activities. This is why the most significant areas of interest in Ottoman thought - logic, linguistics and linguistic philosophy - occupy an important place in the history of world culture and thought. In this respect, the commentaries of Mukhatasar al-Maani, al-Mutawwal, and al-Kafiyah are so extensive that they could fill a very large library.
Another separate and important subject is “metaphor and figurative speech.” The short text in this field, Alaqah, was not only widely read but also became the focus of many commentaries and sharhs as did a similar text titled Faridah. Hashiyat al-Sharh al-Jadid li al-Alaqa, written (Istanbul, 1325/1909) by Hüseyin Necmeddin Efendi, one of the instructors who taught at Fatih Madrasa, can give us an idea about the scope and depth of thought in this particular field. It is not possible to say that questions such as what the concept of metaphor, about which there was a wealth of literature and which was an indispensable part of education, meant exactly in scholarly, ideological, political, and artistic life or what the place and significance of the metaphor was in social life are thoroughly examined today.
Even in works written for the general public, Ottoman thought had many levels. It managed to compose and unite high levels of thought with literature, a field that was very developed and which was expressed according to valid rules, although not expressing itself through the forms or modes that we see in the West. Considering this matter a deficiency means perceiving the world through a Western-centric or Western point of view. The fallacy of such an approach does not even merit attention. In order to understand Ottoman thought, it should be examined within its own world and ideals, not by comparing it to other thought or whether there exists any commonalities. In other words, trying to understand the Ottomans by attempting to understand what existed in the Ottoman State is a prerequisite for conducting research on Ottoman thought. Just as one cannot carry out general historical research by asking questions such as why the Ottomans did not have certain things, especially by comparing it to Western Europe, one cannot carry out research on the history of thought in this way, as there is no end to what does not exist. Meaningful and genuine research is that which tries to comprehend what is available as it is available, not that which concentrates on the question of why what is unavailable is not available.
Regarding some of the textbooks taught at Ottoman madrasas, one should ask whether there was a philosophical dimension to the scholarly and educational understanding of these books, or more accurately, what kind of a philosophical dimension existed. On the one hand, this is related to what the response of these books is to the question of “what knowledge is”, on the other hand this approach is also concerned with the issues of “how and by paying attention to which principles, the things that were accepted as knowledge were taught to the student; and how these principles were philosophically established.”
The question that is presented and attempts to be answered here is whether or not there was a scholarly understanding in Ottoman madrasas that was developed in Istanbul to its highest level. If there was, what kind of an understanding was this and how did the knowledge attained through such an understanding influence the form of education, and did the scholarly and educational understanding have a philosophical dimension. Studies that have been carried out up to now, even those that concentrate directly on scholarly and educational understanding, not only neglect this understanding, but also do not ask the question of whether scholarly and educational understanding had a philosophical dimension. As far as is known, this matter has not even been approached as a question or as a scholarly or historical problem.12 In this article, some of these issues will be highlighted in a general manner.
When dealing with this subject not only is it necessary to take into consideration some of the books that were systematically written on this issue in Istanbul, such as the introductions of Haji Khalifa’s (d. 1659) Kashf al-Zunun and Taşköprîzade’s (d. 1560-1561) Miftah al-Sa‘adah, and Molla Lütfü’s (d. 1494) book,13 it is also necessary to consider books related to logic (among them Molla Fenari’s commentary on Isaguji and the sharhs written on this commentary, especially the initial sections which deal with issues related to scholarly and educational understanding), books on rhetoric that are concerned with linguistics and linguistic philosophy, as well as various books on the methodology of Islamic jurisprudence and the commentaries and sharhs written about them, as well as books on Islamic theology, the commentaries, sharhs, and marginal notes written on them. Even though a general perception of the sciences is provided in books similar to the treatises of Mawduat al-‘Ulum, leading to a scholarly understanding which can be based on that perception, the establishment of a scholarly understanding based only on these books can result in nothing but form without content. What is important is to discover the commonality of the concepts i.e. jihat al-wahdah, which is dealt with and mentioned in the second part of those books as “knowledge.” To be able to make this discovery, it is necessary to look directly at what was carried out in these sciences.
This question is related to how the unity of reality in its essence and in itself was re-gained throughout the process of education after it had been destroyed out of necessity, especially in the educational system of a society, such as the Ottoman society, which prioritized decentralization, or in modern terms “civicness.” The sciences that examine various aspects of life in their entirety were forced to divide reality into parts not only because of the differences in their subjects, but also because methodological variations emerged from those differences. In accordance with the style of teaching, the subjects in the textbooks that were written and taught at the madrasas, especially after their growth, developed over time into separate disciplines. The adoption of one aspect of “the reality that is one in its essence” by various sciences introduced the necessity of reunification at a higher level of thinking.14 This task was expressed and carried out by al-Iji, and later seen as worthy of being emulated by various other scholars. Finally, this was developed into a separate treatise by Muhammad Emin (or Mehmed Emin), who wrote many other similar treatises. In this way, an explanation was given regarding how to overcome the problems caused by the variation in the sciences. In other words, these series of important books, known as jihat al-wahdah, are the basis for how emerging issues were to be comprehended and solutions attempted.
Books similar to mawduat al’ulum which were written by Ottoman scholars were probably composed as guidance for those who wished to study the sciences without letting the various branches that had developed harm the integrity of those who studied them. It is possible to say that this, which is attempted by jihat al-wahdah treatises at a different level, was an attempt to overcome the problem in a different way.
The composition of the treatises of jihat al-wahdah, which were part of the science of logic, show the significance that was attached to logic; logic was considered to be the linguistic science that could act as determinative tool. The extent of examination of this subject was not witnessed in any other period or civilization. In fact, the relationship established between logic–linguistics and other sciences is, in a way, related to the idea of the nizam-i alem (order of the universe or the order of the established spiritual world). Since both linguistics and logic ultimately express order, one is perceived as referring to the order of speech and the other to the order of reasoning. Nizam-i alem also refers to a universe that has order. This means that nizam-i alem was understood by everybody and could be restored as a concept. The way to do so followed a way of thinking that was not only acceptable to all but which also maintained a mode of speech that was considered appropriate by everyone. Possibly because of this, logic and linguistics made understanding nizam-i alem desirable; the expression of this, made by following the above-mentioned methods, seems to constitute the essence of Ottoman scholarly and educational understanding.15
The Roots of Ottoman Thought
After briefly mentioning some of the issues necessary for understanding the scholarly approach in Istanbul madrasas, in particular, and the Ottoman educational system in general, it would be appropriate to turn our attention to the reconstruction of the scholarly understanding in the madrasas, to examine the form of education that was generated by knowledge itself, or in other words that was a result of its own characteristics.
When examining the scholarly understanding of the books taught at madrasas, it is necessary to establish the constructive/constitutive principle of that understanding. It is possible to say that this was the principle clearly expressed by Fenari and briefly stated as “knowledge is attached to the known.”16 No matter how knowledge is defined, it is always about something. In other words, when knowledge is debated, what is being discusses is a human activity that is related to something and has a subject. Consequently, knowledge appears to be a human activity which can only be understood by means of its subject-matter (mawdu‘ or ma‘lum). Since the subject is or has to be something “that exists,” one should deal with the question, related to any given science, of what that science is, as well as with the question “what is that science about.”
In other words, one needs to present the Ottoman scholars’ ontological understanding in order to establish their understanding of knowledge. In this respect, there are two separate traditions before us. The first developed within the areas of the methodology of Islamic jurisprudence and linguistics-linguistic philosophy, and the other developed within the classical al-Farabi-Avicenna tradition (philosophy). Even though those two major traditions can be distinguished in respect to their beginnings, later, especially after Fakhraddin al-Razi, they come to be called Ibn Arabi’s Wahdat al-Wujud and appear to be continued by synthesizing in the metaphysical framework. Traces of these two approaches continued in the system of Ottoman thought. Moreover, as mentioned above, the Ottoman madrasa represents a continuity; the books composed by “Sa‘d and Sayyid”, i.e. Sa‘dadin al-Taftazani and Sayyid Sharif al-Jurjani, and by their teacher Adud al-din al-Iji constitute an important place in this continuity. This is why even though they did not live within the borders of the Ottoman state and only partially during the Ottoman period, the works of those scholars should be considered an essential component of Ottoman thought.
The tradition which first manifested itself in the areas of Islamic law and linguistics/syntax, remained indifferent from the beginning towards areas that were “philosophical”. In respect of the ontological approach of epistemological understanding, this tradition developed a mode and form peculiar to itself which did not give place to philosophy in the classical sense. The most important two books that represent this approach are Jami‘u Bayan al-‘Ilm wa Fadlih by Ibn Abd al-Barr and Ta‘lim al-Muta‘allim by Burhanaddin al-Zarnuji; the latter was a student of Marghinani, the author of al-Hidayah.17 In these two books, knowledge is observed through a Muslim jurist’s perspective. The responses given in Ibn Abd al-Barr’s book to the question of what knowledge is are essentially given from the perspective of the existence of Muslims as Muslims. “Foreign” elements, which had no influence in this respect, were not accepted as knowledge. This attitude clearly manifests itself in the following prophetic narration: “knowledge is three: a muhkam (incontrovertible) verse, an authentic Sunnah, and a just supposition.” Almost all of the narrations reported on this subject confine knowledge to the intentional field; and it pushes outside of the sphere of knowledge all human activities and their consequences, which are not directly related to the life-world.
As an example, one of the aforementioned books, Zarnuji’s, even though it was written for the general public and took “the students who had just embarked on religious education” into consideration, stated that true knowledge is ilm-i hal (knowledge of existentials). The fact that this was related to Abu Hanifa’s definition of fiqh (Islamic law) is very important. These scholars were aware of the fact that there were sciences other than fiqh (Islamic law) and Islamic creed (aqaid), but they did not regard these other sciences as necessary and significant. In Zarnuji’s noteworthy interpretation, knowledge is accepted as the path to salvation in the hereafter, while also being perceived as the prerequisite for the revival of religion and perpetuity of Islam.18 This means that “the life-world,” which emerged with the beginning of the message of Islam, is the subject of knowledge and that the continuation of the existence of this world can only be possible if people are conscious of and adhere to the elements that make this world exist. Zarnuji’s work approaches knowledge and scholarship as a task or a type of profession. Here it is pointed out that even though knowledge is not in itself the goal, but a precondition for the action - the real goal - the journey/way to knowledge prescribes certain morals peculiar to itself.
In other words, according to Muslim jurists, education is not just the transmission of knowledge, but also the process of acquiring moral virtues. The fact that social life can only be achieved through education in which moral virtues are also acquired is emphasized. It is for this reason that Muslim jurists find no place for philosophy, in its narrow sense, in the classification of knowledge. However, this does not mean that they did not take various levels into consideration, laying down at least a three-level approach in their books. These three levels, which always existed, are fact, value and existence. The being at the level of fact is dealt with in the form of hawadith (occurring before the people); value is established from the perspective of its own roots and related to phenomena/facts. Moreover, the “existence” of facts and values are discussed as a separate issue.
Amr exists as a principle in the way Muslim jurists deal with the issue of existence. Even though the term amr in Arabic is used in various forms and in various contexts, its two different meanings, “command” and “thing” are significant. The way to distinguish these two forms is by their plurals. While the plural form of amr, meaning command, is awamir, the plural form of amr, meaning thing, is umur. It would be useful to keep in mind the fact that this matter is directly related to the issue of existence and that one of the issues vigorously debated by Ottoman scholars was, for example, nafs al-amr.
Another point that must be kept in mind when dealing with the issue of existence is the classification of existence that became a determinative position not only from the perspective of Ottoman thinking, but also for the modern Western thought. According to this classification, which can be seen in the works of many scholars, such as Muhyi-i Gülşeni and Kinalizade Ali Efendi, “the existing being consists of two branches: the occurrence of the first depends on voluntary human actions. The second is the basis for human measures of disposal???”19 This division was based on different ways according to the two distinct approaches mentioned above; these were then composed and carried forward by Ottoman scholars.
According to the approach of Muslim jurists, amr, as the source of existence and value (taklifi amr - binding command- and takwini amr - creative command) and the imperative mood of the command, holds a determinative place in the books of Islamic jurisprudence. In a sense, the imperative mood becomes the essential reason behind the creation for a second domain of existence, which appears through human actions. This is not only true for human actions, but goes further, meaning that The God has created everything that we know as mawjudat (existence); in other words, He created the entire physical universe with a single command and it owes every moment of its continued existence to His command. Abdulaziz al-Bukhari calls the first type of command taklifi amr and the second takwini amr.20 Therefore, all beings depend on a command (amr) and owe the continuation of their existence to a command. There is a significant difference between these two amrs: whatever is desired to exist immediately comes into existence through takwini amr, while in taklifi amr, the obedience of the addressee, as an action, enables a new being/object to come into existence.
An important consideration here is that even though all beings, including people, are the creation of Allah the Almighty, only human beings are created with free-will and have the ability to choose; as a result, they are given responsibility. Human beings have to make choices at every moment of their lives. People carry out actions, willingly or unwillingly, and thus create something that did not exist before. By performing similar actions under similar circumstances, an order emerges in the universe, which is formed from actions; this is called nizam-i alem.21 (World Order) When people want, they can create order based on their whims and desires or based on their customs, which have developed out of agreements. However, this is not desired behavior; the reason why human beings were created is to test whether they will obey the Divine Will or not. In order to ensure this, The God has revealed the things that He desires to be obeyed in the imperative mood; in this way, He has given human beings as ontological beings moral obligations, and thus guides them in respect to the fulfillment of their obligations. If humans choose the easy path and follow this guidance, then the physical and spiritual domains, the first being ontological necessities and the second consisting of moral obligations, will be realized in accordance with the Divine command. If human beings are not attentive to their moral obligations and build their life world arbitrarily, even though they may receive some benefits in this world, they will be deprived of happiness in the Hereafter due to their disobedience. On the other hand, those who follow the commands in this world and build their nizam-i alem (world order) based on obedience to these commands will live both a righteous life style in this world and attain eternal happiness.
The question what religious sciences (al-‘ulūm al-shar’iyya) correspond to cannot be answered unless one takes the aforementioned matters into consideration. In other words, by understanding that the command of The God is the basis of existence, in both the physical and axiological sense, His command will be perceived as the source of “existence and values.” Thus, another universe made up of people’s actions emerges; Ottoman scholars referred to this universe as nizam-ı alem. Even though the concept of nizam-ı alem is used in relation to a number of different fields, its main usage was in this area.
The meaning of the two different amrs is that one is the source of existence and the other is the source of values. This is examined in detail by Abdulaziz al-Bukhari. The subject of amr is dealt with in detail in Kashf al-Asrar, which was a textbook in some of the Ottoman madrasas and was written as a commentary on Pazdawi’s Usul. Here it is expressed that both the creation of existence/universe and the continuation of (its) existence are dependent on Allah’s command. It is also stated that the designation of what is good and what is evil (husn and qubh) is also related to Allah’s command and therefore His command is the source of both existence and values. This issue, especially when examined in terms of the Ottoman perception of order, has a special significance. Emphasis on the fact that the existence of everything depends on Allah, despite the separation of their ontological domains on the one hand, carries creedal significance; at the same time, this ensures a better understanding of many issues, such as the course of events in the Ottoman state and its approach to innovations due to affiliation with creedal matters.
In connection with the domain of existence, deemed important by Muslim scholars, these jurists only paid attention to their classification of sciences for life-world. They regarded everything outside the life world as a non-determinative element of this classification, rather being only a “tool.” In consequence, the idea was accepted that directing oneself to this domain as a goal is not directly related to people’s “salvation” or “happiness” in essence. This attitude was maintained among Muslim jurists and was also expressed in Molla Fenari’s Ayn al-A‘yan. In his book, Molla Fenari includes Sufism among the religious studies and thus presents a broader understanding during the Ottoman period. In short, the scholarly understanding/conception of Muslim jurists had its own tradition, ontology, epistemology and methodology. This interpretation developed before the philosophical tradition and later flourished with philosophical elements. The “real” scholarly understanding that continued to be employed in Ottoman madrasas was this understanding. Even though a philosophical approach has its place in books related to Islamic theology and wisdom, the tradition of the Muslim jurists took priority and became the main source of scholarly understanding.
The tradition of philosophy and Islamic theology which evaluates existence with “philosophical” terminology under the categories of vajib (necessary) and mumkun (possible) and which tries to comprehend that which exists and the existence of human beings as a whole within these categories became a part of Ottoman intellectual and scholarly thought through al-Iji, at-Taftazani, and Sayyid Sharif al-Jurjani. One of the basic questions that presents itself is how these two traditions (i.e. the tradition of Muslim jurists and the philosophical-theological tradition) can be united/interrelated. Even though there is no doubt that al-Ghazzali took the most important step in uniting these two traditions, Fakhraddin al-Razi and Sayfaddin al-Amidi were the scholars who took this unification further. In addition, Ibn al-Hajib’s employment of logic, not only in the methodology of Islamic jurisprudence, but also in the study of syntax, was influential in the Ottoman period and should be mentioned among the important efforts that united these two traditions. Thanks to the works of those scholars, three scholars who were known as muhaqqiq (authorities in the sense of critical thinkers) (i.e. Iji, Taftazani and Sayyid Sharif Jurjani) managed, to a large extent, to unite these traditions in their works and this “success” was adopted and continued during the Ottoman period.
Iji is distinguished from the others by taking philosophical elements into consideration in not only his theological works, but also in his works related to language, Muslim creed, ethics22 and the methodology of Islamic jurisprudence, sciences that attracted special attention among Ottoman scholars. In the field of Islamic jurisprudence, Iji wrote a commentary on the Mukhtasar of Ibn al-Hajib, who considered logic to be one of the foundations of Islamic jurisprudence and used philosophical elements in such commentaries. Although Iji does not follow the philosophical tradition in jurisprudence, his book Mawaqif (a paradigmatic work on philosophical theology) is a book on Islamic theology.
Dawwani was one of the thinkers who influenced Ottoman scholarly thought. In Dawwani’s Unmuzaj al-‘Ulum, he points out that attaining knowledge is the most useful occupation and emphasizes that this can be fulfilled by means of “the reports and books transmitted by a large number of transmitters.” He says that the field in which this is revealed most clearly is “the principles of Islamic creed.”23 Being aware of the clear and obvious differences between the philosophical tradition and that of the Muslim jurists, Dawwani argues that the Muslim theologians found a “middle path” between the two traditions. According to this, in discussions whether the universe, which finds its meaning in the concepts of sudur (emanation) - huduth (occurrence), is hadith (created) or qadim (pre-eternal), Dawwani, like Muslim theologians, opts for huduth and asserts his own position. In this respect, the acceptance of Ta‘liqat, his work written on Hashiyat al-Tajrid, in the madrasas is significant. When the issues dealt with in Dawwani’s book are carefully examined, it is possible to say that this work includes issues discussed among Ottoman scholars. For example, the discussions of tahafut represent attempts to solve issues mentioned under the title usul al-din (foundations of religion). It is also possible to say that the issues dealt with later in Molla Cami’s al-Durrat al-Fakhirah are a continuation of these debates. Even from this point, i.e. from the point of problems, there exists a remarkable continuity between the Ottoman and pre-Ottoman periods; this seems to be the necessary result of assuming responsibility in the world.
In short, when discussing the issue of existence, it can be said that the philosophical approach is united with the jurisprudential-linguistic approach within the perspective of wahdat al-wujud (unity of existence), as a result of the unification of the dual classification, the basis and clear explanation of which we find in Avicenna, and the Muslim jurists’ division of takwin-taklif. In other words, people continue their lives in the physical world while creating order by using the abilities given to them and by examining how those abilities should be used. This order is called nizam-i alem. Everything that occurs is located and gains meaning in this nizam-i alem.
The Ottoman Perception of Society and Humans
The educational and scholarly life of Ottomans was directly related to social life. The theory of education and scholarship, some aspects of which will be briefly examined here, is directly related to the theory of society. Society can be seen as a manifestation of the understanding of knowledge and education; at the same time the understanding of knowledge and education constitutes an intrinsic aspect of society. It is for this reason that it would be incorrect to examine the understanding of knowledge and education before examining that of society.
Some of the issues mentioned in Taftazani’s al-Mutawwal seem to have a different view of the idea of umran, introduced by Ibn Khaldun in his Muqaddimah. These issues also seem to have been important enough to constitute the essence of the Ottoman perception of society and humanity.24 In this book, Taftazani explains how the world, which was formed and inhabited by human beings, or which they are forced to form and live in, can be possible and real. Taftazani points out that not only is the existence of human beings a blessing from The God, but also their continued existence is possible thanks to His blessings. Taftazani also establishes the continuation of the existence of human kind as a desired and necessary “moment”, and therefore a moment of unification of existence and will, or even a meeting moment of obligation and freedom. That is to say: 25
By nature, human beings are social animal. In other words, they need tamaddun to lead their lives. However, what is tamaddun? It means ta’awun, that is, people extending help to other people and their collective efforts in providing dwelling, clothing, food, and other necessities for one another. Although people’s physical strength might be enough when they need to function as individuals, physical strength is not effective when ta’awun (mutual assistance) and musharakah (cooperation) with others is necessary. This is because physical strength on its own is not enough for people to transmit that which exists in their inner worlds to others. Since people’s intentions are not physical or material, they can only be conveyed by means that are in keeping with their nature. Even though people may use “sign language” to deliver their intentions to their audience, this makes only a limited communication, in respect to time and place, possible. For example, it is not possible to express ma‘dum (nonexistent) or ma‘qul (purely intellectual conceptions), in their narrowest sense, via means of such gestures. It is possible to consider the idea of (complex) writing for communication of these intentions; however, writing is not a practical means of communication due to a number of difficulties. For this reason, the God has given human beings intelligible “speech” as a means of expressing their intentions.
Even though communication is a necessary condition for the coexistence of human beings and therefore for their survival, it is not sufficient on its own. In order for human society to survive, they must be able to interact and justice must be ensured among people; people want what they desire. There is a desire to obtain things through extortion, which leads to tyranny. However, “justice” should not only apply to a certain class, or juz’i (partial and limited) relationships, but rather there should be universal codes for implement justice. These universal codes are composed of “knowledge of the shariahs (religious codes). These codes do not exist in the sense of existence in the physical world, but come into existence through wad‘ (imposition). It is necessary for the one who imposes the law, through which justice will be realized, to have an unblemished character. “Shari‘” is the lawmaker who is also unimpeachable. On the other hand, no matter how correct the law is, it is necessary for the imposing will to be worthy and respected in order to be obeyed; in this case the law that is imposed will be accepted and followed. In this context, the only infallible and superior will is the Divine Will, which is conveyed to people through messengers assisted by miracles. 26
In conclusion, the existence of human kind depends on mutual assistance and solidarity between human beings; this in turn relies upon establishing communication and the realization that this communication and dealings among the people needs to be just, and this justice based on correctness and reliability comes from law and order. Taftazani’s perception of society and order, which has been briefly presented here, refers to the overlapping and meeting of two different domains of existence, based on two separate “amrs”. This perception is very significance because it points to the philosophical essence behind Ottoman scholarly understanding, especially regarding the religious sciences.
Molla Lütfi, one of the prominent scholars during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II, states that the ancient order was established and became clearly visible in the Ottoman social order.27 In his treatise, Molla Lütfi states that people are madaniyyatun bi-al-tab‘, that is, social by nature. This is why it is not possible for them to survive without interacting with others of their kind. Interaction cannot be possible without a manifestation of objects or benefits that exist inside people. Since sound is the easiest way to convey ma fi damirihi (what is in people’s minds) to others and is a means that does not require tools or materials other than what they already have, people employed sawt (sound) first. In other words, both out of the necessity to communicate with others and because it was the first tool to hand, people use sawt first. As a result, over a long process, languages and other related elements developed. This is why research related to humanity and their ability to coexist encompasses the subject of language. Molla Lütfi establishes a connection between the potentials of a science and the interest shown in its language, which he characterizes as istihsani (based on equity). He explains that the greater this interest the greater the potential of a language. Molla Lütfi presents Arabic as the most important example of this idea. The expansive nature of Arabic is not derived from its nature, but rather from its intensity and the wide spread interest shown to it.28
What should be pointed out, particularly from Molla Lütfi’s perspective, is “the historical” angle. This point appears not only in matters related to language, but also in the case of society. His approach towards the religious sciences, at least in respect to their emergence, is to see this as a “step-by-step” or “stage-by-stage gradual process” and to make classifications based on these stages.
One of the key terms in establishing intellectual and educational understanding in the Ottoman madrasas is the term malaka (human faculty).29 In Kesteli’s (d. 901/1495) Hashiyah, knowledge is taken as a malaka for all disciplines including aqaid (Islamic creed). Therefore, knowledge is regarded as a malaka, meaning that it is not experienced by any other beings except humans, and this leads one to think of it as something practical. Yet, how can this be possible? In order to explain this, it is useful to deal first with the concept of malaka. While the term malaka refers to a human orientated sense of knowledge, other similar terms were also used in various fields, both to determine the goals and express the problems. The phrase ehil insan (qualified person), much like the phrase kaht-i rical (dearth of able men), are directly related to the term malaka. In a state which did not accept a “corporative” order /(hükmi ve formel yapılar anlamında) and established its order based on “meritocracy”, the term malaka and the phrase ehil insan, meaning “people with malaka” constituted the basis of everything.30 One of the requirements for a proper examination of this subject is to introduce the view of an ideal human in Ottoman society, at least in its main outlines.
The way that Taftazani deals with the term malaka in his Mutawwal, one of his important works, can provide us guidance on some points. Taftazani establishes the term malaka on an ontological basis. What is remarkable is that human beings who are distinguished among other beings for their special abilities are not only cognizant of other beings, but also can recognize this through their awareness of their cognizance about other existence. The commentary and the translation by Abd al-Nafi Iffet Efendi of this book is like a summary of the discourses and developments that took place throughout the previous centuries on the same subject. The remarkable point is that this approach is based in its entirety on the tradition of classical logic-metaphysics.31
For example, according to Taftazani, to say that a person knows syntax does not mean that he knows syntax well enough to explain all of its subtleties from memory. Rather, it means that he has the ability, or malaka, to use and explain the rules of syntax properly.32 This approach is significant not only when answering the question of what a scholar is, but also when determining what the objectives and methods of learning are.
One of the remarkable issues of the Ottoman period is the scholarly understanding presented in the books of Molla Lütfi and Molla Fenari, which are also to be found in the books of Taşköprîzade and Haji Khalifa. When this point is examined in the light of the commentaries and sharhs written on Molla Fenari’s books, as well as in various books written on the methodology of Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic theology, we can see the main framework of the intellectual understanding in Ottoman madrasas.
In Ayn al-A‘yan, when discussing the issue of the kind of knowledge that is exegesis, Molla Fenari highlights that knowledge is subverted to certain methods and principles, malaka is constituted from these; he also states that such a thing cannot be said about exegesis, with some exceptions, and as a result, exegesis cannot be considered a branch of knowledge.33 Molla Fenari refers to the various levels of intellect as divisions of the speculative mind and says that there are four levels: hayulani, bi al-malaka, bi al-fi‘il and mustefad. In his book, Molla Fenari employs, in a very natural way, many elements that were considered part of classical philosophy. One of the most obvious examples demonstrates that the two traditions were combined within the intellectual understanding/Conceptions of the Ottoman period.
According to Molla Fenari, the demand for a branch of knowledge is related to its “status.” The status of knowledge depends on both the honor of its subject and the honor of its goal. The strength of the need for a branch of knowledge is another factor that directly determines the honor of knowledge. Therefore, people have a limited need for the science of medicine, while the science of Islamic law (and moral) is needed by all “for the virtuousness of their lives and their salvation in the afterlife.” In other words, nizam-i alem depends on Islamic law, but people feel the need for medicine only when they get sick. The number of days a person falls ill is less than the number of days he is healthy, and therefore, the lack of medicine does not make a significant difference. Without Islamic law (and morals), the possibility of social order or salvation in the hereafter ceases. From this perspective, as the need for Islamic law is greater than the need for medicine, the science of Islamic law is more honorable than the science of medicine. In this respect, the science of exegesis resembles the science of Islamic law. All religious and worldly perfection owes its existence to religious sciences, which owe their existence to knowledge of the Qur’an.34
The Ottoman Understanding of Education
In the Ottoman State in general, and more particularly in Istanbul, which represented the Ottoman state, malaka constituted the most important principle in comprehending the scientific, educational and technical fields. Since the understanding of knowledge during the Ottoman period was essentially based on “reproduction”, it cannot be dealt with as something different from education itself. When knowledge is considered to be malaka acquired by education, several important questions arise: such as how this malaka is attained in different disciplines (ranging from poetry to mathematics), what the relationship between the subjects of those disciplines are and the problems that need to be solved are, how various issues are understood, and how and in what way these issues are solved, and finally, what kind of an approach followed before the unsolved issues.
According to the information presented in the book entitled Kawakib al-Sab‘a, “progressing through the stages is achieved by fulfilling the stages of education.”35 This is directly related to reason and the understanding of knowledge on which it is based. According to this, reason develops in people stage by stage, and in consequence of this development, “knowledge” is attained as a malaka. In other words, knowledge has a theoretical side as well as a practical side. The theoretical side also has a practical part throughout the process of development. In other words, teaching theory by practice “or teaching it by exercises” constitutes the practical part of the theoretical aspect. In order to achieve this, various “learning and improvement” techniques were adopted. For example, memorization, or memorizing summarized texts and poetry, was one of these techniques. Attaining what is theoretical through practical efforts is directly related to knowledge and the degrees of the mind. That the degree of people’s minds change with the acquirement of knowledge and experience and that education should continue by focusing on the level of the student’s mind is one of the important “principles of education”, perhaps the most important one specifically mentioned in various books.
Thinking of knowledge as a malaka necessarily leads to efforts to form and improve that malaka. Thus debate, as a method of instruction, becomes a very important tool in improving the theoretical malakas.36 Likewise, “passing from the stage of understanding to the degree of teaching,”37 which was stated as being one of the qualifications required for tutors, becomes meaningful when considered in the light of the same intellectual and epistemological understanding.
Kawakib al-Sab‘a lists the abridged texts on morphology, syntax, logic and adab al-bahs as being among subjects that students need to learn first; this demonstrates that the education of language and reasoning was taught before other disciplines that were considered to be the main sciences. This also demonstrates that the subtleties of linguistics, linguistic philosophy, logic, and metaphysics were taught later.38
Likewise, another point of interest is that language instruction used to be given before logic, while the discipline of adab al-bahs, which is related to debate and discussion, was taught after logic. This can be explained by the fact that the books on logic were written in Arabic, therefore one needed to learn Arabic first in order to study logic. On the other hand, it can be said that the idea that language had precedence over logic also lay behind this decision. No matter which explanation is correct, it is probable that the reality of teaching language first and then teaching logic later was the necessary consequence of the idea that reasoning was ascribed to language or that reasoning was based on language in the relationship between the principles of language and the principles of reasoning. In his later education, what the student had learned at the madrasa from Hashiya al-Tajrid did not suffice, and thus he would continue to study linguistic philosophy and more generally linguistics in connection with Arabic. Likewise, in educational terms, this leads one to think that a qualified person needed to be someone who had mastered the language and used it properly. This also leads one to believe that the idea that a malaka, which deserves to be called knowledge, could only be acquired by a person after they had attained an adequate level of language.
Some of the issues mentioned in Goethe’s conversations with Eckermann, which he recorded and published,39 can be briefly mentioned here – at least as an example of how the Ottoman state was seen by a Western poet and scholar who was interested in it and observed it from a distance. According to Goethe, Muslims started educating their children first by teaching them the principle “nothing happens to a person other than what has been determined by the Divine Will and everything takes place within the limits determined by that Divine Will.” According to Goethe, this principle suffices a person throughout his/her life. Those who are aware of this can lead their lives in peace and tranquility. In fact, this principle, whether one is aware of it or not, expresses the natural state of trust that exists between all human beings. Due to this, “a soldier believes that he will not be shot if his name is not written on a bullet and thus may calmly go to war.” Muslims then continue their education by studying philosophy and learning that everything which exists may also not exist and vice versa. “They train their children to argue the opposite of every statement and in this way, they become skilled in reasoning and speaking.”40 However, this creates mistrust in the minds of youths and leads them to approach everything with doubt. Since doubt is not a lasting state, the students inevitably strive to find convincing proofs to support the ideas they believe in. If this quest is fruitful, a yaqin (certanity) develops in students, and this is the main goal of education. To have reached yaqin also means to have reached peace and tranquility. Then Goethe adds the following: “As one can see there is no missing part in this teaching and we could not go beyond this teaching with all of our systems and it cannot be surpassed.” In other words, according to Goethe, this system of education is the best in human history. In the following part of their conversation, Goethe and Eckermann speak about the Greeks and Lessing, and argue that they were also defending a similar ideal. Then Goethe says, “the philosophical system of Muslims constitutes a proper criteria for a person to apply to himself and to other people in order to determine their intellectual level.”41 These statements, made on April 11, 1827, can be seen as demonstrating how the Ottoman understanding of education was perceived by a prominent Western thinker. Even the small number of thinkers discussed here are sufficient to demonstrate that Goethe’s knowledge corresponds with reality. What is determinative in this understanding is the education of qualified people. Qualified people means people who can deal with problems, comprehend methods of solving problems, and thus acquire malaka in solving issues.
There is no doubt that human understanding is the essence of the Ottoman understanding of education. This understanding of the human being seems to have considered human beings as data, taking some human abilities into consideration, and setting the goal as adopting and improving these abilities. The Avicenna approach, which also focuses on Ghazzali’s interpretation, forms the essence of such an understanding. When describing people’s abilities, Avicenna separates hawas zahirah (external features) and hawas batinah (the internal features). Parallel to this, “reason”, which distinguishes humans from other beings, is regarded not as a single essence given to human beings at once, but as part of a number of other abilities that develop in stages. When the understanding of humans and reason is seen as a malaka which develops with language while also being independent from it, it becomes possible to determine that the idea of improving malaka in students became the goal of education.
In order to understand how the concept of a qualified person found its way into Ottoman thought and life from a different direction it is constructive to turn our attention to a different aspect, i.e. the works that combine ethics and politics, theoretical and practical knowledge.
In this context, Kâbûsnâme and its translation with a commentary by Mercimek Ahmed is a suitable start.42 It is clearly stated in this book that people’s knowledge and skills are more valuable than their material wealth, or even everything accumulated by their family and ancestors:
Dear son! You should know that hüner (skill) is preferable to güher (pearls, money, wealth). Therefore, you should try to increase not your wealth, but your skills. Because an unskilled person is of no benefit to others, maybe not even to themselves. Just like thistle, which gives no shade, they are neither a benefit to themselves nor do they leave the grass under its shade alone. This is how the unskilled individual is. Of course, man needs skills. In order to get skills, of course wealth is needed. In other words, patricians (who would support the skilled) are needed. Because even though he does not have skills, he may gain respect among people because of their ancestry. What is worse than this is the one who has neither wealth nor skills. Such a person is referred to as ka al-adem (like nonexistent).43
The term hüner (skill) denotes the knowledge and skills acquired through a person’s own efforts and is compared to güher (wealth). While skill belongs to its owner and cannot be separated from them, güher means material wealth, which is in the end just “an object” possessed by people. What is actually compared and evaluated here is “to be” and “to have.” A state which is achieved as a “skill” is an ability, whereas material wealth is an “object” to be possessed.
The second thing to emphasize is that it is important for everyone to have a place in society in order to give meaning to his or her life. According to this, people live with other people, occupying the position given to them by others. Having a place in other people’s lives is possible by making meaningful contributions or by being “useful” to them. One can be useful to others either with skills or through wealth. People with skills are in demand for their own qualities, whereas people with wealth are in demand not because of their own value but because of the objects that they possess. Coexistence, on the other hand, depends on the place acquired in other people’s lives. This place coincides with their need for a person and that person’s ability to meet their needs. If a person has a skill through which they can meet other people’s needs, they will have a place with other people thanks to that skill. If they do not have any skills, then they are expected to have the wealth demanded by other people. As long as people benefit from wealth, people respect its owner. If someone has neither skill nor wealth, then they cannot be considered a constructive member of society. It is as if they do not exist.
The third remarkable point – which is significant in understanding not just what the ideal human being in Ottoman society was thought to be, but also its social order – is related to benefit. What is essential here is not to benefit, but to be beneficial. This attitude characterizes a whole approach. People strive to be beneficial to others, not to benefit from them. Every individual should live their lives by being useful to others. To live for other people without expecting anything in return is the distinguishing characteristic of an ideal human type.
According to this, “skill is worth ten güheri”, referring to the individual knowledge and abilities that a person has. Whatever is left after a person is stripped of all their titles and positions is referred to as ten güheri. Since the word güher means wealth, the wealth of man is his skill. We can say that society is formed from individuals, each individual exists “by their skills” and as much as “their skills,” and consequently contributes to social cohesion. Thus one can reach the following conclusion: the real wealth of a society is the knowledge and skills of the people who form that society. However, knowledge and skills do not mean anything by themselves nor are of benefit only to the possessor; they gain meaning when they become beneficial to others. The effectiveness of people’s characteristics for the benefit of others requires organization and coordination. This cannot develop by itself. It needs an organizer. The essential meaning of the existence of the state and ruler becomes obvious at this point, i.e. to ensure that the available wealth, in other words skilled people fill the positions and ranks suitable to their skills and thus protect the nizam-i alem in which people exist for each other.
The fact that, not being satisfied with what they have inherited from their parents and thus acquiring new skills, each individual attempts to find a place in their society by means of their own knowledge and abilities is one of the principles of social organization. Social order based on this principle, called “meritocracy.”
Having the knowledge and skills is not enough in itself. It is important that these skills should be recognized and appreciated by others. Skills can become the basis of rank, position or office, but can only become effective when other people recognize these skills. Being recognized by society does not only mean being respected, but also being effective by employing one’s skills for the benefit of others.
The question about what a skill is and in which fields it can be acquired should be asked, especially when educational understanding and organization comes into question. On the other hand, an approach that requires the acquirement of skills as a principle of social organization should establish a hierarchy among these skills and organize life in accordance with their significance. The response given to this question in Kâbûsnâme and its interpretation provides a clearer idea of the Ottoman understanding of education and knowledge. Speech is accepted as the most meritorious of skills. The idea that “speaking” is the most important thing for a person can be hard to understand at first. However, it presents the essential approach of classical Islam in a unique way. In Islamic thought, the ability “to speak” (haywan al-natiq – a living being that can speak) is stated as the characteristic that distinguishes humans from other beings. One of the points that needs to be specifically mentioned is that in Kâbûsnâme all kuwwa (senses), including reason, which is the distinguishing characteristic of human beings, are related to speech.44 Without a critical examination of this point, it is not possible to understand the division of knowledge as “instrumental sciences” and “higher sciences”, which were a determinative classification in classical madrasa organization. Since a characteristic of Ottoman intellectual and scholarly life was advancing and preserving Islamic civilization, this classification occupies a significant place.
In fact, the statements that all of people’s abilities, skills and knowledge depend on speech, that speech or language has a determinative place in people’s lives, and that both people’s individual knowledge and skills and their position in a society depend on speech are some of the essential points that need to be taken into consideration when examining Ottoman society, particularly life in Istanbul in all its dimensions. “The principle of social order,” which has been presented here from a general perspective, is very important, particularly when classifying knowledge and dealing with ethical thought.
We are still at the beginning of historical and systematic studies that introduce the knowledge of Ottoman society and Istanbul, a city that possibly can offer the most distinguished example of Ottoman society, and one that establishes the connection with society and various institutions. At this stage, it is important to approach the question of what needs to be done in the future without ignoring what has already been done. First of all, one needs to be aware that knowledge and scholars played a central role in society. Research on Ottoman society and Istanbul can benefit by understanding and establishing the place of knowledge and manners in the society and relating everything to this point.45
In order to explain this process, it is necessary to examine the transformation that took place in Islamic thought in and after the thirteenth century more closely; the Ottomans were not only a part of general Islamic thought, but also its carrier and preserver. Istanbul was not just the center of the state, but also the center of intellectual and educational life. Although there were some variations between the provinces, almost all intellectual activities that took place within the borders of the Ottoman State in one way or another, were connected to Istanbul.
The determinative ground in Ottoman thought was achieved with the unification of the schools of al-Razi and Ibn Arabi. al-Razi formally combined the two basic orientations in his thinking. While Ibn Arabi did not refute this method, he understood it in accordance with its nature. He brought to the fore a mode of thinking and knowledge that placed content at the center. One of the two orientations taken into consideration by al-Razi was logic and the other was language/grammar. In the case of Ibn Arabi, the contents of all forms, as states and stations, constitute the subject and goal of thinking. According to Ibn Arabi, knowing and being are ultimately two different expressions of one and the same thing.
In order to follow this thinking, we need to examine not only individuals, but also ideas, as well as observing the connection between ideas, institutions and problems within a historical context. In this context, we should observe not only the connection between knowledge and existence, but also their relationship to ethics and esthetics. In order to form an understanding about the contents of knowledge and education in Istanbul, we should examine the subject from a conceptual perspective and deal with it to a certain extent within the understanding of the “history of concepts.”
The history of concepts and the history of institutions are in fact two different realizations of one and same truth at two separate levels. In this context, it is appropriate to examine the concept of ’ilm (knowledge) closely, to follow the process of its development, and to approach the subject both conceptually and institutionally.
Jihat al-wahdah, which unites the conceptual and institutional, is very helpful in gaining a deeper understanding as we have briefly mentioned. Jihat al-wahdah is directly related conceptually to ’ilm (knowledge), institutionally to the madrasa as being “the institution” where ’ilm was taught, and to scholars and students as being the learners and teachers of ’ilm. For this reason, it is appropriate to examine several issues from a general perspective through jihat al-wahdah and to elaborate on them within this system. Jihat al-wahdah refers to “a principle” which is expressed at the beginning of almost all the books that a student was expected to study. Since it is essentially directly related to the issue of existence, it is not only necessary to explain how the unity in existence becomes plural, but also the retransformation of this plurality into knowledge and knowing, or more precisely, “re-sending” it to unity through thinking, which is the essence of this question.
It is very difficult to separate thought and education from one another in Istanbul. When one considers that thinkers and artists received a certain type of education, it can be seen that intellectual life was directly related to education. Likewise, it is also important to remember that people who were influential in political and administrative life were also prominent in scholarly and intellectual life, and were directly involved in education. This means that education in Istanbul occupied a very important place in the activities that took place in the fields of knowledge, thinking, art, administration and politics. The application of knowledge and skills, which were acquired through education, in combination with real life experiences and the influence of the latter on education are important dimensions that should be taken into consideration.
Madrasas and the education at madrasas are directly related to thought. Madrasas were, on the one hand, the conductors of reasoning, the guardians of the foundations that made thinking possible, and “the path” through which language, in which thinking was actualized, was attained. On the other hand, education was a determinative intermediary and instrument which ensured the continuance of thinking, maintained thinking through language, and established the connection between life and intellectual order by means of language.
Tekkes and zawiyas (dervish lodges and convents) were similar instruments and tradesmen’s organizations and their forms of education were “other” educational institutions connected to them. Moreover, the Enderun, where the bureaucrats needed for the administration of the state were educated, should be dealt with in detail as an important center of intellectual and educational instruction.
Books, their commentaries and sharhs written on their commentaries should be taken into account as the instruments through which thought was expressed. Moreover, poetry is significant as perhaps the highest form of expression. Ideas were expressed in books written on history and geography as well as on mathematics and the natural sciences. The first books that come to mind are “the encyclopedic” ones. Among these, Miftah al-Sa‘adah and Kashf al-Zunun are the most renowned. A detailed analysis of those books has yet to be carried out. In addition to them, there are also relatively short articles, called faidah or maqal, which deal with issues which were under debate. They were compiled and maintained in the form of various journals. Safina-i Raghib is one of the best known of these.
In regards to political thought, many channels can be analyzed. The first are kanunname (codified legal books) and the texts that were directly related to them – such as layihahs. The second are the books that examine the issue from a creedal perspective, which are mostly books on aqaid (Islamic creed) and kalam (theology). The third are books on ethics. It is possible to follow political thought through Adudiddin al-Iji’s book Akhlaq and the commentaries written on it, which are among the books on ethics.
1 The three important works on these subjects are İsmail Hakkı Uzunçarşılı’s Osmanlı Devletinin İlmiye Teşkilâtı (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1965, 1988, 3.ed.), Hüseyin Atay’s Osmanlılarda Yüksek Din Eğitimi (Istanbul: Dergah Yayınları, 1983) and Cevat İzgi’s Osmanlı Medreselerinde İlim (II vol., Istanbul: İz Yayıncılık, 1997).
2 This concept occupies an important place in sociological approaches in the Western world for comprehending the entire social life, particularly based on the knowledge accumulated under the titles of “information sociology” and “ethnomethodology” and to reveal the “symbolic” structure of society. For some examples on this subject see A. Schütz, T. Luckmann, Strukturen der Lebenswelt, II vol., Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1979-83; H. Garfinkel, Studies in Ethnomethodology, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall 1967; T. Luckman and P. Berger, The Social Construction of Reality, London: Penguin, 1991.
3 It is very important that the Austrian historian and statesman Joseph von Hammer included 2,200 poets who lived between 1300 and 1826, most of whom were somehow connected to Istanbul, together with their poems, in his four volume book titled Geschichte der Osmanischen Dichtkunst (Pesth: C. A. Hartleben, 1836-38). When this is taken into account, the number of poets accounted for by Hammer – it is entirely another issue how many poets Hammer failed to take into account – there appears to be more than 450 poets who wrote poems in Turkish in every century. That we are discussing a society which raised around 450 poets every century and what this fact means should be taken into consideration.
4 Evliya Çelebi records that there were 1,299 sıbyan mektebi (primary school) in Istanbul in 1630. (Osman Nuri Ergin mentions this number – finding it exaggerated – in his book Türkiye Maarif Tarihi, Istanbul: Osmanbey Matbaası, 1939, vol. 1, p. 89). Likewise, we can mention the numbers of “the sons of Adam found in Istanbul” recorded by Evliya Çelebi in order to as being: “3,036 Sâdât-ı kirâm (prominent members/lords) and 3,000 ulemâ-yı izâm (scholars) and 3,005 meşâyih (sheikhs) and 3,006 imams” (Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnâme, Istanbul: İkdam Matbaası, 1314, vol. 1, p. 669).
5 Taftazânî, al-Mutawwal, Istanbul: Hacı Muharrem Efendi Matbaası, 1310, pp. 2-3. Exactly the same statements about imitation and the characteristics of students are mentioned in the first pages (p. 23 ff.) of Kara Halil’s sharh on Mehmet Emin’s Cihet-i Vahde Risâlesi, which he completed in 1105/1694 (Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1288/1871); these are in al-Mutawwal (p. 5).
6 Mehmed Emin, Alâ Ciheti’l-Vahde, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1277, p. 5.
7 Devvânî, Muqayyad Jalal, Istanbul: Servetifünun Matbaası, 1327, p. 2.
8 Devvânî, Muqayyad Jalal, p. 3.
9 The title of one of the books written by Busbecque is De Causis Magnitudinis Imperii Turcici & Virtutis ac Felicitatis Turcarum, Lipsiae: Impensis H. Grosii, 1594.
10 Kâtib Çelebi, Kashf al-Zunun, ed. Kilisli Muallim Rifat and Şerefeddin Yaltkaya, II vol., Istanbul: Maarif Basımevi, 1941-43, vol. 1, p. 35 ff.; it is remarkable to see that Kâtib Çelebi deals with the issue of the commentary and expresses the need for commentaries in the same place.
11 For a new evaluation on the matter of commentary and writing sharhs see İsmail Kara, İlim Bilmez, Tarih Hatırlamaz: Şerh ve Haşiye Meselesine Dair Birkaç Not, Istanbul: Dergah Yayınları, 2013.
12 Adnan Adıvar’s Osmanlı Türklerinde İlim, which is considered the first work in this field, is a book that evaluates the works written on natural sciences during the Ottoman period from a positivist approach. Because it presents the subject from a wrong approach, the validity of the conclusions it reaches are also problematic. Likewise, in the works of Uzunçarşılı, İzgi and Hasan Akgündüz (Klasik Dönem Osmanlı Medrese Sistemi: Amaç, Yapı, İşleyiş, (Istanbul: Ulusal Yayınları, 1997) the understanding of scholarship was not seen as an issue. This is why it should be stated that this question has not been asked yet.
13 For an attempt at such evaluation, see Fahri Unan, “Klasik Dönem Osmanlı Bilim Anlayışı”, Osmanlılarda Bilim ve Teknoloji: Makaleler, ed. Yavuz Unat, Ankara: Nobel Yayın Dağıtım, 2010, pp. 15-38.
14 When Taşköprizâde points out the multitude of sciences and the difficulty in learning all of them, he also expresses the problems caused by the various branches of science, Mawsuatu mustalahati Miftah as-saada fi Mawzuat al-ulum, ed. Ali Dahrûc, Beyrut: Mektebetü Lübnân, 1998, p. 3.
15 When the authors of Natayij al-funun and Kitab al-Mustatab classified the books as twelve sciences or issues, they said that they attempted to make their classification similar to the twelve constellations that exist in the physical world. This, on the one hand, shows that there is a connection between knowledge and the known. On the other hand, it indicates that there was consciousness about the fact that the order of the universe represents or should represent the belief that the physical world was created without human interference. This also demonstrates that the arguments in Ottoman society regarding knowledge and order were not partial or limited arguments, but general and universal ones, which seems to be very important in understanding the scholarly and intellectual life (including poetry) of the Ottoman period.
16 Molla Fenârî, Fusûl al-badâyi‘, Istanbul: Şeyh Yahya Efendi Matbaası, 1289, vol. 1, p. 6.
17 This book was not only taken into consideration by scholars such as Taşköprizâde and Kâtib Çelebi, but it was also interpreted and translated into Turkish by Ottoman scholars after the period of Sultan Murad II. It has also been translated into modern Turkish and published.
18 Zernûcî, Ta‘lîm al-mutaallim, Istanbul: Ârif Efendi Matbaası, nd., p. 5.
19 Muhyî-i Gülşenî, Ahlâk-ı Kirâm, ed. Abdullah Tümsek, Istanbul: İnsan Yayınları, 2004, p. 234.
20 Abdülazîz el-Buhârî, Kashf al-asrâr, Istanbul: şirket-i Sahâfiyye-i Osmâniyye, 1307, vol. 1, p. 115 (for the new edition, see: Muhammad al-Mu‘tasım-Billâh el-Bağdâdî (ed.), Beyrut: Dârü’l-kütübi’l-Arabiyye, 1417/1997, vol. 1, p. 267).
21 For the Ottoman idea of the order of the universe, see T. Görgün, “Osmanlı’da Nizam-ı Alem Fikri ve Kaynakları Üzerine Bazı Notlar”, İslâmî Araştırmalar, vol. 13, no. 2 (2000), pp. 180-188.
22 Îcî’s book on ethics became the subject of many commentaries and sharhs during the Ottoman period. It was also translated into Turkish and commented on. This also continued in the nineteenth century.
23 Celâleddin ed-Devvânî, Unmûzaj al-ulûm (in Devvânî, Salâsu rasâil, ed. Seyyid Ahmed Toyserkânî, Meşhed: Mecmau’l-buhûsi’l-İslâmiyye, 1991, , p. 274 (pp. 263-333).
24 Even though Ibn Haldun did not personally know Taftazani, he states that he saw Taftazani’s books in Egypt and praises him. This reminds us that he might have benefited from Taftazani (See Mukaddime, tr. Süleyman Uludağ, Istanbul: Dergah Yayınları, 1983, vol. 2, p. 1146).
25 Taftazani, al-Mutawwal, pp. 6-7.
26 What is stated in the Turkish translation of al-Mutavwwal by Abdünnafi İffet Efendi, en-Nef‘u’l-muavvel fî tercümeti’t-Telhîs ve’l-Mutavvel presents a good example that how the same understanding continued in the nineteenth century (see. en-Nef‘u’l-muavvel, Istanbul: Bosna Vilayet Matbaası, 1289, vol. 1, pp. 25-26).
27 Molla Lutfî, Risâla fi al-ulûm ash-shar‘iyya wa’l-Arabiyya, ed. Refîk el-Acem, Beyrut: Dârü’l-fikri’l-Lübnânî, 1994, p. 20.
28 Molla Lutfî, Risâla fi al-ulûm ash-shar‘iyya, pp. 21-22.
29 Taftazani defines ‘ilm as malaka with which one becomes able to comprehend particular things”, (see. al-Mutavwwal, p. 27) and thus he accepts knowledge and apprenticeship as the same things.
30 For the thesis that Western civilization was a “corporative” one and Islamic civilization was not a “corporative” but a “contractualist” one, contrary to what is generally argued, see M. G. Hodgson, Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam, and World History, New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 141 ff.
31 en-Nef‘u’l-muavvel, pp. 46-48.
32 al-Mutawwal, p. 27.
33 Molla Fanârî, Aynü’l-a‘yân, p. 15.
34 Aynü’l-a‘yân, p. 17.
35 İzgi, Osmanlı Medreselerinde İlim, vol. 1, p. 44.
36 “Mudarrises had their students debate a topic they studied, became a referee between them, and gave their observations (see: İzgi, Osmanlı Medreselerinde İlim, vol.1, p. 45 (based on Majdi’s account, p. 136, 155, 160).
37 İzgi, Osmanlı Medreselerinde İlim, vol. 1, p. 49.
38 İzgi, Osmanlı Medreselerinde İlim, vol. 1, p. 51.
39 J. W. von Gothe, Goethe’s Gespraeche mit Eckermann, ed. F. von Eckerman, Leipzig 1908, vol. 1, pp. 370-372.
40 Gothe, Goethe’s Gespraeche, p. 371.
41 Gothe, Goethe’s Gespraeche, p. 372 “Jenes philosophische System der Mohammedaner ist ein artiger Massstab, den man an sich und andere anlegen kann, um zu erfahren, auf welcher Stufe geistiger Tugend man denn eigentlich stehe.”
42 Keykâvus b. İskender, Kâbûsnâme, tr. Mercimek Ahmed, prepared by Orhan Şaik Gökyay, Istanbul: Milli Eğitim bakanlığı, 1966, pp. 34-36; Although there are several translations of Kâbûsnâme, it is highly probably that this one, which was presented to Sultan Mehmed II’s father Murad, was read by Sultan Mehmed II himself. Setting aside the issue of whether Sultan Mehmed read this book or not, a brief evaluation will be presented here, paying attention to the fact that the ideas and statements expressed in this book were not just found here, but were also strong representations of the common way of thinking of the public.
43 Keykâvus, Kâbûsnâme, p. 34.
44 For details of the statements which are briefly quoted here, see Keykâvus, Kâbûsnâme, pp. 34-36.
45 In his Knowledge Triumphant: The Concept of Knowledge in Medieval Islam (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2007) Franz Rosenthal establishes that “knowledge” never had a higher status in any of the civilizations of the world than it had in the Muslim civilization (pp. 1-2), which was true for the Ottoman State as well. The place of scholarship and scholars in Ottoman society also coincides with the anecdotes of a scholar / traveler named Olivier, who was appointed by the French government to travel around the Ottoman lands in the 18th century. Olivier briefly says the following: Scholars in none of the countries of the world have such a determinative status as they have in Ottoman society. Thanks to them, everything maintains its order and by means of them, the government has the influence upon society that no other government can have (see G. A. Olivier, Voyage dans L’Empire Othoman, l’Egypte et la Perse, Paris: H. Agasse, 1801, vol. 1, pp. 267-268; regarding the scholars determinative status in Ottoman society see also Tarık Zafer Tunaya, Türkiye’nin Siyasi Hayatında Batılılaşma Hareketleri, Istanbul: Yedigün Matbaası, 1960, pp. 7-18).