Problematizing Ottoman Sunnism: Appropriation of Islamic History and Ahl al-Baytism in Ottoman Literary and Historical Writing in the Sixteenth Century

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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A growing number of studies argue that the Ottomans became militantly Sunni in the sixteenth century as they participated in the age of confessionalization. In defining Ottoman Sunnism, state policy and state-appointed jurists and scholars played a significant role. This paper attempts to define Ottoman Sunnism in the sixteenth century in a manner subtly different from that of the jurists, by looking at the views of Ottoman historians on the issues that divided the original Muslim community, ultimately resulting in the Sunni-Shiʿi schism. Despite the seemingly sectarian conflicts of the sixteenth century, neither rigid Sunnism nor fierce confessionalization was carried over into the intellectual and cultural scene. A moderate inclination towards Shiʿism/ʿAlidism and strong attachment to Ahl al-Bayt continued to be potent forces in Sunni Ottoman intellectual circles.

Problematizing Ottoman Sunnism: Appropriation of Islamic History and Ahl al-Baytism in Ottoman Literary and Historical Writing in the Sixteenth Century

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

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1

Colin H. ImberEbu’s-suʿud: The Islamic Legal Tradition (Stanford: Stanford University Press1997): 25.

3

Guy BurakThe Second Formation of Islamic Law: The Hanafi School in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (New York: Cambridge University Press2015).

15

Tijana KrstićContested Conversions to Islam: Narratives of Religious Change in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Stanford: Stanford University Press2011): 12-16; Derin Terzioğlu “Where İlm-i Hal Meets Catechism: Islamic Manuals of Religious Instruction in the Ottoman Empire in the Age of Confessionalization.” Past and Present 220 (2013): 79-114; Burak “Faith Law and Empire”: 1-23; Judith Pfeiffer “Confessional Polarization in the 17th Century Ottoman Empire and Yūsuf ibn Ebī ʿAbdü’d-Deyyān’s Keşfü’l-Esrār fī ilzāmi’l-Yehūd ve’l-ahbār.” In Contacts and Controversies between Muslims Jews and Christians in the Ottoman Empire and Pre-Modern Iran ed. Camilla Adang and Sabine Schmidtke (Würzburg: Ergon 2010): 15-55.

20

John WoodsThe Aqquyunlu: Clan Confederation Empire (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press1999): 4-5; Biancamaria Scarcia Amoretti “Religion in the Timurid and Safavid Periods.” In Cambridge History of Iran ed. Peter Jackson and Lawrence Lockhart (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1986): 6: 610-55. Judith Pfeiffer argues that this confessional ambiguity cannot be generalized to every part of the Islamicate world. She argues that the Shiʿis under the Ilkhanate actually used the coming of the Mongols to solidify their positions and confessional standing. Judith Pfeiffer “Confessional Ambiguity vs. Confessional Polarization: Politics and the Negotiation of Religious Boundaries in the Ilkhanate.” In Politics Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge in 13th-15th Century Tabriz ed. Judith Pfeiffer (Leiden: Brill 2014): 129-68.

22

Shahzad Bashir“The Risalat al-Huda of Muhammad Nurbakhsh (d. 869/1464): Critical Edition with Introduction.”Rivista degli Studi Orientali 75/1-4 (2001): 88-9. For a penetrating treatment of the intricate relationship between Ṣūfism and Shiʿism see Seyyed Hossein Nasr “Shiism and Sufism: Their Relationship in Essence and in History.” Religious Studies 6/3 (1970): 229-42. Nasr also touches upon this subject in his “Religion in Safavid Persia.” Iranian Studies 7/1-2 (1974): 271-86. In a follow-up article Hamid Algar disagrees with Nasr on the latter’s assertion that Ṣūfī orders opened the way for the Shiʿitization of Safavid Iran. Hamid Algar “Some Observations on Religion in Safavid Persia.” Iranian Studies 7/ 1-2 (1974): 290.

23

For this phenomenon see Moojan MomenAn Introduction to Shii Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shiism (New Haven: Yale University Press1985): 96-7; Heinz Halm Shiism: An Introduction Trans. Janet Watson and Marian Hill (New York: Columbia University Press 2004): 59-60.

26

R.D. McChesneyWaqf in Central Asia: Four Hundred Years in the History of a Muslim Shrine 1480-1889 (Princeton: Princeton University Press1991): 33-4; 268-9.

42

Dina Le GallA Culture of Sufısm: Naqshibandīs in the Ottoman World: 1450-1700 (Albany: State University of New York Press2005): 127-35; “Forgotten Naqshibandīs and the Culture of Pre-Modern Sufi Brotherhoods.” Studia Islamica 97 (2003): 87-119.

65

Steven C. Judd“Ghaylan al-Dimashqi: The Isolation of a Heretic in Islamic Historiography.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 31/2 (1999): 175-7.

76

Cornell FleischerBureaucrat and Intellectual in the Ottoman Empire: The Historian Mustafa Ali 1541-1600 (Princeton: Princeton University Press1986): 24.

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