The article examines multiple approaches to archived documents and documentary depositories in the Ottoman Empire. By exploring a range of views that reflect a sense of archival consciousness among different groups and individuals throughout the Ottoman lands, the essay seeks to better contextualize the Ottoman quite successful attempts to regulate the imperial paper trail and to promote a specific view of the archive. More generally, by tracing the emergence of a particular form of archival consciousness among members of the imperial administrative and judicial elites as well as Ottoman subjects, the article intends to offer a framework for a comparative study of the archival practices throughout the eastern Islamic lands.
The article examines the efforts of Muḥammad al-Mahdī al-Fāsī (d. 1605) and his readers in the Ottoman domains to reconstruct an authoritative version of Muḥammad b. Sulaymān b. Abī Bakr al-Jazūlī’s (d. 1465) Dalā’il al-khayrāt. In his commentary on the Dalā’il, al-Fāsī recorded his collation of multiple versions of al-Jazūlī’s work. The commentary and its contribution to a notion of an authoritative and authorial version of Dalā’il al-khayrāt accompanied al-Jazūlī’s text in its journey to the eastern parts of the Islamic world and helped readers there bridge a two-century gap in the transmission of the work. The article studies the manners in which Ottoman readers/reciters of Dalā’il used al-Fāsī’s commentary to create a channel to al-Jazūlī and the divine. In so doing, the article seeks to draw attention to additional functions of the genre of the commentary in the Islamic tradition. Moreover, by focusing on the textual practices of al-Fāsī and his Ottoman readers, the essay argues that the act of collation of the multiple versions of Dalā’il al-khayrāt was in and of itself an ethical act of devotion that manifested the readers’/reciters’ quest for proximity to al-Jazūlī.
In 1543, a quarter century after the Ottoman conquest of the Holy Cities, the Meccan jurist, hadith scholar, and chronicler Jar Allah Muhammad Ibn Fahd (d. 1547) completed a short work devoted to the construction projects undertaken in the city by the Ottoman sultans Selim I (r. 1512–20) and his son Süleyman (r. 1520–66). The work is highly unusual from the perspective of the Arabic historiographical tradition and constitutes the first comprehensive response by an Arab chronicler to the emergence of an Ottoman imperial architectural idiom around the turn of the sixteenth century. The article situates Ibn Fahd and his work in three interrelated contexts: (a) the incorporation of Mecca and Medina into the Ottoman domains; (b) the emergence of an Ottoman architectural idiom and visual interest in the description of the Holy Sanctuaries across the Indian Ocean, from Istanbul to Gujarat; and (c) the competition between the new Custodians of the Two Holy Sanctuaries and other Islamic rulers, past and present. In particular, the article focuses on the challenges posed by the sultans of Gujarat, who were also quite interested in the Holy Sanctuaries. This interest is captured in Muhyi al-Din Lari’s (d. 1526–27) description of the pilgrimage and the Haramayn, which was written for the Gujarati sultan Muzaffar Shah II (r. 1511–26).