This article investigates the opinions of three senior Ottoman jurists, Sarıgörez (d. 1522), Kemalpaşazade (d. 1534), and Ebussuud (d. 1574), on the subject of the Safavids and their supporters. Historians have treated these opinions as part of the vast polemical literature uniformly intended to justify an impending Ottoman attack against their Safavid rivals. Questioning the notion that all authors shared an undifferentiated attitude, this article underlines that, unlike most polemical literature, the opinions of these three jurists focused on the religiolegal aspects of the Safavid issue and varied and evolved in line with changing historical realities, the jurists’ divergent assessments of the Safavid threat, and their preference for different jurisprudential doctrines. Based on an analysis of the opinions, I argue that these jurists assumed a high degree of autonomy as producers and interpreters of the law and thus did not necessarily feel obliged to legitimate or excuse every imperial action.
Author's note: I thank Professor Yahya Michot and the three anonymous IJMES reviewers for reading this article and making suggestions that saved me many embarrassing mistakes. I am grateful to Özgür Kavak and Himmet Taşkömür for discussing the topic and the sources with me. It is my pleasure to acknowledge that the research and writing of this article was supported by the Co-Funded Brain Circulation Scheme (BIDEB-114C009) and the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA).
1 Repp, Richard C., The Müfti of Istanbul: A Study in the Development of the Ottoman Learned Hierarchy (London: Ithaca Press, 1986), 27–72 ; Atçıl, Abdurrahman, Scholars and Sultans in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
2 Of the three texts analyzed here, two were written in Turkish and one in Arabic. I will use the Arabic transliteration system for terms that were commonly used in both languages, but will otherwise follow the relevant transliteration system for each text. Unless otherwise indicated all translations of primary material are my own.
3 The appellation “Qizilbash” denoted the nomadic, mostly Turkmen, supporters of the Safavids from Azerbaijan, Anatolia, and Syria, who constituted the backbone of the Safavid army for most of the 16th century. For this, see Gündüz, Tufan, Kızılbaşlar, Osmanlılar, Safeviler (Istanbul: Yeditepe, 2015), 97–114 . The term originally had a negative connotation, as it was first used by the enemies of this group. Later, it became the self-designation of the Safavid tribal soldiers. For this, see Bashir, Shahzad, “The Origins and Rhetorical Evolution of the Term Qizilbāsh in Persianate Literature,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 57 (2014): 364–91. For the formation of Qizilbash identity and its distinguishing features, see Ayfer Karakaya Stump, “Subjects of the Sultan, Disciples of the Shah: Formation and Transformation of the Kizilbash/Alevi Communities in Ottoman Anatolia” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 2008); and Rıza Yıldırım, “Turcomans between Two Empires: The Origins of the Qizilbash Identity in Anatolia, 1447–1514” (PhD diss., Bilkent University, 2008).
4 Allouche, Adel, The Origins and Development of the Ottoman–Safavid Conflict, 906–962/1500–1555 (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1983), 30–99 .
5 Terzioğlu, Derin, “How to Conceptualize Ottoman Sunnitization: A Historiographical Discussion,” Turcica 44 (2012–13): 311–18.
6 For example, see Kemal, İbn, Tevarih-i Al-i Osman, VIII. Defter (Transkripsiyon), ed. and trans. Uğur, Ahmet (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1997), 278 ; Walsh, J. R., “The Historiography of Ottoman–Safavid Relations in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” in Historians of the Middle East, ed. Lewis, Bernard and Holt, P. M. (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 204–11; Eberhard, Elke, Osmanische Polemik gegen die Safawiden im 16. Jahrhundert nach arabischen Handschriften (Freiburg: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1970), 168–87; Altınay, Ahmet Refik, On Altıncı Asırda Rafızilik ve Bektaşilik, ed. Yaman, Mehmet (Istanbul: Ufuk Matbaası, 1994); Teber, Ömer Faruk, “Osmanlı Belgelerinde Alevilik İçin Kullanılan Dini-Siyasi Tanımlamalar,” Dini Araştırmalar 10 (2007): 19–38 ; and Yılmaz, Hüseyin, “İran'dan Sünni Kaçışı ve Osmanlı Devleti'nde Safevi Karşıtı Propogandanın Yaygınlaşması: Hüseyin b. Abdullah el-Şirvani’nin Mesiyanik Çağrısı,” in Osmanlı’da İlim ve Fikir Dünyası, ed. Alper, Ömer Mahir and Arıcı, Mustakim (Istanbul: Klasik, 2015), 299–309 .
7 The most important example of authors who adopted a religiolegal perspective is of course the scholar-bureaucrat jurists, whose views will be examined in this essay. However, others also used some elements of this religiolegal vocabulary and mode of reasoning. For an example, see Eberhard, Osmanische Polemik, 194–95.
8 For example, see Tansel, Selahattin, Yavuz Sultan Selim (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2016), 41–45 ; Tekindağ, M. C. Şehabeddin, “Yeni Kaynak ve Vesikaların Işığı Altında Yavuz Sultan Selim'in İran Seferi,” Tarih Dergisi 22 (1968): 53–56 ; Eberhard, Osmanische Polemik; and Dressler, Markus, “Inventing Orthodoxy: Competing Claims for Authority and Legitimacy in the Ottoman–Safavid Conflict,” in Legitimizing the Order: The Ottoman Rhetoric of State Power, ed. Karateke, Hakan T. and Reinkowski, Maurus (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 163–64.
9 Kılıç, Remzi, Kanuni Devri Osmanlı-İran Münasebetleri, 1520–1566 (Istanbul: IQ Kültür Sanat Yayıncılık, 2006), 27–29 .
10 Allouche, The Origins and Development, 30–99.
11 Gündüz, Kızılbaşlar, Osmanlılar, Safeviler, 98–100.
12 Şahin, İlhan and Emecen, Feridun, II. Bayezid Dönemine Ait 906/1501 Tarihli Ahkam Defteri (Istanbul: Türk Dünyası Araştırmaları Vakfı, 1994), 8, 21, 78–79, 126.
13 Allouche, Origins and Development, 84–86; Emecen, Feridun M., İmparatorluk Çağının Osmanlı Sultanları-I (Istanbul: İSAM Yayınları, 2011), 39–40 .
14 Ocak, Ahmet Yaşar, “Bektaşilik,” in Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, vol. 5 (Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı, 1992), 373–79; Savaş, Saim, XVI. Asırda Anadolu'da Alevilik, (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2013), 113–16.
15 Gündüz, Kızılbaşlar, Osmanlılar, Safeviler, 137–41.
16 Feridun M. Emecen, “Şahkulu Baba Tekeli,” in Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, vol. 38, 284–86; Kılıç, , Kanuni Devri Osmanlı-İran Münasebetleri, 47–57 .
17 Yıldırım, Rıza, “An Ottoman Prince Wearing Qizilbash Tāj: The Enigmatic Career of Sultan Murad and the Qizilbash Affairs in the Ottoman Domestic Politics, 1510–1513,” Turcica 43 (2011): 91–119 .
18 Tansel, Yavuz Sultan Selim, 32–37. For other reports on the activities of the Safavids and their supporters, see Yıldırım, “Turcomans between Two Empires,” 479–94.
19 Uğur, Ahmet, The Reign of Sultan Selim in the Light of the Selim-name Literature (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1985), 96–97 .
20 For the biographies of these scholars, see Taşköprizade, Ahmed, al-Shaqaʾiq al-Nuʿmaniyya fi ʿUlamaʾ al-Dawla al-ʿUthmaniyya, ed. Furat, Ahmed Subhi (Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Yayınları, 1985), 286–94, 298–99, 312–13.
21 There are no known works of these scholar-bureaucrats on the issue of the Safavids and their supporters, except that of Sarıgörez. It is therefore currently impossible to determine whether all the participants indeed endorsed or opposed the undertaking. For Ali Cemali's attitude on the subject, see Repp, The Müfti of Istanbul, 220.
22 Taşköprizade, al-Shaqaʾiq al-Nuʿmaniyya, 298–99; Efendi, Mecdi Mehmed, Hadaʾiq al-Shaqaʾiq, ed. Özcan, Abdülkadir (Istanbul: Çağrı Yayınları, 1989), 314–15. See also İpşirli, Mehmet, “Sarıgörez Nureddin Efendi,” in Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, vol. 36 (Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı, 2009), 151–52.
23 Şehabeddin Tekindağ suggests that Sarıgörez wrote this document during the Şahkulu uprising in 1510–11. For this, see Tekindağ, “Yeni Kaynak ve Vesikaların Işığı Altında,” 55. That the content of Sarıgörez's document accords with Kemalpaşazade's above-given summary, however, supports the idea that it was written after the meeting of the imperial council in Fil Çayırı and before the battle of Çaldıran in 1514. On the dating of the document, see Repp, Müfti of Istanbul, 218–20. For the attribution of the document to another author, see Yıldırım, “Turcomans between Two Empires,” 535–43.
24 I consulted three copies of “Sarıgörez's Document” in the Topkapı Palace Museum Archive: E. 5960, E. 6401, and E. 12077. These copies are reproduced in Tansel, Yavuz Sultan Selim, 364–69. For another reproduction, see Tekindağ, “Yeni Kaynak ve Vesikaların Işığı Altında,” vesika I.
25 “Sarıgörez's Document.”
26 For a discussion of how widely shared Sarıgörez's view in this document was, see Repp, Müfti of Istanbul, 218–20.
27 For the elements of the Ottoman fatwa documents, see Heyd, Uriel, “Some Aspects of the Ottoman Fetvā,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 39 (1969): 37–46 . See my discussion of Ebussuud in this article for more on the Ottoman fatwa form.
28 “Sarıgörez's Document.”
32 Peters, Rudolph and De Vries, Gert J. J., “Apostasy in Islam,” Die Welt des Islams 17 (1976–77): 7–9 .
33 “Sarıgörez's Document.”
34 Peters and De Vries, “Apostasy in Islam,” 5–6; Kraemer, Joel L., “Apostates, Rebels and Brigands,” Israel Oriental Studies 10 (1980): 41–44 .
35 “Sarıgörez's Document.”
36 For a review of the historical development of the concept of zindīq and its application, see Ocak, Ahmet Yaşar, Osmanlı Toplumunda Zındıklar ve Mülhidler, 15.–17. Yüzyıllar (Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 2013), 28–66 . For al-Ghazali's religiolegal views on the zindīqs, see Griffel, Frank, “Toleration and Exclusion: al-Shāfiʿī and al-Ghazālī on the Treatment of Apostates,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 64 (2001): 350–54.
37 “Sarıgörez's Document.”
39 Kraemer, “Apostates, Rebels, and Brigands,” 60–71; El Fadl, Khaled Abou, Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 247–49.
40 “Sarıgörez's Document.”
41 Taşköprizade, al-Shaqaʾiq al-Nuʿmaniyya, 377–79. See also Turan, Şerafettin, “Kemalpaşazade,” in Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, vol. 25 (Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı, 2002), 238–40; and Repp, The Müfti of Istanbul, 224–39.
42 I consulted the edition and transcription of “Kemalpaşazade's Treatise” in Tekindağ, “Yeni Kaynak ve Vesikaların Işığı Altında,” 77–78 (reproduced in Allouche, The Origins and Development, 170–73), as well as its two manuscript copies in the Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi: Pertev Paşa, no. 621, 31a–b; and Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, Ayasofya, no. 4794, 43a. For the Turkish translation of the treatise, see Ömer Faruk Teber, “XVI. Yüzyılda Kızılbaşlık Farklılaşması” (PhD diss., Ankara University, 2005), 202–3.
43 Turan, “Kemalpaşazade,” 25:239.
44 “Kemalpaşazade's Treatise.”
45 He refrains from discussing these people under the rubric of the “Qizilbash group,” probably because he does not see the term as precise enough to distinguish this group. For this, see ibid.
46 Ibid. Although he uses the word ilḥād (heresy) alongside kufr (unbelief) to denote the probable meaning of the Safavid red cap, heretical unbelief is not the main religiolegal category he uses to identify followers of the Safavids.
47 “Kemalpaşazade's Treatise.”
53 As stated in the brief biography at the beginning of this section, Kemalpaşazade was the professor at Bayezid II's madrasa in Edirne in 1514. He became the judge of Edirne in 1515. Later, he climbed to the positions of chief judge of Anatolia and chief jurist. For this, see Turan, “Kemalpaşazade,” 25:238–40.
54 Emecen, Feridun M., Yavuz Sultan Selim (Istanbul: Yitik Hazine, 2011), 145–70; 216–308.
55 Kılıç, Kanuni Devri Osmanlı-İran Münasebetleri, 165–238.
56 Ibid., 257–90. See also Muhammet Zahit Atçıl, “State and Government in the Mid-Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Empire: The Grand Vizierates of Rüstem Pasha, 1544–1561” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2015), 143–54.
57 Kılıç, Kanuni Devri Osmanlı-İran Münasebetleri, 312–65; Şahin, Kaya, Empire and Power in the Reign of Süleyman: Narrating the Sixteenth-Century Ottoman World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 131–36.
58 Babayan, Kathryn, Mystics, Monarchs, and Messiahs (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002), xxxix–xlvi.
59 Abisaab, Rula, Converting Persia: Religion and Power in the Safavid Empire (London: I.B.Tauris, 2004), 7–30 ; Babayan, Mystics, Monarchs, and Messiahs, 295–308; Arjomand, Said Amir, “The Rise of Shah Esmāʿil as a Mahdist Revolution,” Studies on Persianate Societies 3 (2005): 44–65 ; Newman, Andrew, Safavid Iran: Rebirth of a Persian Empire (London: I.B.Tauris, 2009), 20–40 ; Yıldırım, “Turcomans between Two Empires,” 588–605.
60 Newman, Safavid Iran, 26–28.
61 Karakaya Stump, “Subjects of the Sultan,” esp. 171–206.
62 Terzioğlu, Derin, “Where ʿİlm-i Ḥāl Meets Catechism: Islamic Manuals of Religious Instruction in the Ottoman Empire in the Age of Confessionalization,” Past and Present 220 (2013): 85 ; Terzioğlu, “How to Conceptualize Ottoman Sunnitization,” 311–18; Krstić, Tijana, “Illuminated by the Light of Islam and the Glory of the Ottoman Sultanate: Self-Narratives of Conversion to Islam in the Age of Confessionalization,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 51 (2009): 38–41 ; Savaş, XVI. Asırda Anadolu'da Alevilik, 48–97.
63 For a reference to this decree, see Efendi, Ebussuûd, Maʿruzat, ed. and transcribed by Düzenli, Pehlul (Istanbul: Klasik, 2013), 59–60 .
64 Necipoğlu, Gülru, The Age of Sinan (London: Reaktion Books, 2011), 47–49 .
65 Faroqhi, Suraiya, “Conflict, Accommodation, and Long-Term Survival: The Bektashi Order and the Ottoman State (Sixteenth–Seventeenth Centuries),” in Bektachiyya: Études sur l'ordre mystique des Bektachis et les groupes relevant de Hadji Bektash, ed. Popovic, Alexandre and Veinstein, Gilles (Istanbul: ISIS, 1995), 9–30 ; Stump, “Subjects of the Sultan,” 116–23.
66 Ocak, “Bektaşilik,” 5:378.
67 For Ebussuud's fatwas discussed here, see Düzdağ, Ertuğrul, Kanuni Devri Şeyhülislamı Ebussuud Efendi Fetvaları (Istanbul: Kapı Yayınları, 2012), 135–40.
68 Atayi, Nevizade, Hadaʾiq al-Haqaʾiq, ed. Özcan, Abdülkadir (Istanbul: Çağrı Yayınları, 1989), 183–88; Repp, Müfti of Istanbul, 272–96.
69 Düzdağ, Kanuni Devri Şeyhülislamı, 139–40.
70 For more on the form of the Ottoman fatwas, see Heyd, “Some Aspects of the Ottoman Fetvā,” 37–46.
71 Düzdağ, Kanuni Devri Şeyhülislamı, 135–38.
72 Ibid., 135–36, 139.
73 Ibid., 136–37.
74 Ibid., 135, 138–39.
75 Kraemer, “Apostates, Rebels, and Brigands,” 48–59; El Fadl, Rebellion and Violence, 237–46.
76 Düzdağ, Kanuni Devri Şeyhülislamı, 137.
77 Ibid., 138–39.
78 Ibid., 135, 137.
79 Ibid., 139. For a discussion of this issue, see Imber, Ebu's-suʿud, 88.
80 Düzdağ, Kanuni Devri Şeyhülislamı, 137.
81 Ibid., 138.
82 It is necessary to underline that polemical works against the Safavids and their supporters by Ottoman authors, which did not necessarily focus on the religiolegal aspects of the issue, continued to be produced after Ebussuud's fatwas. For example, see Eberhard, Osmanische Polemik, 56–61; and Gündüz, Kızılbaşlar, Osmanlılar, Safeviler, 155–75.
83 Winter, Stefan, The Shiites of Lebanon under Ottoman Rule, 1516–1788 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 15–17, 150, 176.
84 For a discussion of the relevant issues, see Akarlı, Engin Deniz, “The Ruler and Law Making in the Ottoman Empire,” in Law and Empire: Ideas, Practices, Actors, ed. Duindam, Jeroen, Harries, Jill, Humfress, Caroline, and Hurvitz, Nimrod (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 87–109 ; and Akarlı, Engin Deniz, “ Maslaha from ‘Common Good’ to ‘Raison d’état’ in the Experience of Istanbul Artisans, 1730–1840,” in Hoca, ʿAllame, and Puits de Science: Essays in Honor of Kemal H. Karpat, ed. Durukan, Kaan, Zens, Robert W., and Zorlu-Durukan, Akile (Istanbul: ISIS, 2010), 65–67 .
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