Sufi Literature in the Ottoman Classical Period


The aim of this research is to determine and outline the contents of Sufi works written in verse or prose in the form of first-hand writing, translation or commentary in Ottoman geography covering a period of three centuries. In this study, in addition to works that include Sufi subjects and figures, the works of religious-sufi (tasavvufi) or religious-moral-sufi nature have been also examined, and while only those parts related to Sufism have been evaluated. The works subject to this study have been classified under two main titles: Sufi history and Sufi thought. Sufi history is examined in light of two main genres “tabakat” (biography) and “menakıbname” (hagiographies). The literature evaluated in the context of Sufi thought is organized under the headings such as wahdat al-wujud, divine love, sharia-truth, ricâl-i gayb, discovery, seyru sülük (spiritual journey). A comparison of works written as biographies or hagiographies reveals a clear superiority of the literature on the Sufi thought.

This study has demonstrated that the most important concepts shaping the Ottoman understanding of Sufism in the classical period were Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabî's unity of being (wahdat-i wujud) and Mevlânâ Celaleddin-i Rûmî's divine love. The emphasis on the coexistence of Sharia and Truth stands out as a common feature of almost all literature. Two names especially come forth in carrying the fundamental issues of Sufism into the Ottoman era: the first chief professor of Ottoman madrasas, Dâvûd-i Kayserî, and the first chief jurist (sheikh- al Islam) Molla Fenârî. These figures focused mainly on topics which defined the basics of the Sufi thinking such as existence and its stages, insan-ı kamil (the perfect being), seyru sülük (spiritual journey) and divine love.

Keywords: The Ottoman Empire, Sufism, unity of being, divine love, hagiography, spiritual journey, discovery.

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