An Evaluation on İlmiye Studies in the 100th Anniversary of the RepublicMehmet İpşirli
In the Ottoman Empire, the ilmiye, represented by the ulema, held educational, judicial, and major religious institutions within the state structure, and in the periods of establishment and development, they mostly held the posts of vizier and minister. The ilmiye is a group of people with important privileges and at the forefront of state ceremonies. Studies on this important institution -especially on its educational aspects- began to be conducted in the Republican period, starting in the 1940s. Since the 1960s, interest has gradually increased as the ilmiye started to be taught as a course in history departments, and related doctoral theses began to emerge. The situation during the 100th anniversary of the Republic shows that many theses, articles, and books have been written and symposiums have been organized on various topics of ilmiye. However, many important topics have not yet been examined, and no standardized work has yet been written in the field of ilmiye after Uzunçarşılı’s book.
Cumhuriyet’in 100. Yılında İlmiye Araştırmaları Üzerine Bir DeğerlendirmeMehmet İpşirli
Osmanlı’da ulemanın temsil ettiği ilmiye, devlet yapısı içerisinde eğitim, yargı ve başlıca dini kurumları, kuruluş ve gelişme dönemlerinde çoğunlukla vezirlik, nişancılık görevlerini üstlenmiş, önemli ayrıcalıkları olan, devlet teşrifatında ön sıralarda yer alan bir zümredir. Bu önemli ve yetkili kurumla ilgili Cumhuriyet döneminde 1940’lı yıllardan itibaren özellikle eğitim yönü üzerine bazı çalışmalar yapılmış, 1960’lı yıllardan itibaren tarih bölümlerinde ders olarak okutulmaya ve doktora tezleri hazırlanmaya başlanmasıyla ilgi giderek artmıştır. Cumhuriyetin 100. yılındaki duruma bakıldığında ilmiyenin çeşitli konuları üzerine pek çok tez, makale ve kitap yazılmış, sempozyumlar düzenlenmiş olmakla birlikte hala incelenmeyen birçok önemli konunun olduğu ve ilmiye alanında Uzunçarşılı’nın kitabından sonra henüz standart telif bir eserin yazılmadığı gerçeği ile karşılaşılmaktadır.
The Ottoman society mainly comprised two segments, the rulers and the people (askerî and reâyâ). Among the ruling class consisting of ilmiye, seyfiye, and kalemiye, the ilmiye held a prestigious position with important privileges, had a particularly strong organization in the state structure, and was at the highest level in the official protocol.
The Ottoman ilmiye class embodied a group of professionals of Muslim and mostly Turkish origin who, after receiving education at the classical Islamic educational institution (medrese) and graduating with a certificate (icâzet) come to hold various important positions in law, education, the main religious services, and central bureaucracy in the Ottoman state according to their fields of expertise. On the whole, the members of the ilmiye successfully managed to maintain their traditions and safeguard their power and privileges. During the history of this institution, four phases can be identified, each with distinct characteristics: establishment, maturity, disorder, and self-criticism and reorganization.
As the intellectuals of their time, the members of the ilmiye had always attracted attention, and much was expected of them; different evaluations and criticisms were made about the Ilmiye class as early as the sixteenth century. These criticisms can be viewed as prototypes and first examples of the evaluations made about the ilmiye class today.
It should be noted that the most intensive research on the subject of ilmiye is in the form of master’s and doctoral theses, some of which are highly successful studies. Symposiums, seminars, and workshops in the field of ilmiye have been organized, and articles published, since the last quarter of the twentieth century. In Turkey, history, turcology, sociology departments, and faculties of theology publish journals in accordance with academic criteria. Among these, especially in the journals of the faculties of theology, articles on Ottoman ulema biographies, madrasa curricula, courses taught in madrasas and Arabic textbooks, as well as commentaries written on classical Arabic books are published.
In the three Encyclopedias of Islam -particularly in the Encyclopedia of Islam (DİA)- hundreds of biographies of Ottoman scholars, organizations, and institutions related to ilmiye; courses and textbooks taught in madrasas; famous works written by Ottoman scholars; and well-known fatwa books have been written by academics in separate articles and are available online.
Research has been conducted at various levels both in Turkey and abroad on the organization of the ilmiye, namely the sheikhulislamate, kazaskerate, nakibüleşrafship, qadiship, and madrasa. Some Ottoman sheikhulislams have been the subject of symposiums or independent studies. Among these are also prosopographical studies. Sheikhulislam Seyyid Feyzullah Efendi of Erzurum and Sheikhulislam Musa Kazım Efendi of Tortum can be mentioned as examples.
Fatwa, a highly important institution of Islamic law, has produced solutions for society and the state throughout Islamic history. In the Ottoman period, theses and articles were written explaining, with examples, that fatwa produced healthy solutions in the settlement of religious, social, administrative, political, and military issues.
The madrasa, which is the basic institution of the Islamic education system, showed substantial developments in the Ottoman period with its physical conditions, architectural style, program, and the mentality it represents. It became an educational institution that corresponds to high school and university education after the sıbyan school and that is attended only by Muslims due to its Islamic identity.
Since the Second Constitutional Monarchy period, valuable efforts have been made to reform the Ottoman madrasas and reorganize them with a curriculum program that would meet the needs of the age. Intellectuals of the period wrote important articles and reports in journals and made suggestions. With their help, regulations and new curricula for madrasas were prepared.
Comparative studies on the Ottoman madrasa system and its organization, administration, education, curricula, teachers, and students are particularly important. These comparisons can be made among the madrasas in the vast Ottoman geography, with the madrasas of other contemporary Muslim states, or with the educational institutions of European states with which the Ottoman Empire had intensive political, military, and economic relations.
An important feature of the Ottoman Empire in the field of madrasa education is that it maintained its rich education by preserving regional and traditional differences. Although it implemented its own system in Anatolia and the Balkans, it did not change the long-standing education system in major Arab cities. Their traditions continued as they preserved their education within the framework of their own foundations and the rules stipulated by their endowments. The Ottoman Empire contributed by inspecting them in case of complaints and assisting them in case of requests. The fact that these issues have not yet been studied is a lacuna in the research.
Many studies on the Ottoman ulema have been conducted and works written by local and foreign historians at various levels, and the reasons for this intense interest are important. In the sources, the ulema are mentioned among the founding elements of the state, and they are considered an important authority for legitimacy with their religious and especially legal identity. Such sources emphasize their relations with various groups and the roles they played in political, military, and diplomatic events. Analyzing the religious, legal, literary, and historical works written by the ulama and investigating their contributions to religion and science will open new horizons for future studies.
It should be noted that Turkey has rich archival and library resources for ilmiye research. Within this richness of resources, many studies in the form of theses, articles, and books have been conducted in the last 50 years. However, some important topics in the field of ilmiye still need to be studied, and in this context, certain shortcomings and challenges should be mentioned. The lack of a methodology in the studies should be especially noted, along with difficulties and deficiencies in language and concepts and in assimilating and evaluating sources. As a matter of fact, the fact that the textbooks on tafsir, hadith, fiqh, and kalam, which are taught as basic disciplines in madrasas, and the commentaries written on them are in Arabic and written with a rich terminology makes it particularly difficult for researchers to study them. In this kind of research, knowledge of the language as well as mastery of the field of study is critical and necessary. Another issue that should be mentioned as a deficiency is that the studies have generally focused on the center and neglected the Ottoman provinces in the studies of the ilmiye.
Finally, as in other scientific fields, experienced academics will obtain more efficient and healthier results in the field of ilmiye with their planning, by identifying the missing areas in their meetings and determining which subjects should be prioritized and what kind of order to follow. The fact that the interest in the field of ilmiye is increasing day by day is a particularly positive sign for future achievements.