[P4871] Changing configurations of the political and the religious in the early modern Ottoman and Safavid Empires

Created by Malissa Taylor
Sunday, 11/19/17 3:30pm


The nature of the relationship between Islam and politics in the early modern Ottoman and Safavid Empires continues to arouse contentious debate. Contributing to trends in the broader field of early modern history, this panel investigates the diverse and nuanced interactions between formations of the religious and the political from the early sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries and assesses their long-term ramifications.

Two papers investigate aspects of the Ottoman state's increasing identification with Sunni Islam in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, arguing that changing religious sensibilities provided opportunities for broadening state support and amplifying state control over the law. Using the lens of confessionalization, the first paper relates the rise of the Kad?zadeli movement to the increasing number of Muslim-born men in the ranks of Ottoman administrators. While the changing composition of the administrative elite stoked social tension, the Kad?zadeli message helped to ease these tensions among the Sunni majority by creating a new schema of insiders and outsiders based upon confession. The second paper focuses on divisions within the administrative cadres about the meaning of adherence to Sunni precedents, demonstrating that one faction of Ottoman officials systematically rejected the practices associated with the "harmonization" of Ebussu'ud Efendi and rewrote the land law to conform to Salafi priorities. However, such efforts spurred a backlash: in the eighteenth century, a second faction gained control in the chancery and countered the Salafi policies with a newly organized, more extensive elaboration of Ebussu'ud's synthesis, laying the ground work for the 1858 Land Code.

Two more papers explore the relationship between Sufi piety, Shi'ism and the changing imperial configuration of the Safavid Empire. Concentrating on the Safavid transition from a Sufi order to an imperial enterprise, the third paper explores how the dynasty built political loyalty through ties of patronage modeled upon the Sufi instructional hierarchy that bound pupils to the master. It concludes that the political theology of these patron-client relationships was critical for creating durable bonds for the fledgling dynasty. Finally, the fourth paper investigates how the seventeenth-century Shi'i 'ulama sought to define an appropriate role for themselves in the Safavid state. As the paper makes clear, supporting a collaboration between state and 'ulama was a significant break with the skepticism that had previously dominated Shi'i attitudes towards temporal authorities. The emerging discussion of the benefits of such collaboration would have strong reverberations in the twentieth century.





Linda T. Darling

(University of Arizona)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Malissa Taylor

(University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Baki Tezcan

(University of California, Davis)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Maryam Moazzen

(University of Louisville)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;