The Imam’s Cut: Ghaza’ Norms in the Ottoman Age of the Caliphate

By Nabil Al-Tikriti
Submitted to Session P5119 (Ruler of the East and the West: Notions of Universal Rule in Early Modern Ottoman History, 1400-1800, 2018 Annual Meeting
Hist
All Middle East; Iraq; Syria; The Levant; Turkey;
13th-18th Centuries; 19th-21st Centuries;
At some point between June 1509 and his death in February 1513, the Ottoman royal Sehzade Korkud completed an Arabic legal manual attempting to clarify what he considered doctrinally correct allocation of human and material plunder in a theater of war. Entitled Hall ishkal al-afkar fi hill amwal al-kuffar (A Solution for Intellectual Difficulties Concerning the Proper Disposal of Infidel Properties), the text appears to have had two primary purposes: to rationalize property allocation among victorious participants in the ghaza’ military economy, and to define licit sexual relations with concubines and captives.

Korkud’s text can be read as an attempt to fit an evolving imperial law of war into older shari‘a norms of conquest administration. While the manual’s legal scholarship falls squarely within the Shafi‘i tradition of siyar (campaign rules) literature, at the time it provided a fresh synthesis of older rulings answering to particularly Ottoman concerns.

One of the key claims Korkud made was the decisive role agents of the imam must play in adjudicating, taxing, and allocating both human and material plunder. Ensuring that the imam’s fifth is properly administered, implicitly by Ottoman state officials, provided a religio-political case for imperial control over the ghaza’ economy, as well as over other issues related to the laws of war and taxation. In light of caliphal titulature periodically floated during Bayezid II’s reign, Hall ishkal al-afkar predicated itself on Ottoman justifications for universal rule as the caliphal authority.

Demonstrating the continuing relevance of such siyar campaign literature, in 2013 a small Istanbul press, ISAR, published a scholarly introduction, full Turkish translation, and complete facsimile of Hall ishkal al-afkar. With this paper, I shall attempt to situate this text within its broader Ottoman and Islamic context, as well as suggest possible connections between this text and recent allegations of regulated sexual slavery by Da‘sh in Iraq and Syria.