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Friend and foe: The early Ottoman reception of Ibn 'Arabi



Friend and foe: The Early Ottoman Reception of Ibn `Arabi


Ahmed Zildzic

Doctor of Philosophy in Near Eastern Studies

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Hamid Algar, Chair

The legacy of the great Muslim Sufi master from the XII century, Muhy al-din Ibn al-`Arabi left broad, profound, lasting and polarizing impact on the development of Islamic mysticism in the centuries after his death. The underlying principles of Sufism such as the ideas of the transcendental unity of being, the Perfect Man, the sealhood of the Mu-hammadan sainthood in their final form and ultimate interpretation are usually, both fa-vorably and unfavorably, associated with the name of Ibn `Arabi.

This dissertation is a historical inquiry into the pathways through which the influence of Ibn `Arabi, as well as that of his works, disciples and ideas was inherited and incorpo-rated into the intellectual milieu of the Ottoman learned class represented here by two groups: religious scholars, and members of the imperial administration. This dissertation follows the continuities of the textual and interpretative community of Ibn Arabi, stretch-ing through a series of Ibn Arabi's disciples from the time of his sojourn in pre-Ottoman Anatolia until the first scholarly figures and institutions of the Ottomans whereby Akbari teachings were propelled into the nascent Ottoman scholarly circles.

The tumultuous historical events of the first decades of the XVI century, namely the Ot-toman conquest of the Arab world and the resulting defeat of the Mamluks and the Sa-favids, provided an opportunity for the evaluation of the well-established Akbari teach-ings in an Ottoman context. A notable XVII century Ottoman commentator of the Fusus, Abdullah el-Bosnevi in his famous Sharh proposed that the advent of the Ottomans into the Arab world reinvigorated, or more precisely for the first time launched heated debates concentrated around the question of the acceptability of IbnArabi's beliefs in Ottoman realm. The abundant amount of primary sources originating from that period shows in-tensive activities focused at attacking and defending Ibn `Arabi, his views and his follow-ers, and that fact appears to bear out el-Bosnevi's assumption. Based on primary manu-script sources and an array of secondary literature this dissertation attempts to follow those debates in two textual corpuses: in imperial discourse represented here by a short, anonymous and obscure treatise titled Al-Shajara al-nu`maniyya fi `ulama' al-dawla al-`uthmaniyya, and in legal discourse represented by a selection of fatwas issued by some of the most illustrious Ottoman scholars and shaykh al-islams from that period.

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