Rushain Abbasi (Humanities Center)
An Immanent Turn in Islamic Political Thought? Considering the Ottoman “Order of the World” at the Turn of the 17th Century
Precirculated paper. Responses by Nora Barakat and Farah Bazzi.
It is a well-known fact that the concept of “order” (niẓām) was central to the modernization of the Ottoman Empire. Standard scholarly interpretation, however, maintains that the novel emphasis attached to order in the Ottoman empire (and the modern Muslim world more broadly) was the sole product of the influx of political ideas from Europe into the Muslim world starting from the 18th century, or the imposition of colonial conceptions of order onto Muslim societies by European powers in the 19th century. Contrary to this belief, my article demonstrates that the conceptual roots for the increasingly political salience of order in the Ottoman world can be traced back to the late 16th century, a time during which Ottoman political writers turned away from the predominantly abstract, moralistic, and traditional approach to politics taken by ancient Near Eastern and medieval Islamic political writers and began to incorporate a more concrete mode of political analysis, one which exhibited a greater commitment to the preservation of human-made laws and institutions. This shift in thinking is particularly evident in the development of the concept of “the order of the world” (niẓām-ı ʿālem), which far from representing the divinely ordained laws of nature imagined by ancient and medieval writers came to stand for the preservation of the proto-constitution and administrative structure of the Ottoman state.
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