The Politicization of Islam by Kemal Karpat


Timur’s victory helped the Turkic popular Sufi orders—which he supported—proliferate further in Anatolia and, ultimately, in the Balkans. He recognized Ahmed Yesevi, whose followers or descendants dominated Anatolia, as a major religious fig­ure, creating the magnificent tomb still standing in Yesi in south Kazakstan; and he rebuilt Samarkand as the center of the Turkic-Islamic civilization in Central Asia.   Timur, as is well known, invited many leading Muslim scholars from the Middle East, including  1 emseddin Cezeri and other refugees of Central Asian origin, to Samarkand. The subsequent increase in communication between Anatolia and Central Asia resulted in the building of new tekkes (lodges) to serve the needs of the Central Asian travelers, many of whom were hacis to Mecca, and the repair of the existing ones, such as the Turkistan lodge originally established by Abdullahal-Mencek in 1380 at Tarsus. This lodge served the inhabitants of a total of eighty-four Central Asian localities, including Buhara, Samarkand, Dushanbe, Tashkent, Aksu, Khiva, Fergana, Balkh, Kashgar, and Hoten.   The vakfiye (founding act) of a second lodge known as Beyce  sheyh, established in 1381 and still active in 1883, offers true geographic information, including distances between towns in the Buhara region in the fourteenth century.  Three lodges in Istanbul provided shelter and employment for months, even years, for Central Asian travelers and  sheyhs who became part of the ulema of Istanbul and acted as lobbyists and representatives of their han in Buhara, Kashgar, Khiva, and so on.

The Central Asian centers of learning, such as Buhara, Samarkand, and Khiva,supplied teachers of religion and the positive sciences to the Ottoman sultans. For instance, the sons of Sultan Mehmet I (r. 1413–21) were tutored by Mevlana Ahmed (Muhammad bin Arabshah), who was originally from Damascus but received hiseducation in Transoxiana. Later Sultan Bayezid II (r. 1481–1512) was schooled in mathematics and astronomy by two Central Asians, namely Murim Çelebi and the famous Ali Kushçu (ca. 1420–74), who was a colleague and friend of Timur’s grand­son, Ulughbey. Ulughbey was himself a leading astronomer as well as the ruler of Samarkand. 

Ali Kushçu became a close friend of Sultan Mehmet II (r. 1451–81) and was instrumental in establishing an observatory in Istanbul; it was destroyed in the sixteenth century when the scholastic-minded, conservative ulema gained the upper hand in the Ottoman court over the proponents of the practical sciences.

The famous Hoca Nasraddin Ubaydullah Ahrar (d. 1490), whose family dominated politics in Central Asia for centuries, supposedly traveled miraculously in 1453 to help 110  Politicization of Islam Sultan Mehmed (1451–81) conquer Constantinople (Istanbul)

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