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The Transformation of Muslim Mystical Thought in the Ottoman Empire

The Rise of the Halveti Order, 1350-1650

John J. Curry

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One of more poorly understood aspects of the history of the Ottoman Empire has been the flourishing of Sufi mysticism under its auspices. This study tracks the evolution of the Halveti order from its modest origins in medieval Azerbaijan to the emergence of its influential Sa'bâniyye branch, whose range extended throughout the Empire at the height of its expansion. By carefully reconstructing the lives of formerly obscure figures in the history of the order, a complex picture emerges of the connections of Halvetî groups with the Ottoman state and society. Even more importantly, since the Sa'bâniyye branch of the order grew out of the towns and villages of the northern Anatolian mountains rather than the major urban centres, this work has the added benefit of bringing a unique perspective to how Ottoman subjects lived, worked, and worshiped outside the major urban centres of the Empire. Along the way, it sheds light on less-visible actors in society, such as women and artisans, and challenges widely-held generalizations about the activities and strategies of Ottoman mystics.


Note on Transliteration
List of Abbreviations for Frequently-Cited Works in the Text
Introduction-On the Study of Ottoman Mystical Traditions
Part I The Rise and Spread of the Halvetî Order from its Origins through the Twelfth/Eighteenth Century: Chapter 1 Early Sufism and the origins of the Halvetî path (ca. 900-1400)
Chapter 2 The Great Expansion: From Regional Organization to Far-Flung Network (ca. 1400-1600)
Part II The Evolution of a Halvetî Sub-Branch: The Life and Career of ?a'bân-? Veli and his Followers in the Kastamonu Region
Chapter 3 Echoes of a distant past: ?a'bân-? Veli's early life and conversion to Sufism
Chapter 4 Genesis of a sub-branch: ?a'bân-? Veli's struggles in Kastamonu
Chapter 5 An uneven legacy: the succession to ?a'bân-? Veli to the end of the tenth/sixteenth century
Part III Defending the Cult of Saints in Eleventh/Seventeenth-Century Kastamonu: Transforming the ?a'bâniyye Order under 'Ömer el-Fu'âdî: Chapter 6 'Ömer el-Fu'âdî as Sufi aspirant and haigographer: the road to ?a'bâniyye succession
Chapter 7 Inscribing the ?a'bâniyye order onto Kastamonu's landscape
Chapter 8 The political and doctrinal legacy of 'Ömer el-Fu'âdî
Conclusion What can the ?a'bâniyye Teach Us About Transitions in the Early Modern Period of World History?
Primary Sources: Original Manuscripts
Primary Sources in Printed Texts, Translation, or Edited Editions of Manuscripts
Secondary Sources

About the Author

John Curry is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has worked extensively in Ottoman archives and libraries in the Turkish Republic for over a decade. He is presently editing a volume of articles about the development of Islamic mysticism from 1200-1800, and also participating in the translation of Katip Çelebi's Cihânnümâ as part of a panel of other noted Ottomanists.


This fascinating book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the role and functioning of Sufism and Sufi communities in Ottoman life … Where this book shines is in its lively, in-depth, solidly grounded analysis of how Ottoman Sufi communities functioned in their local, and particularly provincial, settings. This analysis is made possible, in turn, by the author's close, critical reading of a wealth of published and unpublished 16th- and 17th-century materials, including doctrinal and devotional treatises, Sufi genealogies (silsiles), and especially hagiographic literature.

This book will be indispensable to scholars and students of both Ottoman history and the history of Sufism. I highly recommend it for its analytical and methodological approaches, its engaging narrative, and its ability to open a window to still poorly appreciated social and religious dynamics in the early modern period of Islamic history.

- Dina le Gall, Lehman College and the Graduate Center, the City University of New York, International Journal of Middle East Studies

Winner of the Iranian World Prize for the Islamic Studies Book of Year, 2012

A fine piece of scholarship on the development of a specific Sufi order over a period of centuries, with special attention given to its relationship to the Ottoman state... It should be considered required reading for anyone interested in the history of Sufism or in the religious history of the Ottoman Empire.

- Jamal J. Elias, University of Pennsylvania, The American Historical Review

John Curry's book is an important contribution to the history of Sufism in the early Ottoman empire. Based on an in-depth analysis of Sufi writings, it leads the reader to the very heart of Sufi life that developed in Anatolia in a broad social, political, and religious context. This work belongs to the very valuable trend in the study of mysticism that takes advantage of Sufi texts, whether theological or hagiographical, and thus informed by an understanding of the mechanics of assimilation and transformation of earlier traditions, as well as of the contemporary aims of the writers, John Curry's foray into writing history is successful indeed.

- Nathalie Clayer, CNRS–EHESS, Paris, Journal of the American Oriental Society