Ilmu Massa, Turath, Sejarah. Analisa Kajian Budaya Pemikir. Peradaban Insani Kalbu Akal Mencerah. Hakikat Amal Zikir Dan Fikir. Ilmu, Amal, Hikmah Menjana Pencerahan. Ulul-Albab Rausyanfikir Irfan Bistari. Tautan Mahabbah Mursyid Bimbingan. Alam Melayu Alam Islami Tamadun Melayu Peradaban Islami. Rihlah Ilmiah Menjana Pencerahan Pemikiran, Kefahaman & Ketamadunan (Ilmu,Amal,Hikmah & Mahabbah) - Inspirasi: Rizhan el-Rodi

The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire: 1808 – 1876

The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire: 1808 – 1876

E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür


This study presents the transformed relationship between the state and the
Sufi orders in the Ottoman Empire as the outcome of its affiliation with the
modernization process in the nineteenth century. The study focuses on the
institutionalization of the Ottoman Sufis and the state regulations regarding
them, and it aims to provide a survey of how the state attempted to amend the
Sufi orders. The reforms introduced by Sultan Mahmud II are discussed, and
this investigation is complemented by analysis of the regulations of the
Tanzimat. The study concludes that the income level of the tekkes was
drastically reduced and the privileged status of the Sufi orders eroded through
two particular decrees.
Key Words The Sufi Orders, The Ottoman Empire, transformation,
modernization, the Tanzimat, Sultan Mahmud, Meclis- i Me ayih, sheikh,
dervish, tekkes, sultan, Bektashi, lodge.
1. The Role and the Situation of the Sufi Orders up to the Period of
the Tanzimat
The Ottoman Empire inaugurated and intensified efforts to
incorporate administrative reforms that the Russians and Austro-Hungarians
had recently brought into their governmental arsenal. The intention of these
reforms was the revitalization of the Ottoman Empire. In this context, Islam
was treated by the reformers as a significant influence on Ottoman society,
which they desired to maintain and amplify.
In this sense, the
governmentality of the Ottoman Empire was incorporated into a state
mechanism, which was concerned with the complex composition of men and
things related to men, rather than territorial governance. People’s
associations, relations, and the personal sphere became a concern of the state.
The Sufi orders, which contributed to the qualifications of human beings and
thus the society, are one example of this. The aim of this paper is to discuss
the attempts to reform the Sufi Orders in the Ottoman Empire in the
nineteenth century, with special emphasis on the years between 1808 and
1876, under the new regulation of Ottoman governmentality. The reforms
introduced during this period were long-term and relatively successful for the
empire in the processes of bureaucratization and modernization. Particularly E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
the military and civil reforms of this period have been of crucial importance
in the history of Islam and the Sufi Orders. Beginning with the Nizam-ı Cedid
under Sultan Selim III (r. 1789-1807), and continuing with the Tanzimat
following the new regulations under Sultan Mahmud (r. 1808-1839), these
reforms, which played a considerable role in the modernization process, in
both the provinces and the center of the Empire.
Since the time span of this study excludes the reign of Selim III, I
will concentrate on the reforms of Sultan Mahmud, which can be considered
in two major fields: the modernization of the military which ended with the
suppression of the janissaries in 1826; and the re-organization of the financial
resources of the state, particularly the administration of the waqfs. In both
fields, the Sufi orders were affected, and this paper focuses on the level of
influence and the material effects of these reforms in the Sufi Orders. These
mystical institutions were not only affected by the abolishment of the
janissaries, but also by the re-organization of the waqfs. The reforms resulted
in negative consequences for the orders, and a decline in their fortunes
compared to their previous conditions. The reforms of the nineteenth century
undermined the traditional role of the dervish institution in the Ottoman
Empire, especially for the tekkes and the tariqas. The beginning of the
changes in the Sufi Orders was the suppression and the termination of the
Bektashi Order in 1826, after the abolishment of the janissaries. Nevertheless,
Sultan Mahmud had given the first signs of change when he declared his
reform decrees, which focused on the administration of the Sufi Orders in
1812 and 1818. In this respect, it is safe to claim that Sultan Mahmud’s
reforms made important impressions on the practices and general structures
of the Sufi orders.
2. The Re-Organization of the Sufi Orders under Mahmud II
The key events of the nineteenth century, such as the Reform Edicts
of the Tanzimat in 1834, the Islahat in 1856 and the Constitution in 1876
resulted in economic, religious, social and cultural transformations. The
Vilayet laws in 1864 and 1868 were designed to implement reforms at the
administrative and provincial levels. These have been seen as part of a
concentrated period and process of reforming legislation called the Tanzimat,
which took place during the reigns of Sultan Mahmud’s sons Abdülmecid (r.
1839-1861) and Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876), and achieved its final culmination
during the long reign of Abdülhamid II (r. 1876-1909), who, in many ways,
was one of the great Ottoman modernizers.
The reforms’ imperative was to
bind the government to a policy of change, greater justice, the rule of law as
well as economic improvements. The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
In comparison to the tangential reforms enacted by his predecessors,
the reign of Mahmud II and its reforms caused fundamental and profound
changes in the administration of the state. The influence of the European
powers and the internal disputes required both administrative and military
reforms. Naturally, the European institutions were used as models, but were
ultimately implemented as a synthesis indigenous to the Ottomans, rather
than being adopted in their original forms.
Mahmud II, the successor of Selim III (r. 1789-1807), was well
aware of the fact that direct and immediate implementation of the reforms
was the way to eliminate the weaknesses of the Ottoman sultanate and pave
the way for a better rule. In this respect, based on the lessons taken from the
reign of Selim III, Mahmud II spent the first decade of his reign by
consolidating his power and dominion over the branches of the state and the
perception of its officials. Therefore, Mahmud’s reforms were evaluated in
the sense that his statesmanship succeeded in a substantial reform of the
empire and set the stage for absolutism during the later years of his reign.
Sultan Mahmud began his reforms in the military, into which the
French army system was introduced. He also wanted to reform the system of
taxation. The tımar system had already been replaced by the iltizam (tax
farm) system in the 16
century due to corruption, and requests for improved
security in the provinces and administration of agricultural lands. The taxfarming system was later transformed into a more abusive form of tenancy
known as malikane (life farm) in 1695.
This seemed more advantageous
than the iltizam, although its positive initial results gave way to an increased
tax burden on the shoulders of the financial system, since the life farms were
devolved to the second, even to the third, hand mültezimler (life farmers).
Mahmud continued his modifications to the taxation system which he
inherited from Selim III, and expended great effort to terminate the
autonomous and powerful role of the provincial elites over the state and
signed the Sened-i Ittifak
with the ayans (provincial notables) in 1808. His
attempts were successful in the long run, when he later started to establish his
absolute regime after the Treaty of Bucharest in 1812. Afterwards, the
janissaries and the recruits provided by local fief holders were eliminated in
and this provided the starting point for the successful execution of
military and administrative reforms. As Mehmet Seyittanlıoğlu points out,
1826 marks the beginning of the Tanzimat era.
During Mahmud’s reign, civil service tuition was improved and
better salaries provided a more efficient administration, reducing the need for
graft. At the end of the seventeenth century, the empire was suffering from a
stagnation of territorial extension and a financial shortage (inflation), and
economic and taxation reforms were crucial to reverse the financial E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
deterioration. Further enhancements were made with the improvement of
taxation, which eliminated ineffective collection methods and improved
revenues for the state. However, malikane remained the major method of tax
collection until it was abolished during the Tanzimat.
Throughout these
reforms, the sultan undertook vigorous endeavors to establish an efficient
central control over the entire empire, establishing his rule as “enlightened
despot.” For instance, he promulgated a decree about men’s headgear, which
was the replacement of the traditional turban with the red fez with black
tassel. The traditional turban was a common component of everyday life,
ceremonial dress and an essential piece of dervish clothing, which was even
represented on their gravestones. Therefore, Mahmud’s affiliation to the
project of modernization, with its hope of silencing social distinctions, was
repressive since the dervish culture had previously been exempted from this
kind of restriction on life within the tekkes and the activities of the sheikhs. In
fact, Mahmud II was not the only ruler to attempt to administer the Sufi
Orders. Muhammed Ali, the Ottoman viceroy in Egypt, decreed that authority
over the Egyptian Sufi orders, lodges and shrines was to be held by the sheikh
al-sajjada (the newly created position granted authority over all other
Mahmud II made enthusiastic efforts in order to curtail religious
powers in the empire with the help of modernization processes, which began
at the end of the seventeenth century. As well as the areas of law, economy,
education, the army, administration and security, which were considered
priority fields in which to implement reforms, the tekkes were also considered
one of the institutions requiring innovation. In this respect, Mahmud II
intervened in the affairs of the Sufi orders for political reasons. In order to
construct his “enlightened despotism” and to infringe upon the independent
profession of the Sufi class, the sultan declared two important imperial edicts
dealing with the dervish lodges, in two direct cases of intervention. The first
edict in 1812 was composed of four matters:
1. The central lodge (tekke) of a given order should be the one where
the eponym of the order is buried, and the administration of the
order’s affairs should be organized from there.
2. Those sheikhs’ positions vacated upon the death or departure of the
previous sheikh should be filled by appointment of the central tekke,
and the views of the Sheikh-ül-Islam should be sought.
3. In the appointment of sheikhs, attention must be paid to the
authority and capacities of the individuals. The appointment of The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
unqualified sheikhs through bribery, gifts, and so forth must be
4. The foundation of the tekkes must be under the administration of the
Evkaf Nezareti.
It is understood from this edict that the dervishes lived in the tekkes,
and they advised and pronounced the profession of God’s unity. This
imperial edict did not touch upon the responsibilities and duties of the
dervishes within the lodge. However, their hitherto administrative and
financial autonomy was being eroded as they were being incorporated into
the sphere of state governance.
The ultimate aim was to take provincial
tekkes under the control of the centers, so that the control mechanism would
work without state intervention. In other words, the declaration of such an
edict meant that the regulations of tariqas and tekkes were worse than
initially supposed, and that the state tried to emphasize indirect control in the
provinces through the central tekkes. Certainly, the Sheikh-ül-Islam had been
demonstrated as the primary authority over the whole tariqas in the empire,
since they were pointed out as the supreme authority for the appointment of
the sheikhs. This was a great bureaucratic attempt to cut the direct ties of the
tariqa with the sultan, and to bind the Sufi orders to the scrutiny of the office
of the Me ihat (the ilmiyye hierarchy of the ulema). From now on, the Sufi
orders were reduced to being an institution of the state similar to other
institutions operating under the administration of state rules and regulations.
The edict also aimed to prevent fake dervishes from misleading society.
Furthermore, these regulations re-structured the authority of the sheikhs in
the tekkes on a new, legal basis.
Undeniably, the standards of the orders deteriorated as their income
levels decreased. Due to the income and prestige the lodges provided, those
who wanted to acquire power in society could build up dervish lodges. Many
provincial rulers would receive petitions and complaints about fake
dervishes, who were exploiting Ottoman subjects. In fact, the ultimate
objective behind these and subsequent reforms could be viewed as an attempt
to initiate and comprehend the process of bureaucratizing the religious
establishment, and to create a distinction between affairs of state and religion.
In fact, there were no specifically appointed administrative bodies to deal
with the issues of the Sufi orders until the Tanzimat reforms. The central Sufi
order (called Asitane) was responsible for solving disputes and sustaining
functions related to the tekkes. The order’s close contact with the palace and
with the Sheikh-ül-Islam was also efficient for their administration. The E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
Tanzimat reforms brought administrative interference in tekke regulations as
well as abolishing certain privileges introduced to tekke employees.
In order to continue with the reforms of Mahmud II and to avoid
certain malpractices which had occurred within the administration of the
tariqas and among the members of the order, some further measures had to
be taken, such as requiring a diploma for appointment to the office of sheikh,
the banishing of disobedient Sufis, and the closure of the lodges.
Subsequently, Mahmud II declared another imperial edict in 1836, which was
composed of seven matters dealing with the internal regulation of the lodges
and dervishes;
1. Each member of an order should wear a garment particular to that
2. Each dervish has to carry identity cards, with the signature and seal
of his sheikh.
3. Certificates of authoritative knowledge of the order’s traditions
(icazetname) must not be conferred to unqualified dervishes, and,
when they are to be conferred, the opinions of not one but several
sheikhs must be sought.
4. In the appointment of sheikhs, attention must be paid as to whether
the candidate is indeed a member of the order associated with the
foundation deeds.
5. One person may not hold more than one position as sheikh.
6. Items belonging to the tekke such as banners, flags, and musical
instruments must not be removed from the premises, not even on the
pretext of “sending off Hajj pilgrims” or “receiving returning ones.”
7. Those who do not participate in the canonical worship (namaz), in
recitation of tawhid (devotional) dhikrs, but merely wish to attend
the “song and dance dhikrs,” must be excluded.
This was a great step towards changing the function of the tekkes in
the nineteenth century. It is understood from this imperial edict that there
were people who came to the lodge for the practice of deveran and raks
zinciri, or those who were accommodated within the institution. However, the
edict also mentions the social life of the tekkes, and makes many efforts to
bring this under closer inspection and control. This was part of a broader The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
project to render more visible and calculable an ever-increasing number of
micro-level, daily social practices and institutions, mainly by requiring that
they be registered by a legal order. Hence, this edict transformed the
authority of sheikhs, hitherto legitimated by tradition, into authority of a
rational-legal type. The authority of the sheikh should be recognized, in legal
terms, as the reflection of the rational application of the state power. In fact,
these articles resulted in the placement of the Sheikhs in positions marginal to
the administration of the tariqa. Also, the legality of a sheikh having tenure
as the head of a tariqa came to be obtained through the legal agencies.
The decrease in the income level of the tekkes might have had an
influence on these changes. Those Bektashi members who survived the
prohibition secretly continued their activities, and the palace was not able to
surveil them easily. The edict was passed in order to fulfill the monitoring
activities of the state. In addition, the compulsory implementation of special
clothes and identity cards were signs of an attempt towards the execution of a
clear-cut standardization of the structure of the tariqas. This enforcement
aimed to not only unveil state control over religious orders, but also to
diminish the dominance of them over society. In fact, The Encyclopedia of
Islam states that the tekkes may have functioned as an intellectual center, a
sanctuary-offering asylum, as well as a political focus. In this respect, the
edict indicates the awareness of the center that the popularity of the religious
orders in society may have resulted in special and significant political
consequences. It is worth keeping in mind the revolt of Sheikh Said against
the central authority in 1925. Martin Van Bruinessan claims that Sheikh Said
could not have managed to mobilize such a variety of people or warriors had
it not been for the Naqshibandiyya network, and the belief of people in his
Hence, it is safe to claim that the crucial consequence of the edicts
was to diminish the visibility of the religious orders on social and political
issues as a determining factor.
As far as economics is concerned, Mahmud II inaugurated several
reforms in order to marshal the resources of the state for a better
administration. He began to implement his reforms in 1813 through
fundamental changes in the administration of pious foundations. Firstly, he
united the administration of the Hamidiye and Mahmudiye Evkafı with the
Zarbhane-i Amire Nezareti (the Imperial Mint) in 1813.
He expanded the
imperial evkaf with the abolishment of the janissaries, and therefore had to
create a larger office in order to administer these vast, new state holdings. He
established the Evkaf-ı Hümayun Nezareti in 1826 and the former Zarhane
Naziri (the deputy of the Imperial Mint), Elhac Yusuf Efendi, became the
first Evkaf-ı Hümayun Nazırı (the deputy of the Imperial Estates).
With this
act, he aimed to incorporate all nezarets into one expanded nezaret, namely E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
the Evkaf-ı Hümayun Nezareti. The Sufi orders were also affected by this
financial regulation, and in this way, their revenues were henceforth to be
collected by the state and redistributed to the tekkes as an income. The
rationale behind this was to benefit efficiently from the waqfs, and to
decrease the power of the religious interests which dominated these
foundations. Sultan Mahmud also reduced the amount of gifts and financial
aid provided to the dervish lodges in order to accommodate travelers, the
dervishes themselves and their sympathizers. He was deliberately forming a
state whereby religious foundations would ultimately be subordinate to and
form a part of the Finance Ministry.
The object of this accumulation of
estates under one ministry was to put an end to the misappropriation of the
funds and other abuses, which had been rife under the separate ministries.
Robert Barnes argues that the main motivation of the Sultan in creating the
Evkaf-ı Hümayun Nezareti was that “it was imperative for the Sultan to
rectify the state of affairs by creating a central administration for all evkaf
throughout the empire in order to obtain the revenue of miri lands which had
been diverted to other ends.”
Therefore, the land, which had belonged to the
state, was given back and remained in the hands of the state. Moreover, the
growth of the Ministry of Imperial Estates increased in proportion with the
development of Mahmud II’s power and absolutism; it was established as a
fully independent ministry only after the destruction of the janissaries.
The reason for these economical and political changes was to guide
the large waqf incomes to the State Treasury. The greater control over the
waqf also provided a crucial basis for financial centralization. The waqf
institutions, in general, had become a branch of the bureaucratized state. The
result of these measures, however, deprived many dervishes of their
livelihood: “while the dervish orders continued to survive into the early
twentieth century, dispossessed of their revenue they were little more than a
feeble reflection of the impressive institution they once were.”
The relations between the Sufi orders and the bureaucracy began to
change with the abolition of the janissaries in 1826 and with the formation of
Evkaf Nezareti. In fact, the obliteration of the janissaries was crucial in order
to enable the success of the modernization and bureaucratization efforts led
by Mahmud II. Using the cases of Patrona Halil and Kabakçı Mustafa
rebellions as examples, Mahmud II wanted to eliminate any kind of
resistance to his reforms. Selim III had tried to apply the reforms immediately
and directly on traditional lines in the military, administration, economy and
society. His attempts were regarded by the existing state elites as a threat to
their political and financial power, and they resisted them and even rebelled
against the Sultan, resulting in his deposition in 1807 and assassination the
following year.
On the other hand, Mahmud II approached the state elites The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
cautiously, earning the support of ruling elites and preparing a climate for his
critical reforms. He waited for eighteen years to pass before undertaking his
radical and crucial changes in state rule, notably the elimination of
janissaries. He then made his lunge, which would result in the elimination of
the provincial notables from intervening into the state administration.
Sened-i Ittifak was another step in his attempt to bind the provincial notables
to the central authority by agreement, in order to end their powerful and even
exploitative acts on the state in the provinces. Furthermore, it was not enough
to issue the reforms; their success depended on their continued application,
which was only possible with state offices and bureaucrats with a highquality level of education. Additionally, intellectuals who supported the
reforms and who were eligible to be educated and to educate should be won
to the state branches. Aware of this fact, Mahmud II attempted to establish a
European style of education, though without the elimination of medreses. He
also made primary education compulsory and free, and set up Rü diyes (to
educate students in Harbiye and Tıbbiye) and Mekteb-i Maarif-i Adli (to train
the state officers).
Reviewing these reforms, one can claim that traditional societies
like the Ottoman Empire determine their particular patterns of change. Max
Weber points out that ruler and religion are the main sources of change in
and claims the attempts of Mahmud II as a great example of this;
both in the framework of his personal achievements in the reforms and of
incorporating religion (in the form of the Sufi orders) into this process.
patterns of social change in the empire were determined by the sultan and his
perception of reform. The transformation of the Sufi orders was not only the
result of the sultanic will, but was also affected by the intellectual outline of
the mürids. All the attempts at reformation, from the reign of Selim III
onwards, bore fruit in 1839 with the Tanzimat Edict.
3. The Sufi Orders in the Tanzimat Era
The reforms issued before the Tanzimat were mostly carried out by
internal dynamics under the direction of the Ottoman sultan. However,
compared to the reforms limited by the life span of the sultans or the
reformists of the pre-Tanzimat era, the Tanzimat reforms were structural,
fundamental and profound. They were like the struggle between the Bab-ı Ali
and Divan-ı Hümayun, and the reforms concluded with the consolidation of
the dominance of bureaucracy over the ruling class around the Sultan. These
reforms can also be defined as bringing the Ottoman state back, in the respect
that the administration reorganized in both the center and the provinces. They
were the regulation of the “fine-tuning” of the administration of the Ottoman E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
The differentiating feature of the edict was the interference of
external dynamics on the internal perception of the necessity of modern, even
secular rules and regulations for state mechanisms and social order. Mustafa
Re it Pasha was aware of the significance of “civilization” for the
improvement of the Ottoman state and society and of the fact that political,
economical and administrative reforms were crucial steps to cope with the
Western powers and to catch up with the level of contemporary civilization.
It is important to note that modernization and westernization are often used
synonymously. However, compared to westernization, modernization is
culturally neutral.
Here, the term “modernization” will be preferred, since
the Ottoman reform movement understood its project as modernization rather
than westernization in its general framework. The will to reform was not only
absorbed by a small sector of Ottoman society; nor was the process of
reformation one of “westernization,” thereby alienating “traditional lines.”
On the other hand, somewhat ironically, the Tanzimat Edict also represents
the Islamic derivations of the empire. In other words, in the roots of the
Tanzimat Rescript, there are impacts of orthodox Islam expounded by one of
the leading Sufi orders within the Ottoman borders, namely the
Although the Tanzimat tried to bring a relatively secular
organization to issues of social life, the Islamic roots of the edict appeared in
clear, experienced and voiced elements. First, Islam had been employed as
the legitimizing symbol for the popular recognition of the edict. Over time,
this Islamic foundation became noticeable, especially at the end of the
nineteenth century during the reign of Abdülhamid II. For the 19th century,
Butrus Abu Manneh claims that when Sultan Abdülmecid rose to the
Sultanate, both Palace and Porte were under the influence of orthodox Islam
propounded by the Naqshibandiyya order. Indeed, there were crucial political
players in the Palace and Porte who were both under the influence of the
Naqshibandiyya order and had close relations to the Sultan; Adile Sultan who
was the sister of Abdülmecid, Eyyubi Abdullah Efendi, who was reciter of
the Qur’an in Palace, Mustafa Izzet who was the muezzin (the one calling
Muslims to prayer) of the Palace and even Valide Sultan was affected by the
teachings of the order, since it expected its members to abide by Sharia
precepts. Therefore, one can argue that the Naqshibandiyya order sought
influence and prosperity with its sheihks and murids in order to ensure the
supremacy of the Sharia in the state and thus to bring justice and
righteousness into the acts of state bureaucrats. In this respect, during the
preparation and declaration, in stating the protection of life, honor and
property, the edict was also employing the commands of Sufi Islam. The idea
that justice brings security, that security proposes prosperity for subjects and
land, and that prosperity is a precondition for loyalty and devotion for the The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
ruler and the community is a major argument in the Gülhane Rescript.
Therefore, loaded with Sufi Muslim thought and modern political concepts,
the Tanzimat Rescript targeted the Ottoman public in order to secure the
continuation of the empire. With the union of Palace and Porte, the Tanzimat
did not deviate from Islamic principles. However, the regulations which
followed the edict caused difficulties in social and economic aspects of
Ottoman daily and the political life of the Sufi orders, after 1850 in particular.
The Tanzimat did not initially target the tekkes and the Sufi orders,
because Sultan Mahmud had taken necessary steps in order to structure and
determine the place of the orders in Ottoman society. The Tanzimat era had
an unpleasant impact on the majority of the dervish lodges in terms of
financial sources in order to provide more state control over the orders and
the endowments. Since the beginning of the Tanzimat in 1839, the revenues
of the dervishes, whose sole means of support was tithe revenue, had been
taken over by the state treasury. Moreover, the government abolished all the
incomes of the dervishes and lodges until the latter were registered in state
offices or if their dervishes were not recognized as genuine. Those tariqas,
which were not recognized and certified, were closed down and those who
were members of them were prohibited from opening their own tekkes. State
and bureaucracy collected all the control and power in their hands in order to
prevent tekkes and tariqas from acting independently, which would shake the
authority and balance of power among the branches of the state. In addition,
the Tanzimat and pre-Tanzimat reforms did not permit the Sufi orders to
establish an organization among themselves, but bound them to the authority
of a higher ranking officer in order to maintain the balance of power among
In some cases, dervish families remained without income. If they
petitioned the state about their condition of shortage, they were provided with
a monthly salary enough for their survival. These petitions were examples of
unequal center-periphery power relations, and signs of a powerful state. The
state provides those in need with food and shelter only if they recognize the
supremacy of the state. In this respect, petitions are the textualized voices of
peripheries or subjects showing the authoritative tune of the Tanzimat state.
A petition of 1855 treats the death of Hüseyin Efendi, a sheikh of
Naqshibandiyya order, after which his wives were reduced to a state of
destitution and subjected to severe financial hardship. The reason for their
poverty was that the sheikh had left no inheritance. After the death of the
sheikh, his income was taken over by the treasury based on the application of
the Tanzimat edict. The family of the sheikh had to petition to the
government for support and accordingly they gained a monthly salary of 100 E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
kurush as compensation.
This is a great example of a “responsible” and
“protective” regulation for a state in the progress of modernization.
Government policy toward the tekkes and dervishes was a direct
takeover and control of their revenue. Dervishes became salaried state
officials, and tekkes were dealt with by the Meclis-i Vala during the Tanzimat
period. The Meclis-i Vala became the crucial agent in deciding basic needs,
food supply and financial aid for the Sufi orders. Đlber Ortaylı defines their
relationship as follows; “[the] state provided patronage and advice, while
tekkes leant on the state.”
Ortaylı claims a reciprocally pragmatic
relationship between the state and the tekkes. While the state provided
protection for them, and also utilized them as agents for its reputation. Tekkes
reserved their prestigious condition in society to some extent, but the
bureaucrats of the 19
century did not put as much pressure on the Bektashis
as on others. The reason for the great anxiety about them was the fact that the
Bektashis had “provided the janissaries with spiritual sustenance and popular
support since early times.”
In fact, the janissaries had had the responsibility
for public security, police duties, fire fighting, and the regulation of
agricultural production and trade within the markets of the capital. As they
were a crucial part of Ottoman financial and social life, Sultan Mahmud had
to weaken the corps of the janissaries, which was a central focus of his
modernization efforts in the military sphere. Therefore, after the elimination
of the janissaries, the order was abolished just a month later, and its buildings
were destroyed or distributed to the branches of the Naqshibandiyya order. It
is worth noting that the order did not come directly from the sultan, but from
the Sheikh-ül-Islam for political reasons. Since the suppression of a Sufi
order might have resulted in disturbance among the conservative sectors of
Ottoman society, the charge was carried out cautiously by the religious
authorities. In fact, the assembly was composed of the leading dignitaries; the
grand vizier, the two Kazaskers of Rumelia and Anatolia, the members of the
ulema religious class, and the sheikhs of the Naqshibandiyya, the Kadiriyya,
the Halvetiyya, the Mevleviyya and the Shadiyya orders.
They were
supposed to rally around orthodox Islam and to gather the true doctrines of
Islamic mysticism, since the Bektashis were believed to have departed from
the way of Hacı Bektashi Veli who was the founder of the Bektashi order.
The final decision was to penalize the acts of Bektashi tekkes, which were
regarded as being against the Qur’an and Sunna. An imperial edict was
declared on the 4
of Zilhicce 1241/1826 stating the punishment of these
kinds of Sufi organizations through the political authorities. The Rescript
ordered the closing of the Bektashi tekkes in Istanbul and in the provinces.
The rest of the buildings were converted into mosques, schools and The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
The dervishes themselves were exiled to Anatolia under the
patronage of other tariqas in particular.
By the time the Bektashi order was dissolved, the implemented state
policy towards the Sufi orders was to put direct control on their incomes. By
a decree in 1840, the revenues of the dervish lodges were no longer to be
administered independently, but regulated and collected by state officials,
who were appointed by the government.
Another move of the Ottoman state
towards all tekkes and zaviyes was to set forth legislation regarding the local
administration, according to Tanzimat principles, of lands, arable fields and
villages assigned for the provisioning of all tekkes and zaviyes:
All lands, arable fields, and villages recorded in the defter-i
hakani and tied to dersiye fees for education, and which
were assigned in the times of the former sultans for the
support of the poor and dervishes of all tekkes and zaviyes
in the regions within the province of Tanzimat
administration will hereafter not be administered
independently, but, like all other evkaf attachments, zeamet
fiefs and mukataat shares which are held in common and
that are mixed with state lands, will be administered by
local officials.
So, even the autonomous control of Sufi dervishes of their own
waqfs and incomes were taken away by taking them into the possession of
the state. As mentioned before, the Tanzimat reforms ended the
supernumerary donatives given by the provincial governors for the support of
the dervishes. For instance, the income of the Halvetiyya Sheikh Hüseyin
Efendi came from the Halvetiyya Order in Yozgat kaza in the province, and
was cut off by the Tanzimat regulations, because the profits of the provincial
governors were revoked. However, the same decree donated an additional 30
kurush to the monthly salary of the dervish, paid by the state.
significant point is that the salaries were paid by the treasury, not by the
provincial governor or by the revenue of the vali.
Another decree shows the takeover of the Tanzimat of the given
tayinat during the Ramadan month to the tekkes and Sufi lodges. This is
exemplified by a decree on the Siroz Mevlevihanesi in 1842. According to
this decree, eight okka of coffee, forty okka of oil and honey, and six bushels
of rice, previously allocated to the Mevlevi tekke in the sacred month of
Ramadan, were cut off after the declaration of the Tanzimat, and it was
declared that additional money was to be given to the dervishes instead.
E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
All these regulations demonstrate the fact that the state tried to put
complete control of the administration and financial supervision of the Sufi
orders in the hands of responsible officers. Also, in terms of fees,
appointments to offices within the tariqa and its administration would only
be approved and effected by the state.
The Meclis-i Vala, as the supreme legal authority in the empire, set
strict control over the tekkes and tariqas; it appointed certain sheikhs to
certain tekkes, or played an advisory role in the appointment of dervishes.
The financial support, as well as the supervision of the appointments, proved
that the state wanted to weaken the power of the tekkes and to restrain their
independent status within society. An edict of 1860 by the Meclis-i Vala
commanded that all guests sheltered under the roof of the tekke should be
recorded, in order to prevent vagrants in dervish or student clothes from
taking advantage of the tekke facilities.
Ortaylı argues that most of the
tekkes and dervishes were taken under a hierarchical supervision through
financial aid, so that the state could be witness to all the acts of the lodge
members, to the extent that they could only fulfill their traditional, political
roles, including their social leadership, in accordance with the state’s
It can be argued that a functional relationship developed between the
state and the Sufi orders, and that state agencies had organizational
continuity, including the continuity of the central authority’s position, as a
result of the involvement of the state in the well-being of the tariqas.
The second consequence of the Tanzimat was the decline of the Sufi
orders because of the process of secularization, which occurred in the
Ottoman Empire in the mid-nineteenth century. The changes in outlook
implied a decline of interest in mystical life and left an impression on many
of the Sufi orders, which gradually ceased to be active, and finally
completely disappeared.
The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
experienced an active attack on the Sufi orders based on misgivings about the
orders, such as the idea that they were likely to form a site of resistance to
progress. However, in the Ottoman Empire, the actions of state and
government had already suppressed the powerful position of the orders in
society, because they adopted the principles of religion and mysticism in the
sphere of learning and worship. However, the movement of change in the
nineteenth century was a process by which a social and cultural system
dominated by religion changed into an organization in which each sphere of
life, such as science and art political and economic activities, society and
culture and morality and religion became autonomous.
The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
4. The Meclis-i Meşayih: The Sheikhs as Bureaucrats
The last development in the nineteenth century, and the concluding
development of the reforms of Sultan Mahmud and the Tanzimat, was the
institution of the Council of Sheikhs (Meclis-i Me ayih) in 1866, in order to
centralize the oversight of the orders’ affairs. The assembly was established
in Istanbul as a body reporting to the offices of the empire’s chief mufti (the
The establishment of the assembly coincided with the
tenure of a Sheikh-ül-Islam who was known to have had close relations with
Sufism and the Sufi Orders: Refik Efendi.
The assembly was the direct outcome of the efforts to amend the
activities of the sheikhs. The main aim of the council was to undertake the
administration and the supervision of all tariqas in the Ottoman Empire. The
assembly was tied to the office of Me ayih and took on responsibility for the
administration and the inspection of all Sufi orders in the Ottoman capital,
Istanbul. For the provinces, they launched the Encümen-i Me ayih (the
Council of Sheikhs) to carry out these functions. It was composed of the
mufti and two sheikhs of the regions.
The Meclish-i Me ayih also took crucial measures of spiritual and
organizational improvement regarding the Sufi orders. The Council not only
changed the method of appointments in the orders and of education within
the tekkes, but also paved the way for their politicization. It should be noted
that the most significant impact of the Council, which became a
governmental body in the hands of the Sheikh-ül-Islams and muftis, was the
fact that all tekkes lost their privileges and exemptions. The founding of the
assembly saw the routinization of bureaucratic procedures in the appointment
of the sheikhs. Whereas the evladiyet (when a sheikhs’ post passed to one of
his sons) or the hilafet (when a sheikhs’ post passed to another authorized
figure) were employed as the primary methods on the death of a sheikh, the
assembly introduced the methods of imtihan (examination of the information
of Islam, and of the tradition and practices of particular order) and
icazetname (diploma) as the essential documents for the nomination of a
sheikh. However, the sheikhs were still allowed to practice other functions
such as imamlık, and muezzinlik, as previously. The assembly of Sheikhs
lasted until 1917 with some special changes.
The most important difference of the assembly from the edicts of
Mahmud II in 1818 was the fact that while the decree of 1812 had begun to
reorganize the tekkes, based on hierarchical orders such as the central and the
provincial, the assembly attached the tekkes to the central ones not according
to their affiliation but based on their geographic location.
E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
5. Conclusion
The Ottoman Empire did not introduce any new ideological
contribution to Sufism, but bestowed a theoretical flourishing to the people
through the tekkes and their relationships with the tariqas. The Sufi orders
gained institutional settlement and social vitality in their relatively
independent practices and beliefs in the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth
century. Urban populations, including foreign nationals, increased with the
predomination of Muslims in the 1850s.
Between 1820 and 1921, the
number of tekkes in the city also increased.
The nineteenth century
witnessed crucial changes in the structure of the Sufi orders and in their
relations with the state. The Ottoman Reforms of the orders were intended
not to “repair the religion” or as part of a “westernization process,” but to
strengthen the empire and the functioning of its institutions. In this
empowerment, the Sufi orders were transformed into fully-fledged
bureaucratic institutions in which political approval, protection and support
were endowed by the hand of the state. This was a direct outcome of a
modernizing trend in Islam towards more systematized and controlled
administration to prevent abuses of the system, and to repel the doubts about
the mystics of Sufism, as well as being part of a new Ottoman
governmentality. Finally, all procedures regarding the bureaucratization and
modernization of the Sufi orders were settled and bounded to strict
regulations. Sufi practices were increasingly subjected to the normativities of
the state mechanism.
Butrus Abu-Manneh, “The Islamic Roots of the Gulhane Rescript”, Die
Welt des Islams, n.s., 34, (1994), 173-103; and Benjamin Fortna, “Islamic
Morality in Late Ottoman ‘Secular’ Schools,” International Journal of
Middle East Studies, 32 (2000), 369-93.
Stanford J. Shaw, From Empire to Republic: The Turkish War of National
Liberation 1918-1923 A Documentary Study, Vol I, (Ankara: Turkish
Historical Society, 2000), 18.
Đlber Ortaylı, “Tanzimat Devrinde Đdari Yapı”, Osmanlı Devleti ve
Medeniyet Tarihi, E. Đhsanoğlu ed., (Đstanbul: Đslam Tarih, Sanat ve Kültür
Ara tırma Merkezi, 1994), 286-7. The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
John Robert Barnes, An Introduction to Religious Foundations in the
Ottoman Empire (Leiden: Brill, 1987), 72.
Ömer Lütfi Barkan, “Timar”, Đslam Ansiklopedisi, Vol 12/1, (Istanbul:
Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı, 1970), 286-7.
Mehmet Genç, “Osmanlı Maliyesinde Malikane Sistemi”, Türkiye Đktisat
Tarihi Semineri, ed. O. Okyar, Ü. Nalbantoğlu (Ankara: Hacettepe
Üniversitesi, Sosyal ve Đdarî Bilimler Fakültesi, 1977), 231-3.
For the pact with the ayan see Halil Đnalcık, “Sened-i Đttifak ve Gülhane
Hattı Hümayunu”, Belleten, Vol XXVIII (October, 1964), 603- 90.
For further information see, Đ. Hakkı Dani mend, Izahlı Osmanlı Tarihi
Kronolojisi, Vol IV, (Đstanbul: Türkiye Yayınevi, 1972), 109-111; Enver
Ziya Karal, Osmanlı Tarihi, C.V., 144-150; S. Shaw, Osmanlı
Đmparatorluğu ve Modern Türkiye, Vol II, 20-1; Bernard Lewis, Modern
Türkiye’nin Doğu u, (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Yayınları, 1970), 79-81;
Taner Timur, Osmanlı Çalı maları, (Ankara: Verso A. ., 1989), 117-150;
Tuncer Baykara, “Yeniçeri Ocağının Kaldırılmasının Sosyal Sonuçları”,
Sultan II. Mahmud ve Reformları Semineri, 28-30 Haziran 1989, (Istanbul,
1990), 147-156; Godfrey Goodwin, The Janissaries, (London: Saqi, 1997).
Mehmet Seyittanlıoğlu, “Yenile me Dönemi Osmanlı Devlet Te kilatı,”
Türkler, Vol 13, (Ankara: Yeni Türkiye, 2002), 561-76.
Mehmet Genç, “Đltizam”, Türk Diyanet Vakfı Đslam Ansiklopedisi, VOL.
XII, (Đstanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı, 1988), 57.
For further information, see, Frederick De Jong, Turuq and Turuq-Linked
Institutions in Nineteenth Century Egypt: A Historical Study in Organization
Dimensions of Islamic Mysticism, (Leiden: Brill, 1978).
Mustafa Kara, “Tanzimattan Cumhuriyete Tasavvuf ve Tarikatlar,”
Tanzimattan Cumhuriyete Türkiye Ansiklopedisi, Vol. IV, (Istanbul: Đleti im,
1985), 982.
See John F. Barnes, “The Dervish Orders in the Ottoman Empire”, in The
Dervish Lodge: Architecture, Art and Sufism in Ottoman Turkey, ed.
Raymond Lifchez (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 42; and E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
Barnes, An Introduction to Religious Foundations in the Ottoman Empire
(Leiden: Brill, 1986), 92-101.
Mustafa Kara, “Tanzimattan Cumhuriyete Tasavvuf ve Tarikatlar,” 983.
Martin van Bruinessen, Agha, Shaikh and State: The Social and Political
Structures of Kurdistan (London: Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Zed Books,
1992), 211.
“Evkaf-ı Hümayun,” Đstanbul Prime Minister's Archives Documents, 25.
“Evkaf-ı Hümayun,” 26.
John Robert Barnes, An Introduction to Religious Foundations in the
Ottoman Empire, (Leiden: Brill 1986), 83.
Ibid., 92-101.
Ahmet Cevat Eren, “Selim III”, Đslam Ansiklopedisi, Vol. X, 441-7.
In fact, this is the crucial difference of centralizations issued by Mahmud
II and by Abdülhamid II. Sultan Mahmud II solidified his rule by setting
aside provincial notables from state rule and regulation, while Abdülhamid II
tried to incorporate these notable into state mechanism under his control to
consolidate his power.
Enver Ziya Karal, Osmanlı Tarihi, 109.
Max Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology,
Vol I, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 73-5.
Sabri Ülgener, on the other hand, claims that the religious nature of the
Ottoman Empire, namely Islamic dynamics, resulted in immutable situation
for the Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries because of the
heterodox Islam and the mystical tradition embedded in it. F. Sabri Ülgener,
Dünü ve Bugünü ile Zihniyet ve Din Đslam Tasaavuf ve Çözülme Devri
Đktisat, (Đstanbul: Der Yayınları, 1981). Ülgener, however, neglects and The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
undermines the transformation of both state mechanism and religious
institutions, especially the Sufi orders in the nineteenth century.
Selim Deringil, The Well-Protected Domains; Ideology and the
Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire, 1876- 1909 (London: I.B.
Tauris, 1998), 10.
Fatma Müge Göçek, Rise of Bourgeoisie, Demise of Empire: Ottoman
Modernization and Social Change, (New York: Oxford University Press,
1996), 7.
See, “Introduction: Towards a New Urban Paradigm” in The Empire in the
City: Arab Provincial Capitals in the Late Ottoman Empire, ed. Jen
Hanssen, Thomas Philip and Stefan Weber (Würzburg: Ergon in
Kommission, 2002), 4.
Butrus Abu-Manneh, “The Islamic Roots of Gulhane Rescript,” Die Welt
Des Islam 34, no. 2 (Nov., 1994).
Ibid., 196.
BOA/ A.}MKT.UM../ 232/ 7/ 02/ /1272 (1855).
Đlber Ortaylı, “Tarikatler ve Tanzimat Dönemi Osmanlı Yönetimi,”
OTAM, (1995, no: 6), 285.
Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London: Oxford
University Press, 1962), 33-4, 76
Mehmed Esad Efendi, Üss-i Zafer (Istanbul: 1293/1876), 208.
Ibid., 209.
Barnes, An Introduction to Religious Foundations in the Ottoman Empire,
BOA, Cevdet-i Evkaf, No: 538, Gömlek No: 27168/ 29/C /1256 (1849).
“Bütün tekke ve zaviyelerin taamiyelerin me rut kura, mezari ve arazinin
tanzimat usulünce mahalli idaresi tarafından ta rii.”
BOA, Cevdet-i Evkaf, No: 16327, 20 N 1257 (1841). E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür
Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009
BOA, Cevdet-i Evkaf, No: 17095, 5 CA 1258 (1842).
BOA, Meclis- i Vala Evrakı, Dosya No: 114, C 1276/ 1860.
Ortaylı, “Tarikatler ve Tanzimat Dönemi Osmanlı Yönetimi,” 286.
Spencer Trimingham, “Chapter IX,” The Sufi Orders in Islam, (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1971).
Ibid., 249.
Đrfan Gündüz, Osmanlılarda Devlet-Tekke Münasebetleri (Ankara: Seha
Ne riyat, 1989), 205; Mustafa Kara, Din, Hayat ve Sanat Açısından Tekkeler
ve Zaviyeler (Đstanbul: Dergah Yayınları, 1980), 301-18; Thierry Zarcone,
Mystiques, philosophes et francs-maçons en Islam, Rıza Tevfik, penseur
ottoman (1868-1949) from Sufism to brotherhood, (Paris: Institut français
d'études anatoliennes d'Istanbul; Librairie d'Amérique et d'Orient Adrien
Maisonneuve, Jean Maisonneuve Successeur, 1993), 139-43.
Refik Efendi was affiliated with the Naqshibandiyya order by a deputy of
Mevlana Khalid, the Sheikh Abdulfettah Akri, when he had been sent to
Syria for an official duty. For further information, see, Kara, Tekkeler ve
Zaviyeler, 303.
Bilgin Aydın, “Osmanlı Devleti’nde Tekkeler Reformu ve Meclis-i
Me ayih’in eyhülislamlığa Baglı Olarak Kurulu u, Faaliyetleri ve Ar ivi,”
Osmanlı Ara tırmaları 7 (1998), 98.
For the text of the 1917 reorganization, the Meclis-i Me ayih Nizamnamesi,
published in Takvim-i Vekayi, see, Kara, Tekkeler ve Zaviyeler, 389-43.
Aydın, “Osmanlı Devleti’nde Tekkeler Reformu ve Meclis-i Me ayih’in
eyhülislamlığa Baglı Olarak Kurulu u, Faaliyetleri ve Ar ivi,” 96.
Stanford Shaw, “The Population of Istanbul in the Nineteenth Century,”
International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 10, (1979), 266.
Klaus Kreiser, “Medresen und Derwischkonvente in Istanbul: Quantitative
Aspekte”, Economies et societes dans l’Empire Ottoman (fin du XVIIIe- The Sufi Orders in a Modernizing Empire
Tarih ○ Vol. 1, No. 1 ○ 2009
debut du XXe siècle), ed. J.L. Bacque-Grammont and P. Dumont, (Paris,
1983), 109-27.
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E. Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür is a PhD student in the Department of History
at Boğaziçi University.

Tarih Vol. 1(1): 70-93. © Boğaziçi University Department of History 2009