SUFISM AND MODERNITY IN TURKEY: FROM THE AUTHENTICITY OF EXPERIENCE TO THE PRACTICE OF DISCIPLINE
To a considerable extent … the characteristic quality of the Turks in the modern Muslim world seems to rest on the uniqueness of their immediate past. (The prime matter here is continuity: the unbroken sequence from their medieval grandeur, including a persisting independence – and therefore active responsibility.)
Wilfred Cantwell Smith
Asrımız tarikat asrı değildir. (Ours is not the age of the Sufi orders.)
In the Ottoman Empire until 1923 and briefly in the Republic of Turkey, Sufi orders were of major importance to social, political and economic life. Many `ulama actively cultivated their devotion in one (or more) of the numerous idioms of Sufism available in the Empire.
However, in 1925 the Republican administration proscribed the orders and closed their lodges. It has since been technically a punishable offence to be involved in a Sufi order – as shaykh (a title not recognized by the Turkish state) or as devotee – although a number of orders have continued to function in a somewhat ‘public secret’ fashion.
What becomes of Sufism as an Islamic tradition of practice in such an environment?
What is the status of such traditions of Sufi Islamic discourse and practice in Turkey as the country is increasingly self-conscious of its Ottoman heritage, and yet has seen dramatic social, economic and political transformation during the last two centuries, culminating in serious bids for
entry into the European Union? While participation in a Sufi order is not a
mass phenomenon in contemporary Turkey, Sufism in the country is, as Crapanzano has said of a brotherhood in Morocco, ‘peripheral but by no means unrelated to the mainstream’ (Crapanzano, 1973: 7). Moreover, the characteristically modern ways of defining and organizing space, time, experience and bodies as objects of calculation situate contemporary practice in the context of the history of profound and intimate articulation with modern techniques of governance since the eighteenth century. These ways of defining and organizing suggest that the structure and form of continuity in practice, which is central to the functioning of Islamic traditions, has unfolded not in a relation of alterity to the geography of these specifically modern techniques, but coextensively with it.
Power and Islamic Traditions on the Margin of Europe
In a now seminal article, Asad (1986) argued that social scientists (and anthropologists in particular) should define Islam – like Muslims themselves do – as a discursive tradition. The timing of the appearance of the piece, in the mid-1980s, seems to have ensured that the vast majority of its readership took the emphasis in this definition to be on the discursive. However, and as subsequent publications have made clear, Asad himself would have us put the emphasis on the notion of tradition; Islam is a tradition, among others. Asad operates in this article with the formulation of tradition elaborated by Alasdair MacIntyre in his work in moral philosophy, and specifically in his controversial 1984 work, After Virtue.
A tradition, on Asad’s adaptation of MacIntyre, is an ongoing set of discussions (a ‘discourse’) and practices that are closely interlinked and have been so continuously and over time. One of the most important practices is discussion and debate about correct practice. To belong to a tradition involves sincere commitment to the value and normatively binding character of past precedent and to the validity of the discussions and debates received from the past. Normative judgment is an important part of any tradition; there are better ways to do things, and therefore there are ways that are less good. Here we need to keep in mind that these discussions about correct practice are always evolving, and the judgments reached are constantly changing. Stasis is not a characteristic of tradition.
Indeed, Asad notes that one must wait for the appearance of the modern bureaucratic nation-state in order to arrive at an unprecedented homogenization of discourse and practice in society. However, to say that traditions are always changing does not amount to saying they are ‘constructions’, ‘inventions’, or do not exist.
Living traditions change through engagement with the received, ongoing sets of discussions; doing otherwise is by definition abandonment of the tradition. Elsewhere (Silverstein, 2003) I have proposed a modest corrective to recent work in this vein with respect to what I argue is an unduly narrow, localized (postcolonial Arab Middle East-centred) definition of which specific discourses and practices Islamic traditions consist of today (and what their relationship is to modernity). In this chapter, I build on that conception of Islam as a discursive tradition. Work in this vein among Muslim communities often under-elaborates the nature of continuity in practice and discourse, which is considered to be crucial to the functioning and definition of traditions. Muslims see that it is important to legitimize their practice through reference to the tradition, to past precedent. A relation of continuity with the past is thus desirable, while a form of censure and reproach is to judge a view or practice to be without basis in the traditions. In the legitimacy of a given practice or discourse aspiring to ‘Islamic’ status, the politics of continuity is central.
The notion of continuity becomes problematic in many parts of the Muslim world because of the perceived ruptures of European imperialism and colonialism. How does one, as a Muslim, consider the character of discourses and practices in recent centuries and the judgments arrived at in those contexts, vis-à-vis those of previous periods? Even though certain areas of the Muslim world were not formally colonized (e.g. Turkey and Iran), the entire world was, and continues to be, convulsed by the ascendance of European, ‘Western’, non-Muslim power. Hence I argue that the question is one of defining modes of power and their relationship to Islamic traditions. In this chapter I examine the specific articulation of Sufi institutions with Republican social and institutional forms to illustrate the shared historicity of Islamic traditions and characteristically modern modalities of power and subject formation.
I draw from my research with a Gümüşhanevi branch of the Khalidi sub-order of the Naqshbandi Sufi order.
9 In attending to the relationship between Islamic traditions and specifically modern techniques and practices in the context of Turkey, we need to keep in mind that the Turkish present is not post-colonial in any direct sense. This is not to celebrate ‘successful resistance’. Rather, the point is to recall that in the Ottoman and Turkish case, a radical rupture does not characterize the specific contexts and imperatives of power in which Islamic traditions continually evolved while characteristically modern forms and techniques were incorporated (in spite of the rhetoric of the Revolution beginning in 1923 with the proclamation of the Republic by Mustafa Kemal).
The Ottomans were like several other powers in the political geography of Europe (e.g. Russia and Austro-Hungary) that were close to the margin of the emergence of industrial capitalism, and sought to incorporate techniques of modern governance as a way of prosecuting more effective warfare by rationalizing and bureaucratizing the identification and exploitation of resources (Silverstein, 2003). This history of the incremental reform of institutions, according to the Ottoman authorities’ own criteria, has bequeathed a situation in which modernity has been experienced not as a conspiracy of outsiders but as an integral part of the status of the Turkish present.
Utterance and Companionship as Sufi Practice: Sohbet
Sohbet (Arabic suhba) is a devotional practice of particular prominence in the Naqshbandi order, as it is among Mevlevis. It consists of ‘keeping the company of the shaykh and of one’s fellow disciples in accordance with precise behavioural norms’ (Algar, 1992: 213), with the ‘disciple’s firm conviction in the exclusive effectiveness of his shaykh’s suhba’ (Algar, 1992: 215). I translate sohbet as companionship-in-conversation, and will describe its form and function below.
During my fieldwork in the late 1990s with the Gümüşhanevi branch of the Khalidi Naqshbandi order,
members would gather after `asr prayers on Sunday afternoons in the main area of a mosque in the Fatih neighbourhood of Istanbul to attend a sohbet, similar in outward form to a lesson. This was led by an authorized stand-in (vekil) for the shaykh, Esad Coşan Hoca Efendi (commonly known as Esad Hoca), who was abroad – mainly in Australia – from 1997 until his sudden passing in a car accident there in 2001.
The sohbets were structured around the reading and discussion of two or three hadith (accounts of exemplary sayings and deeds of the Prophet). The hadith were first read aloud by the vekil in Arabic, translated, and then interpreted, giving examples from daily occurrences and historical anecdotes.
The exercise generally lasts about an hour and a half, with very little coming and going, no talking on the part of listeners, and almost no note taking. At the end of the sohbet, supplicatory prayers (du`a) were said, asking God to accept the efforts of the sohbet and the prayers of its participants. This became seamlessly an abbreviated version of the khatm-i Khwajagan, an invocation of the memory of earlier pious personalities, with special emphasis on figures in the Naqshbandi order’s chain of initiation (silsila). It was followed by a zikir (dhikr), invocations and remembrance of the Divine names and attributes.
Those participating in the sohbets in Fatih were members of the Gümüşhanevi branch of the Naqshbandi order of Sufis. Members comprise a community known as a cemaat
(Arabic jama`a), as members of the Order refer to their community, inpreference to tarikat, Sufi Order. During the sohbet, there were ritualrecitations of cycles of prayers and invocations of the memory of Sufi luminaries considered to be predecessors in the Naqshbandi order. Yet there was nothing ostensibly ‘mystical’ about the content of the discussions that took place, occupying roughly 95 per cent of the time of the sohbet. I had attended sohbets and socialized with cemaat members for several months when I realized that almost no one had ever discussed the classic themes of Sufism emphasized in Western literature on the topic, such as ‘intimate experience of God’ and ‘self-effacement (in the Reality of God)’. Not only were these techniques not discussed during sohbet, they were not discussed among the many followers outside of sohbets. It became quite obvious that the members of the cemaat simply were not particularly concerned with these themes on a daily basis.
They were, however, clearly very concerned with what was a constant topic
of lessons and informal discussion: the good (iyilik) and morality (ahlak), and how one can become predisposed to ethical practice and avoidance of sin. For the practitioners who I came to know, Sufism is essentially an ethical discipline (the term they used was terbiye, Arabic tarbiya), a self-reflexive effort to constitute moral dispositions (hal-tavır) in oneself through repetition according to precedents considered to be binding and authoritative.
These practitioners’ concerns with ethical practice and the formation of their dispositions suggest that in analyzing the practices of this order, our focus should not be on something called ‘mystical experience’, but rather on disciplinary practice, which Asad (1993: 130) defines as ‘programs for forming or reforming moral dispositions (organizing the physical and verbal practices that constitute the virtuous … self)’. Hence an interpretation of the nature of Sufi practice in contemporary Turkey (and likely in other contexts as well) requires an analytic shift away from the infinite calculus of ‘real Sufi’ experience(or its absence) and toward the relationship between traditions of discourse and practice and the kinds of ethical selves associated with them. The term sohbet is used in modern, every day Turkish to mean ‘conversation’. But in classical sources it has a more nuanced meaning of companionship, including shades of fellowship and discipleship (Trimingham, 1998: 311). There is a sense among Sufis that companionship is linked intimately to conversation, and conversely that conversation engenders companionship. The term ‘sohbet’ itself derives from the same Arabic root as the word ‘sahaba’, companions, and the terms participate in the same semantic extension. Sohbet is what, by definition, companions do. The figure of the companion in Islam is modelled on the Companions of the Prophet, those who were closest to the Prophet during his lifetime, sought out and frequently kept his company, and strove to assimilate his teachings. The Companions’ significance can hardly be overstated, since it was they who transmitted the hadith and the Quran before these were written down and compiled, ensuring a critical structural role for companionship and face-toface speech in Islamic disciplines. Those with whom I worked in the Gümüşhanevi branch of the Naqshbandi order emphasized that it was in emulation of the sunna(exemplary precedents) of the Prophet that they practiced sohbet (as well as dhikr). Indeed, this principle of the authoritativeness of the source was often cited as the most important reason why members of the order continued to associate with that order, rather than with one of the other groups in Turkey oriented toward the observant and pious (e.g. the Nurcu movement). ‘This group’s teachings have a clear and known source (belli bir kaynağı var)’, I was told repeatedly, referring to the fact that the shaykh of the order was himself trained by a previous shaykh, and so on, back – as nearly all Sufi orders consider – to the Prophet Muhammad himself.
Important here is the role of precedent in the formulation of right practice, and sustained, explicit on the relationship between the status of sources and correct practice.
Among Naqshbandis specifically, sohbet has been emphasized since at least the time of ‘Ubaydullah Ahrar (d. 1490) and Ahmad Sirhindi (d. 1625). It was also emphasized by Mevlana Khalid (‘al-Baghdadi’ d. 1827) who was the major shaykh in the chain of initiation of the Khalidi sub-order of the Naqshbandis, from which the Gümüşhanevi is a branch.
There is thus a strong sense of belonging to a tradition, and Naqshbandis
in Turkey today often refer to themselves and like-minded (not necessarily Sufi) Muslims as ‘ehl-i sünnet’, or ‘Those of the Tradition’. Through sohbet, Naqshbandis have structured their main group activities besides canonical worship around the discussion of hadith, in a form that self-consciously conforms to what they construe as the privileged mode of knowledge transmission between the Prophet and his companions. Naqshbandis therefore embody what they see to be the quintessential mode of Islamic religiosity, namely the formation of a moral disposition to practice through companionship and discourse modelled on the sunna of the Prophet. The emphasis is on face-to-face presence of both the seeker and the one who is considered ethically mature because these relationships are considered most likely to lead to certain sentiments – the technical term here being ‘love’ (sevgi, muhabbet; Arabic muhabba)
– and hence dispositions to ethical practice. These Naqshbandi practices of virtue are intimately tied to practices of self-formation that are embedded in networks of companionship and contexts of disciplined utterance. The metaphysic of influence is embedded in an ethic of companionship that is understood to be central to the functioning of the constitution of morally structured dispositions to do the Good. It has been embodied in what I propose to call disciplines of presence. The most important of these disciplines for those in this branch of the Naqshbandi order is sohbet.
The embodiment of voices in gendered bodies is a condition for the functioning of these disciplines, as is repeated interaction with specifically structured environments, through which such habits and dispositions are embedded.
The structural transformations of the social environment are thus of major importance to how these practices function over time.
The central concern of the Naqshbandi Sufis with whom I worked was thus not the so-called mystical union with God (and annihilation of the self). Their concern was with the disciplining of the base self (nefs), in order to form a proper disposition to do the Good (iyilik) as commanded by God. A member of the order in Sivas told me: It’s kind of like in the circus – the animals there. One gives them little food, breaking them in and training (eğitmek) them, not giving them the things they want. Maybe one animal wants to go out today; nope, we’re not going to. To the extent that the reins are in our hands, we’ll take the horse where we want to go. But without a horse, one can’t go anywhere, one definitely must have a horse. So, Sufism does this. It disciplines the nefs, and this thing called nefs is actually us ourselves (biziz). Me. You know, we say, ‘I don’t want any’ (canım istemiyor). That me – self – is the nefs. ‘I’ don’t want to go out. ‘I’ am bored. That term ‘I’, this is the nefs. ‘The self inside (içimizdeki ben)’, they say. So, the point is to discipline (terbiye etmek) this. Because (otherwise) one goes where it wants to go, one acts as it wants us to act. The reins, the bridle of the horse, must be in our hands. This is the goal. And we have no choice but to make use of this (nefs). The goal is NOT to kill or destroy the nefs. To kill the nefs is not the thing to do (iş değil). But to discipline it, THAT’s it (iş). Several senior Naqshbandis explained to me their understanding that people are influenced most in their behaviour by other people. For the proper formation of character, then, one should try to always be with ‘good people’, defined as those who seek the approval of God, and only God, and are not led astray by such things as popular fashion, prestige or power. The Quranic verse, ‘O ye who believe! Fear Allah and be with those who are true in word and deed (al-sadiqin)’ (Quran 9: 119) was frequently cited in this context. Sufis claim that everyone needs a shaykh, whether they know it or not, and behind this claim is recognition of the need for upright, ‘mature’ guides to train and discipline the self. It is important to be with someone who is aware of his responsibilities toward his disciples, to instil in them the proper adab (moral etiquette). The physical space where these practices have traditionally been
undertaken in Muslim communities in Anatolia and the Balkans is thetekke, or Sufi lodge. Legacies of the Late Empire: The structure of a contemporary absence The lodge (tekke, dergâh, or, less commonly, zaviye in the Turkish speaking context) has been the centre of associative life of Sufis throughout the history of most of the orders. Here travelling Sufis would be accommodated, students housed, a shaykh often lived with his family, and a kitchen functioned.
During the last century of the Ottoman Empire from 1820 to 1920 it is estimated that there were between 1,000 and 2,000 tekkes in the core provinces of Anatolia and Rumelia (the Balkans) (Kreiser, 1992: 49). Estimates put the number of tekkes in the capital of Istanbul alone at around 300 by the late nineteenth century.
The upkeep of most was provided by a foundation (vakıf), from which modest stipends to some residents and provisions such as food for the kitchen were ensured. State policies concerning such foundations were therefore of extreme importance to the life of the tekkes and orders. When the state sought to inaugurate a new policy toward the Sufi orders – as the Republican administration did in 1925 when it proscribed the orders and closed their lodges – this involved new procedures in the administration of vakıfs. The Republic of Turkey was proclaimed by Nationalists in 1923 from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, after ten years of almost continuous warfare in the Balkan Wars through World War I and the War of Independence. It is striking that between 1920 and 1925, the Nationalist movement’s leader, Mustafa Kemal and those around him in the movement, did not take hostile actions against the orders. Indeed, the Constitution of 1924 included in its Article 75, ‘No one may be persecuted on account of the religion, madhhab(school of shari`a jurisprudence), tarikat or school of philosophy to which he or she belongs. Provided they are not contrary to public order and decorum (asayiş ve umumî muaşeret), all types of religious ceremonies (ayin) are permitted’ (cited in M. Kara, 2002: 101). Law number 429 was promulgated on 3 March of the same year, abolishing the Ministry of the Shari`a and Evkaf, and establishing the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The former ministry had existed only since 1920 when it was created as an alternative to the Meşihat, the office of the Shaykh al-Islam in Istanbul that had collaborated with the Western powers against the Nationalists. Article 5 of this law stipulates that, ‘All appointments and dismissals of imams, khatibs [preachers], va`iz [preachers], shaykhs, muezzins [reciters of the call to worship], caretakers and various personnel to and from all mosques and tekkes shall be undertaken by the Ministry of Religious Affairs’. Shaykhs, tekkes and zaviyes were thus officially recognized and placed under the control of the new Ministry, itself a part of the streamlined and more tightly structured administration in Ankara. Imams of mosques and shaykhs of the orders were made State bureaucrats, as they were in the later Empire. This incorporated form of social and legal life of the orders in the new Republic was, however, short-lived. The turning point was the Shaykh Said rebellion in the (predominantly Kurdish) Southeast of the new Republic, beginning around 13 February 1925. It is clear that Mustafa Kemal and his close associates were badly shaken by these events, and used them as an occasion to deal swiftly and decisively with numerous individuals and movements suspected of being less than enthusiastic in their support for the ongoing reforms. The legal grounds for doing so were prepared by amending the High Treason Law of 1920 (previously amended in 1923) to include on 26 February 1925 the ‘use of religion for political purposes’ and on 4 March 1925, the establishment of Independence Tribunals. The amendment enabled sentencing of Shaykh Said and dozens of others to death, and the tribunals continued through 1926 (Zürcher, 1994; M. Kara, 2002). In July 1925, a commission of inquiry sent from Ankara to Istanbul to ascertain the situation of the tekkes there reported that the majority were close to ruin (harap durumunda) (Jäschke, 1972: 36).
In September the Cabinet of Ministers prepared a bill to close the tekkes and this bill was subsequently debated in the Parliament. On 30 November, passage of law number 677 formally abolished the orders and closed the tekkes (whose numbers seemed to have declined to around 250).
The tekkes with mosques attached or that were also used as mosques would continue to be used solely as mosques; those not used as mosques would be used as schools, and those unable to be so used would be sold, with the proceeds going to the education budget. Titles such as hoca, shaykh, baba and dede, given to leaders of religious communities, were banned, as was wearing turban and robes for all but official (i.e. state) functionaries (e.g. imams and müftüs) while conducting their duties.
It is striking to see in the minutes of the parliamentary debates over proscription of the orders that almost no one came to the defence of the orders and tekkes. This was true among the numerous MPs with medrese (advanced Islamic) education and even among those with Sufi backgrounds, such as Shaykh Esad Erbilî (former chairman of the Assembly of Shaykhs), Shaykh Safvet (editor of the important Second Constitutional period journal Tasavvuf and author of the bill to abolish the Caliphate) and Chelebi Efendi (former postnişin [lodge head] of the Konya Mevlevihane) (M. Kara, 2002). The incremental steps leading to the proscription had seemed to the vast majority of prominent people involved to be reasonable, if unfortunate. To many, then and today, proscription of the orders was merely ‘locking the doors of the tekkes which were in any case already closed’.
The subtleties of this point may be difficult to appreciate for those unfamiliar with the transitional period from the late Ottoman to Republican environments. Only very recently have scholars interested in something other than Kemalist or Islamist apologetics paid serious attention to this period.
The main point to understand here is the near collapse of the residual prestige of the Sufi orders and Sufism in general, in the wake of the collapse of the Empire. This prestige was already in tatters by the Ottoman second constitutional period, beginning in 1908. Indeed, the vast majority of those who considered themselves to be working and living in contribution to Islamic traditions from within, generally accepted that Sufism was an important part of the rich Islamic heritage but it had for all practical purposes ceased to function and was unlikely ever to again. The issue was brought to a head by the dramatic dimensions of the political, military and economic problems facing Ottoman Muslims, and the broader issue of the scope and function of Islam in Ottoman society in general. At a time when Muslims themselves were interrogating the very nature of Islam and Islamic
institutions and practices in an attempt to reinvigorate these practices, many came to consider Sufism a luxury that Ottoman Muslims in the heartland of the Empire could not afford (İ. Kara, 1997). The Empire needed schools to provide training in modern disciplines and Islamic sciences; the Sufi lodges, almost without exception, needed major repairs. Resources were extremely limited. Which do you choose? All of the available evidence suggests that even among Sufis themselves the answer was obvious.
Abdülaziz Bekkine Efendi (1895-1952), trained in late Ottoman medreses and tekkes and shaykh of the order studied here from 1949 to 1952, said in response to a question about the tekkes’ closure, ‘My son, those tekkes deserved to be closed. Among them the ones that were maintaining [muhafaza etmek] Islam had dramatically diminished. And so Allah closed them’ (İ. Kara, 1991: 20). Today one continues to find ambivalence on the part of participants in this order on the issue of the tekkes, and it is clear that their ability to re-establish tekkes is not a high priority for them. The Space of Sufism in Contemporary Turkey Today there are no functioning tekkes as such in Turkey, although their traditional functions do not go entirely unfulfilled. The Gümüşhanevi branch under discussion here is well known for its activities among personnel and students at universities. A number of branch members informed me that this orientation continues the scholarly identity of Ahmed Ziyaüddin
Gümüşhanevi (d. 1893), the internationally renowned scholar of Islam who
developed this branch in the Khalidiyya lineage of the Naqshbandi order. It seems likely that growth of interest in this branch of the order among university professors and students dates to the period of Abdülaziz Bekkine Efendi. According to mürids (initiated members loyal to the shaykh) who participated, in warm weather Aziz Efendi used to hold sohbets after juma`(Friday) prayers on a raised platform, shaded under trees behind the Ümmü Gülsüm mosque in Zeyrek, where he was the imam; in colder months the sohbets would take place in his wooden two-storied house behind the mosque (Ersöz, 1992). There were usually many students and academics inattendance (including Nureddin Topçu), especially from Istanbul University, which is relatively close to Zeyrek. Several accounts by participants in these sohbets attest to their power and subtlety, including that of the Egyptian Turkologist and Cairo University professor Ahmad Sa`id Sulayman (d. 1991), who spent some 20 months in Istanbul in the early 1950s: ‘I was deeply impressed by the shaykh [Abdülaziz] Efendi’s sohbets. In Egypt I am someone who has been a member of the Bayyumi tarikat long enough to attain khalifa status, but I must admit that among those groups in the old wooden house I just melted away [eridim]’ (İ. Kara, 2004: 18).
In 1952 Mehmed Zâhid Kotku (d. 1980) took up leadership of the cemaat, continuing and increasing its popularity among student circles. Upon Kotku’s passing, leadership of the community passed to his son-in-law Esad Coşan. Coşan’s appointment was not without controversy since Kotku had himself been trained by the last generation of Ottoman shaykhs and several long-time Kotku mürids found it difficult to place themselves in the hands of someone of Coşan’s generation. Coşan was nonetheless well respected for his knowledge of Islam and Sufism as a professor at Ankara University’s Theology Faculty, and he began to attract younger generations of disciples. At the time I conducted my research in the late 1990s, it was clear that the cemaat had continued to draw members primarily from among academic circles under Coşan. This was reflected in the claim by most of the people with whom I spoke in Istanbul and Anatolian cities that they had encountered the group during their studies at various universities. Finding suitable accommodation is one of the major concerns of incoming university students in Turkey (as elsewhere) and with liberalization of Turkey’s legal and economic structures, in the 1980s there was expansion of the private dormitory sector where private interests run dormitories for profit or as a non-profit activity. The cemaat’s vakıf ran two non-profit dormitories in Istanbul, one in the heart of the old city and one just beyond the Byzantine walls. Each had around 30 student residents, the one beyond the walls all male, the other with about a 3:1 male to female ratio, men and women on
separate floors. Each dorm had about ten residents who were on scholarships that covered the students’ room costs. Not all student residents were members of the cemaat, however, since membership was not a condition of residence in any formal sense. More important to fitting in at the dorm was residents’ general observance of Islam in their daily lives, e.g. discipline in prayers and care in one’s social relations and lifestyle. A typical day for those residing in one of the cemaat’s dormitories would begin pre-dawn when the lights were turned on in the sleeping rooms, while the resident ‘on duty’ that week said in a soft tone, ‘Friends, let’s do our morning prayers, inshallah’. After making their way out of the room, down the hall and past the Atatürk memorial (with flag and bust), residents would head downstairs, then past the laundry room, past a ping-pong table and into the washrooms. These were immaculately clean and well-appointed like the rest of the facilities, with a row of doored lavatories on the right, eight sinks on the left, and facing them, a trough with eight spigots at waist height for ablutions. Canonical worship was then performed upstairs in the room for socializing, where low divans rimmed the room. The senior student on duty who usually acted as imam would swing around on his haunches to face the congregation, and lead a brief khafî (silent) dhikr (remembrance of God) and du`a (supplication). He then would ask, ‘Who will start?’. Then began the recitation of Evrad-ı Şerif (sing. Arabic wird), which a quorum of at least around ten tries to do every morning after fajr (dawn) prayers. The recitation takes about 40 minutes and is entirely in Arabic, with the ‘Abi’ or elder brother (relatively more knowledgeable, senior resident disciple) on duty, asking different people to take turns. Those who presented themselves more prominently, with a visible desire to recite, do so without the text of the prayers before them. However some took recourse to a neighbour’s copy to refresh their memory if they strayed or couldn’t remember and someone else did not correct them out loud first. This daily recitation of Evrad was also an occasion for members to memorize these prayers, the accomplishment of which is understood to be a sign of a mürid’s spiritual progress. He is thus able to perform the recitations himself and for others, and can teach it to others.
The recitation was closed by another short khafî dhikr of 33 ‘Subhanallah’, 33
‘Alhamdulullah’, and 33 ‘Allahu akbar’, to which 33 ‘Istaghfurullah wa alaytu lalayh’ are often added. A member of the Gümüşhanevi branch in Sivas said of his time in a vakıfrun apartment: At first, there isn’t really a ‘Sufi’ atmosphere. After all, you can’t really explain Sufism directly anyway. And since it’s something based on request, they didn’t really direct us to Sufism at first. It was more just about Islam. The first steps are not about Sufism. Indeed, this attitude on the part of the cemaat regarding its own Islamic identity and how it relates to others who are observant (but not initiated members of the order) indicates well the Naqshbandi mode of Sufism. Those with whom I worked in conducting my research emphasized continually that their practices were nothing more and nothing less than Islam itself. A typical comment to me explained:
This is true Islam. Being able to live as our Prophet lived, this is Sufism.
Now, obviously it isn’t possible to really live like him. But we can try – try to do like him, try to do like the Companions (sahaba). It’s about not retreating into one’s own shell, but being together with people, talking withthem. You know, Ibrahim Abi, ‘enjoin the lawful and prevent the forbidden’. Coşan continued and intensified the cemaat’s engagement with daily life and with the modern technologies that Kotku had encouraged through his sohbets and publications. In his publications, Kotku exhorted Muslims to seek the best possible education for themselves and their children (boys and girls), including knowledge of Islam as well as of ‘secular’ disciplines such as economics, laboratory sciences, management and medicine. These emphases can be seen in the cemaat’s publishing and media projects, most prominently the monthly magazines Islam from 1983 and Kadın ve Aile (Woman and the Family) from 1985, in addition to publications by the Seha publishing house.
From 1994, the emphases could also be heard on the cemaat’s radio station and for a brief interim on a television station that was short-lived in the late
1990s. On Friday evenings, residents of the dormitories and vakıf apartments would gather and listen to Esad Hoca’s sohbets broadcast by satellite from Australia. The text of his sohbets was published in Islam from 1990, and the radio sohbets reinforced what many commentators have called a transition from a face-to-face sociality based on presence to a mediatedsociality. The influence of this mediation on Naqshbandi practice concerns the centrality of sohbet to the devotions as we have considered above, and it has been a major part of the structural transformation of this Sufi order as a tarikat, vakıf and cemaat.
New Forms of Tasavvuf through Vakıf and CemaatDuring my time with the Gümüşhanevi branch of the Naqshbandi order, I observed a number of developments that underscore the importance of vakıfand cemaat in contemporary Sufi life in Turkey. One that was particularly striking concerned this branch’s response to the crisis in Kosovo that involved upheaval and tragedy for fellow Muslims not far from Turkey. The response provided a palpable demonstration of Sufi life directly through the vakıf. In June 1999, comings and goings at the office of the vakıf informally associated with this Gümüşhanevi branch (located in the old külliye facilities
facing the mosque where sohbets are held) came to increasingly involve people with dossiers and forms and a distinctly urgent tone to their affairs. Dreadful events had been unfolding in Kosovo for months, but now a slaughter by Serb security forces and irregulars was well under way. In Istanbul, almost everyone who is not a migrant from Anatolia knows someone who has relatives from the Balkans (from where the narrative of migration to Turkey is inevitably one of escaping from persecution). People in Istanbul were painfully aware of the news then coming from the Balkans.
The vakıf’s dealings with government bureaus, especially the Directorate of Foundations, were again uneasy after a period of eased tensions under the Refah–True Path coalition until 1997. But what was now going on at the vakıfoffice was a response to the tragedy unfolding a few hundred miles away in Kosovo, about which we had come to hear more and more direct and indirect reference in Friday sermons. Donations – mainly of tents, clothes, blankets, boots and bottled water – and logistical arrangements were being coordinated through vakıf across the country. These donations were organized into convoys with the Turkish Red Crescent Society that had permission from Bulgarian authorities to transit the shipments through. Because these were Red Crescent convoys, to be received by Red Crescent and Red Cross officials upon arrival, there was no question of anything other than humanitarian aid being sent through these channels.
During this time, one would encounter a few Kosovar refugees at the vakıf
office and some of them spoke Turkish. The eyes of these young men bore
the distinct, unmistakable look of gratitude for every moment of being alive.
These men were quiet, polite and entirely overwhelmed by uncertainty, having placed themselves utterly in the hands of people who they wanted to trust. Their presence at the vakıf office is significant, as is the fact that it was the vakıf that coordinated the collection and transport of donations. The significance of an activity ‘as Sufism’ does not derive from the topics of conversation or the specific actions performed, but rather from their link to broader traditions of Islamic discursive practice. In this case, the Kosovar visitors who the vakıf assisted were not Naqshbandis, but the response of those in the vakıf, taking Muslims from danger and caring for their welfare is seen as action that one should take as a Muslim. The Turkish government Directorate of Foundations had issued directives banning private initiative in organizing transport to Kosovo. A number of reasons were given, foremost among them that by coordinating the efforts, the Red Crescent would know what had already been collected and what was still needed. Periodic announcements were made to this effect in the media. There was, however, speculation about other reasons why the Red Crescent wanted to monopolize the transport and logistics of this aid. Those at our local vakıf office grumbled that this was typical behaviour – that the state and Red Crescent wanted to keep people who ‘think differently’ as distant from the process as possible, while taking credit for the effort. As for the state itself, and others less sympathetic to perceived Islamist initiatives, the main explanation was that lack of coordination and rationalization of procedure signifies incompetence on the part of governmental authorities anywhere, and tends to lead to inefficiency and ineffectiveness. In such a grave crisis as was then at hand, they claimed, it would be an outrageous scandal to allow such incompetence. Another concern I heard voiced by politicians was that without centralized coordination it would be difficult to know who was doing what. They claimed that this would lead not only to the problem of some needs being oversupplied and others unmet, but also to diplomatic problems with countries receiving the aid, and/or those through which the aid would transit. Sometimes the initiatives of private individuals are taken to have official Turkish government approval, while reports go out in international media to the effect that ‘the Turks’ are supporting this or that controversial group, a scenario that seems to have played out in the early days of the deteriorating situation in Kosovo.
That the government was ready so quickly with this response also points
up the central function of vakıf institutions in Turkey today as a form of
incorporation. Particularly among groups such as a Sufi order, which cannot exist legally as such, incorporation as a foundation enables them to have some institutional form of existence in Turkish society. Government policy toward foundations is therefore extremely important to the tone of civil associational life in Turkey, as it was in Ottoman days.
The chairman of the foundation informally affiliated with the Gümüşhanevi branch graduated from university in 1993 with a degree in administration, making him barely 30 years of age in 1999 when the Kosovo developments I describe above unfolded. Speaking of Sufism in Turkey, the young director said to me, ‘You know, most of Sufi life (tasavvuf hayatı) in Turkey these days is vakıf activities. But most of the vakıfs get politicized, break up and disappear, as I’m sure you’ve noticed’. He was referring to the precarious nature of functioning as a foundation, i.e. a body recognized by the government, especially for religious activists. This vakıf, he observed, is to ‘not be political’, but rather to carry out ‘hızmet’ (Arabic khidhma, service to
the community). Some commentators have described this as emblematic of a
‘vakıf-ication’ of the Sufi orders in Turkey.
Along with vakıf activities, the main mode of sociality of Sufis in Turkey is
as a community, a cemaat. No formal, public functions take place in Turkey as Sufi events, since these are, by definition, illegal. Nonetheless, Sufis come
together, lessons are taught, ethical disciplines are inculcated, and even larger events are held. What matters is the status of the event. Here a judicious equivocation is the norm. For example, a public lecture or symposium on a particular Sufi luminary may be organized, with many of the organizers belonging to a particular Sufi order. The aim of the conference is for those attending to broaden their appreciation and knowledge of the figure and his contribution to Islamic traditions. Is this a ‘Sufi’ event?
Alongside the noted ‘vakıf-ication’ of the Sufi orders in Turkey, some commentators (and even practitioners) believe that one also ought to speak of a ‘cemaat-ification’ of the orders, in the sense that the dynamics of their social life correspond to those informally characteristic of cemaats in general. This relates to one aspect of Sufism in Turkey that may be specific to the Turkish context, namely that the proscription of the orders – and their status and social standing on the eve of that proscription – have impacted on organizational dimensions in subtle as well as more obvious ways. In particular, the notion of stages and ranks (makam, derece) along the path to spiritual maturity certainly appears to operate, but it is much less a topic of discussion and daily concern than it was likely to have been in the past.
Another way to put this is to say that the orders in Turkey have moved in the direction of ‘association’ and somewhat away from ‘organization’ on the
continuum outlined by Gilsenan (1973). It is difficult for them to show
outward signs of organizational function and status in the prohibitive
environment that is contemporary Turkey.
Another aspect of changes in Sufi culture over the last 80 years is arguably
equally important, even if under-appreciated. It is that much of the criticism
of Sufism and Sufi orders, from the later Ottoman period to the present, has
centred on ‘superstitions’ and ‘charlatans’, and especially on those who were
felt to manipulate the ignorant for personal gain. In the late Ottoman context of collapse of an entire political, economic and social order, radical interrogation of the underpinnings of that order were to be expected, and indeed proliferated.
In this context, the severest condemnation of superstition and obscurantism was a major feature of the discourse of reform. This reform discourse was considered to be the only hope for the umma – the moral and political community of Muslims – (particularly since in the later Ottoman environment this term came to be identified with the ‘nation’) to defend itself against (infidel) aggression, such as had just brought on the collapse of the empire.
The notion that alongside knowledge of the canonical sources and practice
of canonical worship there are yet ‘other sources’ of Islamic authority
continues to be controversial among observant Muslims, in Turkey and
elsewhere. The effects of decades of discrediting and casting doubt on Sufism have been considerable in Turkey, and many Sufis whom I worked with in the Gümüşhanevi branch of the Naqshbandi order were very concerned that there be no straying from the path of sunna, the exemplary precedents of the Prophet. These Sufis remained in that particular branch because they had not detected any such straying.
One point of practice that occasioned some controversy was rabıta, the link
or ‘bond’ between the shaykh and disciple. The mechanics of this technique
of spiritual realization have been outlined elsewhere (Meier, 1994, AbuManneh, 1990). Problematic for some who encountered the cemaat and
subsequently disassociated themselves from it was the practice of concentrating one’s attention and affection so enthusiastically on the shaykh that it became confounded with one’s devotions, which should naturally be reserved for God alone. Those with whom I worked took care to emphasize that the various techniques of rabıta, which they all practiced, were less ‘formal’ and less structured than worship, and needed to be done very ‘carefully’. One cemaat member in Sivas, originally from Siirt in the Kurdish southeast, told me that rabıta was nearly cause for his departure from the cemaat; it was only upon careful reflection and consultation over the course of his theology studies at the university that he found rabıta ‘acceptable’ and continued to participate in the cemaat. The environment of generalized hostility toward the orders in Republican Turkey, and especially a heightened contempt for ‘charlatanism’ among the more observant and pious may have led to the diminished profile of rabıta in favour of sohbet. If so, it is not the first time the practice has been secondary to sohbet. In both Sirhindi’s Maktubat and Kashifi’s Rashahat (`Ayn al-Hayat), the emphasis is on sohbet over rabıta (Abu-Manneh, 1990: 286).
The History of the Present
Sufi orders remain illegal today. Nevertheless, prosecution of the relevant laws has varied over the decades, with a general relaxation noted just before
the 1950 general elections (the first truly competitive ones), in which the Democrat Party (DP) emerged victorious over the Republican People’s Party (CHP) (Sitembölükbaşı, 1995). By the late 1960s, a relatively small but increasingly active group of outwardly pious and politically oriented people emerged within what was generally called the political Right. Mehmet Zahid Kotku encouraged his mürids as loyal initiated members to be active in worldly affairs, specifically in capacities that would enable Turkey and the Muslim world to stand up to the cultural, political and economic domination by the ‘West’. Echoing ideas expressed since the late Ottoman period, Kotku considered Western domination to be based on the clever development and use of technology, albeit in a way that is out of balance with ethical considerations concerning family life, the environment and so forth. Kotku made it clear that not only was there no problem with Muslims industrializing their societies based on the latest technology, it was positively incumbent upon them to do this (Gürdoğan, 1991). This was the context in which the continually growing numbers of attendees at Mehmed Zahid Efendi’s sohbets during the 1960s began to take their places in increasingly influential institutions such as the State Planning Organization (SPO) (Devlet Planlama Teşkilatı), created in the wake of the 1960 coup to coordinate industrialization through investment and allocation of subsidized
inputs and foreign exchange. The SPO quickly became an extremely powerful mechanism for political bargaining over scarce resources (Keyder, 1987: 148). The idea of freeing Turkey from the logic of the Western market also led to Kotku’s suggestion to establish the Gümüş Motor Company (the name invoking the memory of the nineteenth century Naqshbandi scholar
Ziyaüddin Gümüşhanevi), with Necmettin Erbakan, who was later to become prime minister, as its director. However, the company did not last long. Having lost the investment in the motor company, many in the cemaat
concluded that there was a direct connection between being able to create an alternative market and moral economy, and the political-economic
environment in which transactions take place. In other words, they would
need to participate in institutionalized politics.
The two political parties that attracted those who felt this need were the
Milli Selamet Partisi (MSP, the National Salvation Party) and later the Refah
Partisi (RP, the Welfare Party). It is significant that almost all of the major
figures in the MSP–RP incubus came out of the Iskender Pasha community,
which was once famous as a centre for the Naqshbandi order. Pre-eminent
among these political figures are Necmettin Erbakan (prime minister 1996-97) and current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (from 2003), who
participated in Mehmed Hoca’s sohbets in the 1970s. As Yavuz wrote in his recent study:
(T)he Naqshbandi Sufi order served as the matrix for the emergence in
the 1970s of the four leading contemporary Turkish Islamic political and social movements: the neo-Nakşibendi (sic) Sufi order of Süleymancı and other orders [including the Iskender Pasha groupdiscussed in the present article]; the new Islamist intellectuals; the Nurcu movement of Bediüzzaman Said Nursî, with its offshoot led by the charismatic Fethullah Gülen; and the Millî Gençlik Hareketi of Necmettin Erbakan. (Yavuz, 2003: 11)
After the closure of the short-lived National Order Party (Milli Nizam Partisi
or MNP) in 1971, some of its personnel formed the MSP in 1972, with
Necmeddin Erbakan as its chairman. The new party fared well in the 1973
elections and entered the ruling coalition. However during the mid- to late-
1970s, the political landscape in Turkey was utterly radicalized into ‘Right’ and ‘Left’, with youth groups and gangs sympathetic to, or directly organized by, each side viciously and murderously attacking and counter-attacking each other publicly. A number of those on the Right who considered themselves to be politically conservative (muhafazakâr) emphasized the political language of Islam and Islam as the bastion of true Turkish culture and values.
A coup in 1980 brought an immediate end to the street-level violence. Nonetheless, the military administration and the then elected government under general-cum-president Kenan Evren began to emphasize what came to be called the ‘Turkish–Islamic synthesis’ (Türk–İslam sentezi) as a formulation for national identity. This was an attempt to preserve nationalist sentiments while drawing on the heritage of Islam as culture and general ethic, a move that appeared to be the height of irony to many secular, liberal Turks. The aim was to remove any remaining wind from the sails of the Left and to appropriate the discourse of Islam for the mainstream, while re-exertingstate control over Islamic institutions. These efforts were largely successful by all accounts.
In this context, both participation and scholarly interest in Sufism haverisen (Kafadar, 1992), even though the statutes banning orders have not been changed since the early years of the Republic. Books are published on the orders in general and on this or that particular order. Many publications are quite hostile to the orders, to be sure, but many are not. Magazines publish dossiers; scholarly journals publish articles. The continuing existence of the orders is, in short, an open secret; just how open depends almost literally on the month, if not the week. Welfare (Refah) Party candidates won many of the country’s major municipal elections in 1994 (including Istanbul and Ankara). In the national elections of 1995, Refah emerged as the leading party, with the most seatsin the national assembly and a major role in the ruling coalition, including the Prime Ministry. It is difficult to exaggerate the suddenness with which Islam seemed to become the main issue in politics and culture,
and the key issue for social science research in Turkey, only to be dropped unceremoniously a year or two later. Questions about the continued existence of Sufi orders and Sufi practices were revived and attempts were made to make sense of the rise of Refah in terms of these orders. Even within the orders themselves, members engaged in discussions about whether or not the orders should clarify their political views among themselves. Within the Iskender Pasha community, discussions began in the early 1990s about whether leader Esad Hoca should become involved in party
politics, either in an established party or as founder of a new one. He did not
in the end enter party politics and the cemaat’s relationship to Refah during the years of Refah’s rise and time in power was often strained. It appears that several points of disagreement centred on what could be called a struggle authority and prestige. As a key player in the MSP–RP formation, Necmeddin Erbakan was reported to have made critical remarks suggesting that he himself had and should have more authority among Muslims than Esad Hoca.
The disagreement spilled into the open by 1990, when Esad Hoca, under his
well-known pseudonym Halil Necatioğlu, published an article in Islam
entitled, ‘The Indisputable Value and Superiority of the Islamic Scholar
(Alim)’ (Necatioğlu, 1990). The article was directed specifically at Erbakan and the Refah cadres, as the implicit ending of the title was ‘over the politician’. However it needs to be noted here that members of the order were not monolithic in their politics so that the order could not speak with one political voice. A significant number of members of the order supported the Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi, ANAP), which is the party of former
President Turgut Özal (1989-93). Özal had only thinly veiled his sympathy for Naqshbandi Sufism, and his mother is buried in the Süleymaniye cemetery near Mehmed Zahid Kotku and Ahmed Ziyaüddin Gümüşhanevî (Çakır, 1990: 17-76).
In February 1997, the military officers on the National Security Council
essentially presented an ultimatum of measures that the Refah–True Path
coalition government would have to undertake to reverse what the Council
saw as explicit ‘Islamicizing tendencies’ in the bureaucracy and even in the
armed forces. The coalition unravelled by the middle of June. The event is
remembered as ‘28 Şubat’ (28 February), which came to be used as a
euphemism among many conservative Muslims for the beginning of a ‘crackdown’ led by the military against ‘political Islam’. Commentators generally agree that the ultimatum represented a statement by the generals of the measures necessary to prevent them from carrying out a coup d’état.
Following 28 Şubat, the military continuously made it known in meetings with politicians and in published statements that it considered one of the gravest threats to the country’s security to be ‘those who wish to exploit religion for political purposes’. The armed forces directed considerable energy toward combating such people. Elected officials, such as the extremely popular mayor of Istanbul (now Prime Minister) Tayyip Erdoğan, were tried and spent time in jail. Journalists and writers were harassed and arrested. And most importantly for this discussion, associational life for the outwardly pious was more restrictive. An incipient trend to stage conferences and symposia on Islamic and/or Ottoman topics (often with the participation of municipalities) waned. In 1994, Erdoğan was elected mayor of Istanbul, proving to be extremely popular and effective. He was clearly a rising star in the Refah Party. In 2001, after months of thinly veiled tensions within the now Fazilet Party over the inability of members critical of Erbakan to rise in seniority, several Faziletmembers including Erdoğan and the charismatic Abdullah Gül founded the Justice and Development (Adalet ve Kalkınma, AK) Party, largely comprised of intellectuals and technocrats. Again, many of the founding members of the AK Party had experience with the Iskender Pasha community, and the exceptionally high training and competence of the cadres, their own adherence to Islamic norms in their personal lives, and their unmistakably sincere attempt to fashion a politically liberal Muslim society can be seen as a legacy of their Iskender Pasha experience.
The elections of November 2002 gave the AK Party an overwhelming majority in the assembly and enabled it to form the first single-party government in 15 years. With respect to foundations and the incorporation of civil groups as associations, the AK Party favours liberalizing regulation, which is conveniently in line with the views of its moderately conservative supporters and with EU entry protocols. This and similar convergences between EU liberalization and the discourse of the moderate religious right (as it is known in Turkey) make the Kemalist establishment – not to mention the military – nervous. It has led to the ironic situation in which the vast majority of observant Muslims in Turkey have been pro-EU entry (at least until roughly 2006), while the military has become a proponent (albeit subtle) of more ‘cautiously paced’ reform.
Conclusions: Islamic disciplines and modern forms of power
The experiences of Sufis in the Republic of Turkey have been deeply conditioned by the legacies left to the Republic by the late Ottoman Empire (Silverstein, 2003). Proscription of the orders was one of a series of events begun a century earlier (which is not to say that this proscription was somehow inevitable). Thus the characteristically modern modes of power that Foucault (1991) identified as governmentality – redoubled rationalizing of administration and normalizing the objects of governance – and the particular kinds of knowledge and subjectivities associated with them, had profoundly rearticulated the nature of discourse and practice among Sufis by the last third of the nineteenth century. This was well before there was any question of a Republic (Silverstein forthcoming).]
The study of Sufi practice and discourse in Turkey – like the study of Islamic institutions in Turkey more generally – illustrates how characteristically modern social forms and techniques are now among the conditions of possibility for a great many movements that are concerned to extend Islamic traditions of practice and piety. Perhaps the most important instance of this is in the ways that such movements depend for their coherence and compelling-ness on their ability to refer to micro-levels of bodily comportment and practice. These were never publicly discussed as such before they were rendered ‘visible’ and ‘calculable’ by two primary sources. One is the modern state-sponsored development programs in which domestic family life has been ‘variously defined, manipulated, and generally
subjected to the regulation of health, educational and welfare programs’ (Ong, 1995: 161). The other is such quintessentially modern cultural productions as the (psychological) novel and film These have been major features of Turkish state governance with a profound impact on the minutiae of daily life in Turkey (Navaro-Yashin, 2002). Hence, instances of renewed and intensified interest in such virtues as modesty and bashfulness in women, or the visceral qualities of experience in ethically disciplined bodies, are all linked inextricably and intimately to the techniques of micro-level visibility, calculability and objectification. These are central to the exercise of what Foucault called bio-power, ‘what brought life and its mechanisms into the realm of explicit calculations and made knowledge-power an agent of transformation of human life’ (1980: 143). Observant Muslim selves in Turkey are traversed and organized by these modern regimes of knowledge and power.
Some of the effects on Sufi practice of the liberalization of associative life in Turkey in line with EU norms are arguably discernable. The issue of Sufism and the political in Turkey is less defined by the influence of the orders on party politics than by the relationship between ethical solidarity of the type cultivated by Sufi orders and the place of moral discourse in liberal political culture, which, whatever the shortcomings of Turkish implementation according to its norms, has been taken as the norm of Turkish politics. The privatization of Islam into a religion is essentially a fait accompli in Turkey. It results superficially from the Republican reforms but more substantially from centuries of Ottoman institutional reform and incremental shifts in the authority and prestige of Islamic regimes of knowledge and power vis-à-vis other ones (Silverstein, 2003). Without suggesting that Turkey should or even could be a ‘model’ for other Muslim countries – a suggestion the current AK government politely rejects – it appears that this is a government of Muslims who consider it incumbent upon them, as Muslims attempting to live in continuity with their history, to strengthen liberal politics. Turkey’s EU bid has been a long time in the making, but serious negotiations have begun under the watch of this government, many of whom have experience in Turkey’s Naqshbandi communities. The political will of this government has been more determined and the structural reforms more profound than previously. Anyone familiar with the Iskender Pasha Naqshbandi community cannot be entirely surprised.
I am grateful to Hamid Algar, Martin van Bruinessen and Julia Howell for
comments on versions of this chapter, as well to Michael Meeker and colleagues at the İslâm Araştırmaları Merkezi in Istanbul, Recep Şentürk and Semih Ceyhan especially, for their helpful suggestions along the way. Ersin Nazif Gürdoğan, Mahmud Erol Kılıç and İsmail Kara were generous with their time and knowledge on several occasions. My invitation to participatein the seminar in Bogor, Indonesia was a welcome opportunity to present my work to a critical and knowledgeable audience, and it is a pleasure to thank the conveners and participants. My continuing thanks to the members of the cemaat who receive me with such warmth and generosity. Several audience members at the American University of Beirut also provided thoughtful comments on some of the material here; thanks to Karla Mallette, Brian Catlos and Mia Fuller for the invitation. I conducted the research on which this chapter is based with funding from a Fulbright Grant and with Dissertation Write-Up and Postdoctoral Research Grants from the Institute of Turkish Studies, Washington DC. I gratefully acknowledge this financial support. Naturally, I alone am responsible for the views presented here.