May 30, 2023

Al-Tikriti Presents Research at Ottoman Historiography Conference in Istanbul

Professor of Middle East History Nabil Al-Tikriti

Professor of Middle East History Nabil Al-Tikriti

Professor of Middle East History Nabil Al-Tikriti presented a paper entitled “Greatness Denied: Firdevsī-yi Rūmī on the Cusp of Ottoman Sunnism” on Friday, December 16. In this presentation, he provided a summary biography of the polymath Ottoman author Firdevsī-yi Rūmī (fl. 1512), and offered a preliminary set of reasons why he was subsequently expelled from the Ottoman literary canon. This presentation was offered as part of the “Osmanlı’da İlm-i Tarih Sempozyumu: Ālimler, Eserler ve Meseleler / Ottoman Historiography Symposium: Scholars, Works, Problems,” the eighth of a series of symposiums on Ottoman scientific history hosted by İSAR, an Istanbul foundation supporting research on various fields of Islamic history. The symposium website includes further information, and the complete symposium program is available. This was an invited appearance.

Here is Prof. Al-Tikriti’s presentation abstract: “Ilyas Çelebi “Firdevsi-yi Rumi” (fl. 1512) served primarily at the courts of Sultan Bayezid II (d. 1512) and Prince Korkud (d. 1513), authoring works of narrative history, elegiac poetry, gestes, and hagiography. In this paper, I will summarize what is known of his biography and analyze his presentation of Ottoman, Turkish, and Muslim identity.

Firdevsi, a litterateur with a considerable sense of self, completed more than twenty works while serving at the apex of Ottoman cultural production. While very successful at attracting patronage and support for lengthy and ornate literary works, his oeuvre was mostly lampooned by those who followed in the decades after his death.

Why would a writer who was so successful in his own lifetime be so reviled within a few decades of his death? Analyzing the political content and identity positions staked out by Firdevsi provides a tentative answer – societal views changed abruptly in the first tumultuous decades of the early 16th century. Firdevsi’s use of the term “Sunni” in his Qutb-name, explanation of Turkish conversion to Islam in his Süleyman-name, and portrayal of Anatolian Sufism in his Vilayet-name each provide clues as to why subsequent literary critics found his scholarship unreliable, his poetry unspeakable, and his views objectionable.”