Academic Commons

Theses Doctoral

Reforming Categories of Science and Religion in the Late Ottoman Empire

Tekin, Kenan

This dissertation shows that ideas of science and religion are not transhistorical by presenting a longue durée study of conceptions of science and religion in the Ottoman Empire. I demonstrate that the idea of science(s) was subject to a tectonic change over the course of a few centuries, namely between the early modern and modern period. Even within a specific epoch, conception of science and religion were in no way monolithic, as evidenced by the diversity of approaches to these categories in the early modern period. To point out continuity and change in the ideas of science and religion, I study classifications of sciences in the early modern Ottoman Empire, by comparing two works; one by Yahya Nev‘î and the other by Saçaklızâde Muhammed el-Mar‘aşî. Nev‘î wrote from the context of the court in Istanbul, while Saçaklızâde represented the madrasa environment in an Anatolian province, thus providing a contrast in their orders of knowledge. In addition, the dissertation includes a study of the concept of "jihat al-waḥda" (aspect of unity) of science, as discussed by commentators from the early modern period. After first providing a textual genealogy, I argue that this concept reveals the dominant paradigm of scientific thinking during this period. The last two chapters of the dissertation deal with modern Ottoman history. The third chapter analyzes Ahmed Cevdet Pasha's (d. 1895) translation of Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah into the Ottoman Turkish in order to show the shift in the conception of science in the mid-nineteenth century. I demonstrate both continuity and a break between the thought of Ibn Khaldun and Ahmed Cevdet Pasha. In the fourth chapter, I draw upon archival documents, a scientific journal, and a correspondence between two intellectuals namely Fatma Aliye and Ahmed Midhat, to point out that science, religion, and politics were separated as a consequence of state regulations over publications and civil societies together with other institutional reforms and educational policies. The dissertation raises questions about the historiography of science in the modern period, which takes the modern idea of science for granted and projects it back on to the earlier periods. Noting the anachronistic and presentist approach to the early modern period, the dissertation calls for a new kind of historiography that not only goes beyond our modern biases but learns from past experiences by seriously engaging them.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Tekin_columbia_0054D_13521.pdf Tekin_columbia_0054D_13521.pdf binary/octet-stream 1.38 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Saliba, George
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 17, 2016