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Caliphate Redefined:
The Mystical Turn in Ottoman Political Thought
Hüseyin Yılmaz

Hardcover | December 2017 | $39.95 | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780691174808
384 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400888047 |
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The medieval theory of the caliphate, epitomized by the Abbasids (750–1258), was the construct of jurists who conceived it as a contractual leadership of the Muslim community in succession to the Prophet Muhammed’s political authority. In this book, Hüseyin Yilmaz traces how a new conception of the caliphate emerged under the Ottomans, who redefined the caliph as at once a ruler, a spiritual guide, and a lawmaker corresponding to the prophet’s three natures.

Challenging conventional narratives that portray the Ottoman caliphate as a fading relic of medieval Islamic law, Yilmaz offers a novel interpretation of authority, sovereignty, and imperial ideology by examining how Ottoman political discourse led to the mystification of Muslim political ideals and redefined the caliphate. He illuminates how Ottoman Sufis reimagined the caliphate as a manifestation and extension of cosmic divine governance. The Ottoman Empire arose in Western Anatolia and the Balkans, where charismatic Sufi leaders were perceived to be God’s deputies on earth. Yilmaz traces how Ottoman rulers, in alliance with an increasingly powerful Sufi establishment, continuously refashioned and legitimated their rule through mystical imageries of authority, and how the caliphate itself reemerged as a moral paradigm that shaped early modern Muslim empires.

A masterful work of scholarship, Caliphate Redefined is the first comprehensive study of premodern Ottoman political thought to offer an extensive analysis of a wealth of previously unstudied texts in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish.

Hüseyin Yilmaz is associate professor of history and director of the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University.


"Yılmaz provides a sweeping and well-documented rereading of the impact of Sufism on Ottoman rule. Caliphate Redefined is required reading for any student of Ottoman history."--Daniel Varisco, president of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies

"A major accomplishment. Yilmaz argues that Ottoman political thinking in this period should be viewed as a richly interconnected amalgam of juristic, ethical, and mystical strains of thought that come together to provide a colorful and forceful justification of Ottoman political legitimacy. His prose is fluent, lucid, and even elegant."--Ahmet T. Karamustafa, author of Sufism: The Formative Period

"Caliphate Redefined is a more than welcome contribution to the history of Ottoman ideas, political thought, and legitimizing practices. Yilmaz examines in meticulous detail the formation of a new phase in the conception of the caliphate usually neglected by historians of Islamic political thought."--Marinos Sariyannis, Institute for Mediterranean Studies, Greece

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    File created: 9/7/2017

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