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Mehmet Emin Güleçyüz

Mehmet Emin Güleçyüz
University of Chicago
Molla Fenari ve Geç Ortaçağ Anadolu’sunun Entelektüel Tarihi

Mehmet Emin Güleçyüz, İstanbul 29 Mayıs Üniversitesi’nden İslami Çalışmalar ve Felsefe lisans derecelerine ve Freie Universität Berlin’den İslam Entelektüel Tarihi yüksek lisans derecesine sahiptir. Halen Chicago Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi’nde İslam Çalışmaları alanında doktora adayıdır. Doktora tezi, geç ortaçağ Anadolu’sunun, özellikle de 14. ve 15. yüzyılların entelektüel tarihine odaklanmaktadır. Güleçyüz’ün tezi, Molla Fenari’nin (ö. 1431) kariyerine, entelektüel ağlarına ve ilmine vurgu yaparak, Anadolu’nun akli bilimler, felsefi tasavvuf, Hanefi fıkhı ve okült teori ve pratik arasındaki canlı entelektüel manzarasını göstermeyi amaçlamaktadır. Güleçyüz, ANAMED’deki ikameti sırasında, birincil kaynaklara başvurmak ve tezi için çağdaş metinsel ve para-metinsel tarihsel veriler toplamak üzere İstanbul’daki ve diğer yerlerdeki el yazması kütüphanelerinde araştırmalar yürütmektedir.

Molla Fenārī and the Intellectual History of Late Medieval Anatolia

Mehmet Emin Güleçyüz

My doctoral dissertation focuses on the intellectual biography and the philosophical doctrine of a renowned Anatolian scholar of late medieval Anatolia, Mollā Fenārī (d. 1431). During my fellowship at ANAMED, I created a manuscript-based dataset for contemporaneous references to Fenārī’s intellectual activity and made rapid progress in drafting my chapter on his panentheist philosophy of religion.

Studying late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century Anatolia is a challenging task, as there are next to no contemporaneous narrative sources written in the region. Ottomanists studying the subject rely heavily on Ottoman chronicles that, however, were composed much later and often have a more or less Ottomanizing agenda. The rich Timurid and Mamluk historiographical sources are often tangentially informative for the Anatolian frontier context. Given the lack of proper archival documentation from the period, except several endowment deeds or the later copies thereof, the textual and paratextual data on extant manuscripts appear to be the most important resource for chronicling the intellectual landscape of Anatolia during Fenārī’s lifetime. To this end, I examined approximately five thousand manuscripts that were copied from ca. 1350–1450 and are now preserved in Turkish libraries. My surveys not only uncovered many hitherto unknown or otherwise uncorroborated facts about Fenārī’s life, intellectual activity, and political relationships but also allowed me to create a dataset that will hopefully provide unprecedented insight into the intellectual life of late medieval Anatolia.

The significance of manuscripts to my research lies in the fact that Fenārī was a scholar deeply immersed in bookish culture. Throughout his life, he handled and authored books and, as a wealthy and influential bureaucrat, owned an extensive personal library. Through my research, I was able to discover the earliest written document in Fenārī’s hand—a concise treatise on arithmetic that he copied in his early twenties, which contains glosses in his own handwriting on the margins. This manuscript is particularly significant because it proves, for the first time, that Fenārī studied in Jerusalem either before or after his education in Mamluk Cairo, in addition to demonstrating that he had a broad range of academic interests beyond religious studies.

When it comes to his personal library, I have so far been able to locate around 50 manuscript volumes that display his ownership or endowment record, as well as a list of books that he intended to bequeath to his eldest son. Thus, I could reconstruct a partial inventory of his personal library and trace some of the paths that his books took after his death, as they were passed down to his descendants and others. Once I clean and analyze this dataset, I hope that my research will contribute to the growing academic literature on the lives and afterlives of personal libraries in the premodern Islamic world.

My surveys on manuscripts have also led to a better understanding of the entanglements of politics and knowledge in the late medieval Anatolian context as represented in Fenārī’s career in judiciary and religious bureaucracy across multiple principalities. In the intellectual-historical part of my dissertation, I seek to challenge the widely popular portrayal of Fenārī as an “Ottoman” scholar. Although he assumed judiciary positions in the administration of the budding Ottoman state, both before and after the so-called interregnum, Fenārī should in fact be seen as an archetypal “Rumi” scholar who represented the cosmopolitan intelligentsia of post-Ilkhanid and pre- or proto-Ottoman Anatolia. Fenārī’s decision to settle in Karaman and accept high judiciary posts in the Karamanid administration after the dissolution of Ottoman governance following the Battle of Ankara demonstrates the fluid nature of his affiliation with a particular dynasty, as well as the notion of relative autonomy he enjoyed vis-à-vis political patrons. Fenārī’s residence in Karaman, as well as the favor he received from the Karamanid ruler Mehmed II, are attested in manuscript records that I have been able to discover.

Another missing link in the intellectual history of late medieval Anatolia is a comprehensive understanding of the philosophical and doctrinal controversies that shaped the public intellectual sphere. I am pleased to have identified manuscript records and marginalia that illustrate the doctrinal disputes and discussions rampant in Anatolia during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. These manuscripts also reveal the parties of those controversies and how the informal intellectual networks that constituted the “Islamicate republic of letters” were represented in them. By pursuing these leads, I hope to bring to light the late medieval roots of major philosophical and religious controversies that persisted in Ottoman intellectual history and are relatively well-documented in the following centuries.

I want to point out that my surveys faced a serious case of data limitation. In multiple Turkish libraries, there are over 300,000 manuscripts in various collections, and many of them are undated. Furthermore, the catalogs of different collections vary in the amount and clarity of information they provide to researchers. Even if a manuscript is dated, the catalogers may sometimes miss the date and fail to record it. As a result, my initial surveys were inevitably limited to the several thousand manuscripts that are properly cataloged and dated around 1350–1450. However, based on the initial surveys, I have followed various textual and paratextual leads to other manuscripts, both undated and dated, earlier than 1350. It is, therefore, important to acknowledge that there is still a significant number of manuscripts from the period under investigation that could not be included in my surveys and analyses. Although this presents a serious limitation, it also suggests the potential for future development of my project with new findings.

Besides my manuscript surveys, I have undertaken or planned three research trips. First, I visited Bursa, where Fenārī spent several decades of his life and was buried. Later, I conducted research in Vakıflar Genel Müdürlüğü Arşivi in Ankara and gathered the endowment records that feature Fenārī’s authorization in his judicial capacity under both Ottoman and Karamanid administrations. Toward the end of my fellowship period, I am going to travel to Karaman, where Fenārī lived for more than a decade, to explore the remaining buildings and monuments from that era.

To conclude, my ANAMED fellowship this academic year has allowed me to gather historical data that provides a solid foundation for my dissertation project while being present in Istanbul.