The Earliest Ottoman Scholars
The Ottoman State was established in 1299 CE and went on to become one of the premier empires of the Muslim world within a few centuries. While it lasted until the First World War, it was the sixteenth century that is commonly considered the “golden age” of the Ottomans. It was during this time that the prolific scholar Taşköprüzade Ahmet (d. 1561) wrote a monumental work giving brief biographies of the scholars of the Ottoman Empire up to his time. His Shaqāʾiq al-Nuʿmāniyya fī ʿUlemāʾal-Dawla al-ʿUthmāniyya today serves as a valuable source of information on the first 250 years of Ottoman scholarship.
The text is divided into ten parts, one for each of the ten sultans (from Osman to Süleyman) up to Taşköprüzade’s time. What follows is a translation of the first part, regarding the seven scholars of the time of Osman Ghazi, the founder of the Ottoman State:
The First Generation: regarding the scholars of the state of Osman Ghazi, who was recognized as sultan in the year 699
And from among the scholars in his time was the master Edebali. He was born (may Allah be pleased with him) in the lands of Karaman and there he studied some of the sciences. Afterwards he travelled to the Levant and he studied deeply with the scholars of Syria. And he read tafsīr, Ḥadīth, and uṣūl al-fiqh with them. Afterwards he travelled to his homeland and began serving the Sultan Osman Ghazi. He attained his complete acceptance and they would resort back to him on issues of sharīʿah and would consult with him on issues of governance.
And he was a scholar, active, a worshipper, and an ascetic. It is told that his supplications were accepted and people would seek blessings from his noble sayings. And he (may Allah be pleased with him) had abundant wealth except that he proceeded upon the path of the Sufis and built in the Ottoman State a lodge where travelers would stay and he housed Sultan Osman in it as well.
He stayed in it one night and saw in his sleep that a moon came out of the chest of Shaykh Edebali and entered his own chest. And from it sprouted a great tree from his navel, with its branches blocking out the horizons and under it great mountains that have rivers coming from them that people benefit from for themselves, their riding animals, and their gardens.
So he told this dream to the shaykh, who told him: “You have a good news. You’ve attained the rank of sultan and Muslims will benefit from you and your children. And I give you this daughter of mine in marriage.” And Osman had children from her.
The shaykh reached an age of 120 years. He died in the year 726. A month after his death his daughter, the wife of Sultan Osman and the mother of Sultan Orhan died as well. And three months after his death, the Sultan Osman Ghazi died as well.
And from among them is the master Tursun Faqih. He is the son-in-law of Master Edebali and he was also from the lands of Karaman. He studied with the aforementioned master tafsīr, Ḥadīth, and uṣūl al-fiqh, and achieved deep understanding with him. And after his (Edebali’s) death, he took the position of giving legal opinions, management of governance, and teaching of the religious sciences. And he was a scholar and an active person, who’s supplications were answered.
III.Master Khattāb al-Ḳaraḥiṣārī
And from among them is the master Khattab ibn Abi al-Qāṣim al-Ḳaraḥiṣārī. He (may Allah be pleased with him) studied in his homeland with the scholars of his time, then he travelled to the Syrian lands and studied with its scholars and learned from them fiqh, Ḥadīth, and tafsīr, then he returned to his homeland, where he died, may Allah have mercy on him.
He has a beneficial commentary on the work of the shaykh and scholar ʿUmar al-Nasafī on issues of dispute. He completed writing it in the year 717.
And from the shaykhs of his time was the shaykh, the knower of Allah, Mukhlis Baba. He (may Allah be pleased with him) settled down in the lands of Karaman and he attended the conquests of Sultan Osman Ghazi. And he was one who’s supplications were accepted, a seeker of spirituality, and one who had reached Allah. And he had supreme gifts bestowed from Allah and sublime ranks. May Allah protect his great secrets.
V.ʿĀshiq Paşa Çelebi
And from them was the shaykh, the knower of Allah, ʿĀshiq Paşa, the son of the aforementioned Mukhlis Baba. He settled down in a place called Kırşehir in the lands of Ḳaramān, and he died in it. His tomb is well known there, supplications made there are answered, and people seek blessings there.
He (protect his secrets) was a worshipper, an ascetic, a knower of Allah and His attributes, and active in attaining the ranks and stations of the seeking spirituality. He wrote a book in Turkish containing the states and ranks of seeking spirituality.
And from among them is the shaykh, the knower of Allah ʿIlwān Çelebi, son of the aforementioned ʿĀshiq Paşa. He (may Allah be pleased with him) settled in a place close to the city of Amasya and he died and was buried there. I visited his venerable tomb in the prime of my youth and sought blessings. He (may Allah be pleased with him) was a worshipper, an ascetic, and a knower of Allah and he had an immense ability to attract people. He also has a work on the ranks of seeking spirituality.
And from among them is the shaykh, the knower of Allah, Shaykh Ḥasan. He (may Allah be pleased with him) was a worshipper, an ascetic, who’s supplications were accepted and who’s gifts from Allah were apparent and was a treasure trove of blessings. And he had a lodge close to the House of Felicity in the land of Bursa. He is nicknamed “Akhī Ḥasan”. May Allah protect his great secret.