Houston, TX 77005
10:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 10, 2013
On Campus | Alumni
Revolutionary currents with transformative ideals were part of the Sufi religious identity during the late medieval Islamic period. This dissertation tries to make sense of this phenomenon by focusing on the historical evolution of the Bayrami-Mal?mi Sufi order within the Ottoman Empire. The scope of the study extends from the beginnings of the order during the ninth/ fifteenth century until its partial demise by the end of the eleventh/seventeenth century. The Bayrami-Mal?mis were essentially marked by a reaction towards the established Sufi rituals of their time: they refused to wear Sufi clothes, take part in gatherings of remembrance of God, and rely upon imperial endowments for the livelihood of dervishes. Through this, the first representatives of the Order were able to elude some of the highly constricting practices of the state bureaucracy and retain some form of independence. This instinct to stay independent preserved itself during the following decades, and was coupled with messianic declarations during the sixteenth century. I suggest in this study that this longing for independent religious identity can be best understood in relation to the particular dynamics of the social life of religion in the Islamic East. During the period between the Mongol attacks and the rise of three powerful Islamic empires (Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals), many local forms of Sufism had emerged and these were tied to charismatic and independent communities which were quite prevalent and powerful in their own domains. These communities often held a particular vision regarding the saint, whose persona came to be defined in terms exceeding that of a spiritual master, often taking the form of a community elder/ leader. Thus while the Bayrami-Mal?mis carried some of the distinguishing signs of religiosity belonging to this anarchic period, they were also able to reconstruct their teachings, affiliations, and outreach as the social and political conditions shifted in Anatolia. While the beginnings of the Order layed in the time of Hamideddin Aksarayi and Haji Bayram Wali in a politically distraught Anatolia, some of the Order’s most difficult times occurred in the tenth/sixteenth century under some of the most powerful Ottoman sultans. At the time, several pirs belonging to the Order were executed under the charges of being heretics and making messianic claims. The Order, however, was able to endure these difficult times with stability, and furthermore put together a new vision during the seventeenth century. The Bayrami-Mal?miyya became a point of attraction for the elite in the imperial city of Istanbul, and extended its influence to imminent poets, bureaucrats, and political figures. This study is essentially concerned with the dynamics of this evolution. It also tries to conceptualize how the teachings of the Order was rooted in the persona of the saint, and how this understanding was engrained within a specific type of monism that took immense joy at the beauty of the nature and the human being. It is also discusses how this monistic worldview had the potential to lead to apocalyptic urges, which did not harbor the immediate end of the world, but yearned for the beginning of a new era in which a fundamental shift in the way people understood and experienced the divinity was expected to occur.