Did the Ottomans preserve Arabic knowledge?

Nov 2013
707
Texas
Did the Ottoman Empire play any role in the preservation of Arabic scholarship?

How about Persian scholarship? Did the Ottoman empire respect or preserve Persian scholarship? Did they play any role in preserving Arab or Persian scholarship, and/ or transmitting it to the west??
 
Mar 2012
1,206
Magdeburg
Ottomans were very good at vocabulary invention. They invented more vocabulary in arabic than actual turkish by using the root verbs and combinating some various nouns. I am not sure about persian but since it was very included in ottoman language, i believe it had its cake aswell.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,000
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Did the Ottoman Empire play any role in the preservation of Arabic scholarship?

How about Persian scholarship? Did the Ottoman empire respect or preserve Persian scholarship? Did they play any role in preserving Arab or Persian scholarship, and/ or transmitting it to the west??
I wouldn't be that sure. Ottomans followed the example of the Romans, they absorbed a bit of all [also of the Christian culture]. It was only in the last phase of the existence of the Ottoman Empire [just to look for a "glue" to keep the empire together] that they became more "Arab" and they gave more importance to the Islamic / Arab culture.
 

Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,860
Western Eurasia
the educated Ottoman was expected to speak both Arabic and Persian too, Arabic was the language of higher religious education and scholars wrote a lot in that language, most works for example that survived from the first 2 centuries (1300-1500) by Ottoman jurists are written in Arabic. Many of these early period Ottoman scholars went abroad to Syria, Egypt and Iran to seek higher education (starting from Osman's father-in-law and spiritual guide Sheykh Edebali who had studied in Syria or for example the later /in/famous Sheykh Bedreddin who studied in Syria, Egypt and Iran) and there were also already immigrant scholars from Central Asia and Iran and the Arab world. Ibn Battuta who himself also visited the Ottoman court in Orhan's time also met there a travelling Egyptian scholar. Persophone scholars were there from the earliest periods preceding in fact the Ottomans (and there was also a second wave starting from the 16th century, refugees from the Safavid persecutions), the use of Persian language itself was already inherited from the Seljuks and also Ilkhanid influence, the first preserved official Ottoman documents are actually in Persian. The Persian language itself then was most used in some Sufi orders (esp Mevlevis, themselves an "elitist" urban tarikat) and in high poetry in general i believe. So an educated Ottoman was expected to be well versed in Arabic for religious studies and in Persian for literature and Arabic and Persian language classical literature was of course read, studied by them and also expanded by commentaries and glossaries and later translations to Ottoman Turkish.

Now for transmission to the West i don't know, though i guess most of the Arabic language manuscript collections in the possession of western countries today are mostly ultimatly from the Ottoman Empire, either aquired though the networks of consuls that appeared inside the Empire after the capitulation treaties or later from the colonized former Ottoman provinces and by orientalists on field research from the 19th cent. onwards.:think:
 
Last edited:
Mar 2012
1,206
Magdeburg
the educated Ottoman was expected to speak both Arabic and Persian too, Arabic was the language of higher religious education and scholars wrote a lot in that language, most works for example that survived from the first 2 centuries (1300-1500) by Ottoman jurists are written in Arabic. Many of these early period Ottoman scholars went abroad to Syria, Egypt and Iran to seek higher education (starting from Osman's father-in-law and spiritual guide Sheykh Edebali who had studied in Syria or for example the later /in/famous Sheykh Bedreddin who studied in Syria, Egypt and Iran) and there were also already immigrant scholars from Central Asia and Iran and the Arab world. Ibn Battuta who himself also visited the Ottoman court in Orhan's time also met there a travelling Egyptian scholar. Persophone scholars were there from the earliest periods preceding in fact the Ottomans (and there was also a second wave starting from the 16th century, refugees from the Safavid persecutions), the use of Persian language itself was already inherited from the Seljuks and also Ilkhanid influence, the first preserved official Ottoman documents are actually in Persian. The Persian language itself then was most used in some Sufi orders (esp Mevlevis, themselves an "elitist" urban tarikat) and in high poetry in general i believe. So an educated Ottoman was expected to be well versed in Arabic for religious studies and in Persian for literature and Arabic and Persian language classical literature was of course read, studied by them and also expanded by commentaries and glossaries and later translations to Ottoman Turkish.

Now for transmission to the West i don't know, though i guess most of the Arabic language manuscript collections in the possession of western countries today are mostly ultimatly from the Ottoman Empire, either aquired though the networks of consuls that appeared inside the Empire after the capitulation treaties or later from the colonized former Ottoman provinces and by orientalists on field research from the 19th cent. onwards.:think:
In 19th century the language of "education and scholarship" shifted to French
 
Feb 2014
1,429
Asia
Ottoman Empire was very much a part of Persosphere from its beginning. The first change in this tradition occured during the long conflict between Ottomans and Safavids during 16th and 17th century when Ottoman elite started looking a new identity. That is when we saw the rise of 'decorated' Ottoman Turkish. Still the change was just namesake, Ottoman Turkish was very much just like the Persian and Turkish vocabulary was very much just limited to the base words only. The language was far away from the language of common folks. Though after the Tanzimat Reforms language was made little simpler.

Still Persian was still studied by the people for higher studies up until mid 19th century after which it was replaced by the French.
 
Nov 2013
707
Texas
Ottoman libraries

OK thanks. I was just wondering if say, 16th century Istanbul had any notable archives or libraries of Persian or Arabic knowledge (much as medieval constantinaople functioned as some sort of archive of greco-Roman knowledge).

Perhaps Egypt could have functioned as such an archive; Peter of Cyprus "sacked" Alexandria in 1365; but he was only there for 3 days, and then there was Cairo.
(of course I am aware this was before the Ottoman conquest of Egypt).



the educated Ottoman was expected to speak both Arabic and Persian too, Arabic was the language of higher religious education and scholars wrote a lot in that language, most works for example that survived from the first 2 centuries (1300-1500) by Ottoman jurists are written in Arabic. Many of these early period Ottoman scholars went abroad to Syria, Egypt and Iran to seek higher education (starting from Osman's father-in-law and spiritual guide Sheykh Edebali who had studied in Syria or for example the later /in/famous Sheykh Bedreddin who studied in Syria, Egypt and Iran) and there were also already immigrant scholars from Central Asia and Iran and the Arab world. Ibn Battuta who himself also visited the Ottoman court in Orhan's time also met there a travelling Egyptian scholar. Persophone scholars were there from the earliest periods preceding in fact the Ottomans (and there was also a second wave starting from the 16th century, refugees from the Safavid persecutions), the use of Persian language itself was already inherited from the Seljuks and also Ilkhanid influence, the first preserved official Ottoman documents are actually in Persian. The Persian language itself then was most used in some Sufi orders (esp Mevlevis, themselves an "elitist" urban tarikat) and in high poetry in general i believe. So an educated Ottoman was expected to be well versed in Arabic for religious studies and in Persian for literature and Arabic and Persian language classical literature was of course read, studied by them and also expanded by commentaries and glossaries and later translations to Ottoman Turkish.

Now for transmission to the West i don't know, though i guess most of the Arabic language manuscript collections in the possession of western countries today are mostly ultimatly from the Ottoman Empire, either aquired though the networks of consuls that appeared inside the Empire after the capitulation treaties or later from the colonized former Ottoman provinces and by orientalists on field research from the 19th cent. onwards.:think:
 

Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,860
Western Eurasia
OK thanks. I was just wondering if say, 16th century Istanbul had any notable archives or libraries of Persian or Arabic knowledge (much as medieval constantinaople functioned as some sort of archive of greco-Roman knowledge).

Perhaps Egypt could have functioned as such an archive; Peter of Cyprus "sacked" Alexandria in 1365; but he was only there for 3 days, and then there was Cairo.
(of course I am aware this was before the Ottoman conquest of Egypt).
the first libraries were founded as attached to mosques and medreses serving students of islamic sciences so by nature overwhelming majority of the books were in Arabic there. The first Ottoman medrese was founded by Orhan Ghazi and it can be assumed it also contained library but i think first particular reference to libraries are from Bayezid I's period (or Murad I?). The first library catalogues survived starting from the 15th century.

Now particularily concentrating on Istanbul, it had several smaller and bigger libraries, the sultan's Palace Library has a surviving catalogue from 1502-1503 which list there 7200 titles in 5700 volumes, most of them Arabic, but also included Persian, Ottoman and Chagatay Turkish works. (apart from these there were also nearly 200 non-islamic, Greek, Syrian, Hebrew, latin, italian language books too in the Palace). Fatih Mehmed also founded in Istanbul the highest level colleges of the islamic learning in the Empire, the Sahn-ı Seman medreses (then in the 16th century the Süleymaniye medreses became highest ranking in the Empire). The library of the Fatih Complex originally was endowed with 839 books in 1470 but by 1560-61 the number of books there increased to 1770. But this is just one library since there were several other islamic colleges in Istanbul (a log/ruzname from 1660 lists in Istanbul around 130 medreses, and nearly 170 in other parts of Rumeli/European part of the Ottoman Empire) most of them had to possess smaller-bigger library. And outside the medreses mosques, tekkes even türbes (tombs) could be accomplained with smaller libraries.

But the biggest libraries could be some private collections, for example a famous early Ottoman (lived between 1350-1430) islamic scholar and prolific author, Molla Fenari from Bursa was said to possess 10,000 books which may be exaggeration but there were also a few other muslim scholars and statesmen with private collections reaching thousands of books, such as Müeyyedzade Abdurrahman Çelebi was also said to own 7000 books.

Now jumping a big to the present, a cool searchable databese of manuscripts in Turkey
Yazmalar

MANUSCRIPTS

"It is not possible to indicate a certain figure for the number of manuscripts in the Islamic World. Statistics about it are approximate estimations and are not definitive. Some resources providing information on the number of Arabic manuscripts were taken into consideration while ranking the countries. Accordingly, the countries which have the largest Arabic manuscript collection are respectively: Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Algeria.
Apart from these, there are also some other countries who have got moderate number of manuscripts such as Nigeria, Palestine, Jordan, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Qatar, Amman, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sudan, People’s Republic of China, Russia and Indonesia."

"Turkey is the country which has the highest number of Islamic manuscripts in all sciences. It is estimated that Turkey has approximately 300.000 volumes of manuscripts. On average, more than 160.000 of these manuscripts are in Arabic; nearly 70.000 are in Turkish and more than 13.000 are in Persian. There are also manuscripts in Greek, Armenian and Syriac. Nearly 160.000 of manuscripts in Turkey are kept in 35 libraries affiliated to the General Directorate of Libraries of Ministry of Culture."

+ the more detailed Turkish version of the site claims that this can reach 400-500,000 if we also count the mecmuas (these "anthology" books containing several works within a volume ), and in that way the language division can look this way


But it should be noted about the manuscripts that the book printing started late and it spread slowly so many manuscripts can be recent (19th century) too.
 
Last edited:
Nov 2013
707
Texas
Arabic and Persian scholarship in the Ottoman empire

Thank you.

So, I suppose the great Arab and Persian scholars (such as Alhazen or Omar Khayyam) would have been well known to the Ottoman intellegentsia, right?