In this talk, I explore the attitudes of three prominent Turkish-speaking saintly figures of the 14th and 15th centuries towards Muslim religious scholars and other members of the learned elite, including “respectable” Sufis, who often owed their elite status to their proficiency in Arabic and/or Persian. The Turkish language works of Yunus Emre, Kaygusuz Abdal and the hagiography of Otman Baba allows us to situate saintly figures who functioned in the Turkish vernacular into the larger historical context of Islamic cultural history of Anatolia. In the process, I identify and describe in broad strokes the fault lines that ran between saintly figures/Sufis who expressed themselves primarily, even exclusively, in the Turkish vernacular and other Sufi and non-Sufi Muslim learned elites who foregrounded their expertise in Arabic and Persian instead, even when they composed their works in Turkish.
Ahmet T. Karamustafa is Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. His expertise is in the social and intellectual history of Sufism in particular and Islamic piety in general from the tenth through the fifteenth century. His publications include God’s Unruly Friends(University of Utah Press, 1994) and Sufism: The Formative Period (Edinburgh University Press & University of California Press, 2007). He is currently working on a book project titled Vernacular Islam: Everyday Muslim Religious Life in Medieval Anatolia (co-authored with Cemal Kafadar) as well as a monograph on the history of early medieval Sufism titled The Flowering of Sufism.
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