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Problematizing Ottoman Sunnism: Appropriation of Islamic History and Ahl al-Baytism in Ottoman Literary and Historical Writing in the Sixteenth Century

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A growing number of studies argue that the Ottomans became militantly Sunni in the sixteenth century as they participated in the age of confessionalization. In defining Ottoman Sunnism, state policy and state-appointed jurists and scholars played a significant role. This paper attempts to define Ottoman Sunnism in the sixteenth century in a manner subtly different from that of the jurists, by looking at the views of Ottoman historians on the issues that divided the original Muslim community, ultimately resulting in the Sunni-Shiʿi schism. Despite the seemingly sectarian conflicts of the sixteenth century, neither rigid Sunnism nor fierce confessionalization was carried over into the intellectual and cultural scene. A moderate inclination towards Shiʿism/ʿAlidism and strong attachment to Ahl al-Bayt continued to be potent forces in Sunni Ottoman intellectual circles.

Affiliations: 1: Providence College


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