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Hüseyin Yılmaz

Caliphate Redefined

The Mystical Turn in Ottoman Political Thought

Princeton University Press 2018

New Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Islamic StudiesNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books Network December 7, 2018 Nadirah Mansour

In Islamic intellectual history, it is generally assumed that the Ottomans did not contribute much to Islamic thought. With his new book, Caliphate Redefined: The Mystical...

In Islamic intellectual history, it is generally assumed that the Ottomans did not contribute much to Islamic thought. With his new book, Caliphate Redefined: The Mystical Turn in Ottoman Political Thought (Princeton University Press, 2018), Hüseyin Yılmaz uses the Ottoman notion of the caliphate to push back against that assumption: he demonstrates how a new understanding of the caliphate was developed by Ottoman thinkers, by engaging with those that came before them as well as their own lived present.  But Yılmaz goes beyond simply addressing the caliphate and political thought. Caliphate Redefined represents one of the first major studies of pre-modern Ottoman thought, mapping out the field for the benefit for all of those who engage with it. Furthermore, Yilmaz pushes implicitly and forcefully for recognition of Turkish as a critical language in Islamic intellectual history, acknowledging its contribution to the Islamic thought canon.  Finally, Caliphate Redefined is a stunning study of Sufism in the Turkish-speaking context, allowing us a glimpse of Sufism’s intellectual history and how it intersects and encompasses different aspects of Muslim life.

Huseyin Yilmaz is associate professor at George Mason University. He holds a Ph.D. in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. His research interests focus on the early modern Middle East including political thought, geographic imageries, social movements, and cultural history. He is also the Director of the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University. Prior to his appointment at George Mason, he taught for the Introduction to the Humanities Program and Department of History at Stanford University and the Department of History at University of South Florida. His new book, the subject of our interview, Caliphate Redefined: The Mystical Turn in Ottoman Political Thought (Princeton University Press, 2018), is the first comprehensive study of pre-modern Ottoman political thought and focuses on the intersection of mysticism and the definition of authority.


Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.