The Flight of Tradition: Mustafa Sabri Efendi (1869-1954) And The Last Ottoman Battle

Salih, Jusuf , Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Sachedina, Abdulaziz, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Hoehler-Fatton, Cynthia, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Nalley Thompson, Elizabeth, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This dissertation explores the life, context and thought of Mustafa Sabri, one of the last supreme religious leader (Shaikh al-Islam) of the Ottoman Empire. Surrounded by vigorous transnational debates over the renewal and reform of the Muslim world and faced at home with the rising forces of Turkish nationalism, secularism, and the growing influence of other aspects of Enlightenment thought, he took a final stand by calling for the revival of traditional theology and a return to an "original" Islam that encompassed all aspects of life, including science, culture, economics and politics. With Kemalist revolution sweeping away the old governmental order, his courageous and idealistic stand led to his defeat. In 1922, with the threat of death looming overhead, he fled Turkey and went in exile. He eventually found a home in Egypt, where he continued to write and teach until his death in 1954.

Mustafa Sabri's life and works represent a bold but unsuccessful attempt to stay the tide of modernism and revive Islam's last great empire through the rediscovery of its classical thought. While his legacy may always be tinged with tragedy and failure, the strength of his intellect and the power of his idealism will stand as testimonies to richness of the traditions he tried so hard to revive. In a word, then, this study casts the life and legacy of Mustafa Sabri as a battle between medieval orthodoxy and the relentless forces of modernity, forces that ultimately left no place in the new republic for a man who symbolized the traditional values of Divine Sovereignty, the supremacy of revelation over reason and the establishment of a religiously inspired polity that transcended the boundaries of ethnicity, language and nation

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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