Mystical Advice Literature

Inner-Islamic Transfer of Knowledge in the Ottoman Empire: on Translations of Works of Islamic Mysticism within Transregional Sufi Networks in the Anatolian and Arab Provinces

Principal Investigator: Philip Bockholt
Doctoral Researcher: Tobias Sick

Tobias Sick’s research within this project focuses on the processes of Persian-Arabic-Turkish translation and adaptation that took place in different parts, including various border regions, of the Ottoman Empire from the 16th to the 18th century, specifically, in relation to works of Islamic mysticism. The focus is on the socio-cultural location of translation and transmission processes – i.e. the circumstances of selection, imitation and adaptation, as well as the reception of texts – within the framework of an investigation of the history of transmission based on manuscript materials and current approaches of material philology as well as translation studies.

Through a multidisciplinary approach, the project provides further insight into the socio-cultural contexts of translations of Persian mystical literature in the Ottoman Empire during the early modern period. This includes textual, paratextual and visual aspects of the manuscripts as a medium as well as the individual translator as an autonomous actor or multiplier of a Persophonic knowledge transfer. In the context of this study, questions concerning (1) actors and networks of translation, (2) the complex relationship between the original text and its translation, and (3) codicological-visual forms of organisation of translation manuscripts take a central role.

The source material to be investigated includes translations of Persian works of Islamic mysticism that were translated multiple times and in different places within the Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 18th centuries. The main source for the doctoral project is the work of mystical advice literature Pandnāma-yi ʿAṭṭār (ʿAṭṭārs Book of Wise Counsel) and the translations (Ottoman-Turkish terceme) as well as the commentary works (şerḥ) produced on its basis. Analysing the manuscript corpus selected for this purpose will provide insight into the socio-cultural structure of Ottoman scholarly and book culture and will expand the perspective usually focused on Istanbul with regard to translation processes by including examples from the Arab-Ottoman provinces and the Ottoman-Iranian border regions. The overall aim is to facilitate a (re)consideration of the cross-border interrelations between actors and subjects of different cultural milieus and transformations and the transmission of norms and representations in a transregional perspective.

Until the end of 2023, the project was part of the DFG Priority Programme 1981: "Transottomanica: Eastern European-Ottoman-Persian Mobility Dynamics".