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Islamist Thinkers in the Late Ottoman Empire and Early Turkish Republic

Late Ottoman intellectual history, especially the nineteenth century, was seen by Bernard Lewis (in his The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 1961) and Niyazi Berkes (in his Aristotelian teleological work The Development of Secularism in Modern Turkey, 1964) as a “natural evolution” towards a “new” Republican Turkey leading up to the modernization/secularization of the country. Accordingly, political scientists and Orientalists in Europe and North America have commonly presented a history of Islamism outside of Ottoman experience, starting with the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hasan al-Banna of Egypt (d. 1949) in the early twentieth century, and respectively, Islamic modernism beginning in Egypt with Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905) during the nineteenth century.

 

Late Ottoman intellectual history, especially the nineteenth century, was seen by Bernard Lewis (in his The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 1961) and Niyazi Berkes (in his Aristotelian teleological work The Development of Secularism in Modern Turkey, 1964) as a “natural evolution” towards a “new” Republican Turkey leading up to the modernization/secularization of the country. Accordingly, political scientists and Orientalists in Europe and North America have commonly presented a history of Islamism outside of Ottoman experience, starting with the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hasan al-Banna of Egypt (d. 1949) in the early twentieth century, and respectively, Islamic modernism beginning in Egypt with Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905) during the nineteenth century. European and North American academics, including Brian Silverstein, Amit Bein, and Susan Gunasti among others, have only very recently turned their attention to the late Ottoman ulema and Islamist intellectuals, mainly in the wake of AK Party’s success in the post-Kemalist/secular Turkey. However, up until now, there was no reliable comprehensive work on late nineteenth century Ottoman/Turkish Islamist thought in English. It is in this context that Ahmet Şeyhun’s work Islamist Thinkers in the Late Ottoman Empire and Early Turkish Republic proves to be a significant contribution to a vital but long-neglected chapter in the history of Islamism.

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