International Symposium: Ottoman Tafsīr

17 April 2018

Ottoman Tafsīr: Scholars, Works, Problems

The established understanding dominant in academic studies on Islamic culture and civilization is based on the assumption that Islamic thought had lost its productivity since the Middle Ages. As a consequence of this viewpoint, it became widely accepted that the field of Islamic sciences during the Ottoman period, which spanned from the Middle Ages to the modern era, was a period marked by stagnation. In recent years, however, revisionist/critical studies have begun to question these assumptions. Beyond reductionist conceptualizations and the usage of contentious terms such as productivity and stagnation in reference to the Ottoman era of Islamic knowledge and culture, there is a pressing need for academic works that aim to understand the Ottoman tradition in its own context. To this end, ISAR put together a series of scholarly forums aimed at redefining the place of the Ottoman scholarly tradition in the context of both the Islamic sciences and  global intellectual history through a multi-layered approach. The first three symposiums of the series were devoted to the sciences of Kalām, Fiqh and Sufism. The fourth meeting of the series will focus on the Ottoman tafsīr tradition.

Tafsīr is a discipline in which the Qur'an is studied from various angles. In this particular religious science, Qur'anic verses are examined in terms of reasons underlying the revelations, abrogation (nāsikh-mansūkh), context, the method of recitation (Qirāʾāt), word and sentence structures and the determination of divine will. This study is connected with historical (sīrah, history and hadith); linguistic (lexicology, etymology, morphology and syntax); literary (ma`āni, bayān, badī`) disciplines as well as Kalām, Sufism, and Fiqh, all of which use the Qur'an as a source. In the field of tafsīr, which historically evolved in parallel with the developments of linguistic and religious sciences, many types of exegeses, such as lexical (lughawī), syntactic (nahwī), kalāmī, allegorical (ishārī), fiqhī, had emerged while mixed commentaries were also penned. In addition to exegeses, a body literature of the Qur'anic sciences which deals with the various issues that concern the Qur'an individually or as a whole has taken shape. The Ottoman heritage of tafsīr presents a wealth of material in every field of tafsīr literature. In the Ottoman period, while there are many works in the formats of verse-by-verse and surah-by-surah exegeses, numerous commentaries and glosses on other tafsīr works were also written. Furthermore, a considerable amount of literature has also developed in the field of Qur'anic studies. However, the fact that many of these writings are not properly studied has made it impossible to write an accurate history of tafsīr.

This symposium aims to raise the issue of the contribution of Ottoman scholars to the tradition of interpretation. Works, discussions, and contributions in the field of tafsīr from the foundation of the Ottoman state to the Republican period constitutes the theme of the symposium. The symposium will be accepting original works focused on the tradition of Ottoman tafsīr primarily from the following subjects:

  • Place of Ottoman exegeses in the history of tafsīr in general

  • Theoretical and practical contributions provided in the Ottoman lands in the field of tafsīr

  • Commentaries (sharḥ), glosses (hāshiyah), epistles and translations of the classical texts to Ottoman Turkish

  • Fundamental debates about the issues of tafsīr: Discussions about the interpretation of particular verses or theoretical discussions about the discipline of tafsīr

  • Scholars of tafsīr and their relations with other scholarly circles

  • Interaction between tafsīr and the Ottoman political tradition

  • Place of tafsīr in the Ottoman madrasah curricula

  • Typology of Ottoman mufassirūn

  • Place of tafsīr in Ottoman social life

  • Association of tafsīr with the other shar’ī and rational sciences

Following the symposium, a selected number of papers will be published as a separate work as in previous years. The symposium will be held in Istanbul, Trukey. Papers in Turkish, English and Arabic will be accepted. Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Abstracts - together with the applicants' contact information and academic CVs - should be sent to

Important Dates

Deadline to submit abstracts: June 1, 2018

Announcement of accepted papers: June 25, 2018

Deadline to submit full texts: October 15 2018

Symposium: December 14-15-16, 2018