Ottoman Ulama During the Ottoman Reform Period
In the early 18th century the Ottoman state began to take its first strides towards reforming its then-lagging
political, administrative, military, social, and economic realms. While initially directed towards its military structure, during
the reign of Selim III (1789-1807) this movement, which continued up until the demise of the dynasty, also began instituting
far-reaching changes to other areas of its administration. The westernizing movements its bureaucrats strove to enact during
the Tanzimat Reform Period focused on the ideologies that had sustained the continuation of the state. They held that the
reasons for the Ottoman State regression evidenced during the past several centuries lay in the ideas espoused by the Ulama,
who believed that the religion and the culture of the people were one and the same. This belief became a barrier to the
advancement of those social institutions that did not recognize the role of Islam in Ottoman life. The reformers proposed
solution was two-pronged: to support technological modernization, while also preserving the Islamic beliefs that were the
essence of Ottoman society. This paper represents an attempt to reveal whether the Ottoman state reform movements served
to promote changes in the education, perspectives on life, and ways of thinking of the Ulama. In the course of this study, first
hand resources from the Ottoman archives will be utilized to gain an understanding of the reasons why the Ulama either did,
or did not, manage to stay attuned to the political and social changes occurring within the empire.
Key Words - Ottoman Empire, Ottoman ulama, reform movements, religion and modernizing.