Maisonneuve & Larose

Piri Reis and Ottoman Discovery of the Great Discoveries Author(s): Svat Soucek Source: Studia Islamica, No. 79 (1994), pp. 121-142 Published by: Maisonneuve & Larose Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1595839 Accessed: 12/02/2010 06:20
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PIRI REIS AND OTTOMAN DISCOVERY OF THE GREAT DISCOVERIES

March 1993 marks half a millennium since Christopher Columbus reached the shores of the Iberian peninsula and dispatched to his royal sponsors, Ferdinand and Isabella, a detailed account of the discovery he had made. The Genoese wrote the report, known as the "Letter of Columbus," in Spanish, and within a few weeks the document was printed in Barcelona; by May its Latin version was printed in Rome, and Italian and German translations soon appeared in other European cities and became an integral part of the sensational news about the discoveries gathering momentum beyond the oceans. (l) Five centuries later, Columbus's voyage has run into stormy weather of scathing criticism from many quarters, but even the most damning verdicts do not seem to deny its historical importance. Without taking sides, I would add that the dramatic circumstances of the discovery of America unduly overshadow the fact that it was an exploit whose time had come: had Columbus perished on his first voyage, someone else would have discovered the New World before long; we can even propose the latest date: 22 April 1500, when Pero Alvares Cabral, while en route to India,

(1) See The Columbus papers: The Barcelona letter of 1493, the landfall controversy, and the Indian Guides: a facsimile edition of the unique copy in the New York Public Library: by Mauricio Obreg6n, with a new English translation by Lucia Graves; New York, Toronto, Barcelona, 1991. The Latin translation of this letter published in Rome was followed by at least sixteen more editions between 1493 and 1499; see Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America: the Southern Voyages, A.D. 1492-1616, New York, 1974, pp. 90-91.

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sighted Brazil and sent one of his fourteen ships back to Portugal to report the discovery. (2) Cabral's expedition was a follow-up on another historical first, Vasco da Gama's voyage around Africa to the Indian Ocean and India, which the Portuguese captain reached in May 1498. (3) Nineteen-ninety-eight still lies ahead, and so do the commemorative celebrations as well as storms of criticism likely to buffet da Gama's three ships. Again without taking sides, I would add that the dramatic, almost romantic epic of the Voyages of Discovery from those launched by Henry the Navigator to those undertaken by Sir Francis Drake obscures the fact that another and still greater discovery was entering history's center stage and has occupied it ever since: a scientific and technological revolution, man's discovery that he has the potential to understand and even control nature itself, with the prodigious (as well as terrifying) consequences introduced by this discovery. (4)
(2) J. H. Parry, The Age of Reconnaissance, London, 1963, pp. 142, 155. (3) Parry, op. cit., p. 141-42; idem, The Discovery of the Sea, Berkeley, 1981, p. 174. Parry questions the veracity of the generally accepted belief that the famous Arab pilot Ibn Majid steered the Portuguese from the east African port of Malindi to Calicut in India. Parry bases his doubts on the persuasive argument that a Muslim of such reputation would hardly have consented to guide the Infidels. On the other hand it is true that navigation in the Indian Ocean was primarily peaceful and commercial, free from the religious confrontation plaguing the Mediterranean. Ibn Mfjid might not have had the reaction the two Spanish-speaking Tunisian merchants showed when confronted by the Portuguese whom da Gama sent ashore at Calicut as the first step toward establishing contact with the "natives." It led to the following exchange: "'Ao diabo que te dou; quem te trouxe ca?' E preguntaram-lhe o que vinhamos buscar t5o longe. E ele respondeu: 'Vimos buscar cristaos e especiaria.'" ("May the devil take you; what brought you here?", and they asked him what we had come to look for so far from home. And he answered: "We've come to look for Christians and spices"). This reply, written down in Portuguese by da Gama's companion Alvaro Velho, has become the proverbial symbol of Europe's entry into the Indian Ocean. See Alvaro Velho, Roteiro da Primeira Viagem de Vasco da Gama (1497-1499), ed. by A. Fontoura da Costa, Lisbon, 1969, p. 40; English translation by E. G. Ravenstein, A Journal of the First Voyage of Vasco da Gama, London, 1898, pp. 48-49. (4) The history of science is a relatively new discipline, and even newer is the focus on the rise of modern science; the latter, essentially post-Sartonian, became established with such works as H. Butterfield's The origins of modern science, 13001800, London, 1949, or A. R. Hall's The Scientific Revolution, 1500-1800, London, 1962 (3rd ed. as The Revolution in science, 1500-1750, London, 1983). The field is experiencing a rapid growth with a proliferation of reappraisals, from T. S. Kuhn's Structure of scientific revolutions, Chicago, 1970, to I. Bernard Cohen's Revolution in science, Cambridge-London, 1985, and The Reappraisal of the Scientific Revolution, ed. D. C. Lindberg and E. S. Westman, Cambridge UP, 1990. All these titles and

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The radical transformation took place in the course of three centuries, and the dates of 1400 and 1700 can serve as schematic but useful milestones. When we look back on the world of 1400, we see that its society's basic concepts had not changed since antiquity; whereas in 1700 we see a world possessed of modern science. Here, however, I feel obliged to inject a third qualification: this modern science was exclusively a creation of Europe and of Europeans. The rest of manking-the Muslims, the Chinese, and all others-was either unaware of the transformation or watched its arrival with incomprehension, indifference, or resistance. Those few individuals who grasped the significance of the momentous events, or who appeared able to create their own counterparts, were dismissed or ignored. Two such cases are Piri Reis (d. 1554), an Ottoman Turk from Gallipoli, and Taqi al-Din (d. 1585), an Ottoman Arab from Damascus. They form the symbolic pivot of my argument. In 1400, Christian Europe occupied an honorable but equal place among several leading civilizations around the globe. Those of Islam and China were comparable in their own unifying denominators (religious, cultural and geographical), as well as in their intellectual and material achievements. They all had an incomplete knowledge of the planet they inhabited, and a naive concept of the cosmological nature of a world in which the motionless Earth, whether flat or spherical, occupied the center of a universe whose Creator came close to flattering man as the justification of His creation; the natural world functioned according to principles beyond man's rational comprehension but at the discretion of the Creator's supreme will(5) or of mysterious supernatural forces. In more down-to-earth respects, Christians, Muslims, and Chinese shared,
periodizations suggest the discipline's formative nature, but only closer examination reveals their virtually absolute Eurocentrism (dictated by the evidence, and without deserving the derogatory connotation of the word). The reappraisals differ on a number of points, but they all agree on the fact that we are dealing with a scientific and technological revolution or revolutions that have ushered in the modern world. I would suggest a broadening of the concept so as to include the transormation's philosophical, aesthetic and other related aspects, and call it an intellectual revolution. (5) One exception is the mystic's knowledge of the esoteric truth. Although this experience is routinely believed attainable through any religion-or even independently-, it plays, according to some, a fundamental role in Islam-in fact, it is the very essence of Islam. This in turn would explain why Islam, despite the fact that its civilization was perfectly capable of generating a Scientific Revolution of its own, chose not to do so. This argument will be discussed at the end of my article.

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despite all the differences, comparable modes of travel and transportation, production and trade, education (6) and publishing, politics and law, science and technology, and military strength and warfare. It was a world that in certain basic respects had not much changed since classical antiquity: a Greek scholar would have held his own in disputations with a scholastic Dominican or a sophisticated Arab munajjim or a Confucian philosopher, just as a Greek phalanx or war galley would not have been without a chance when faced with its medieval counterparts; long-distance silk and spice trade continued, as under the Roman Empire and Han China, to pass through the Middle East which divided the traders into two different groups almost ignorant of each other; and the existence of the New World was as unknown as in antiquity. By 1700 the Europeans had left this medieval community and were busy exploring the world with methods of our own time, and fashioning that world to their own liking. Their cosmological view of the universe became basically the same as ours, and they had also gone their own way in all the other respects mentioned above. Europe's navies had taken control of the oceans around the world; her merchant marines served a new unified (though mutually fiercely competitive) type of long distance trade made more efficient by recently developed companies fostered by their respective governments; the Americas were appropriated and began to be settled; and incipient colonies were founded in Africa and Asia. On the home front, production based on capitalist modes of investment was beginning to show the tremendous potential of this system, and exports of textiles overseas were one example of the mercantile approach adopted by the foremost actors in the coming economic world order; while the continuously created surplus stimulated the growth of a dynamic urban class eager for profit from investment in productive manufacture. Again on the home front, the world of information and learning had come close to that of our recent precomputer past: printing was universal, and books, periodicals and budding newspapers played a seminal role in virtually every aspect of intellectual and even practical life. Universities had long since emancipated themselves from the straightjacket of scholasticism, and the quest

(6) Except for the basic and growing divergence between formal higher education in Islam and Christendom, thus between the madrasa and the university, as I shall try to show below.

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for truth combined with a thirst for knowledge was now the guiding principle of the vanguard scholars. This, then, was the world in 1700, but it was Europe's world, and the radical differrence between it and its contemporary Ottoman, Chinese and other contemporaries elicits a host of questions. Why did this stupendous transformation happen in Europe, but not elsewhere? Was it an anomaly, a freak accident in history, or can we discern, at its inception, factors that made it possible, perhaps inevitable in one civilization, but prevented it in another? Was it perhaps Europe's incipient economic, colonial, and even cultural aggression that thwarted such evolution elsewhere? Or are there aspects where truth has been perverted by Orientalism's incurable Eurocentrism, aspects that demand substantial revision, even rejection? And should we consider it our duty to pronounce or accept severe moral censure aimed at Europe, as we review this unique historical process? Let us return to our chosen point of departure, 1400, and glance at certain salient features in the evolution of the three major civilizations over the next three centuries that might offer some clues. Although in 1400 Christian Europe, the Islamic Ottoman Empire, and Confucian China stood at a comparable level of civilization in science and technology, their psychological stance was by no means identical: each of the three was about to formulate-or reformulate-its major ideals and goals, and these radically diverged, leading to a process that would eventually create the growing chasm. In Europe humanism and the Renaissance appeared, and with them a shift from the primarily religious and spiritual (or should we say next-worldly?) to the more this-worldly and experimental. True, in certain respects both humanism and the Renaissance included decidedly medieval attitudes or had to coexist with lingering medieval ideals: excessive acceptance of classical authority and the persistent dream of recovering the Holy Sepulchre were the most striking of such features. Both, however, contained kernels of new and independent elements. His very reliance on Ptolemy's error would facilitate Columbu's discovery of America; the medieval fanaticism of Henry the Navigator would propel the Portuguese voyages of exploration; and Vesalius's admiration for Galen would spur him on to correct his Greek mentor's theories and produce his great book on anatomy, a prerequisite of modern medicine. Europe's hostility to Islam too was medieval, but not so her new idea of attacking it from the rear by circumnavigating

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Africa or of reaching the Orient's gold by sailing west and thus acquiring the material means to liberate Jerusalem (Columbus's dream). (7) The same holds true for printing: the Bible was the first major book published by the revolutionary invention, but that did not mean that other books could not and would not be printed; and if the invention was first hailed as proof of Christendom's superiority over Islam and a means for successful propaganda, (8) it eventually became the major medium of scholars propagating the Scientific revolution. And for all her damning of the Infidel and fear of the Turk, Renaissance Europe did not assign the cause of combating Islam a major role. The once dominant ideal of a unified Christendom serving a revealed purpose was splintered and then lost its monopoly; instead, a pragmatic spirit now began to assert itself, and to act through the kaleidoscope of mutually competitive national states that would gradually secure Europe her dominant position. Let us now focus on Ottoman Turkey. In 1400 she was still a relatively small state, one of several in Islam, but her geographical position on the frontier of the Ddr al-Harb par excellence, Christian Europe, invested her with a special duty: that of spearheading the jihad, holy war, against the Infidel. And the Turks, devout sunni Muslims of the Hanafite school, took this duty more seriously than heir Arab predecessors or any other coreligionaries had done; in fact, the gaza-a term synonymous with jihad but preferred by Ottoman Turkish-became a leading principle, perhaps the leading principle during these three centuries of their empire's growth and .decline. Moreover, the concept of the jihdd, when aimed at Christian Europe, went beyond actual warfare; it meant an almost total refusal to adopt any of her values (except for those of military knowhow). Muslims refused to travel and trade in Europe, (9) to

(7) See Abbas Hamdani, "Columbus and the recovery of Jerusalem," Journal of the American Oriental Society 99 (1979), pp. 39-48; Pauline Moffitt Watts, "Prophecy and Discovery: on the spiritual origins of Christopher Columbus's 'Enterprise of the Indies'," American Historical Review 90 (1985), pp. 73-102. (8) Elizabeth Eisenstein, The printing press as an agent of change, Cambridge UP, 1979 (2 vols.). "The first attempt to use the new medium to arouse widespread mass support was not in connection with Florentine humanism but with a late medieval crusade, that is, with the war against the Turks" (p. 178); "...Church officials hailed the new technology as a gift from God-as a providential invention which proved Western superiority over ignorant infidel forces" (p. 303). (9) There were recurring and sometimes important exceptions to this, as the example of the Fondacco dei Turchi in Venice and of other Muslim Turkish colonies

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learn Latin, to study and translate her books, to take interest in This attitude radically differed from that of her achievements. which was equally intolerant on the strictly religious Christendom, plane, but far less uncompromising on the temporal one. Translations of Arabic scientific and philosophical texts played a catalytic role in medieval Europe's intellectual awakening and preparation In this resfor the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. the Arab invasion of the Iberian peninsula proved to be pect, Europe's blessing: Andalus developed a civilization whose splendor rivaled that of the Abbasid Orient. Europe's acquaintance with Islamic culture became especially intimate in Spain, and in the 12th and 13th centuries massive, government-sponsored translation projects were undertaken (chiefly under the kings of Castile Alfonso VII and Alfonso X). (0) The fact that the Christian monarchs did not find their interest in Islamic culture incompatible with a vigorous pursuit of the Reconquista-and even, in other contexts, with the Crusade-illustrates the fundamental conceptual difference between Christendom's and Islam's attitudes toward each other. This difference may be partly attributed, I think, to the divorce between the spiritual and the temporal in the former in contrast to their identification in the latter. Thus the conquest of Constantinople played a central role in Ottoman history, and the gaza in the Balkans became one of its central themes. It filled the Ottoman psyche far more overwhelmingly than the Crusade ever did the Christian psyche. At the same time, the Ottoman state lived up to the ideal of a theocratic Islamic polity ruled by a law laid down in the Koran; exigencies of reality forced the sultans to supplement the shari'a with kanuns and other decrees, but these always remained subject to the shaykh al-isldm's approving or disqualifying falwds. (1) This identifica-

in Italy shows; cf. Cemal Kafadar, "A death in Venice (1575); Anatolian Muslim merchants trading in the Serenissima," Raiyyet Rusumi: Essays presented to Halil Inalcik on his seventieth birthday, Harvard University, 1986, pp. 191-218. In terms of long-distance trade, especially international maritime trade, however, these colonies remained insignificant and never propelled the Ottoman Empire to launch an economic expansion comparable to that undertaken by European powers. (10) Juan Vernet-Ginbs, La cultura hispanodrabe en oriente y occidente, Barcelona, 1978, pp. 114-271; Thomas Goldstein, Dawn of modern science: from the Arabs to Leonardo da Vinci, Boston, 1980, pp. 92-129. (11) The process of supplementing the shari'a with governmental decrees went back to the earliest times of Islam, but it was only under the Ottomans that this secular branch of legislation acquired massive proportions and reinforced the cen-

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tion of the spiritual with the temporal, so characteristic of Islam, also gave its stamp to Ottoman administration, education, and culture, and perhaps to the entire range of Ottoman civilization, including the material side. Ottoman bureaucracy was a clerical or military one-officials trained in the madrasa network of religious seminaries, or selected through the dev?irme system of recruits originally conceived of as warriors against infidel Europe. The madrasa in turn monopolized higher education. First founded in llth century Seljukid Baghdad, it spread all over the Islamic world, but it was in Istanbul and other Ottoman cities that it reached its fullest bloom and importance. The madrasa thus formed a counterpart to the European university, but it was not a university. Its curriculum emphasized the 'ulum al-naqliya, traditional religious and related sciences, with the 'ulum al-'aqliya, intellectual and natural sciences, relegated to the position of a poor relation. Arabic and Persian were the languages of high culture, and intellectual life of Ottoman society was grounded in the medieval Arabo-Persian cultural heritage-right down to the 17th century. Political and economic life was directly affected by the empire's theocratic structure: the ruling class pursued the triple goal of preserving the stability of the state, safeguarding the religion, and combating the infidel, and paid little attention to economic expansion other then taxation of newly acquired territories. A merchant marine was never created; there never was a long-distance Ottoman seaborne trade (which, by definition, would have had to deal largely with the infidels); and the significance of Europe's dominance of oceanic and even Mediterranean shipping routes was never understood. The absence of a vigorous merchant marine reflects the Ottoman Empire's chronic lack of any true maritime policy in the economic sense. It is also, I think, one of the less well formulated aspects of Ottoman histotralized structure of the state. Most historians attribute this coincidence to the Central Asian and Turco-Mongolian roots of Ottoman political thought: the Turkic tori and Mongol yasa re-emerged in the concepts of the sultans and their advisors and theoreticians seeking to legitimize an autocracy especially pronounced since Mehmed the Conqueror (1451-81). This process may have enhanced the effectiveness of the governmental apparatus, especially on the level of fiscal administration, but it did not secularize Ottoman society on the intellectual plane where not the kanun but the shari'a continued to have the last word (at least until the end of the 17th century). See H. Inalcik, "Kanun," Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., 4: 558-62; C. Fleischer, Bureaucrat and intellectual in the Ottoman Empire: The Historian Mustafa Ali (1541-1600), Princeton UP, 1986, pp. 261-92.

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riography. Citing his intention to counter Portuguese penetration into the Indian Ocean as an important component of Selim I's reasons for conquering Egypt is almost a cliche, just as it is customary to credit Suileyman the Magnificent with a planned policy that restored the Spice Trade to the Near East route. Selim did pay attention to maritime (or rather naval) matters, but only in the Mediterranean; the arsenal he founded at Kasimpa?a was truly grandiose, and death alone prevented him from doing what he is said by Lutfi Pa?a to have had planned to do: launching "a conquest of Europe" ("niyetim feth-i Efrencedir").(12) As for Siileyman, it was only after his death that the envoys from the Sumatran sultanate of Atjeh (who had been waiting in Istanbul for two years) received a hearing and a response, and that help was sent to assist the Indonesian coreligionaries: two ships (1568). (13) The result was that the discoveries and Discovery remained a terra incognita in Turkey, and indeed in the rest of the Islamic world, of which the greater part had by the middle of the 16th century become incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. (14) Otto(12) Das Asafname des Lutfi Pascha, ed. R. Tschudi, Berlin, 1910, p. 32. (13) Saffet, "Bir Osmanli filosonun Sumatra seferi," Tarih-i Osmani Encimeni mecmuasi, 1 (1317), pp. 604-14, 678-83. (14) There were exceptions that confirm the general indifference: one is of course Piri Reis himself; another is the anonymous Tarih-i Hind-i Garbi (1580; see Thomas D. Goodrich, The Ottoman Turks and the New World: a study of the Tarih-i Hind-i Garbi and sixteenth century Ottoman Americana, Wiesbaden, 1990). Selman Reis's Layiha, Seydi Ali Reis's Muhit, as well as mappaemundi copied from European models and included in several Turkish portolan chart atlases complete the 16th century picture; in the 17th, the polymath KAtip (elebi (1611-58), together with such of his peers as Evliya (elebi (1611-84), Hiiseyin Hezarfenn (1610-91), and Ebu Behram Dimi?ki (fl. late 17th century) do represent an intellectual climate willing to step beyond the established parameter of values and to seek a share in Europe's intellectual revolution. As in the case of the Turkish trading colonies in Italy, or in that of the Ottoman Empire's purported Indian Ocean policy, we are dealing with situations or individuals atypical of the official policy or of the mainstream elite's (as typified for example by Naima) intellectual span. This immediately jumps to our eyes when we compare the volume, quality, and effect of "discovery" literature (meant in the broadest sense of the world) in the Ottoman Empire with its counterparts in contemporary Europe. Modern historiography has been mesmerized by atypical cases (on the pattern of the formula "the Ottomans closely followed the discoveries overseas: thus Piri Reis..., etc., oblivious of his isolation and ultimate end) to the point of drawing debatable conclusions; see for example Andrew Hess, "The evolution of the Ottoman seaborne empire in the Age of the Oceanic Discoveries, 1453-1525," American Historical Review 75 (1970), pp. 1892-1919; idem, "Piri Reis and the Ottoman response to the Voyages of Discovery," Terrae Incognitae 6 (1974), pp. 19-37; Abbas Hamdani, "Ottoman response to the discovery of

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man attitude toward this terra incognita was one of contemptuous indifference or rejection, and concrete examples are legion. (15) It of prinmay be useful, however, to mention one case-that ting. The invention was banned until the early 18th century, although Jewish and Christian minorities were allowed to use it for their languages. (16) It is true, however, that the full effect which the discoveries or inventions gaining momentum in Europe would eventually have may not have been readily visible to even the most lucid of contemporary observers. The above-mentioned elation over the invention of printing as a means of combating the Turk failed to grasp the much more important role it would play in the intellectual revolution; the quarrel between the Church and Galileo over the Earth's behavior missed the scholar's more fundamental contribution in demonstrating the importance of experiAmerica and the new route to India," Journal of the AmericanOrientalSociety 101 (1981), pp. 323-330. Heidrun Wurm's valuable book Der OsmanischeHistoriker in Hiiseyn b. Ga'fer,genanntHezarfenn,und die IstanbulerGesellschaft der Zweiten
Halfte des 17. Jahrhunderts, Freiburg, 1971, portrays an intellectual climate somewhat reminiscent of 15th century Italy, when scholasticism began to be challenged and new vistas were opening up. It is worth comparing the link that related Florentine Renaissance to the achievements of 17th century scientific revolution with the distance between Hezarfenn and contemporary Europe, however; here is Dr. Wurm's own conclusion: "Hezarfenn... gibt sich in seinen Werken als ein Mensch, dessen Sehnsucht vergangenen Zeiten gilt und dessen Leitbilder die grossen Herrscher der Vergangenheit sind, besonders Sultan Selim I" (p. 157). It is true that on p. 156 the author states that Hezarfenn may have voiced less conventional views in his conversations with foreign visitors, and that Katip 0elebi no longer believed a return to past values possible. The marginality of these harbingers of an Ottoman enlightenment is illustrated, however, by the fact that the ban on printing outlived them by yet another generation. (15) Some of the real causes of the incipient and then precipitous Ottoman decline began to be noticed by European observers as early as the 16th century, but not by Ottoman observers. For the best survey of the decline's causes see Halil Inalcik's Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600, London, 1973, especially pp. 51-52, 158, 165-166, 176-177, 180-82 (besides a number of specific studies by this foremost historian of the Ottoman Empire). (16) Selim Niizhet Ger;ek, Tiirkiye'de matbaaciligi [Printing in Turkey], Istanbul, 1939, pp. 35 ff.; Abdulhak Adnan Adivar, Osmanli Tiirklerinde ilim (2nd rev. ed., Istanbul, 1982, pp. 168 ff.; more frequently cited under its earliest edition in French: A. Adivar, La science chez les Turcs Ottomans, Paris, 1939). Ibrahim Miiteferrika, a Hungarian convert to Islam, organized in the 1720s the first Turkish press to publish books in Arabic script. Another century passed before the invention appeared in Iran; the first book printed there was a Koran lithographed at Tehran in 1240/1824-25; see Ddyirat al-ma'arif-i fdrsi, ed. Ghulamhusayn Musahib, 1345/ 1966, vol. 1, p. 786 (the so-called Qur'dn-i mu tamidi, because of the press's sponsor Manfchihr Khan Gurjl Mu'tamid al-Dawla).

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mental mathematized science; the Portuguese establishment of the Carreira da India could hardly be perceived by even the most alarmed of bystanders, whether Venetian or Arab or Indian, as a foretaste of the massive colonial enterprise of other European powers. Meanwhile the success of the Ottoman gaza in the Balkans caused elation in Turkey and occasional panic in Europe. The Turks became the victims of their own might and triumphs during our period's first two centuries (1400-1600): these triumphs reinforced their faith in the fundamental superiority of their system, an illusion that persisted long after the earlier victories had turned into laborious draws and then defeats (the 1683 siege of Vienna forms a striking chronological bracket). Neither the Great Discoveries nor the Discovery that by 1700 in Europe had brought about the Scientific and Technological Revolutions thus occurred in Islam, Ottoman or other. In fact, Adnan Adivar states in his classic(17) that in mathematics, physics, the natural sciences, and medicine, Ottoman Turkey remained throughout this period immersed in the thick fog of the Middle Ages ("ortacagin koyu dumanlari icinde") from which it began to emerge only toward the end of the 18th century. The statement is unduly harsh if understood to mean a slight to medieval science, but it does point to one essential difference between it and modern science which appeared with the Scientific Revolution: the former's often admirable achievements seldom generated a trend that would take a discovery or an invention to the next level of scientific or technological ascent; instead, they would remain isolated or wither away for lack of institutional coordination and propagation. One example is the discovery of the circulation of the blood. Conventional history always cites two steps-discovery of the "lesser circulation" (Colombo, 1559), and that of the "greater circulation" (Harvey, 1628). We now know, however, that 'Ala' al-Din Ibn al-Nafis (d. 1288), an Arab physician from Damascus but active chiefly at Cairo, discovered the former and described it in his Sharh tashrih al-qdnun and Sharh al-qdnun (meaning Ibn Sina's al-Qdnun fi 'l-libb). (18) Although some later Muslim physicians were aware of this discovery, most ignored it, and the
(17) Osmanli Tdrklerinde Ilim, p. 180. (18) Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic Science, World of Islam Festival Publishing Co., 1975, pp. 180-81; A. Iskandar, "Ibn al-Nafis," Dictionary of Scientific Biography, New York, 1974, 9: 602-606; E. Saaidi, Savants musulmans, promoteurs des sciences modernes, Rabat, 1988, pp. 182-84).

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momentum it might have given toward the discovery of the greater circulation was thus stillborn. It is true, though, that here we dangerously approach the pitfall of faulting a period or milieu for not living up to the possibilities of a later age. It is no accident that Colombo's and Harvey's discoveries occurred only after the publication of Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica (1543) and the generalization of autopsy; and that all three scholars had studied at the University of Padua (as had, incidentally, Copernicus and Galileo; another not quite coincidental though less direct relationship: both Vesalius and Copernicus published their magna opera-De revolutionibus orbium coeleslium in the latter's case-in the same year). All that illustrates the catalytic role the European university played in the birth of modern science. But what about the appearance of Ottoman critics who noticed that despite the devoutly Islamic structure of their state, serious flaws had begun to mar its functioning as early as the middle years of Siileyman the Magnificent's reign-at the conventionally accepted peak of Ottoman might and success, and the evidence that the empire had the talent and the potential to understand Europe or to emulate her? The Ottoman critics of Ottoman decline, whom we can conveniently bracket with the names of the historians Lutfi Pa?a (d. 1564) and Naima (d. 1716), are discussed in two masterly studies by Bernard Lewis,(19) who contrasts the apathy of the Ottoman ruling class with the continuing vigor of their intellectual life; he cites as examples of the latter, on the one hand, the group of writers who memorialized on the decline of the Empire, which they saw so clearly but were powerless to stop, and on the other, the brilliant school of Ottoman historiography, which reached the peak of its achievement in the work of Naima; moreover, Lewis also points to the continuing traditions of poetry, architecture, miniature, and music. I would add that if the writers saw clearly the Empire's decline, they gave no sign of truly grasping the kind of reform it needed-probably an impossible task, given their own Ottoman formation. As for Naima, the conclusion reached by Lewis V. Thomas(20) is worth quoting: "...World history is [for Naima] simply the history of Islam. At this time of crisis, Islam is the Ottoman state, and every good Muslim should realize this and act on that fact. Muslim history is the entire frame of refe(19) Lewis, "Ottoman observers of Ottoman decline," Islamic Studies (Karachi), 1 (1958), pp. 71-88; idem, The emergence of modern Turkey, Oxford, 1965, pp. 25-35. (20) A Study of Naima, ed. N. Itzkowitz, New York, 1972, pp. 121-22.

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rence. Early Muslim history is the idealized golden age when 'justice was pure and equity unmixed.' Islam will inevitably triumph because it is 'better.' The Ottoman system needs much reworking and restoration, but it is good and uniquely good and is destined to endure..." I would also add that B. Lewis's definition of vigorous intellectual life is valid strictly within this frame of reference; it was a vigor of the past, however, and not of the modern kind a society wishing to compete with Europe needed. Moreover, B. Lewis emphasizes, by not so much as even mentioning it, the glaring absence of that dimension of intellectual life which gave scientific Europe her sudden and overwhelming advantage-the and technological one (unless we exclude such works as Galileo's Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo, Tolemaico e Copernico, or Newton's Philosophiae naturalis principia mathemalica, or again the invention and use of the telescope or of tools for celestial navigation, from the sphere of intellectual history). Finally another perspective on Naima may not be out of place: a comparison with his older contemporary John Locke (1632-1704), author of the ground-breaking Essays concerning human understanding, sheds more light on the nature of the Ottoman crisis: Naima, a spokesman for his society's liberal elite, preaches a return to the values of the past in order to save the Empire's future, whereas the English In the philosopher is a harbinger of the Age of Enlightenment. last analysis, the innermost core of Turkey's problem was the fact that her elite lacked any genuine, spontaneous interest in modern science and thought, independent of such motives as preserving their empire or saving Islam from the infidel. In contrast, neither Galileo nor Harvey, Locke, or any other discoverer or thinker formulated his revolutionary theories in order to save a kingdom from disintegration or Christendom from an external enemy, but because of an internal need: a drive that may have had no less a share in the intellectual revolution than such factors as the rise of It is this psychological dimension that is perhaps the capitalism. hardest to account for; it may have something to do with the above-mentioned mutation through which the human spirit was set free to use its investigative and critical faculties as the sole and stimulating arbiter. In short, the Ottoman observers of Ottoman decline saw the ailment in the personal corruption of the personnel staffing the system, but not in the system itself: the remedy they advised was a return to their society's former virtues, not the thorough reform the system needed; above all, none seems to have grasped the mea-

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ning or even the existence of the exponentially growing discoveries in Europe and around the world. As for the talent and the potential: here is where Piri Reis (c. 1480-1554) and Taqi al-Din (15261585) step forward. Piri Reis was a Turkish corsair and captain in the sultan's navy, who had, during many years of forays throughout the Mediterranean, gained an intimate knowledge of this sea; at the same time he gathered information about the voyages of discovery. He then produced two remarkable works-a map of the world (1513), and the Kitab-i Bahriye (1526), a book of portolantype sailing directions for the Mediterranean. Of the map, only the portion showing the Atlantic, with the fringes of western Europe and Africa, and with the then known portion of the New World, has survived. Piri Reis wrote on it a long account of America's discovery, and stated that the map was partly based on Columbus's own map, which the Turkish corsairs found in a ship they had captured off Valencia. Internal evidence does indeed support this claim, and the model may even have been the earliest map the explorer had made of the Carribbean. Piri Reis also mentions other sources, four Portuguese maps among them. The map is a remarkable example of cartographic craftsmanship and an important historical document, as is the Kitab-i Bahriye; there, Piri Reis added a long introduction in which he described the world's oceans, the techniques of navigation, and the voyages of discovery made by the Spaniards and the Portuguese. The two works were presented or dedicated to two Ottoman sultans: the map to Selim I, the book to Siileyman the Magnificent. There is no record that Piri Reis was rewarded, but one thing is certain: his work generated no visible interest on the part of the sultans or of the rest of the ruling elite. Piri Reis was executed at Cairo in 1554, after his return from the Persian Gulf where he had failed to Whether the sentence capture Hormuz from the Portuguese.(21) was just or not is beside the point; the main fault rested with a government that had failed to use Piri Reis in the fields where he excelled, cartography and navigation at a time when cartographers and navigators of his stature were the pampered consultants of Europe's monarchs who vied with each other for their services. His tragic death symbolized Ottoman society's incomprehension and indifference to the message he had endeavored to deli(21) The circumstances of the execution are discussed in greater detail in my book Piri Reis and Ottoman cartography after Columbus, London, 1992, pp. 101-104; see also Cengiz Orhonlu, "Hint kaptanligi ve Piri Reis," Belleten 34 (1970), pp. 235-54.

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ver. There is no evidence of any attempt, on the part of the Ottoman government or anyone else, to establish a school of navigation and cartography, or an office of overseas exploration and trade, features so characteristic of southern and western Europe. Piri Reis would have been a logical expert in most of these respects. It may be instructive to compare Piri Reis's status and reward with those of some of his prominent contemporaries who were members of the elite. Matrakci Nasuh, a government issue of the palace establishment, produced commissioned illustrated accounts of Ottoman land as well as sea campaigns; the poet Baki raised the art of perfecting Turkish poetry after the Persian model to the highest level; the architect Sinan built ever more majestic mosques; the shaykh al-Isldm Ebussuud Yahya Efendi, an authority to whom Siileyman the Magnificent showed unflinching deference, wrote a tafsir which brought him still higher status and salary; and the palace workshop of miniaturists kept producing beautiful illuminated manuscripts (which may have eventually included several manuscripts of the Kilab-i Bahriye, but as works of art, not navigation). These and similar achievements were impressive, but they all stayed within the parameter of Ottoman society's psychological horizon, thus on the hither side of the bulwark erected against Europe's discoveries and Discovery. Meanwhile Piri Reis was the odd man out, and remained so until the reversal of values carried out by Kemal Atatiirk. (22) As for Taqi al-Din, an Arab astronomer and astrologer from Damascus, he too ran into a dead end, although of a different kind. An observatory was built in the Ottoman capital in 1575, and Tal al-Din, who had previously held the posts of qddi and muwaqqil at Cairo and Damascus, was placed in charge of it. There are indications that he was a brilliant man who had also constructed new types of mechanical clocks. Above all, he must have succeeded in gathering a vigorous team of colleagues and adepts eagerly availing themselves of the various instruments and tools of observation and study (including a remarkably modern-looking globe): this is beautifully portrayed in a famous Ottoman miniature.(23) In 1580,
(22) A. Afetinan, Piri Reis'in hayati ve eserleri: Amerika'nin en eski haritalari, Ankara, 1987, p. viii. (23) Farsca Yazmalari 1404, University Library, Istanbul. Reproductions of this miniature have become extremely popular with authors and publishers of books on Islamic civilization; they adorn for example the dust-jacket of Islam & the Arab World, ed. Bernard Lewis, New York, 1976 (front, besides ill. no. 24), and that

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however, the shaykh al-isldm Ahmed *emseddin Efendi persuaded Murad III that the observatory was harmful to nobler pursuits, upon which the sultan ordered its demolition. (24) The observatory's destruction is no less symbolic than Piri Reis's execution; it is also significant that in the same year, 1580, the King of Denmark Frederic II built an observatory for Tycho Brahe on the island of Hven; the accurate observations carried out by Brahe subsequently provided Kepler with data indispensable for his solution of planetary orbits, which in turn led to Newton's discovery of the laws of gravity and motion. (25) All these and other European scholars knew each other's works through ubiquitous printing, studies at various universities, or correspondence. It is a tantalizing thought to imagine what tack Muslim astronomy would have taken if the Istanbul observatory had not been demolished, if Taqi al-Din or his disciples had been given the opportunity to study their European colleagues' books, if they had in turn pitched in with their own ideas and findings, had them printed, and passed them on to other centers of Islamic learning. None of that could of course happen, because the structure of Ottoman society was no more open to discoveries or to the Discovery than to its own transformation: the Turks' avowed ideal was to preserve and perfect their concept of the theocratic Islamic state and civilization. Both the duration of the Ottoman Empire and the achievements of its civilization may be regarded as proof that that concept worked, that Ottoman society had no need for any of the discoveries made by Europe. Why indeed should the Turks have cared about the discovery of America, or of the sea route to India? They were doing perfectly well without the former, and in the Indian Ocean their Arab and other coreligionaries brought everything they needed from the Orient to the empire's doorstep. It
of S. H. Nasr's Islamic Science, World of Islam Festival Publishing Co., 1976 (back, besides plate 65). Such display is revealing of the intellectual reservoir the Muslim world had at its disposal, but it is also misleading: for it obscures the different tack the mainstream establishment took at this critical period. (24) See Adivar, op. cit., pp. 99-109; Aydin Sayili, The observatory in Islam, Ankara, 1988, pp. 289-305; Sevim Tekeli, 16'inci asirda Osmanlilarda saat ve Takiyuddin'in mekanik saat konstriiksiyonuna dair "En parlak yildizlar" adli eseri [Clocks in Ottoman Turkey in the 16th century and Taqi al-Din's work named "The brightest stars" on the subject of construction of mechanical clocks], Ankara, 1966; Ahmad Yfsuf al-Hasan, Taqi al-Din wa-'l-handasa al-mikanikiya al-'arabiya..., Aleppo, 1986. (25) Cohen, op. cit., pp. 117-25.

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would also have been hard to prove that Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's moons, or Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood, were worth the price of disturbing the established values and methods: the great Arab astronomer Ibn al-Shatir (d. 1383) had succeeded in saving the illusion of Ptolemy's universe by correcting him mathematically, and even Europe would need much more time before her medicine could abandon the time-honored methods of Galen and Ibn Sina and benefit from discoveries like Harvey's. Printing, too, never matched the perfection of the scribe's calligraphy, and the invention may well have looked like defilement if applied to the art of the Islamic book, besides incurring the displeasure of the ulema. And while Europe became increasingly fascinated, through a succession of changing attitudes and motives, by the Orient that had started with the Holy Land, the classical heritage, and eventually included the Ottoman Empire, she had nothing comparable to offer the Turks who continued to view her as an irrelevant world which they would notice only on the battlefield or through their half-open door when her representatives came to knock on it. The Ottoman economy and mode of production continued to work in the established medieval way, and no reasons seemed to exist for changing that. In other words, exploration, discovery, development were Europe's ideas and undertakings; the Ottoman Empire had perfected a system whose virtue was stability and which appeared capable first of preservation and then of conventional, cyclical change as portrayed by a philosopher of history whom the Turks knew and admired, Ibn Khaldun. In the last analysis, it is the Ottoman system that honored history's norm, whereas Europe's multifaceted revolution may have been an exception whose ultimate consequences still remain to be seen. The more immediate results, however, were those of the world of 1700 in which Europe had begun to force her will and might upon the rest of mankind: in Ottoman Turkey this would cause, from the 18th century onward, the replacement of the ideal of the gaza by the equally obsessive preoccupation of how to withstand Europe's onslaught and what kind of her values to adopt. China's case is instructive in a different sense-that of a society which came close to creating its own counterpart to Europe's discoveries, including perhaps even Discovery, but then resolutely cancelled the venture, sealing thereby its own fate with consequences not unlike those that befell the Ottoman Empire. The young Ming dynasty had in 1400 a vast, populous, and wealthy

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country with a tremendous reservoir of human talent at its disposal. Chinese science had a long tradition, and if it did not quite measure up to that of Islam or Christendom, that may have been because of the country's relative isolation from the rest of the world. Chinese technology, on the other hand, was second to none, and some of it manifested itself in superb naval architecture: Chinese merchant ships whose construction still invites our admiration regularly plied the oceans all the way to the Malabar coast of India. Seaborne trade represented an important exception to China's otherwise self-centered outlook; it was an ancient tradition whose roots went at least as far back as the Tang dynasty and its contemporary Abbasid period, but by a remarkable coincidence the first three decades of the 15th century witnessed a new type of massive enterprise at sea. In 1405 an extraordinary expedition left the ports of southeast China for the Indian Ocean. (26) Led by the Muslim Chinese eunuch Cheng-ho, it consisted of 62 large ships and some 37,000 personnel. This sailing was repeated by six others until 1433, and some ships visited the ports of the Persian Gulf, Arabia, the Red Sea, and East Africa. The places they called at usually gave them a friendly reception-Mamluk Jidda is an example-and local rulers, pleased by the gentlemanly behavior of the guests, appreciated the valuable presents brought by them and offered theirs in return. Friction was rare, and although the visitors engaged in trade, that does not seem to have been the princiWhat then was it? Neepal goal or activity of the expeditions. dham gives a composite explanation, with "proto-scientific" as part of it:(27) for the expeditions brought back whole arrays of exotic plants, animals, minerals, and other objects of interest, to be deposited a the Imperial Museum; moreover, detailed reports

(26) The Cambridge History of China, vol. 7 (1988), pp. 232-36; Colin A. Ronan, The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China: an abridgement of Joseph Needham's original text, vol. 3, Cambridge UP, 1986, pp. 128-59; Ma Huan, Ying-yai sheng-lan, "The overall survey of the ocean's shores" (1433), tr. Feng Ch'en-chun, Cambridge, 1970. (27) Ronan, op. cit., p. 148. "Showing the flag," spreading the fame of China's might and grandeur far and wide is also cited as a probable component of the If so, it still constituted a remarkably enlightened form expeditions' motivation. of doing so. The glaring contrast between the sophisticated presents brought by the Chinese and the paltry objects brought by the Portuguese (to be followed by the Dutch and English who brought chiefly their own military superiority), and the absence of any colonizing or proselytizing goals, complete the contrast between China's and Europe's discovery voyages.

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were apparently written and then stored in the imperial archives. Chronologically, these expeditions slightly preceded and then for a time overlapped with those of the Portuguese. They dwarfed them, however, in size, and differed in most other respects: no recovery of a holy shrine occupied by a religious enemy, no search for an ally against him, no mission to convert the heathen, no quest for gold or for direct access to spices. In other words, the seven Chinese expeditions stand out as perhaps the purest as well as the most impressive example of what a society intent to expand its horizons is capable of, in fact as something that never happened before or since (except perhaps for the American space program)-and certainly much more admirable-in scale and spirit-than anything undertaken by the Europeans. Yet all that was cut short, and China withdrew into a cocoon for a long slumber. Not only were the expeditions discontinued: the accounts of their findings were gathered from the archives and burned in 1477;(28) and by the 16th century, all major shipping from the ports of China was forbidden, and any infraction was treated as a criminal offense. This radical reversal was brought about by the victory of the conservative Neo-Confucian bureaucratic class, which after the inspired Emperor Yung-lo's death defeated the rival palace-protected party of the Grand Eunuch. From then on this class not only affected the empire's policies but also controlled its educational system and thus the mainstream of intellectual life. No less than in the Ottoman Empire, in China too we witness a deliberate rejection of the discoveries and the Discovery by a conservative establishment, although only after the country had demonstrated its potential to rival and quite possibly surpass Europe-proof that history's course in the sole known direction is not necessarily inevitable: there can be a plurality of options, and the role of a personality or the victory of one faction over another can set a fateful or fatal course. There is of course one important difference between China's and Turkey's withdrawal or conservatism: in China it was brought about by the victory of a bureaucratic establisment which saw the country's and its own best interest in a frozen status-quo; whereas in Turkey it was grounded in religion. This raises the question of whether Islam itself ruled out the Discovery, the birth of modern science.

(28) Ronan, op. cit., p. 146.

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The florescence of the sciences in the Arab and Iranian worlds is well known, as is Europe's debt to them. For all their excellence, however, these were medieval sciences: they safely stayed within the boundaries of acceptability on both sides of the religious divide, and they lacked the critical experimental method and its mathematized quantitative dimension that appeared with the Scientific Revolution (and, no doubt, both caused it and were caused by it). The breaking of that acceptability's monopoly was one prerequisite of this revolution, as was willingness to experiment, to innovate, to challenge established preconceptions. Secular Europe found it easier to take this plunge than theocratic Islam. I have already suggested that the seeds for the eventual divergence may have been sown from the beginning. The abovementioned Islamic identification of the spiritual with the temporal, often quite muted or broadly interpreted, never quite disappeared. It gave higher education a permanently religious slant, preventing thereby the worldly sciences from gaining a solid institutional foothold, and it made them depend instead on the support of an enlightened sponsor, royal or other. The fact that Islamic science reached such high levels between the 9th and 15th centuries is due to this broad interpretation and support, as well as to many admirable aspects of Islamic civilization: al-Ma'mfn's Bayt al-hikma in Baghdad, al-Hakim's Ddr al'ilm in Cairo, the numerous libraries all over the Islamic world, Hulagu's observatory in Maragha and Ulugh Beg's in Samarkand, or again the magnificent hospitals where not only the treatment of the sick but also medical None of these research was practised, all speak for themselves. institutions, however, proved able to establish the consistent intellectual climate best represented by the university, where the human mind, through constant and mutual fertilization, would in the 15th century begin to free itself from the bonds of scholasticism and start its vertiginous ascent. That happened only in Europe. (29) In contrast, the vulnerability of the Islamic system was demonstrated by the Ottomans' narrow interpretation of its inherited values. Theocracy came to reign supreme: the sultan, taking his implicit status as caliph to heart, invested the greater
(29) According to some scholars (for example A. C. Crombie,RobertGrosseteste and the origins of experimental Oxford, 1953)the seedlings of this science,1100-1170, revolution began to sprout in Europe as far back as the 12th century; but see the critical analysis of Crombie'sthesis by A. Koyre, Etudesd'histoire la pensde de scientifique, Paris, 1973, pp. 61-86.

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part of his realm's psychological as well as material resources in the gaza against Europe; the shaykh al-isldm was deferred to as the supreme authority, ensuring the undisputed rule of the shari a; and the madrasa ensured that the intellectual atmosphere in the mainstream of Ottoman society would remain solidly scholastic. (30) The irony is that this process coincided with the Renaissance and the subsequent birth of modern science in Europe. Theocracy and scholasticism as embodied by the Ottoman Empire thus are, in my opinion, among the principal reasons why the Scientific Revolution did not occur in Islam. Other interpretations are of course possible, and I want to conclude by mentioning one which I consider especially significant because of its highly spiritual content: for it claims that the roots of the divergent paths that Islam and Christendom took at the time of the discovery reside in an intrinsic conceptual difference between the two religions. This thesis, proposed by S. H. Nasr, implies that it is a mistake to examine the Islamic sciences from the point of view of modern science and of the "evolutionistic" conception of history. According to him, Muslims consider history as a series of accidents that in no way affect the nontemporal principles of Islam: Muslims are consequently more interested in knowing and "realizing" these principles than in cultivating originality and change as intrinsic virtues. The Persian scholar points to the cube of the Ka'ba, the stability of which symbolizes the permanent and immutable character of Islam. "Once the spirit of the Islamic revelation had brought into being... the civilization whose manifestations may be called distinctly Islamic, the main interest turned away from change and 'adaptation.' The arts and sciences came to possess instead a stability and a 'crystallization' based on the immutability of the principles from which they had issued forth; it is this stability that is too often mistaken in the West today for stagnation and sterility." (31) In another place where he discusses Europe's cosmological revolution, Professor Nasr goes beyond the theme of stability and crystallization: he implies that rending asunder the bounds of the medieval finite Universe amounted to a revolt against Heaven, an act committed by the West but not by Islam; the latter remained content with seeking
(30) This evolution is brilliantly summarized in Halil Inalcik's Ottoman Empire, pp. 179-85. (31) Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Science and civilization in Islam, Cambridge, 1987, p. 21.

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the Infinite in the beyond instead of breaking those bounds, whereas the Copernican Revolution profaned an esoteric truth and thereby shattered the iconic aspect of the cosmos. "Anyone acquainted with the structure of Islamic thought can see why such a process [i.e., a cosmological revolution] could not have taken place in Islam despite all the available scientific tools and techniques, which were put to quite different use in the West." (32) At closer incidentally echoes some inspection, Nasr's interpretation-which of the views with which GhazzMll (d. 1111) established the definitive primacy of religious over profane sciences-is not too distant from my seeing the identification of the spiritual with the temporal as one of the main reasons for Islam's resistance to change. The difference lies in the reversal of values: I confess to considering such identification (or more exactly, a hierarchy where the temporal is subordinated to the spiritual) as a weakness, just as I regard the resulting "stability" as ultimately self-defeating; whereas Professor Nasr perceives it as subordination of an irrelevant exoteric to a superior esoteric truth. This is of course a mystic's vision, and I would not dare to argue with it. And the Persian sufi may be right: where have the West's Scientific and Technological Revolutions, modern science, progress brought us? Not much closer to grasping the mystery of Creation, but quite possibly to the threshold of a process that will ultimately bring about the extinction of life on Earth.
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(Princeton, N.J.)

(32) IslamicScience:an illustrated study, World of Islam Festifal PublishingCo., 1976, p. 105.