VISIBLE ISLAM IN MODERN TURKEY – Book Sample
Foreword – VISIBLE ISLAM IN MODERN TURKEY
When I visited Turkey for the first time in the spring of 1952 I was deeply impressed by the fact that the call to prayer was recited once more in Arabic and no longer, as had been the case for many years, in Turkish. This was the first sign of a reawakening of Islam in Turkey ± viewed by some with delight, by others with apprehension or outright fear.
Between 1954 and 1959 I was teaching History of Religions at the recently founded Faculty of Islamic Theology (IlaÃhiyat FakuÈ ltesi) in Ankara. This was an enormous chance to watch Turkish Islam all over the country, between Edirne and Kilis, between Istanbul and Erzincan. Along with my students I visited their relatives in small Anatolian towns.
Konya, the center of mystical Islam, was just a few hours’ drive away from Ankara and became a second home for me, enamored as I was with the work and thought of MevlaÃna CelaÃladdin Rumi whose Persian mystical poetry with its colorful imagery gained a new quality for me as I discovered in it a reflection of the Anatolian nature as well as an echo of the heartbeat of the warmhearted, hospitable people of the area.
And while driving through the long roads of central Anatolia I recited the poetry of Yunus Emre whose verse is still alive in the mountains of Anatolia because he has symbolized the heart’s longing for the Divine Beloved in images taken from the daily life of his country.
And who but Pir Sultan Abdal would compare himself to a lamb, shivering in the icy winds of Sivas?
This was the country where I was confronted day after day with living Islam, with a piety of great depth, and as I ± being a scholar trained in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish ± knew the history, the literature and the theology of Islam fairly well my life was immensely enriched by watching my Turkish friends in their daily life, participating with them in the iftar, the meal at the end of the fasting day in Ramadan, or silently sitting in a corner while they were performing their prayers.
These years strongly colored my understanding of Islam for they brought me in touch with the living faith, and the questions raised by my students in the IlaÃhiyat FakuÈ ltesi certainly made me aware of the problems these young people were facing in their attempt to be good Muslims as well as citizens of the modern world.
For this reason I warmly welcome the book by Adil OÈ zdemir and Kenneth Frank. It will be a guide for those who approach Turkey as non specialists and may be confused by discovering different rites and customs. Such an introduction will also, I hope, help to remove some obstacles in understanding Islam, a religion so much maligned in the West.
The fact that it is the fruit of cooperation between a Christian and a Muslim author secures its objectivity, and the simplicity with which it is composed makes it a fine introduction for everyone who wants to know more about religious customs in Turkey without knowing any- thing about Islam.
I like in particular the distinction between the official duties and the popular or traditional additions and finally also those aspects of piety which are basically alien to the Koran or the tradition.
The reader, who is introduced into the rich heritage of Islam as it is practiced in Turkey, will at the same time learn quite a bit about the religious attitude in other near Eastern countries, and he or she will certainly come to appreciate the expressions of a deep, heartfelt piety as I have always encountered it among my Turkish friends, be they high sophisticated urban mystics or illiterate old women in a faraway village.
I hope that those who read this introduction will then approach Turkish Islam with respect and admiration, for this religious tradition in its many different aspects has formed and colored life in Turkey from the Middle Ages to our day, even in times of strict laicism.
Bonn, Kurban Bayrami Annemarie Schimmel
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