Timekeepers and Sufi Mystics: Technical Knowledge Bearers of the Ottoman Empire

Günergun A. F.

Technology And Culture, cilt.62, sa.2, ss.348-372, 2021 (SCI İndekslerine Giren Dergi)

  • Yayın Türü: Makale / Tam Makale
  • Cilt numarası: 62 Konu: 2
  • Basım Tarihi: 2021
  • Dergi Adı: Technology And Culture
  • Sayfa Sayıları: ss.348-372


This article shows how the Ottoman understanding of "useful sciences" was reserved for the religious sciences, offering an alternative reading to the present scholarship on Useful and Reliable Knowledge (URK), which emphasizes economic gain. As religious obligations, like the call for prayer, required precise timekeeping, pursuing astronomical knowledge was deemed "useful." Timekeepers and Sufi mystics (dervishes) represent a link between artisanal and scientific knowledge in Ottoman Turkey between the sixteenth and the nineteenth century. Combining their scholarly knowledge and artisanal skills, they produced traditional time-measuring instruments like quadrants and sundials. With the advent of the mechanical clock in the Ottoman Empire, dervishes became engaged in clock-making. Timekeepers kept producing quadrants, while they also acquired skills in repairing and setting mechanical clocks. This understanding prevailing among madrasa (religious) scholars changed drastically in the nineteenth century when scholars trained in modern schools translated European scientific and technical texts that were defined as holders of useful knowledge.