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The Particular Will (al-irādat al-juz’iyya): Excavations Regarding a Latecomer in Kalām Terminology on Human Agency and its Position in Naqshbandi Discourse

Philipp Bruckmayr


The emergence of the notion of the particular will (al-irādat al-juz’iyya) and similar terms remains a largely overlooked late development in the discussion of human agency within the field of kalām. Although absent as a terminus technicus from classical Māturīdi-Ḥanafi works, it became standard usage in many Ottoman and post-Ottoman texts, beginning in the 17th century. Intriguingly, it seems as if the notion and concept of the particular will grew to particular prominence among Ottoman Naqshbandis. This, in turn, conditioned the enduring reliance on this specific terminology even among major Turkish scholars of the 20th-21st centuries. Seemingly unattached to issues of Sufism, its contemporary usage seems to provide an example of how a discourse and its distinctive terminology, generated primarily within Turkey’s formerly most widespread ṭarīqa, has filtered into the works of eminent figures of the state-induced post-ṭarīqa era. This process has, among others, provided us with an unexpected indicator of the degree to which such a figure as Muḥammad al-Birkawī (d. 1573) and the local Naqshbandiyya have influenced Turkish Islamic culture and doctrine as (re)presented by Turkish religious thinkers acquiring mass followings in the republican era.

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  • 1  I want to express my gratitude for the generous support provided by the International Research Cen (...)

1The present study1 is less concerned with tracing the origins or the originator(s) of the notion of the particular will (al-irādat al-juz’iyya), but rather with unraveling the trajectory and mechanisms, which provided for its casual occurrence in a work devoted exclusively to Sufism by the contemporary Turkish Sufi scholar Fethullah Gülen (b. 1938). It will be argued that the notion and concept of the “particular will” with its complement, the “universal will”, gained great prominence in Ottoman Naqshbandi discourse. Accordingly, its further theoretical development, transmission and popularization appear to have rested on certain strands within the Ottoman Naqshbandiyya. Thus, its common usage by major religious leaders of the republican era lacking any arīqa affiliation, such as Gülen and before him Said Nursi (d. 1960), is indicative of the resilience of Naqshbandi heritage in contemporary Turkish Islam far beyond arīqa boundaries, leading to its presence in matters with only a marginal inherent relationship to Sufism. This contention will be supported by a compiled list of authors of works focusing explicitly on the particular will and the problems and discussions associated with it. Subsequently, a more vague picture will emerge focusing on the provenience and character of other pieces of Islamic literature from the fields of kalām, law, Sufism and ethics, in which the notion is employed. Needless to say, the reliance on this kind of literature-based progressive-regressive method, moving backwards from Gülen’s 21st-century usage and forward from its earliest formulations in the 15th century, is indeed not just a quest for discerning historical, geographical and discursive patterns of usage. More than that, it is, by necessity, one directed towards the earliest occurrence of the subject of inquiry in any text. However, this search for the roots can hardly be accomplished in this study, for which the later-day manifestation of the concept in a particular lastingly influential pre- and early modern discourse, functioning as a reservoir of traditional knowledge to be drawn upon at the present day in a particular place, region or global community is of greater interest. Likewise, for this purpose, identifying the figures popularizing the notion and usage of the particular, and its complement, the universal will is of more immediate relevance than the identity of its most likely originator. Still, questions regarding the function of the concept (and its specific terminology), although not among our primary concerns, cannot be fully excluded from the inquiry.

2Many present observers currently consider Fethullah Gülen to be the most prominent and influential Islamic intellectual and thinker of present Turkey. Despite the possibility of such reverence being fueled by a desire to magnify his already larger than life image (both in his native country and abroad by Western and Turkish scholars, devoted followers and similarly devoted detractors), Gülen is safely included among the most prominent and influential representatives of the religious spectrum in Turkey. Part of his appeal between global Turkish and other audiences derives from his stature as a modern Sufi, representing traditional Sufi values and ways, seemingly in perfect harmony with modernity, without any arīqa affiliation. Western observers are particularly attracted by his edifying literature on inter-religious dialogue, peace-building and Muslim empowerment through education and volunteers’ work, all guided by and grounded in Islam. Sympathetic Turkish audiences (including ex-pat communities around the globe) are likewise displaying a keen interest in his Sufi literature. Through the efforts of Gülen-related magazines, publishing houses and the like an impressive outreach of his writings is guaranteed. Thus, his by now already four-volume expositions of Sufi concepts entitled Kalbin Zümrüt Tepeleri, have witnessed multiple print-runs in Turkey, full as well as partial translations into Arabic, English (as Emerald Hills of the Heart: Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism), German, Spanish and other Western languages. Moreover, its whole content can be accessed freely in the Internet via its own official webpage. Additionally all the mostly brief articles of the compendium have been published before as center-folds in the Sızıntı magazine, which is claimed to have a readership of 700,000 (Agai 2004: 150, 167f.; Aslandoğan 2007: 608 n. 72). It may thus be contended that his writings and the ideas presented therein are likely to have an influence beyond his lifetime.

  • 2  On the author, his thought and his major work see in particular Kurz (2011: 56-108) and Radtke (20 (...)

3For the present study, he represents an Anatolian tradition of Islamic scholarship, which he himself lays claim to. In a less general manner he can more precisely rather be identified as personifying the legacy of particularly important and influential strands within this tradition, namely that of the Ottoman Naqshbandiyya and its offshoots of the republican post-arīqa era, most prominently the Nurcu cemaat. On an even more microscopic level the unexpected field of kalām will provide additional evidence for the lasting influence of the 16th-century figure of Muammad al-Birkawī (also al-Birgilī or al-Birgiwī, d. 1573) and one particular reaction to his legacy. It is the contention of this paper that the unlikely success of a specific terminology formulated by al-Birkawī represents a major, albeit unexpected, measure of his influence. It draws our attention to the historical resilience and continuing relevance of the pietistic Ottoman/Turkish tradition championed by this figure (Schulze 1996: 299)2, whose significance is still to be appreciated by scholarship, and the groups facilitating it.

From Gülen back to al-Birkawi: the trail of al-irādat al-juz’iyya as a popular concept

  • 3  For the relevant passages see al-Nasafī (1990-3: II, 541ff.; 2005: 75-77, 98-100) and al-Taftazānī (...)
  • 4  On these works and their role in the history of Ottoman kalām see Bruckmayr 2009: 64, 66-69.
  • 5  To the author’s knowledge, the first scholarly work including a thorough discussion of the concept (...)

4In the second part of a series of articles devoted to human conscience (tr. vicdan) published in 2003, Gülen discusses, among other things, the hotly debated question of human agency (Gimaret 1980). Explicitly endorsing what he denotes to be the Māturīdi position, he also describes an affirmed human free will as being made up of and conditioned by the interplay of the universal (irade-i külliye) and the particular will (irade-i jüz’iye) (Gülen 2003 & 2004-9: III, 194f.). The accompanying explanation makes clear that he is referring to Abū Manūr al-Māturīdī’s (d. 944-5) scheme of two distinct human capacities of willpower (sg. istiāa or qudra). The first is man’s natural, potential and permanent precondition for free action, the other is created simultaneously with a given act, resulting from free choice, and actually effecting it by providing the means to exercise the former (merely potential) capacity (al-Māturīdī 2005: 410-420; Pessagno 1984; Rudolph 1997: 336-343). It has to be noted, however, that the very notion of the particular will, let alone its usage as a technical term, is absent not only from al-Māturīdī’s foundational k. al-Tawīd, but also from classical and in Ottoman times still widely quoted Māturīdi texts such as Abū l-Mu‛īn al-Nasafī’s (d. 1114) Tabirat al-Adilla and Bar al-Kalām as well as Najm al-Dīn al-Nasafī’s (d. 1142) preeminent work al-‛Aqā’id3. What is more, this likewise applies to major post-classical anafi-Māturīdi kalām and uūl al-fiqh works, which greatly influenced the way the school was perceived in Ottoman times, such as those composed by adr al-Sharī‛a al-Thānī al-Mabūbī (d. 1346) and Ibn Humām (d. 1457)4. So what now with respects to this alleged Māturīdi notion, which is, at least as far as terminology is concerned, conspicuously absent from the most widely distributed among the schools’ texts produced between the 10th and 15th centuries5? Indeed, a frequent occurrence of the term, its cognates or related ones such as al-ikhtiyārāt al-juz’iyya, al-ikhtiyār al-juz’ī, al-juz’ al-ikhtiyārī and al-irādat (or al-ikhtiyār) al-kulliyya can only be testified to by the late 17th century, although, as will be shown, a number of exceptions can be identified.

  • 6  To the list provided in Bruckmayr (2009: 67), there has to be added a r. fī l-masā’il al-mukhtalif (...)
  • 7  Clearly not using it as a technical term, Kamāl al-Dīn al-Bayāī (d. 1098/1687) also characterizes (...)

5It would only be natural, given the apparently late emergence of the particular will as a technical term in kalām and its status of belonging to an ever elusive and contested issue in the field, to refer to the limited number of mostly Ottoman works comparing Māturīdi and Ashʽari standpoints on specific matters of Islamic theology. Currently, thirteen such treatises (excluding Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī’s pre-Ottoman Nūniyya) are known to have come down to us6. Among these only the two Princeton manuscripts, namely the undated and anonymous r. Jāmi‛a bi l-ikhtilāf bayna Abī Manūr al-Māturīdī wa Abī l-asan al-Ash‛arī and al-Risālat al-amzāwiyya fī taqīq al-farq bayna kasbay al-Māturīdī wa l-Ash‛arī of Abd al-Qāir b. Muammad Darwīsh Efendī al-amzāwī (d. 1273/1856) (Mach 1977: 185) were inaccessible to the present author. Due to the specific subject conveyed in its title and its dating, it can almost be taken for granted that the latter text is employing and discussing the notion of the particular will. Among the remaining texts of the genre two late specimens—al-ʽIqd al-jawharī by the preeminent Naqshbandi Khālid iyā’ al-Dīn al-Baghdādī (d. 1241/1827), founder of the Naqshbandiyya-Khālidiyya, and its commentary by ‛Abd al-amīd al-Kharpūtī (d. 1320/1902-3)—are likewise specifically concerned with the question of human agency as discussed in both Māturīdi and Ash‘ari terms. The same goes for the earlier work of another notable Naqshbandi: Taqīq al-intiār of ʽAbd al-Ghānī al-Nābulūsī (d. 1143/1731). Otherwise, among the more general pieces of the category, the notion is only referred to in the r. Mumayyiza of Muammad al-Isbirī Qāīzāde (d. after 1130/1717)7. Intriguingly, al-Nābulūsī (2008: 131) only briefly touches upon the subject (using the term al-juz’ al-ikhtiyārī) and refers his readers immediately to his commentary to al-Birkawī’s major work al-arīqat al-Muammadiyya. In al-Isbirī Qāīzāde’s case we are indeed dealing with a direct quotation from al-Birkawī (2008: 74). Still more significantly, in the oldest known treatise explicitly focusing on the concept in these words, a short r. al-Irādat al-juz’iyya by the little known Abū l-Qāsim Efendī al-Anqarawī (d. after 1701) (fol. 16b), al-Birkawī is again invoked as the source of this concept, despite the fact that the latter (as also quoted correctly by Qāīzāde) uses the expression al-ikhtiyārāt al-juz’iyya instead (1844: 71).

  • 8  The content of the work is summarized in Radtke (2000 & 2002: 42-50). I am indebted to an anonymou (...)
  • 9  This was also the case with the Berlin manuscript used for this study.
  • 10  Al-Fanārī (2006: 3) left a hagiographic work on the arīqa’s eponym Bahā’ al-Dīn al-Naqshbandī (d. (...)
  • 11  He also seems to have foreshadowed al-Nābulūsī’s al-juz’ al-ikhtiyārī in the form of qism al-ikhti (...)
  • 12  Strikingly, none of the four mentioned probable sources are among those cited by al-Birkawī in his (...)

6Now we are able to identify al-Birkawī and his al-arīqat al-Muammadiyya as the most probable main figure behind the popularization of the concept of al-irādat al-juz’iyya and its use in various similar terminological forms. This may at first come as a surprise, as this work, generally devoted to ethics and involving a scathing attack on popular Sufi and scholarly practices prevailing in al-Birkawī’s time, is only marginally concerned with issues of kalām8. Even though al-Birkawī is definitely not the one to have coined this term, “[i]t is not clear, however, from where he got the concept of partiality” (Kurz 2001: 162). Some probable sources shall be mentioned here. It appears already in at least three 14th/15th-century works. Firstly, in a r. al-Qaā’ wa l-qadar by Jamāl al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Razzāq al-Kāshānī (d. 1330 or later), which is at times wrongly attributed to al-Ghazālī (fols. 63a & 64b)9. Secondly, (as ikhtiyār juz’ī) in an uūl al-fiqh work by the eminent Ottoman Sufi scholar Shams al-Dīn al-Fanārī (d. 1431) (2006: I, 193), a foundational figure in Ottoman Islam (through his popularization of Ibn al-‘Arabī’s wadat al-wujūd) (Godlas 2009: 31-36) with a rarely mentioned Naqshbandi affiliation10. Thirdly, it is likewise to be found in a theological commentary of Amad b. Mūsā al-Khayālī (d. after 862/1458) (fol. 29a). While also not yet employing it as a technical term, adr al-Sharī‛at al-Thānī already noted that human ikhtiyār is merely partial (juz’ī) in his anti-Ashʽari al-Muqaddimāt al-arba‛ (āfiz al-Qūnawī fol. 69b) contained in his al-Tawdī11, which was undoubtedly one of the most often consulted books of uūl al-fiqh in Ottoman times12. Given the wide implications of the issue of human agency, including this-worldly legal accountability, not only al-Fanārī and adr al-Sharī‛a, but also later Sufis such as al-Nābulūsī (Ms. a: fol. 6b-7a) would of course likewise consider the issue against a legal background.

Characteristics of authors devoting works to the particular will

  • 13  These are an anonymous Berlin Ms. cited by Kurz (2011: 160) and treatises by ‛Abd al-Bāqī Esirīzād (...)
  • 14  Unfortunately this manuscript is defective. The 1931 Aleppo print edition was inaccessible to me. (...)

7The importance of al-Birkawī and Ottoman Naqshbandis such as al-Nābulūsī in the spread and development of the notion of the particular will, however, becomes more obvious by taking a closer look at the limited number of known works centering either explicitly or implicitly on this concept. Apart from the aforementioned obscure text by al-Anqarawī, on which there exists also a commentary by al-Bekbāzārī (d. 1715) (Ms.), who fittingly likewise commented on al-Birkawī’s (theological) waiyya (Kaḥḥāla 1957-61: IX, 104), and a few others13, all stemming from the Ottoman Syrian and Anatolian Naqshbandi milieu. Moreover, most of the authors concerned are additionally, as mirrored in some of their other writings (and of course the relevant texts themselves), displaying a keen interest in and thorough reflection on the oeuvre of al-Birkawī. The foremost figure in this category is surely al-Nābulūsī, who, besides Taqīq al-intiār and his major commentary on al-Birkawī (al-adīqat al-nadiyya shar al-arīqat al-Muammadiyya), in which he expectedly discusses the issue (1873: I, 508-513), wrote at least three more treatises on the particular will, especially the elaborate al-Kawkab al-sārī fī aqīqat al-juz’ al-ikhtiyārī14 (Ms. a).

  • 15 Already al-Birkawī describes free will as consisting of ikhtiyārāt juz’iyya wa- irādāt qalbiyya (pa (...)

8A r. al-Irādat al-juz’iyya is also preserved from Muammad Sāčaqlīzāde al-Mar‛ashī (d. between 1733 and 1739) (GAL: SII, 498). This highly interesting figure initially studied under a local Anatolian mufassir and Naqshbandi and later became a student and khalīfa of al-Nābulūsī (Reichmuth 2004: 497). Within the present discussion three other particular works of his should be mentioned to give us an indication of the relevance of al-Birkawī in Sāčaqlīzāde’s discourse. Firstly, he wrote a commentary to the introduction of al-arīqat al-Muammadiyya. Then, quite significant, in his major work on classification of the sciences and educational reform (Tartīb al-ʽulūm), the author has selected al-Birkawī’s catechism (e.g. his famous untitled risāla/waiyyya) as the one standard text in the field of uūl al-dīn to be relied upon for both young and mature students in his scheme of a reformed course of study (Reichmuth 2004: 497, 508). In turn, he deals with theological issues out of al-Birkawī’s work in his Radd al-Jalāl (Mach 1977: 197). It is most likely that Dā’ūd b. Muammad al-Qārī (d. 1747), who wrote a text on the topic clearly drawing on al-Birkawī’s expositions (r. fī Bayān mas’alat al-ikhtiyārāt al-juz’iyya wa l-irādāt al-qalbiyya), belonged to Sāčaqlīzāde’s circle15. Sa‛d al-Dīn Sulaymān Mustaqīmzāde (d. 1787), a major 18th-century Mujaddidi-Naqshbandi shaykh of Istanbul, who completed the first Turkish translation of Sirhindī’s Maktūbāt (Weismann 2007: 76), left a r. al-‛Aliyya fī l-irādat al-juz’iyya wa l-kulliyya (Bursalı 1971: I, 157f.). Similarly, the two remaining works of this category were penned by Naqshbandis. First there is another treatise on the particular will by a minor figure, Muammad b. Muṣṭafā al-Qūnawī al-Naqshbandī (d. 1234/1819) (Ms.). Yet, then we already arrive at the presumably instrumental figure in the transmission of the notion of the particular will into 20th and 21st-century Turkish Islam after al-Birkawī and al-Nābulūsī, Khālid iyā’ al-Dīn al-Baghdādī (d. 1827).

9The founder of the Naqshbandiyya-Khālidiyya, which not only came to rapidly eclipse older Naqshbandi lineages in Anatolia but also to ultimately dominate the whole sphere of uruq in Ottoman Turkey, produced, with his al-‛iqd al-jawharī fī l-farq bayna kasbay al-Māturīdī wa l-Ash‛arī, the first work of the mentioned kind of comparative theology to receive the honor of print. As can already be gleaned by its title, the explicit focus lies on comparing the two schools’ positions regarding human agency and free will, which hints at the fact that Khālid might well have been inspired by al-Nābulūsī’s pioneering Taqīq al-intiār and al-Kawkab al-sarī. Although initially representative of a broader analysis than the former it also centers on such a comparison (al-Nābulūsī Ms. a: fol. 16a-20b). Tellingly, Khālid’s text is also known as r. fī Taqīq mas’alat al-irādat al-juz’iyya, the title under which it features within the collection of his epistles (Bughyat al-wājid fī maktūbāt Mawlānā Khālid) published by his nephew and disciple As‛ad al-āib (d. 1928) (Abu-Manneh 1982: 14 n. 68; Weismann 2001: 41f., 47), or plainly as r. al-Irādat al-juz’iyya as in Osmanlı Müellifleri (Bursalı 1971: I, 114) and in an Ottoman language note on the cover of al-Kharpūtī’s (d. 1906-7) commentary to it. Through this 1305/1887-8 edition of the k. al-im al-‛abqarī fī shar al-‛iqd al-jawharī Khālid’s text, or any epistle on the particular will for that matter, appeared for the first time in print. Besides an unidentified text on the differences between Ashʽarism and Māturīdism and a, for our purposes surely interesting, r. fī Khalq al-afʽāl by a Muammad (father of, or in fact, Dā’ūd?) al-Qārī, we find a copy of al-arīqat al-Muammadiyya among the holdings of Khālid’s private library (De Jong & Witkam 1987: 78 [fol. 4b], 81 [fol. 7b]).

10Needless to say, with al-Nābulūsī and Khālid as purveyors of the concept and notion of the particular we have identified fairly important figures as channels of transmission. Shaykh Khālid in particular stressed the mandatory character of holding on to the correct principles of faith (ʽaqā’id/iʽtiqād) for his rapidly growing following (Weismann 2001: 41-42; Abu-Manneh 1982: 13), with matters of kalām apparently remaining relevant in Khālidi discourse also after his passing (Bruckmayr 2009: 80f.).

Non-specific works discussing the particular will

  • 16  Particularly a look at later commentaries and glosses on adr al-Sharīʽat al-Thānī’s relevant work (...)

11Naturally, with growing popularity, the notion of the particular will also found its way into other less specific types of works in such fields as uūl al-fiqh16, kalām/ʽaqīda and others. Although the role of Naqshbandis and their associates is less evident in this more general sphere, some interesting patterns are discernable. Given the origins of its sudden popularity, this of course likewise applies to commentaries on al-Birkawī’s al-arīqat al-Muammadiyya. Even before al-Nābulūsī’s efforts there appeared a commentary by Rajab (b. Amad al-Qayarī) Efendī (d. 1676), which dealt with the issue of the particular will in terms of Māturīdi-Ashʽari divergences (1845: I, 126; 385-392). A work of greater lasting influence in this category was, however, al-Barīqat al-mamūdiyya by the Naqshbandi scholar Muammad b. Muṣṭafā al-Khādimī (d. 1762). His importance for the development of Anatolian, especially provincial, Islam has only recently been discovered. Under his aegis, a school near Konya, founded by his father (d. 1147/1734), a khalīfa of the Bukhari Sharīf and Mujaddidiyya Shaykh Muammad Murād (d. 1132/1719), who was primarily responsible for the spread of the arīqa in Central Anatolia, developed into a centre of learning drawing students from all over Anatolia (Sarikaya 2002: 217-221). Thus forming, undoubtedly, and in addition to al-Nābulūsī’s extended circle, another node of Birkawī-infused Naqshbandi discourse. Indeed, under the descendents of al-Khādimī, Konya became a flourishing centre of religious learning with many Naqshbandi related teachers and schools, some operating well into the 20th century. Among teaching preferences and lists of donated books of these scholars, the al-arīqat al-Muammadiyya regularly surfaces (Sarikaya 2002). Much of what is to follow below appears to point to al-Khādimī rather than to al-Nābulūsī as the primary figure in the popularization of the notion of the particular will.

  • 17  Major Millî Görüş figures such as the former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan (1996-7) were discip (...)

12Intriguingly, his al-Barīqat al-mamūdiyya contains its own ikhtilāf al-madhāhib section enumerating 72 differences between Māturīdiyya and Ashʽariyya, and includes articles on human agency and capacity (Sarikaya 2005: 172-175). Besides the mentioned commentary al-Khādimī penned over 50 works (ibid.: 136-138), some of which were collected by a student of his grandson and published together in a printed edition of 1302/1884-5 (Peters 1986: 81 n. 1; Sarikaya 2002: 226f.). Among these, his r. fī aqq al-afʽāl al-ʽibād is of prime interest. Expectedly, it employs the notion of the particular will (Sarikaya 2005: 175-183). Among his students we find a number of purveyors of the notion such as āfiz Ismāʽīl al-Qūnawī (see n. 16), Muṣṭafā’ al-Qūnawī (d. 1767, presumably the father of Muammad mentioned above) and allegedly also al-Kalanbawī (see below) (ibid.: 250-258, 263). It is likewise his rather than al-Nābulūsī’s expositions on our key theme which also made their way into the work of al-Kharpūtī (1887-8: 14, 24 & 27). In an Ottoman booklet containing four short epistles, including an interesting pamphlet against the use of steamships, the telegraph and other Western innovations, dating between 1880-1900, al-Birkawī and al-Khādimī are the most frequently quoted authorities by the anonymous author, who unequivocally considers himself a follower of al-Birkawī (Peters 1986: 85f.). In present day Turkey, publications of the (locally predominant) Gümüşhanevi branch of the Khālidiyya, once headed by the influential M. Zahid Kotku (d. 1980)17, have been noted for their frequent recourse to al-Barīqat al-mamūdiyya (Sarikaya 2005: 306). In addition, it has even, presumably via Khālidi channels, reached Southeast Asia. During an inconclusive debate aiming at establishing a binding definition of the term ahl al-sunna wa l-jamāʽa at a recent annual meeting of the world’s largest formal Islamic organization, the Indonesian Nahdlatul Ulama, it was one of three works of reference relied upon (Laffan 2005: 105). Surprisingly, the influence of al-Khādimi and the Barīqa even extends to Nigeria and Mali (Sarikaya 2005: 306).

  • 18  Only the thematically related term al-qad al-juz’ (partial intent) surfaces (al-Siyālkūtī 1890: 2 (...)
  • 19  His reference to al-Dawwānī’s commentary in relation to the particular will (al-Siyālkūtī 1890: 25 (...)

13Another field in which the notion of the particular will came to be employed was, naturally, within commentaries and glosses to popular ʽaqīdas, such as those by Najm al-Dīn al-Nasafī (d. 1142), ʽAūd al-Dīn al-Ījī (d. 756/1355) and Khirbek b. Jalāl al-Dīn al-Māturīdī (d. 863/1459). The amount of works belonging to this genre is far too vast to be completely taken into account here. It shall however be noted, that a cursory reading of a number of glosses to al-Taftazānī’s Shar al-‛Aqā’id al-Nasafiyya showed that reliance on the notion of the particular will is not such a common a feature. It is, for example, neither to be found in what is arguably the most influential of all the glosses, the one composed by the 15th-century (and thus pre-Birkawī) Ottoman scholar al-Khayālī. Nor is it in the major super-gloss written by the Indian ʽAbd al-akīm al-Siyālkūtī (d. 1067/1656) (1890: 244-259)18. A later figure, thus already falling into the era of specific treatises on the particular will and its common usage as a technical term, and who uses both al-irādat al-juz’iyya and al-kulliyya, is the well known Ottoman logician and mathematician Ismāʽīl al-Kalanbawī (Gelenbevi, d. 1790) in his glosses to Shar al-‛Aqā’id al-Nasafiyya and Jalāl al-Dīn al-Dawwānī’s (d. 907/1501) Shar al-‛Aqā’id al-ʽAūdiyya19 (al-Siyālkūtī 1890: 252-258 [margin]; al-Kalanbawī 1818: 261f.).

  • 20  The other example is Muammad Aqkirmānī (d. 1760), who was Qāī of Mecca.

14Mention should also be made of Uthmān al-‛Uryānī (d. 1168/1754), whose terminology regarding human agency in his commentary to Khirbek’s creedal qaīda includes al-juz’ al-ikhtiyārī, al-irādat al-juz’iyya and, tellingly, likewise al-Birkawī’s formulation ikhtiyārāt juz’iyya wa irādāt qalbiyya (2003: 98f., 102f.). It is noteworthy as he is the first and seemingly one of the very few Ottoman scholars settling in the aramayn displaying an affinity for this terminology and al-Birkawī’s output20. Moreover, a critical mutakallim and staunch Māturīdi, he does not hesitate to challenge a predecessor such as al-Khayālī for not properly taking differences between Ashʽarism and Māturīdism into account (2003: 6).

  • 21  See Zilfi (1986) on the violent anti-Sufi puritanism of the movement and its selective inspiration (...)
  • 22  In fact the greater part of this publication is occupied by comments of the editor, for whom he re (...)
  • 23  A decade after his death Işık was recognized as his successor, thereby inaugurating a Naqshbandi-i (...)

15Otherwise, although not featured in al-Birkawī’s widespread Turkish risāla (1805: 25-27), certain commentaries such as the one by ʽAlī adr al-Dīn al-Qunawī (d. after 1114/1701-2), are employing the respective terminology evidently drawn from al-arīqat al-Muammadiyya (1846: [63]). Contrarily it is not surfacing in the commentary by Shams al-Dīn Amad b. Mamūd Qāīzāde (1825: 139-143), probably pointing to the fact, that the Qāīzāde movement21, which evidently had, despite many common agendas and a shared inspiration through al-Birkawī (Reichmuth 2004: 496), different foci in and especially other ways of action relating to his legacy, had less interest in such discussions than those circles combining Naqshbandi Sufism and the pietism and scholarship of the Birkawī tradition. Finally, and perhaps most significant for the present persistence of the notion of the particular will in Turkish Islamic discourse, it can also be found, albeit here far from being elaborately discussed, in Khālid al-Baghdādī’s highly-popularized catechism, the originally Persian I‛tiqād-nāme (Işık 1976: 74f.). First published in a Turkish translation in Cairo as Farā’id al-fawā’id (1312/1894) (Işık 1976: 5f.), it has witnessed (now entitled Imân ve Islâm) numerous editions in Turkish, English, French and German translations by the Turkish publicist Hüseyn Hilmi Işık (d. 2001)22. The latter was a disciple of Abdülhakîm Arvâsî (d. 1943), who had multiple affiliations, and initiated disciples into the Naqshbandiyya and Qadiriyya23. With these widely distributed editions, the notion of the particular will, stripped of any surrounding discussions, had certainly at last made its way into the general public, as is now again the case through Gülen’s expositions.

16For the latter and others among the wide and devoted readership of the Risale-i Nur, arguably the major late Ottoman/early republican testimony to Anatolian Naqshbandi and pietism-infused religious thought at the height of its time, now serving as canonical literature for both the Nurcu and the Gülen (Fethullahcı) cemaat, Said Nursi’s natural use of the dual notions of the particular/universal will (1994: 80-82; 1978: 53) is of course not to be discounted. At least Gülen, however, may have had recourse to another specialized work on human agency by a late Ottoman/early republican scholar, which bears clear imprints of the way the issue was discussed against the backdrop of minor Māturīdi/Ashʽari divergences by Sufi scholars such as al-Nābulūsī, Khālid and al-Kharpūtī. This would be the quite extensive Mawqif al-bashar tat al-sulān al-qadar by Mustafa Sabri (d. 1954), who is included by Gülen, in a well known book, as one of nine exemplary “heroes of thought and action” (epitomized, of course, by Said Nursi) (2005: 69f.). Sabri’s work, which provides ample space for scrutinizing the notion of the particular will, customarily describing inter- as well as intra-school differences (1981: 56-81; 142-148), finally takes the discussion of human agency to a new level (clearly testifying to his experiences in Egypt) by also drawing on the thought of Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī (d. 1897) and Muammad ʽAbduh (d. 1905). They both, however, contrary to what is often expected, relied in general likewise on fairly traditional Ashʽari concepts and modes of argumentation in this field (Hildebrandt 2002: 231f., 249-251, 260).

  • 24  Also the figure of Falīzāde ‛Alī (fl. first half of 18th century), whose work was recently scruti (...)

17We may conclude, that the evidence from the surveyed non-specific works displaying an usage of the notion of the particular will, although less clearly identifiable with Naqshbandi authors, still strongly points to a paramount influence of members of this arīqa in the formation and dissemination of a scholarly discourse on human agency commonly relying, besides long established notions such as kasb (acquisition) and ikhtiyār, also on that of the particular will, and soon transcending Naqshbandi circles in the strict sense24. In this context especially the roles of al-Khādimī and of the thoroughly Khālidi-influenced Said Nursi (Mardin 1989: 59f., 66-68, 152; Algar 2001a: 200-204; Algar 2001b: 292, 301-307) are sticking out.

Al-Irādat al-kulliyya: a post-Birkawī development

  • 25  Unfortunately Sāčaqlīzāde’s and al-Qārī’s treatises on the particular will could not be taken int (...)

18Additional support for the theory that the notion of the particular will and especially the way it is discussed by 20th/21st-century Turkish scholars such as Mustafa Sabri, Said Nursi and Fethullah Gülen was not only originally drawn primarily from Ottoman Naqshbandi discourse but has likewise filtered down to them via Naqshbandi channels can be furnished by focusing on the occurrence of the duality of the particular/universal will as technical terms in their writings. Evidently, this is a terminological development post-dating al-Birkawī and even al-Nābulūsī. Whereas al-Fanārī (just as a number of our later authors) reserved an ikhtiyār al-kullī for God, in contradistinction to human’s ikhtiyār al-juz’ī, the term is neither to be found in al-arīqa al-muammadiyya nor in al-Nābulūsī’s works or any other of the texts mentioned predating its use as a technical term referring to the human capacities (as still employed by Gülen) in al-Khādimī’s al-Barīqat al-mamūdiyya (1850: I, 232f., 569f., 575), which constitutes, chronologically, the earliest case the present author was able to identify25. After al-Khādimī, the dual notions are used freely by Mustaqīmzāde (as can be inferred from his text’s title), al-Kalanbawī (al-Siyālkūtī 1890: 256 [margin]; al-Kalanbawī 1818: 262), Shaykh Khālid (al-Kharpūtī 1887-8: 157), al-Kharpūtī (1887-8: 47, 94, 156), Sabrī (1981: 56f., 69ff.), Nursi (1994: 81) and finally Gülen.

  • 26  The spread of this arīqa in Istanbul and Anatolia has been difficult to trace (Mark Sedgwick, per (...)
  • 27  On the relationship between these two see also Weismann (2001: 67-75). As Ibn ‛Ābidīn was also Sha (...)

19Thus, apart from, perhaps, al-Kalanbawī and the late Sabrī, all of them are directly connected to Naqshbandi tradition. Even Sabrī is known to have joined the Beneficial Society for the Reform of Islamic Schools, which was initiated by the Naqshbandis of Konya, the flowering as a center of religious learning of which is in great part indebted to the efforts of al-Khādimī’s grandson Amad Efendi (d. 1255/1839) (Sarıkaya 2002: 220, 225, 235). Al-Kharpūtī, despite being a member of the Idrīsiyya/Amadiyya tarīqa26 (Bursalı 1971: I, 334f.), which does not rule out multiple affiliations, was evidently well versed in things Naqshbandi. This can be inferred from the fact, that he includes a short section on the Naqshbandi silsila down to Khālid, according a central figure such as ‛Ubaydallāh Arar (d. 1490) with the title al-ghawth al-a‛am, and also quotes verses from Sall al-usām li-nurat al-shaykh Khālid al-Naqshbandī (1887-8: 63f.). This latter Sufi work was composed in defense of Shaykh Khālid by his foremost disciple in Damascus, the great legal scholar Muammad Amīn Ibn ‛Ābidīn (d. 1836)27 (Weismann 2005: 76f.). In addition, Kharputī refers directly to al-Birkawī, and draws (in his theological considerations) from three other works composed by Naqshbandis (1887-8: 14, 24, 27-29, 67, 100, 138, 150). These are al-Khādimī’s commentary as well as his r. al-basmala and, intriguingly, also Amad Sirhindī’s (d. 1624) Maktūbāt.

20Thus, it would seem that not only the constant engagement with the pietistic, and obviously also scholarly, legacy of al-Birkawī as well as the genre of treatises on the particular will, but likewise the standard idiom and terminology in discussing human agency in Turkish Islam of late Ottoman and republican Turkish times, have received major impetuses from Naqshbandi circles.

Counter groups: different extra- and intra-Naqshbandi circles

21To get a stronger focus on the assumed role of Anatolian and Syrian Birkawīphile Naqshbandis in partly developing, popularizing and spreading the notion of the particular will, it is of course essential to identify counter groups during the same timeframe, which did not take up this specific terminology. Such groups and important individuals were found in both Egypt and Mecca, and most of them are forming parts of other strands of Naqshbandi tradition, differentiated from those networks with al-Nābulūsī, al-Khādimī and Shaykh Khālid as main anchors.

  • 28  It was assumingly this peculiar disposition, which would later induce the founder of India’s Ahl-i (...)

22Firstly, given his fierce disputes with al-Birkawī (Kātib Chelebi 1957: 128-131), it is noteworthy, that Abū l-Suʽūd Ef. (d. 982/1574) is not employing the term in a fatwa (denoted as r. fī Afʽāl al-ikhtiyāriyya) he passed on the issue (fols. 5b-8a). Identifying al-Birkawī as the initial source of the notion’s popularity among certain Naqshbandi circles would of course be untenable, had Amad Sirhindī, whose pervasive staunch Māturidīsm played a major part in further strengthening the school’s position within the Naqshbandiyya and paving the way to its adoption by Shāfiʽī scholars such as Shaykh Khālid (Bruckmayr 2009: 77-85), used the term too. Yet, at least in the major vehicle of his teaching, the Maktūbāt, he does not (al-Sirhindī n.d.: I, 267-270 [letter 266]; II, 111f. [l. 67]; III, 18-21 [l. 17]). Neither does his notable Indian contemporary, educated in the Māturīdiyya’s Transoxanian cradle, ʽAbd al-aqq al-Muaddith al-Dihlawī (d. 1642) in his catechism (Dehlvi n.d.: 25-31). A contemporary of al-Birkawī and major Ottoman scholar based in Mecca, even considered by some among posterity to have been the mujaddid (renewer) of his age (instead of Sirhindī) was ʽAlī al-Qārī (d. 1014/1606), who has a reputation both as theologian, hadith scholar, anti-Ibn ʽArabī polemicist and critic of prevalent Sufi practices of his times (Franke 2010; Nafi 2002: 326)28. In his major work in the field of kalām, his commentary to al-Fiqh al-akbar (attributed to Abū anīfa), the notion of the particular will does not surface in the section on human actions (fol. 49a-50b).

  • 29  For an analysis see Nafi (2002: 339-342).

23Of particular importance for long term religious developments in large parts of the Islamic World in the 18th and 19th centuries (Voll 1974 & 1980) was the group of ʽūlamā’ in the aramayn around Amad b. Muammad al-Qushāshī (d. 1661) and the Kurdish Ibrāhīm al-Kūrānī (d. 1689), all advocates and examples of a new tendency towards a revived usage of hadith as primary sources for questions of Islamic law. Both these scholars had multiple arīqa affiliations, including the Naqshbandiyya. Al-Kūrānī, after having earlier received the path under al-Qushāshī, eventually even became part of a second Naqshbandi, this time Mujaddidi, lineage (Nafi 2002: 325). More importantly, both were not only critical of contemporary Sufi practices and at the same time apologists for Ibn ʽArabī’s wadat al-wujūd doctrine, but also displayed a keen interest in the issue of human agency. Al-Qushāshī has reportedly penned three treatises on the question of kasb, a notion (in its Māturīdi definition) in our later texts regularly declared to be synonymous with the particular will (al-Kharpūtī 1887-8: 14, 66; Işık 1976: 75), which are said to have been both influential among his students as well as controversial among fellow scholars. As far as the present author knows, these have not been located so far, yet from the accounts given by al-Kūrānī’s student Abu Sālim al-Ayyāshī (d. 1090/1679) (1977: I, 429) and Murtaā al-Zabīdī (d. 1205/1791) (n.d.: II, 168-171), associated with a younger generation of this scholarly circle, it does not seem as if he had used the concept of the particular will in these texts. Likewise also al-Kūrānī devoted a number of works to the same issue (Akkach 2010: 90f.), one of which (al-Ilmāʽ al-muī bi taqīq al-kasb al-wasa bayn al-ifrā’ wa l-tafrī) al-Ayyāshī felt compelled to include in full in his travelogue. Yet, also in this work, in which the Shāfiʽī al-Kūrānī relied mainly and unconventionally for his times, on early Ashʽari authorities such as al-Juwaynī (478/1058) and, significantly, also on Neo-anbali thought29, there is no place for the notion of the particular will (al-Ayyāshī 1977: I, 429-443). What is more, this also applies to the later Maslak al-sadād fī mas’ila khalq afʽāl al-ʽibād (Ms. a) and Imdād dhawī al-istiʽdād li-sulūk maslak al-sadād (Ms. b). Intriguingly, it was these two latter treatises which provoked al-Nābulūsī to write al-Kūrānī a long letter exclusively concerned with a strong critique of certain of his positions on human agency (Akkach 2010: 90-95). Therein al-Nābulūsī again utilizes the term juz’ ikhtiyārī (2010: 92-94).

  • 30  Although it was unfortunately impossible to survey a representative corpus of works from the subco (...)
  • 31  I am indebted to Stefan Reichmuth for facilitating my research on the Itāf by providing me with s (...)

24Strikingly, we do not even discover the particular will in Murtaā al-Zabīdī’s famous commentary to al-Ghazālī’s (d. 1111) Iyā’. One of the outstanding figures of Muslim scholarship in the 18th century (Reichmuth 2009), al-Zabīdī was also connected to the circle of successors and students of former associates of al-Kūrānī. Coming from northern India30, spending time in Yemen and the aramayn, and eventually settling in Cairo, al-Zabīdī was exposed to many different currents of religious thought, yet was also characterized by a strong Mujaddidi affiliation and a clear Māturīdi profile in theology. Moreover, his introduction to the theological sections of the Iyā’ in his commentary (Itāf al-sādat al-muttaqīn) takes the classical ikhtilāf al-madhāhib approach (n.d.: II, 2-17)31. Still, the particular will is not part of his technical vocabulary neither in his discussion of human agency, nor in his included short catechism (n.d.: II, 165-192, 286f.).

25Generally, it seems as if the notion of the particular will hardly gained currency in Egypt. Of all the above-mentioned authors bound together by its use only al-Qārī and, of course, Sabrī had connections there. In both cases, and especially regarding the latter, it rather seems as if their acquaintance with the notion definitely did not result from their experiences in Cairo. However, asan al-ʽAṭṭār (d. 1835), Shaykh al-Ahar from 1831 until his death, and according to Gran, due to his experiences in Istanbul representative of an otherwise unreported (and presumably actually non-existent) reformist Māturīdism, wrote some treatises which could be useful. Before his turn towards Māturīdism, he penned an Ashʽari tract against ideas concerning human agency in al-Khādimī’s al-Barīqat al-mamūdiyya, but then took up the issue again, in his Māturīdi phase, in a r. fī Khalq al-afʽāl fī ʽilm al-kalām (Gran 1979: 134-136). At that time he likewise lamented that Sāčaqlīzāde’s works (on dialectics) were not taught in Egypt (ibid.: 149). Unfortunately, the former of these texts seems to be lost, and the other was inaccessible to the present author. Nevertheless, it would be highly probable, that al-ʽAṭṭār, after his espousal of Māturīdism and sojourns in both Istanbul and Damascus, came to employ the notion of the particular will. On the contrary, the great Cairo-based reformers al-Afghānī and Muammad ʽAbduh, in their discussion of human agency among their comments to the ʽaqīda of al-Ījī, which although decidedly anti-deterministic as well as taking al-Māturīdī into consideration, evolves almost exclusively along traditional Ashʽarī lines, do not employ the concept (al-Afghānī & ʽAbduh 2002: 311ff.).


  • 32  Cf. Kurz (2011: 167).

26For the time being it can be concluded from the foregoing, that usage of the notion of the particular will is a comparably recent development in the field of kalām and uūl al-dīn, although clearly associated by contemporary writers with more than a millennium of Māturīdi tradition. The way to its common usage as a technical term was clearly paved by al-Birkawī. As far as lessons from this study for the history of kalām are concerned, the following observations shall be noted. Generally all the mentioned works, as they were composed in the era of harmonization of Ash‛arism and Māturīdism, characterize the particular will as human’s divinely granted partial free will, as agreed upon, with minor theoretical and terminological differences, by both theological schools. The late development of the technical term al-irādat al-juz’iyya (and its derivates al-ikhtiyār al-juz’ī and al-juz’ al-ikhtiyārī) is itself strongly indicative of this harmonizing trend. It was evidently coined to bridge the gap between classical Māturidism’s comparably straight-forward ikhtiyār and al-Ash‛arī’s rejection of the latter on the one hand, and the efforts of later Ash‛aris and Māturīdis to develop these concepts further by qualifying their respective eponym’s posture and at the same time keeping a certain degree of faithfulness to them. Thus, the term and its derivates were designed and employed as overarching formulations encompassing, and at times in a grossly simplifying manner merely substituting, diverse concepts related to the doctrine of a restricted human capacity of will power granted by the creator. These include, among others, kasb (acquisition), adr al-Sharī‛a al-Thānī’s qad (“the act of willing”) or Ibn al-Humām’s al-‛azm al-musammim (firm decision)32. It was only when scholars violated this consensus in Ashʽari-Māturīdi spheres, such as was done by al-Kūrānī with his distinctively salafi approach, that fierce criticism prevailed in the discussion. Nevertheless, the number of specific treatises from the 17th to 19th centuries directly focusing on human agency and, particularly, free will, gives one the impression, that indeed this era constituted the heyday of such inquiry, and that Muslims had never concerned themselves with this issue with such frequency, at least not since the time of the formation of the major schools. While human agency was always a standard issue in kalām yet rarely discussed in specific works, it appears to have developed into a predominant issue in the field during the era in question. This probably reveals to us elements regarding endogenous engagement of Muslim societies with the challenge of modernity.

27That the influence of al-Birkawī’s al-arīqat al-muammadiyya extends far beyond its overall function as a work on pietistic ethics and cultural criticism (which it was primarily regarded as, concerning its long term influences by Western scholars), should be taken as a symptom of its continuous and unabated importance among certain segments of particularly Anatolian and Syrian Ottoman scholarly culture. In this context, Naqshbandis from among the circles of al-Nābulūsī, al-Khādimī and Shaykh Khālid were evidently of prime importance. As far as Anatolia is concerned, it moreover seems as if the central nodes of Birkawīphile Naqshbandis lay in the provinces in places such as Konya and Marʽash rather than in the imperial center. Indeed, especially in the 19th century the Naqshbandis of Konya, with their focus on expanding religious education, had different agendas than their politically involved counterparts in Istanbul (Sarıkaya 2002: 227). Reichmuth (2004: 517-520) has emphasized that a figure such as Sāčaqlīzāde was representative of a scholarly culture significantly different from the one presented in works comparable to his Tartīb al-ʽulūm. After all, many of the mentioned authors, along with the presently highly influential figures of Nursi and Gülen, hailed from the provinces.

  • 33  With Ilyās b. Ibrāhīm al-Kūrānī (d. 1138/1725) we, however, also find an important exponent of a c (...)

28Despite its pervasiveness in Ottoman literature on the topic of human agency, this discourse, generated and carried by the Naqshbandiyya, had only limited success in spreading outside of either its main carriers’ homelands or the arīqa. While its longevity in Turkish Islam even during the republican post-arīqa era was guaranteed by the paramount role of the Naqshbandiyya within it, and by the gradual physical as well as intellectual push of its exponents towards the centers, its appeal remained limited or non-existent in the aramayn and Cairo, even among Naqshbandis. Probably, through the efforts and prominence of Muṣṭafā al-Bakrī, for whom al-Nābulūsī served as guide on the Naqshbandi path and role model in many, particularly literary, aspects (Elger 2004: 42f., 57, 96f., 139, 153-157, 163f.), including perhaps theology, it may also have gained some currency among the Khalwatiyya33. Al-Bakrī was also acquainted with al-Nābulūsī’s commentary on al-Birkawī and is reported to have exhibited positions quite similar to those held by the former regarding contemporary cultural criticism (ibid.: 122). Undoubtedly, however, the greatest success story for the spread of the synthesis of pietistic Birkawī tradition and Naqshbandi Sufism was the Ural-Wolga region of the 18th and 19th centuries, where al-Birkawī’s ethics and works, including of course the commentaries by al-Khādimī and others, were highly regarded, widely read and deliberately distributed (Kemper 1998: 147-172). Strikingly, the greatest number of local manuscripts of his risāla is the abovementioned commentary by ʽAlī adr al-Dīn al-Qunawī (ibid.: 161f.), which does employ the notion of the particular will. We may thus assume that it may likewise be found in some among the many written testimonies of the lively scholarly discussions in theology taking place at that time in the region (ibid.: 213-313).

  • 34  It shall be noted that the teaching of the Andalusian are playing no role whatsoever in al-Birkawī (...)

29Returning to the scholars who this study was concerned with, and who contributed to the addition of the particular will to the common technical vocabulary in the field of theology, it is surely remarkable that most of them are sharing not only some affiliation to specific strands within the Naqshbandiyya, but also a positive nuanced disposition towards Birkawī’s ethical criticism. This was in contrast to the iconoclastic mission of the Qāīzādelıs. Moreover, as with Birkawī, they mostly appear to have been positively inclined towards the study of logic and dialectic (El-Rouayheb 2008: 200-209, 215f.). This latter attitude could probably have facilitated the distinctively affirmative views towards the study of the natural sciences, well reflected by figures such as al-Kalanbawī and then especially Nursi and his successors. In this respect, it should again be emphasized that a number of the discussed exponents of the Birkawiphile Naqshbandi influenced tradition (starting at least with Sāčaqlīzāde) were deeply concerned about educational reform. Moreover, contrary to the Qāīzādelıs, like the majority of Ottoman Naqshbandis they also remained positively inclined towards the doctrines of Ibn ʽArabī34. Obviously, the most exemplary and significant evidence for the decisive influence of a synthesis of Birkawī pietism and Naqshbandi Sufism, may be seen in the emergence of socio-religious mass movements seemingly grown out of this very substrate, such as the Nur and Gülen movements. Although their formation is surely more complex and was largely dependent on the interplay of different socio-political and socio-economic factors (Agai 2004: 64-78), both their pietistic and (strongly Naqshbandi influenced) Sufi components, which are also heralded by their respective memberships, are marked to such an degree that one can only but assume such historical parallels and continuities amidst the emergence of new forms of socio-religious organization.

30Against this background, the usage of a specific theological terminology by the eponyms of the mentioned movements, and the identification of al-Birkawī and certain Naqshbandi channels as the most likely origins of this usage, may seem as a trivial matter. Yet, this study was hopefully conducive in showing that al-Birkawī’s influence extended far beyond the field of ethics and pietism. On a secondary plain, it was as decisive in the formation of a specific scholarly culture and its discussions of theology, logic and educational as well as scholarly ethics. Secondly, it should have served to furnish additional evidence for the assumption that the lasting influence of al-Birkawī, in different spheres from ethics to theology, was to a large degree precipitated by the efforts of Ottoman Naqshbandis and their direct heirs in Turkey. Taking a slightly altered perspective and resorting to a rhetorical device obviously greatly cherished by famous latter day exponents of the Sufi-infused Turkish pietistic trend such as Nursi, Işık and Gülen, namely bringing comparisons from medicine and the positive sciences into the discussion, we might suggest the following: Applying a seemingly marginal - yet distinguishing and comparably easily traceable - feature from kalām/uūl al-dīn terminology as a contrast medium to reconstruct literary arteries of transmission, was in this case not only useful to identify the latter channels, but also, through the necessary flight into the context, to get an idea of the overall influence of the central figures of the given discourse. We may thus assume that much more and particularly more central ideas and values were disseminated through the same channels, for whom Birkawī’s theological thought was certainly but one aspect of his continuing appeal.

  • 35  Primarily concerned with the relationship between pietism and enlightenment, Schulze has prescient (...)

31It has already been mentioned that the Ural-Volga region of the 19th century was another main arena where the pietistic tradition arising from the intersection of Birkawī’s thought and its purveyors among the Naqshbandiyya could unfold itself to the degree of influencing important segments of the local Muslim population. It is of interest in this regard, that Kemper even considered this particular pietistic trend, coupled with a certain “capitalist spirit”, to have been lying at the root of an expanding local Muslim enterprise among the expressly piously minded. Part of its success lay in the fact that the traditional arīqa framework was much less suited for individualistic entrepreneurs, who now came to invest some of their profits into Islamically laudable ventures, rendering their quest for financial gains completely legitimate and even commendable (Kemper 1998: 169-171). The pietistic business and religious culture thus described is strikingly akin to that of the groups such as the Gülen movement or, more broadly speaking, the so-called “Anatolian tigers”. Already Kemper has invoked Max Weber’s protestant ethics in this connection, as was done a few years later with respect to the exponents of the latter group in Kayseri by a Berlin-based think –tank (European Stability Initiative 2005), which identified local “Islamic Calvinists”. Subsequently, this notion was taken up by Turkish academics and journalists of the religious spectrum favorably disposed towards the Gülen movement (Akyol 2007: 30; Uygur 2007: 179-186) and even by the mayor of Kayseri himself (Eickelman 2010: 200). Of course, the influence of Western scholarly discourse appears to be most evident in this case. Yet, if we were to accept Kemper’s conclusions, we might say, that the “Anatolian tigers” and the pietistic socio-religious environment that generated their appearance represents continuity rather than a break with the past. Moreover, Roy (2010: 197f.) recently noted that Weber’s contribution has inadvertently “ended up formatting Protestantism for exportation within the framework of capitalist globalization” for people who have read neither “the Bible nor Calvin, but only Max Weber” (such as Sri Lankan Buddhists and Turkish post-Islamist businessmen), thereby allowing them “to defend both a modernity by reference to Protestantism and an authenticity guaranteed by their own theological references”. Thus, instead of desperately looking for analogies to a “Protestant ethic” heralded by recently emerged “Islamic Calvinists”, a stronger focus on endogenous developments, and in that respect, for example, on a “Birkawī (influenced) ethic” and its carrier culture (i.e. certain strands within the Naqshbandiyya and their offshoots) might be more promising35.  

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1  I want to express my gratitude for the generous support provided by the International Research Centre Cultural Studies (IFK) in Vienna, where the main body of this article was produced.

2  On the author, his thought and his major work see in particular Kurz (2011: 56-108) and Radtke (2002).

3  For the relevant passages see al-Nasafī (1990-3: II, 541ff.; 2005: 75-77, 98-100) and al-Taftazānī (1990: 141-150). Cf. al-Taftazānī (2001: III, 163-225).

4  On these works and their role in the history of Ottoman kalām see Bruckmayr 2009: 64, 66-69.

5  To the author’s knowledge, the first scholarly work including a thorough discussion of the concept (with reference to its usage by a particular author) is the very recent contribution by Kurz (2011: 157-173).

6  To the list provided in Bruckmayr (2009: 67), there has to be added a r. fī l-masā’il al-mukhtalifa bayn al-Māturīdiyya wa l-Ashʽarī by an al-Muaqqiq al-Sharīf in the Daiber collection (Ms. 32, fols. 35a-36a). Online at: A short anonymous Turkish text on Māturīdis and Ashʽaris in the same Ms. (fols. 29a-b) can hardly be included into this category.

7  Clearly not using it as a technical term, Kamāl al-Dīn al-Bayāī (d. 1098/1687) also characterizes human choice as partial (al-ikhtiyār ay al-juz’ī) and, interestingly, employs with al-qudrat al-juz’iyya/al-kulliyya an elsewhere so far undetected pair of semantic cognates (2008: 259, 303).

8  The content of the work is summarized in Radtke (2000 & 2002: 42-50). I am indebted to an anonymous reviewer for bringing Radtke’s contributions to my attention.

9  This was also the case with the Berlin manuscript used for this study.

10  Al-Fanārī (2006: 3) left a hagiographic work on the arīqa’s eponym Bahā’ al-Dīn al-Naqshbandī (d. 1390) and had connections with Muammad Pārsā (d. 1419) (al-Luknawi 1906: 199), the leading Naqshbandi of Timurid times. The latter’s Fal al-khiāb, which discusses the doctrines of Sufis and mutakallimūn, is not relying on the notion of the particular will when dealing with issues of kasb and ikhtiyār/irāde (2002: 5, 22, 47).

11  He also seems to have foreshadowed al-Nābulūsī’s al-juz’ al-ikhtiyārī in the form of qism al-ikhtiyārī (al-Mabūbī fol. 150a). The Ottoman scholar Muammad b. Wālī al-Qirshahrī (d. 1165/1751-2), citing adr al-Sharī‛a al-Thānī, likewise explains in his work of the al-ikhtilāf al-madhāhib genre, that man’s acts are effectuated through his partial (e.g. particular) will (maʽa al-ikhtiyārihī l-juz’ī) (fol. 60a).

12  Strikingly, none of the four mentioned probable sources are among those cited by al-Birkawī in his work (Radtke 2002: 161-165).

13  These are an anonymous Berlin Ms. cited by Kurz (2011: 160) and treatises by ‛Abd al-Bāqī Esirīzāde (composed 1747) and Muammad Aqkirmānī (d. 1760). In both latter cases a probable Naqshbandi affiliation could not be determined. Both are, however, strongly indebted to Birkawī and quote him directly (Esirīzāde Ms.: fols. 31a, 32b-33a; Aqkirmānī Ms.: fol. 52a).

14  Unfortunately this manuscript is defective. The 1931 Aleppo print edition was inaccessible to me. Much less can be gleaned from his Fat al-bārī fī tarīr mas’alat al-juz’ al-ikhtiyārī (Ms. b: fols. 1a-5b). Brockelmann (GAL: II, 454) lists also an untitled Berlin Ms. dealing with the issue of free will (and thus presumably also the particular will). Finally, there is the treatise referred to by the author in al-adīqat al-nadiyya as Tarīk silsilat al-widād fī mas’alat khalq afʽāl al-ʽibād (1873: I, 511), which is indeed a letter he sent to the eminent Medinan scholar al-Kūrānī (see below). Other pieces of his wasā’il collection that might likely feature the particular will are (as far as can be gleaned from their description) letters nos. 9&71 (Akkach 2010: 57, 74).

15 Already al-Birkawī describes free will as consisting of ikhtiyārāt juz’iyya wa- irādāt qalbiyya (partial choices and wishes of the heart) (1844: 71). Although it was later lamented from prominent side, that Sāčaqlīzāde’s works were not taught “when [Murtaā] al-Zabīdī was in Egypt [e.g. 1753-1791]” (Gran 1979: 149), al-Qārī was at least acquainted with his writings already during the lifetime of the former, as is indicated by his commentated mukhtaar of his predecessor’s Taqrīr al-qawānayn al-mutadāwala min ‛īlm al-munāara. On this work see El-Rouayheb (2008: 209, 220). Tellingly, al-Qārī also commented on al-Birkawī with Shar uūl al-adīth (GAL: II, 582; Bursalı 1971: I, 302f.).

16  Particularly a look at later commentaries and glosses on adr al-Sharīʽat al-Thānī’s relevant works, such as Shar al-muqaddimāt al-arbaʽ of āfiz Ismāʽīl b. Muammad al-Qūnawī (d. 1781), which employs the term of the particular will (fol. 69b), would be commendable. It shall be noted, that the latter was also the founder of an important madrasa in Konya, which was in service until the 20th century (Sarıkaya 2002: 217; 2005: 253-258).

17  Major Millî Görüş figures such as the former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan (1996-7) were disciples of Zahid Kotku (Zarcone 1990).

18  Only the thematically related term al-qad al-juz’ (partial intent) surfaces (al-Siyālkūtī 1890: 245).

19  His reference to al-Dawwānī’s commentary in relation to the particular will (al-Siyālkūtī 1890: 258 [margin]) is misleading as it rather directs one towards al-Kalanbawī’s own gloss thereupon. Al-Dawwānī’s r. Khalq al-aʽmāl (or r. fī Afʽāl al-ʽibād) (Ms.; GAL: II. 283), which is referred to in one of al-Nābulūsī’s texts (Ms. b: fol. 1a) as well as by al-Khādimī (1850: I, 575) does again not employ the sought technical term. Strikingly, in a recent major study on Ashʽari concepts of kasb from traditionally deeply Ashʽari Southeast Asia, where the notions of the particular/universal will had presumably little to no currency, they only surface in one instance in form of a discussion of al-Kalanbawī’s take on the issue (Mamūd & Amīn 2009: 109f.).

20  The other example is Muammad Aqkirmānī (d. 1760), who was Qāī of Mecca.

21  See Zilfi (1986) on the violent anti-Sufi puritanism of the movement and its selective inspiration through al-Birkawī. It was against their appropriation of the latter’s legacy that al-Nābulūsī wrote his al-adīqat al-nadiyya (Badeen 2008: 56). Conversely, their constant attacks on the prominent Khalwatiyya arīqa as well as the Naqshbandiyya’s own efforts at such an appropriation obviously contributed to the loss of its influential position to the gains of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya (Zilfi 1986: 268f.). Moreover, in individual cases, both tendencies could converge within the same person, as in the figure of ʽUtmān al-Busnawī (Le Gall 2003: 98-100).

22  In fact the greater part of this publication is occupied by comments of the editor, for whom he relies inter alia on al-Nābulūsī’s al-adīqat al-nadiyya (Işık 1976: 59). Convinced of representing pure, Sufi (particularly Naqshbandi) influenced (Turkish) Islam, Işık uses his commentary to level fierce criticism and defamation against Islamic reformist and Islamist writers from Muammad ʽAbduh (d. 1905) down to Sayyid Qub (d. 1966) (Işık 1976: 48-50).

23  A decade after his death Işık was recognized as his successor, thereby inaugurating a Naqshbandi-inspired movement named after him (Weismann 2007: 152), which, however, lacks the mass appeal of the Gülen movement.

24  Also the figure of Falīzāde ‛Alī (fl. first half of 18th century), whose work was recently scrutinized by Kurz, employs the notions of the particular and the universal will (Kurz 2011: 159-173). Intriguingly, it has been suggested that he might have had experience with the silent dhikr and was probably a Naqshbandi (ibid.: 23f.).

25  Unfortunately Sāčaqlīzāde’s and al-Qārī’s treatises on the particular will could not be taken into account. Eventual findings in these texts would, however, alter our current preliminarily timeframe only insignificantly.

26  The spread of this arīqa in Istanbul and Anatolia has been difficult to trace (Mark Sedgwick, personal communication). Al-Kharpūtī could, however, have been initiated into it rather late in his life. On late 19th/early 20th centuries Amadiyya presence in Istanbul see Sedgwick (2005: 89-91).

27  On the relationship between these two see also Weismann (2001: 67-75). As Ibn ‛Ābidīn was also Shaykh Khālid’s student in the fields of theology and hadith, we may assume, that there are works of his employing the notion of the particular will. Moreover, he likewise showed himself explicitly receptive to al-Birkawī’s pietistic ideals (Weismann 2005: 72-4).

28  It was assumingly this peculiar disposition, which would later induce the founder of India’s Ahl-i Hadith, iddīq asan Khān (d. 1307/1890), to present al-Qārī’s opinion of kalām among those of illustrious figures such as the four imams, the great 13th-century Andalusian mufassir al-Qurubī and (the Ahl-i Hadith’s Yemeni doyen) al-Shawkānī (d. circa 1255/1839) (2000: 48).

29  For an analysis see Nafi (2002: 339-342).

30  Although it was unfortunately impossible to survey a representative corpus of works from the subcontinent for this study, it may tentatively be argued, that India fell outside the map of the distribution of the notion of the particular will. The cases of the 17th-century authors Siyālkūtī and Sirhindī have already been mentioned. Likewise the one Indian specimen of the ikhtilāf al-madhāhib type yields no results as is the case with two surveyed works dealing with kalām/‛aqīda of the Ahl-i Hadith’s iddīq asan Khān (1984 & 2000), who claimed to belong to the Mujaddidiyya (Weismann 2007: 141). Unfortunately his presumably most revealing work for our purpose (Boghyat al-rā’ed fī shar al-‛aqā’ed) was inaccessible to me.

31  I am indebted to Stefan Reichmuth for facilitating my research on the Itāf by providing me with structural details beyond what is to be found in his book. See Reichmuth (2009: 286ff.) for his analysis of theology in al-Zabīdī’s work.

32  Cf. Kurz (2011: 167).

33  With Ilyās b. Ibrāhīm al-Kūrānī (d. 1138/1725) we, however, also find an important exponent of a counter-group among his teachers (Elger 2004: 64).

34  It shall be noted that the teaching of the Andalusian are playing no role whatsoever in al-Birkawī’s al-arīqa al-muammadiyya (Radtke 2002: 171).

35  Primarily concerned with the relationship between pietism and enlightenment, Schulze has presciently called for tracing the trail of “Birkawī dogmatics” into the 19th century and analyzing its contribution to specific discursive formations (1996: 302). Apart from Kemper, this has unfortunately gone largely unnoticed. Furthermore, such an enquiry should, arguably, not stop short at the eve of the 20th century, as the discursive formations in question could well have only really unfolded their whole potential against the backdrop of the changed realities of the republican era. The fact that Schulze’s scheme of an autochthonous Muslim enlightenment has been subsequently convincingly refuted (among others over-polemically by Radtke 2000) does not render his argument obsolete, at least if one is not expecting to find the very same discursive formations he had envisioned (i.e. autochthonous Muslim enlightenment).

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Electronic reference

Philipp Bruckmayr, “The Particular Will (al-irādat al-juz’iyya): Excavations Regarding a Latecomer in Kalām Terminology on Human Agency and its Position in Naqshbandi Discourse”European Journal of Turkish Studies [Online], 13 | 2011, Online since 17 December 2012, connection on 13 April 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Philipp Bruckmayr

Institut für Orientalistik, Universität Wien

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