Change Visible from a Distance: Digital Analysis of the Fetvas of Ottoman Seyhulislams in the Early Modern Era

Creative Commons License

Ergene B., Kaygun A.

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, vol.54, no.3, pp.442-461, 2022 (SSCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 54 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1017/s0020743822000460
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Periodicals Index Online, Geobase, Historical Abstracts, Index Islamicus, Linguistic Bibliography, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Social services abstracts, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, DIALNET
  • Page Numbers: pp.442-461
  • Keywords: distant reading, fetva, Ottoman empire, seyhulislam, topical analysis
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Using a distant reading methodology, the article examines the thematic compositions of fetva compilations by four Ottoman seyhulislams in the early modern era. Our analysis of the fetvas from the late 17th and early 18th centuries reveal that the majority of these opinions concerned a small number of issues, including women, family problems, contractual matters, and disputes and litigations. The article also demonstrates that the representation of fetvas with such concerns increased compared to what we find in the opinions of Ebussuud Efendi, a 16th-century seyhulislam. But interest in religious issues, non-Muslims, and taxation declined over time. Finally, the article proposes computational procedures to identify the complex contextual characteristics of the seyhulislams' opinions.