The Textual Evolution of the Ottoman Seyhulislams' Fetvas: A Cross-Corpora Computational Analysis


Ergene B., Kaygun A.

ISLAM-ZEITSCHRIFT FUR GESCHICHTE UND KULTUR DES ISLAMISCHEN ORIENTS, vol.98, no.2, pp.516-545, 2021 (Journal Indexed in AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 98 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1515/islam-2021-0031
  • Title of Journal : ISLAM-ZEITSCHRIFT FUR GESCHICHTE UND KULTUR DES ISLAMISCHEN ORIENTS
  • Page Numbers: pp.516-545
  • Keywords: Fetva, seyhulislam, textual, computational, distant reading

Abstract

In this article, we use a mix of computational techniques to identify textual shifts in the Ottoman seyhulislams' fetvas between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. Our analysis, supplemented by a close reading of these texts, indicates that the fetvas underwent multiple forms of transformation, a consequence of the institutional evolution of the seyhulislam's fetva office (fetvahane) that aimed to speed up and streamline the production of the fetvas: over time, the texts appropriated a more uniform character and came to contain shorter responses. In the compositions of the questions, we identified many "trigger terms" that facilitated reflexive responses independent of the fetvas' jurisprudential contexts, a tendency that became stronger after the second half of the seventeenth century. In addition, we propose in the article a methodology that measures the relative strengths of textual and conceptual links among the fetva corpora of various Ottoman seyhulislams. This analysis informs us about possible paths of long-term evolution of this genre of jurisprudential documents.