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In pursuit of universal knowledge
2003 / JUNE

The word marifet means knowledge and enlightenment in Arabic, and in Islam means reaching God through spiritual discovery and inspiration. This is a key concept in the mystic belief of vahdet-i vücut (which might be compared to cosmotheism), whereby the universe is seen as one with God, and refers to knowledge of God and His attributes, and the nature of the universe. A possessor of such knowledge is known as ārif. The Marifetnāme (Book of Enlightenment) by Ibrahim Hakki Erzurūmī (1703-1780) was an encyclopaedic work that caused a stir in Ottoman Turkey when it was written and continued to exert an influence for long afterwards. Ibrahim Hakki was a scholar of wide interests who whose work encompassed mysticism, linguistics, science and what today we would call sociology. He was the son of Dervis Osman Efendi and Serife Hanife Hatun, and a descendant of the Prophet on his fathr'sd side. His wife was Firdevs Hatun.

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In pursuit of universal knowledge
2003 / JUNE

In 1747, while he was deputy to a dervish sheikh, Ismail Fakirullah, Ibrahim Hakki paid his first visit to Istanbul, remaining for several months. In Istanbul he was received by Sultan Mahmud I, who gave him permission to work in the palace library and was so impressed by his intelligence and knowledge that he appointed him head of the dervish convent of the Abdurrahman Gazi Pious Foundation in Erzurum. Ibrahim Hakki paid a second visit to Istanbul in 1755, and upon his return retired to Hasankale, where he completed his Marifetnāme in 1757, dedicating it to his son Ahmed Naīmī. He made three pilgrimages to Mecca, the third in 1768, and during these journeys travelled widely in both Arabia and Egypt, meeting many scholars and expanding his knowledge. His experiences in those countries and his research in Istanbul were sources for numerous other books. Ibrahim Hakki inherited his love of reading, scholarship and mysticism from his father, who was his first teacher. He wrote poetry that treats of the intellectual and practical aspects of mysticism, and is lyrical at times.

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In pursuit of universal knowledge
2003 / JUNE
He is the only classical Ottoman poet to have used the mani form of folk literature, whose plays on words in the following example are unfortunately lost in the translation: 'The pearl is a tooth of the body / Differing nothing from it / Hurt not you the heart / Let not the peal'sg bite hurt you.' Mysticism and poetry were by no means his only interests, which extended to medicine, astronomy, mathematics, physics and the other natural sciences, and the Marifetnāme is based on this broad knowledge. He explains that he consulted 400 books in the course of preparing the encyclopaedia, in which he set out to explain what is known about the entire universe. He begins with a relation in conformity with Islamic doctrine of the Creation, the cosmos, the angels, heaven and hell. Then he explains Aristotle's theory of the four elements (air, water, fire and earth) as interpreted by Islamic philosophers, and how these combine to form minerals, plants, animals and human beings, and explains that the earth and the heavens are spherical.
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In pursuit of universal knowledge
2003 / JUNE

He describes the discovery of the New World based on works like Kātip Ēelebi's Cihānnümā and Tarih-i Hindi Garbi (History of the West Indies) printed by Ibrahim Müteferrika. In the section on the human body he repeats the medieval theories of Ibni Sina (Avicenna), and in his chapters on morality discusses human behaviour. Scattered around the book are poems woven with mystic ideas, and it ends with a kiyāfetname concerning the art of understanding a persn'st character from their physical attributes. The Marifetnāme is written largely in plain Turkish with some words from the Erzurum dialect, and in short sentences. The book was widely read over a long period and there are many precious manuscript copies in libraries and collections.

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In pursuit of universal knowledge
2003 / JUNE
Printed editions of the Marifetnāme were published in Bulak in 1836 and 1864, in Kazan in 1845, in Istanbul at the Imperial Printing House in 1868, with a foreword by Ahmed Sevket, clerk at the Naval Treasury, and the latter was followed by four further editions printed in Istanbul in 1878, 1894, 1912 and 1914. It was translated into French and Persian, and later an Arabic translation was printed in Egypt. At the heart of Ibrahim Hakki's philosophy was divine love, knowledge and wisdom. He believed that accomplishment and morality, humanity and beauty went hand in hand. Although he devoted so much of his life to his own research and writing,
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In pursuit of universal knowledge
2003 / JUNE

he also attached great importance to teaching, as we see in this quatrain addressed to his pupils: 'Having attained wisdom teach others / Disseminate its benefits to the people / To exert influence is to achieve perfection / Thus you will find all understanding within yourself.'

* Ismail Bakar is a librarian.

The copy of the Marifetnâme illustrated here is in Sadberk Hanim Museum

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