The Book of Gnosis

The school of thought of the famous 18th century scholar and thinker, İbrahim Hakkı of Erzurum, has been characterized as as having two branches, one branch representing the positive sciences, the other symbolizing theology.

Astronomy and astrology are some of the oldest pursuits of the cultures of the east, where the civilizations of ancient China, India, Egypt and Iran bore aloft the torch of scientific knowledge that Hellenistic civilization carried in the West. The historical sources abound with hundreds of rumors regarding these ancient civilizations’ studies of astronomy. Indeed, astronomy in the east can be traced back as far as the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Sumerians. Muslim scholars, who have a special and important place in the history of science, began to take a close interest in astronomy starting in the 9th century. The colossal observatories founded at Jaipur in India, the observatories of Meraga, Samarqand and Reyy, and the Istanbul observatory, where renowned astronomers like Ali Kuşçu and Takiyyüddin did their work, were some of the most important institutions of astronomy in the eastern cultural geography. The highest importance was accorded to astronomy since fulfilling a significant portion of the obligations of Islamic worship depends on knowing the correct time of day. Muslim astronomers gained access to the work of the astronomers that preceded them through the Greek and Assyrian sources, and purposed to carry that existing body of knowledge forward without concealing the names of its owners. Historians of science today are unanimous in their belief that the Islamic cultural climate, which lasted close to 800 years in Andalusia and 400 in Sicily, was the primary source that fed the process of scientific enlightenment and development that arose in Europe together with the Renaissance.

Famous Astronomers
When we examine the history of science, we see some very distinguished astronomers whose names are written in gold and to whom every literate person owes a debt of intellectual gratitude. Beyond being astronomers, these scholars were actually experts in medicine, mathematics and other disciplines as well. The acclaimed mathematician Nasreddin Tûsi, the great medical scholar İbn-i Sina (Avicenna) and the rhetorician Fahreddin Razi, as well as scholars such as Suhravardi, Ahmed ibn üs-Serraj, el-Biruni, and Jemaleddin el-Mardini were at the same time great astronomers.

Important Measurements
The great astronomers of the east carried out extremely important calculations and measurements in their work. The lengths of the equator and the meridians, for example, were calculated in today’s Iraq and Syria in the time of the Abbasid caliph al-Memun, and sailors engaged in trade on the Indian Ocean succeeded in making detailed calculations of distances and directions with the compasses they developed. The sensitive measuring instruments exhibited in various museums around the world today were developed for the purpose of making those measurements. Astrolabes and quadrants for calculating the times of the Islamic prayers, for example, were the most advanced astronomical measuring instruments of their time.

Astronomy and The Book of Gnosis
The most prominent name in astronomy in 18th century Anatolia was that of the great scholar İbrahim Hakkı of Erzurum and his valuable opus, the Marifetname, or Book of Gnosis. The most important astronomical knowledge of the time was found in this book, which also included studies in medicine, cosmography and mathematics. Although he was from Erzurum, İbrahim Hakkı did most of his work in the town of Aydınlar, better known as Tillo, in Turkey’s eastern province of Siirt. The globe showing latitude and longitude that he produced centered on Tillo, whose name means ‘high place’ or ‘place of lofty spirits’, is among the most important astronomical achievements of the period. İbrahim Hakkı also acknowledged his debt to his teacher, who trained him in several different fields, and on Sheikh İsmail Fakirullah of Tillo, who headed the school there, by inventing an astronomical instrument. This apparatus operated on the principle of focusing and refracting the first light of day that fell on İsmail Fakirullah’s eternal resting place every year on the equinoxes. The charts showing the solar and lunar eclipses and the distribution of the stars and planets that are given in the Book of Gnosis render this work extremely rich and important. It is our great hope today to see an astronomy institute and observatory at Tillo, where so much important astronomical work was once done.