A. Hilal Ugurlu deposited Philanthropy in the Form of a Hair Strand: Sacred Relics in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lands in the group Cultural Studies on Humanities Commons 1 week, 3 days ago
From the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the caliphal status and the legitimacy of the Ottoman sultans were constantly and increasingly challenged. One of the most effective and powerful tools that they utilized in order to strengthen their diminishing image in the eyes of their subjects was the re-appropriation of sacred places, either by extensive restorations or by demolishing and rebuilding them. While this was not an emergent practice, during the tumultuous moments of the long nineteenth century, these incidents proliferated. Additionally, a sacred network associated with the benevolence and religiosity of the sultans was created by the increasing mobility of the sacred relics of Prophet Mohammad. For instance, hair strands of the Prophet (lihye-i şerif) were sent to different corners of the Ottoman geography by the court. These sacred relics were kept generally in newly built mosques or custom built and repurposed edifices that protected and made its visitation possible. Similarly, in the Capital, visiting these relics became popularized. So much that Abdülmecid I (r.1839-61) ordered the construction of a new imperial mosque (Hırka-i Şerif Camii) at Fatih. Although called a mosque, it was designed specifically for the visitation of the Holy Mantle, as a ziyara. This article investigates the proliferation and circulation of the sacred relics in the nineteenth-century Ottoman lands. It argues that these acts not only aimed to address the religious needs of the subjects but were also expected to infuse the sacredness of these relics to the imperial image.