Pre-2oth Century-Pilgrims and Sultans: The Haji under the Ottomans, 1517-1683

Article excerpt

Pilgrims and Sultans: The Ha,jj under the Ottomans, 1517-1683, by Suraiya Faroqhi. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 1996. xii + 190 pages. Notes to p. 213. Bibl. to p. 235. Index to p. 244. $24.50 paper.

Pilgrims and Sultans is a comprehensive account of the political and socio-economic aspects of the haj (pilgrimage) during the first and a half century of Ottoman rule in the Hijaz, written by a foremost authority on Ottoman history. Reflecting exhaustive research into Ottoman documents, contemporary travel accounts and biographies, and a host of other primary and secondary accounts in a number of languages, Suraiya Faroqhi's work paints a detailed picture of the haj and carefully notes the important position the pilgrimage held in the Ottoman empire during the decades between the onset of Ottoman rule in the Arabian Peninsula in 1517 and the beginning of the Ottoman-Habsburg war in 1683, which curbed the Porte's control of the haj.

A central premise underlying this work is that the study of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina is important for our understanding of wider early-modern aspects of Ottoman history. Faroqhi thus examines the haj not as a religious event, as has been done in other studies, but as a socio-economic and political event comprised of a series of "interlocking mechanisms" (p. 8) that together served as a "powerful integrating force" (p. 9) within the empire. The pilgrimage thus served to link such diverse actors as government notables, tribal leaders and Hijazi notables, as well as Istanbul, Cairo, Damascus, Mecca and Medina, and towns throughout the empire that were home to waqfs (religious endowments) supporting charities in the holy cities. In focusing on an area at the periphery of the Ottoman empire, i.e., the Hijaz, Faroqhi also breaks away from familiar studies that approach the early-modern period of Ottoman history from the perspective of the imperial center at Istanbul or that examine it in terms of Europe or the successor states to the empire.

After discussing the haj prior to the Ottoman period, Faroqhi divides her work into chapters focusing on six broad issues: routes taken by the haj caravans; caravan security; the finances of Mecca and Medina; construction of public buildings in the holy cities; foreign policy aspects of the pilgrimage; and the economic and political nature of the haj. The chapters present a myriad of details relating to the pilgrimage, including the financing and procurement of camels for the caravans, donations and subsidies to the bedouin tribes through whose territory the caravans traveled, the fluid relations between the central government and the sharifs (notables claiming descent from the Prophet Muhammad and who dominated life in Mecca), building projects and restoration of shrines in the holy cities, and the government's attitudes toward foreign pilgrims. …


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