Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East

By Bernard Lewis | Go to book overview

16
Ottoman Observers of
Ottoman Decline

In May 1541 the Grand Vizier Lûtfi Pasha, after a brief but successful term of office, was dismissed by Sultan Siileyman the Magnificent, apparently because of a dispute arising in the harem. He retired with a pension to his estate in Dimotika, where he died a number of years later. In his enforced leisure he occupied himself with scholarship and especially history and composed various works, one of which was a history of the Ottoman Empire up to his own day. Another of his writings was a booklet called the Āafnāme—the Book of Asaph, after the Biblical figure who in Muslim legend was the vizier of King Solomon and the ideal model of the wise and loyal minister.1

Lûtfi Pasha’s book, however, is more than a Mirror of Ministers, of the kind common in Muslim literature since early times. When he became Grand Vizier, he tells us, he found the High Divan in great disorder and many things contrary to the fundamental laws of the Empire. He, therefore, felt it his duty to set down the results of his own experience, for the guidance of those who, after him, would be called upon to fill this great office beyond which there is nothing to which a subject can aspire and to give both practical advice and ethical principles for the conduct of the affairs of state, while he himself sought peace in retirement. “The Kingdom of this mortal world is swift in passing and full of death. It is better to find wise but not heedless repose in the corner of leisure and the enjoyment of gardens and meadows. May God, from Whom we seek aid, and in Whom we trust, secure the laws and foundations of the House of ‘Osman from the fear and peril of fate and the evil eye of the foe.”2

It was with these premonitions of mortality that Lûtfi Pasha set down

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