“Kadızadeli” is a Turkish term that literally means “a supporter of Kadızade” and refers to a 17th- century revivalist movement, arguably rooted in the socioeconomic change in the Ottoman Empire. The movement was named after Kadızade Mehmed (d. 1635), a popular preacher in Istanbul. The history of the movement is usually divided into three periods, each of which revolves around a charismatic preacher.
Kadızade’s intellectual inspiration was Birgili Mehmed (1523– 73), a scholar of ethics and law who was originally from Balıkesir (in northwestern Anatolia) and eventually settled in Birgi (in western Anatolia). Birgili is known for his legal challenge against the practice of cash waqf (religious endowments) sanctioned by the Ottoman grand mufti Abu al-Su’ud (d. 1574). Birgili’s al- Tariqa al- Muhammadiyya (The Muhammadan Path, 1572) became one of the most popular manuals of practical ethics in the 17th and 18th centuries. In this work, Birgili placed special emphasis on “commanding right and forbidding wrong,” a principle that Kadızadelis took to heart.
Kadızade Mehmed was born in Balıkesir and studied with some of the former students of Birgili before he moved to Istanbul, where he eventually became a preacher, quickly moving up in the hierarchy of mosques and reaching the peak of this career preaching at Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia). The Kadızadeli movement emerged within the context of the disagreements he had with another famous preacher at the time, Shaykh Abdülmecid Sivasi (d. 1639).
Sivasi had followed his father and uncle in the Halveti Sufi order and came to lead it in Sivas in eastern Anatolia. His fame reached the ears of Sultan Mehmed III (r. 1595– 1603), who invited him to Istanbul. In Istanbul, Sivasi became the shaykh of a Halveti convent and a well- known preacher, eventually becoming the Friday preacher at the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed.
While Kadızade and Sivasi were preaching in two almost adjacent mosques in the 1630s, they came to disagree on several issues, ranging from the permissibility of coffee and tobacco to Sufi practices, including music and whirling, which is a Sufi ritual meditational dance, and the teachings of Ibn al-’Arabi (d. 1240). Their disagreements did not remain confined to the intellectual realm, as the Kadızadelis, who included both preachers and laymen, embraced his strong emphasis on the principle of “commanding right and forbidding wrong” and eventually took some of the issues to the streets. At times, their agenda converged with that of the sultan, as in the case of the closure of coffee houses by Sultan Murad IV (r. 1623– 40).
After the death of Kadızade in 1635, the Kadızadelis returned to the Ottoman public space, led by Muhammad al- Ustuwani (d. 1661), who was originally from Damascus. In Istanbul he first held study circles at Ayasofya and soon received preaching appointments; he was even invited to preach in the palace. After a confrontation between the Kadızadelis and Sufis at the Fatih Mosque in 1656, Ustuwani was exiled to Cyprus. Köprülü Mehmed Pasha (d. 1661), a grand vizier with extraordinary powers, had no tolerance for public disturbances.
It was Köprülü’s son, Fazıl Ahmed, who brought the next leader of the Kadızadelis, Vani Mehmed (d. 1685), to the capital after having been impressed by him in a meeting in Erzurum, and Vani arrived in Istanbul when Fazıl Ahmed had already become the grand vizier. His sermons brought him many admirers, including Sultan Mehmed IV (r. 1648– 87), who chose Vani as his sons’ tutor and his own mentor. In this capacity, he persuaded the sultan to prohibit certain Sufi practices, such as whirling, in the late 1660s—a decision that was reversed after the gradual disappearance of the Kadızadeli movement.
Studies focused on the Kadızadeli movement have pointed out several factors, such as the tension between the privileged members of the Ottoman ‘ulama’, who were at times targeted by the Kadızadelis, and the Ottoman preachers, as well as the tension between preachers who belonged to Sufi orders and those who did not. The common provincial origins of all Kadızadeli leaders and the lack of knowledge about their family backgrounds suggest that they were all of modest means in comparison with the higher- ranking members of the Ottoman ‘ulama’ and Sufi shaykhs who mostly belonged to well- established families.
There are also some indications that the Kadızadelis might well have been targeting certain privileged socioeconomic groups, such as the Janissaries, many of whom in that period were merchants. A better understanding of this group also requires comparative studies that would take into account the impact of the thought of Ahmad Sirhindi (1564– 1624) in the Ottoman Empire.
See also Ottomans (1299– 1924)
Marc David Baer, Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe, 2008; Necati Öztürk, Islamic Orthodoxy among the Ottomans in the Seventeenth Century with Special Reference to the Qadi- Zade Movement (PhD diss., University of