How My Ancestors Thought About the Modernity?

At the first half of the 19th century, (more specifically at 1848, just after the 1848 Revolutions) an Ottoman citizen called Ahmed Cevdet went to Bucharest. He was a messenger and lower rank of a diplomat. He had assigned to deliver a message to a high-ranking Ottoman statesman from the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman empire. He was born at 1822, in a Turkish family from Lovech, a city at present day Bulgaria. He learnt Arabic language, Bulgarian language, and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) at Lovech. Then, he was sent to Istanbul to study in the Istanbul madrasas. In Istanbul, he learnt Persian language, French language, logic, geometry, algebra, then became a state official. He died on 25 May 1895.

He was an erudite Ottoman citizen. He was a poet, translator (translated Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah into Turkish language), official historian of the Ottoman court, an Islamic jurist, governor, pedagogue, professor at Istanbul law school, diplomat, state inspector, army general, a member of Council of State of the Ottoman empire, Minister of Trade of the Ottoman empire, Minister of Justice of the Ottoman empire, Minister of Islamic endowments, grammarian, and lexicographer. He codified the Sharia as a civil code. Also, he was the father of Fatma Aliye, one of the first woman writers and feminists of the Muslim world. Furthermore, one of his granddaughters became a Catholic nun, unfortunately.

He went to Bucharest, and he started to talk with every kind of people at Bucharest in order to learn about Bucharest’s society. He was curious about Western society at large. He saw it, he didn’t like it.

Let me show you what an Ottoman intellectual wrote about the Western society, specifically relations with the opposite sex. I translated a beautiful and colorful passage into English:

“I assume that (in Bucharest) nobody had heard about the words of virtue, chastity, decency, and honor from their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers and so on! There is no tradition of shame, and jealousy between husbands and wives. Every women and men can see and talk with anybody they like, plus there are no barriers and difficulties. If a woman is together with her lover at her bed, her husband would not go into their room, in order to not disturb them! Dating (he used a word which means to speak and to date; but actually he meant to hook, to fuck with) with women became a vile job, and there is no ambition and desire for decent and sane relationships.

I could not believe that. I thought that was special for Bucharest. I saw a Frenchman whom I knew and asked him: Is dating with women THAT libertine in France too? He said, far from it! In France, women are free too, but they are under a masquerade of decency and chastity. In here (Bucharest), people are freer, because masquerade had ended and everything had revealed.”


6 thoughts on “How My Ancestors Thought About the Modernity?

  1. Pingback: How My Ancestors Thought About the Modernity? | Reaction Times

    • There are many reasons. First of all, property. Many families with substantial amount of property in Turkey have practiced cousin marriage in order to prevent their property “to go” someone else. I think that reason is acceptable in the Middle East too.

      The second reason is that many Turkish girls in Western Turkey, especially with university education are slightly different than their American counterparts. And for many traditional families, marrying their sons/daughters with their cousins is the only realiable way to form a family.

      Islam neither commanded nor forbid cousin marriage.

      “Forbidden unto you (for marriage) are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters, and your father’s sisters, and your mother’s sisters, and your brother’s daughters and your sister’s daughters, and your foster-mothers, and your foster-sisters, and your mothers-in-law, and your step-daughters who are under your protection (born) of your women unto whom ye have gone in – but if ye have not gone in unto them, then it is no sin for you (to marry their daughters) – and the wives of your sons who (spring) from your own loins. And (it is forbidden unto you) that ye should have two sisters together, except what hath already happened (of that nature) in the past. Lo! Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.”

      Quran 4:23


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