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Akseki, Ahmet Hamdi

By:
Ilhan Yildiz
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The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

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Akseki, Ahmet Hamdi

Ahmet Hamdi Akseki (1887–1950) was born in Gulzelsu Township of Akseki county in the province of Antalya, Turkey. He was the son of Mahmut Efendi, the imam and preacher of Guzelsu Mosque, where he received his primary education. When he was fourteen he continued his education in Odemis at the Karamanli Suleyman Efendi theological school where, in addition to studying Arabic and religion, he also learned Persian.

Akseki moved to Istanbul in 1905 to continue his education and learn from the most important men of religion and ideas of the era: Ismail Hakki İzmirli, Ahmet Naim, Mehmet Akif, Ferit Kam, Elmalili Hamid Yazir, and Mehmet Efendi from Erzurum. He studied for three years at the Ulum-i Aliye-i Diniye Branch of the Darul-Funun and graduated from the Darulʿl-Hilafetiʿl-Aliye Theological School in 1914.

Akseki studied in the departments of philosophy and Islamic theology (kalām) and science (hikmet); he completed his higher education with distinction with the study he conducted on “Theories of the Spirit” (1918). He began his career as a government employee on March 17, 1916 as a teacher of religious doctrines at the naval academy in Heybeliada. At the time he assumed this position he was still a student at the Medresul-Mutehassisin and was recommended by Ismail Hakki İzmirli with the discretion and approval of Mustafa Hayri Efendi, the şeyhülislâm (Ar., shaykh al-Islam). At the same time, he served as a preacher in various mosques in Istanbul (1916–1918).

Akseki began to write for the Sirat-ı Mustakim magazine, which went into circulation in 1908; he wrote 154 articles under 105 titles; the magazine continued its publication under the name Sebilürreşad. Prior to the Balkan war, Akseki traveled around Bulgaria and wrote about his impressions—these were published in a book called Bulgarian Letters.

While he was a teacher at the naval academy in Heybeliada, Akseki traveled to Anatolia in support of the national struggle conducted under the leadership of the Ankara government. He was appointed the General Manager of Şeriye and Evkaf Vekaleti (1922) after serving as a teacher of religion at the Ankara High School (1921). While in this position, he improved the Darul-Hilafe Theological schools and was commended by Atatürk for his works (1923). Akseki was unemployed for a period when the higher and specialty section of the religious schools and the General Directorate of Şeriat and Evkaf Vekaleti were abolished in accordance with the provisions of Article 4 of the law on education, and the students of these schools were transferred to the newly-opened faculty of theology. On April 26, 1924 he was appointed teacher of the tradition and history of ḥadīth (the words and deeds of the Prophet Muḥammad) at the Darul Funun Faculty of Theology in Istanbul (1924). But before beginning this assignment, he served as a member of the Higher Council of Religious Affairs and performed numerous remarkable services. First, he printed The Abstraction of Sahih-i Buhari and Translation of Tecrid-i Sarih, the first three volumes of which were prepared by Ahmet Naim and the rest of the volumes by Kamil Miras. Second, he printed the interpretation of the Qurʿān called The True Religion and the Language of the Koran written by Elmalili Hamdi Yazir.

On July 21, 1939 changes were made in the Presidency of Religious Affairs and a position called “deputy president” was established; Akseki was the first to be appointed Deputy President of Religious Affairs. When Rıfat Borekci, the Director of Religious Affairs, passed away on March 5, 1941, Akseki was appointed the Acting President of Religious Affairs. Akseki returned to his former position when Serafettin Yaltkaya was appointed to the position on January 14, 1942. Upon the death of Serafettin Yaltkaya, Akseki was appointed President of Religious Affairs (decree no. 21047) on April 29, 1947, while Recep Peker was prime minister. Akseki passed away in Ankara in 1951 while he was in this position.

During the initial years of the republic, many people well versed in religion were sought out for their opinions on religious education in Turkey. Among these individuals, Ahmet Hamdi Akseki was perhaps the most important, largely because of his way of life, works, views, and principles.

Akseki was a master of religion who spoke Arabic, Persian, and English. He had great vision and closely monitored the developments of his time, continuously re-examining his views and opposing imitation. He was interested in positive science and philosophical thinking and tried to explain, understand, set the foundation, and defend Islam by utilizing the thinking of the important western philosophers. For example, in defending the existence of God against atheists and materialists, Akseki, in addition to using kindness (inayet) and the proof of invention of the classical Islamic philosophers such as al-Kindī, Ibn Sīnā and Ibn Rushd, also made use of the contributions of western philosophical thought such as the proof of eternal truths by Leibniz, the proof of perfection by Descartes, and the proof of morals by Kant.

Akseki, in his book Religious Lessons for our Children, teaches religion and ethics to children between the ages of eight and fifteen. His book titled Islamic Religion has been used in various schools and religious schools (Imam-Hatip schools), in courses of theology for clerics, divinity schools, in teachers’ schools, and others. With the book Religion Book for Soldiers, he addressed the youths who go to the military; Religion for the Villagers was directed to the villagers and the general public; My New Sermons focused on clerics; and Islam and Lessons on Ethics were aimed at the youth and teachers working at higher grade levels. Numerous other works have contributed to the religious education of the Muslims in Turkey.

Akseki, as an intellectual who experienced life under the absolute sultanate in his childhood, the constitutional government in his adolescence, and the republic in his adulthood, closely monitored the social and cultural changes taking place in Muslim Turkish society and made accurate evaluations in this regard in his books and articles. Throughout his life he exerted himself for the development of all fields of Islamic society that lagged behind economically, politically, culturally, and scientifically. To this purpose, Akseki found it necessary to revive the Islamic sciences by taking into account the Qurʿān and the teachings of the Prophet and re-examining the nature of existing Islamic organizations. He opposed those who attacked Islam and claimed that it is an obsolete institution, by exposing myths and superstition. For him, Islam is a religion of the mind that maintains a balance between this world and the next world and has innate, natural, and universal dimensions. He defended freedom of religion and conscience, and supported democracy. According to Akseki, the state is established on two bases: the first one upholds justice and the second entrusts the governance of the state to those worthy of it. Therefore, any method of administration that maintains these two issues, regardless of what it is called, is legal in terms of Islam.

Akseki, given his background, adopted the path of the reformist Muslims that began with Muhammad ʿAbduh and was refined by Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā. According to these individuals, true Islam was experienced during the time of the holy Prophet and his caliphs, the  “Century of Happiness” (Asr-i Saʿādet). Reformists must expunge the myths, heresy, and deviations introduced into Islam in the ensuing centuries and Islam must be brought back to its original state of purity and clarity.

When the new generation, growing up with the Latin alphabet, experienced a great deficiency in religious culture because books on Islam were not written in these letters, certain circles adamantly continued to read the Ottoman religious works. Akseki was one of those who wrote religious works in the Latin alphabet to fill the void. He wrote in plain language that was widely read and welcomed by the people of Anatolia. Approximately 1.5 million copies of his work called The Islamic Religion were printed and it became one of the most widely sold books on religion during the republican era. A careful review of the list of books written in Turkish by Akseki and printed by the state budget reveals his decisiveness and effort.

Akseki emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace and reconciliation and that it could be adapted to the modern way of life. He has come to the fore among those well versed in religion of the Ottoman era as a scholar who understood that Islam is tolerant and does not advocate violence. He explains Islam as a composition of beliefs that encompass the moral guidance and other institutions necessary for the happiness of all mankind.

Akseki identifies moral corruption as one of the main reasons the Islamic world is lagging behind. He was sensitive about morality and continually emphasized that Islam is a religion of morals. According to Akseki, Islam is an innate, natural, and universal religion. Akseki broadened the understanding of “the brotherhood of religion” introduced by Islam. Based on the assumption that Adam was the father of all mankind, he used the term “brotherhood of mankind.” See also TURKEY.

Bibliography

  • Akseki, Ahmet Hamdi. Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı Yayınları. Ankara, 2005. (The Symposium Book on Ahmet Hamdi Akseki).
  • Bolay, Süleyman Hayri, and Ahmet Hamdi Akseki. İslām Ansiklopedisi II. Ankara, 1994.
  • Doğrul, Ömer Rıza. “üstad Ahmet Hamdi Akseki.”Selamet İst1 (Mayıs 1947), p. 9.
  • Ertan, Veli, and Ahmet Hamdi Akseki. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı Yayınları. Istanbul, 1988.
  • Kara, İsmail. Türkiyeʿde İslamcılık Düşüncesi II. Kitapevi Yayınları, Istanbul, 1997. See pp. 269–379.
  • Yücel, İrfan. “Ölümünün 33. Yıldönümünde Kendi Kaleminden Ahmet Hamdi Akseki.”Diyanet Gazetesi (Ocak, 1984), p. 299.

Ahmet Hamdi Akseki's Works

  • 14 Asır Evvel Doğan Güneş Hz. Muhammed (The Prophet Muḥammad: The Sun that Rose Fourteen Centuries Ago). Ankara Güven: Basımevi, 1954.
  • Ahlâk Dersleri (Moral Courses). Istanbul: üçdal Neşriyat, 1968.
  • Askere Din Kitabı (Religious Book for the Soldier). Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Yayınları. Istanbul: Ebuzziya Matbaası, 1945.
  • Bilinmesi Elzem Hakikatler (Indispensable Things to Know). Istanbul: Tevsi-i Tabaat Matbaası, 1932.
  • Dini Dersler (Religious Courses). 3 vols. Istanbul: Evkaf-ı İslâmiye Matbaası, 1920, 1921, 1923.
  • Düşmana Karşı (Against Enemy). Istanbul: Bedir Yayınları, 1972.
  • Islâm Dini (The Religion of Islam). Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi şkanlığı Yayınları. Ankara: Ayyyildizz Matbaasi, 1963.
  • Islâm Fitri, Tabiî ve Umumi Bir Dindir (Islam is Innate, Natural and Universal Religion). Vol. 1. Istanbul: Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi Yayinlari, 1943.
  • Islâm Fitri, Tabiî ve Umumi Bir Dindir (Islam is Innate, Natural and Universal Religion). Vol. 2. Edited by H. Tahsin Feyizli. Ankara: Nur Yayinlari, 1981.
  • Islâmiyet ve Terakki (Islam and Development). Istanbul: Fatih Matbaası, 1966.
  • Köylüye Din Dersleri (Religious Courses for the Villagers). Istanbul: Amedi Matbaası, 1928.
  • Kuvvet ve Tayyare (The Power and Aircraft). Istanbul: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Yayınları, 1935.
  • Müslümanlıkta İktisadiyatın Ehemmiyeti (The Importance of Economy in Islam). Ankara: Köy Hocası Matbaası, 1932.
  • Namaz Surelerinin Tercüme ve Tefsiri (The Translation and Commentary of Prayer Sūrahs). Ankara: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Yayınları, 1954.
  • Öğretmen ve Öğrencilere Yardımcı Açıklamalı Din Dersleri (Auxiliary and Explanatory Religious Courses for Teacher and Students). 2 vols. Ankara: Güney Matbaacılık ve Gazetecilik, 1949.
  • Peygamberimiz ve Müslümanlık (The Prophet Muḥammad and Islam). Ankara: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Yayınları, Güzel Sanatlar Matbaası, 1955.
  • Peygamberimizin Vecizeleri (The Aphorisms of the Prophet). Istanbul: Matbaai Ebuzziya, 1945.
  • Yavrularımıza Din Dersleri (Religious Courses to Our Kids). Istanbul: Toker Matbaası, 1968.
  • Yeni Hutbelerim (My New Sermons). Istanbul: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Yayınları, Cumhuriyet Matbaası, 1936.
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