Ahmed Efendi Tashkūbrīzādah

Ahmed Efendi [Taşköprülü-zâde]

Scholar, historian, encyclopedist and professor. His full name is Isām al-dīn Abū al-Khayr Ahmad b. Muṣliḥ al-dīn Muṣṭafa b. Khayr al-dīn Khalīl al-Rūmī al-Ḥanafī. He received his first education from his father who was a professor. He continued to study with his father following his return to Bursa with his family, then he studied with Alā al-dīn al-Yatīm. Returning to Bursa with his uncle Qiwam al-dīn Qāsim, a professor at Bursa Molla Khusrev Madrasa, he studied logic with his uncle. Around his age of mid-teens, when his father was appointed to Amasya Ḥusayniya Madrasa, he accompanied him to Amasya where he completed his education in language, logic, philosophy and theology. Then, he studied works on philosophy and theology with famous scholars of the time such as Muḥy al-dīn al-Fanarī and Muḥy al-dīn al-Qojāwī and also works on mathematical sciences with Mirim Çelebi, a scholar of mathematics, astronomy and optics. Then, he received diplomas in various religious sciences from the outstanding scholars of the time.

After graduation, he worked as professor in several important madrasas such as Dimetoka Oruç Pasha Madrasa (1525), Istanbul Mawlā Ibn al-Ḥajj Haṣan Madrasa (1527), Skopje Isḥâqiyya Madrasa (1529), Istanbul Qalandarkhāna Madrasa (1535-36), Istanbul Vizier Muṣtafa Pasha Madrasa (1537-38), Edirne Üç Şerefli Madrasa (1539), Istanbul Sahn-ı Semān Madrasa (1539-1540) and Edirne Bāyezīd Madrasa (1544-45). He was appointed to the judgeship of Bursa (1545-1546). Again, he was transferred to the professorship at Sahn-ı Semān Madrasa (1547). Then, he became the judge of Istanbul (1552). As he had trachoma and lost his eyes in early 1554, he retired. He spent the rest of his life in completing his works. His grave is located in the vicinity of the Moseleum of Sayyid Velāyat in Aşık Pasha neighborhood near Fātiḥ Mosque.

Ahmed, an expert in both transmitted (naqlī) and intellectual (ʿaqlī) sciences, is doctores universales. In terms of scholarly tradition, he combines in his personality the gnostic-theological (irfānī-kalāmī) line starting with Dawūd al-Qayṣarī developing with Molla Shams ad-Dīn al-Fanārī and mathematical-theological (riyaḍī-kalāmī) line that was rearranged in Ottoman scholarly understanding by Ali Kushjī and his companions after the conquest of Istanbul. Therefore, he puts the discursive (bayānī), demonstrative (burhānī) and gnostic/intuitive (irfānī) knowledge traditions in respect to an ontological classification as can be seen in his book of Miftāḥ al-ṣaʿāda wa miṣbāḥ al-siyāda. In this framework, he examines the biographies of Ottoman scholars in his book titled al-Shaqāʾiq al-nuʿmāniyya fī ʿulamā al-dawla al-uthmāniyya, thereby he presents a historical map of the scholarly tradition that he belong to.

Ahmed takes Ibn al-Akfānī’s (d. 749/1348) book titled Irshād al-qāṣid ilā asnā al-maqāṣid as a departure point for the classification of sciences in his books al-Ṣaʿāda al-fākhira fī siyāda al-ākhira and Miftāḥ al-ṣaʿāda wa miṣbāḥ al-siyāda. The book, which connects to Ibn Nadīm tradition through Irshād, explains, in addition to the classification of sciences, various scholarly traditions developing over a process starting from Mesopotamia and Egypt and continuing in Greek and the Muslim worlds coming to his age. In this respect, Miftāḥ is a compendium of the scholarly tradition that started with al-Ghazzālī and developed with Fakhr al-dīn al-Rāzī and that was renewed by Sirāj al-dīn Urmawī, Najm al-dīn Qazwīnī and Quṭb al-dīn al-Rāzī and that was built in the basis of Ottoman thought by Dawūd al-Qayṣarī, Molla Fanārī and Ali Kushjī. According to this, attaining knowledge is achieved either through theoretical/intellectual (naẓārī) reasoning or through purification (taṣfiya). However, as the knowledge (ʿilm) is tied to the known (maʿlūm), the ways of acquiring knowledge varies according to the object of the field of knowledge. As objects have ontologically four different formations in respect to having a share from the existence, they exist either on the physical existence (ʿaynī) or intellectual existence (dhihnī) or linguistic existence (lisānī) or written existence (kitābī/khaṭṭī). Since the knowledge on the physical existence is real knowledge, it does not change according to time, religion or nations, it is universal (kullī). In the knowledge related to this field of existence, if the researcher studies according to the mental capacities philosophical sciences appear and if he studies according the Islamic bases then religious (sharʿī) sciences appear. The knowledge on the mental existence is instrumental science related to meaning (maʿnawī), like logic. The branches of knowledge on linguistic/verbal (lisānī/lafẓī) and written/inscripted (kitābī/khaṭṭī) existence are pure instrumental sciences. According to Ahmed, the knowledge on mental, linguistic and written existence can only be attained through theoretical (naẓarī) reasoning. As for the knowledge on physical existence (ʿaynī), for some it can be attained through theoretical reasoning and for some others through purification (MS., I, pp. 69-70). Then, reconsidering the ontological character of the classification of knowledge, Ahmed states that the existent has four existential spheres and each of these spheres portends to each other in such a way that the khaṭṭī existent portends to the lafẓī existent; the lafẓī existent to the dhihnī existent; and the dhihnī existent to ʿaynī existent. But, the sphere of khaṭṭī and lafẓī existents has metaphorically existential value; and for the sphere of dhihnī existents, their having of metaphorical or real existential value is problematic in respect to the Platonic and Aristotelian discussions on the mathematical entities. However, the ʿaynī existents are real and main sphere of existence. The knowledge on the sphere of ʿaynī are divided into to as naẓarī (theoretical) and ʿamalī (practical), because knowledge is theoretical if it is sought for itself and it is practical if it is sought for another thing. Each one of the branches of naẓarī and ʿamalī are divided into two as ḥikamī that fulfills the rational requirements and sharʿī that fulfills the sharʿ (law, religion). Ultimately, this order of branches of knowledge shows the stages leading one to understand the Qurʾān, in other words, the science of tafsīr (exegesis) (MS, I, s. 75-76). After these principles, Ahmed imagines the branches of khaṭṭī (written), lafẓī (verbal), dihnī (intellectual, concerning the second intelligibles or categories) and ʿaynī (metaphysical, physical, mathematical and practical) sciences at the level of their methodologies (asl) and subjects (ferʿ), in terms of their name and definitions, starting from Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greek civilization coming to the Islamic civilization. He also examines them one by one at the level their subjects and benefits, in terms of their deliberations. Ahmed uses the tools of analysis, synthesis, deduction and induction altogether. Then, in order to help the students studying these sciences, he mentions the name of authors and the titles of brief (mukhtaṣar) intermediate (mutawaṣṣiṭ) and advanced (mabsūṭ) works for each branch of sciences. He enumerates hundreds of works, which gives a bibliographical character to the work. In addition, it becomes a reference book for students and professors in various scientific fields. Therefore, Miftāḥ demarcates the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels in the Ottoman scholarly life and determines the works for study at each level. In fact, the works Ahmed mentions were the ones circulated in Istanbul as the center of Ottoman-Islamic scholarly world in the sixteenth century. Besides, concerning the subjects of education (tarbiya), instruction (taʿlīm), and learning  (taʿallum), Miftāḥ is a developed version of Burhān al-dīn al-Zarnūcjī’s work titled Taʿlīm al-mutaʿallīm, Ibn Jamāʿa’s work titled Tazkira al-sāmiʿ wa al-mutakallimīn and Ibn al-Akfānī’s work title Irshād.



Ahmed has about forty books in the form of manuscript, commentary and super-commentary on the subjects of philosophy, language, logic, religious sciences, history, the history of science, medicine, mathematics and theology. The most prominent of them are the following:


  1. Miftāḥ al-ṣaʿāda wa miṣbāḥ al-siyāda (A): This work on the classification of sciences, penned in 1541, as mentioned above, is a continuation and the last developed product of the line in the Islamic civilization starting from Ibn al-Nadīm, reaching to Ibn al-Akfānī through al-Khwarizmī al-Kātib, al-Fārābī and Ibn Sīnā. In addition to Ahmed’s Miftāḥ’s absorption of the previous tradition, it is a work that influence the Ottoman-Islamic Civilization after him and even is the main work, which define the whole framework for later period, because it is not only a philosophical classification but also bibliographical study that includes existing literature in every branch of sciences. His two other books titled al-Ṣaʿāda al-fākhira fī siyāda al-ākhira and Madinat al-ʿulūm are the works that partially cover the content of the Miftāḥ’s first volume. His son Kamāl al-dīn Muhammed translated Miftāḥ into Turkish with the title Mawḍūʿāt al-ʿulūm (ed. Ahmed Cevdet, İstanbul 1313, 2 vols). Kātib Çelebi depends mostly on Taşköprülü-zâde’s Miftāḥ in his important book titled Kashf al-ẓunūn ʿan asām al-kutūb wa al-funūn. Kawākib al-Sab‘a, which was patronized by the French Embassy in Istanbul in 1741 and examine the works and methods in Ottoman madrasa curricula, is a some kind of summary of Miftāḥ. (İzgi, I, pp. 69-77). This shows that Miftāḥ is a book that represents in a sense the official Ottoman scientific mentality. An Indian scholar from the second half of the nineteenth century, Hasan Hannūjī, uses Miftāḥ, directly or indirectly through Kātib Çelebi, in his book titled Abjad al-ʿulūm. This shows the width of Miftāḥ’s influence in time and space. Likewise, one of the main sources for the history of science in Islamic civilization in the modern period is Ahmed’s Miftāḥ. The work, which has hundreds of manuscripts in the libraries in Turkey and in the world, was published in three volume in Beirut (1985).


  1. Al-Shaqāʾiq al-nuʿmāniyya fī ʿulamāʾ al-dawla al-ʿuthmāniyya (A): Towards the end of Ahmed’s twenty-four year professorship and five year judgeship (1558), he starts to write the biographies of scholars and masters who lived in the Ottoman lands from the beginning of the state until the end of Suleyman I’s reign (1520-1566). He is aware of the fact that there could be more scholars and masters that he did not include but he largely prioritizes the scholarly tradition of Dawūd al-Qayṣarī, Molla Fanārī and Ali Kushjī and Mirim Çelebi, that he also belongs to and the scholars and masters who stood at the center of Ottoman scholar-bureaucrats. In this framework, he recorded in ten periods 521 individuals, 371 of whom were scholars and 150 of whom were masters, living during the reigns of first ten sultans.


Many individuals including Aşık Çelebi (d.1572), Belgradlı Muhtesib-zâde Mehmed Hâkî Efendi (d.1567) and Amasyalı İbrahim b. Ahmed translated his al-Shaqāʾiq into Turkish. The best translation however is Edirneli Mehmed Mecdi Efendi’s Ḥadāʾiq al-shaqāʾiq, which has also many new information. Therefore, Ahmed’s al-Shaqāʾiq has become an important and continuous starting point for examining the biographies of Ottoman intellectuals such as scholars, masters, poets in studies of manuscripts, translations, addendum, summa, commentary and super-commentary. This continued until the twentieth century in Arabic by following al-Shaqāʾiq’s Arabic version and in Turkish by following its Turkish version and a literature based on al-Shaqāʾiq emerged.


Al-Shaqāʾiq was translated by O. Rescher into German with notes and corrections in 1927. In 1975, it was published in Beirut with its Arabic addendum titled al-Iqd al-manzūm fī dhikr afāḍil al-Rūm. Lastly, its critical edition was published by Ahmed Subhi Furat (Istanbul 1985).


  1. Nawādir al-akhbār fī manāqib al-akhyār (A): During his professorship at Ishak Pasha Madrasa in Skopje (1530), he writes this book examining in alphabetical order the biographies of prominent individuals who studied linguistic sciences, religious sciences, philosophical sciences and medicine from the period of the prophet’s companions until his time (KZ, II, p. 1978; Ragıb Paşa, nr. 5274, 427 folios).



  1. Risāla al-shifāʾ li-adwā al-wabā (A): It is a medical book on plague. Its more than twenty manuscripts (see Esad Efendi nr. 327, 76 folios) and its translations into Turkish by Abdulgani Efendi (İ.Ü., TY, nr. 7137, 19 folios) and Ahmed Tevhîd b. al-Shaykh Ismail Hakkı (HA, I, p. 187; Cerrah Paşa, nr. 225, 128 folios) show how much it is widely circulated.


  1. Risāla al-shuhūd al-ʿaynī fī mabāḥith al-wujūd al-dhihnī (A): We know that Ahmed, who approaches to studies on existence at a philosophical-theological level, examines the concepts of existence and existent in the classification of knowledge in Miftāḥ. Following the same approach, he analyzes in this book the “mental existence” which had been considered problematic in respect to its being a metaphorical or real sphere of existence. Therefore, from the perspective of the history of philosophy and theology, he examines the concept of existence (wujūd) in detail and analyzes the mental sphere of existence ontologically (Köprülü Mehmed Asım nr. 705, fols. 10b-33a).




  1. Sharḥ al-fawāʾid al-giyāsiyya fī al-maʿānī wa al-bayān (A): This is a commentary on Adūd al-dīn al-Ījī’s al-Fawāʾid al-giyāsiyya. It discusses Arabic language and eloquence in detail. (Fatih nr. 4637, 232 folios, author manuscript). It is published (Istanbul 1314, 4+286 pages).


There are many works of Ahmed available in the manuscript libraries in Turkey and in the world such as a treatise on the method and ways of discussion titled Adāb al-baḥth (which is widely used and commented after him); a commentary on Adūd al-dīn al-Ījī’s treatise on ethics titled Sharḥ akhlāq al-adūdiyya; a treatise on accounting, Risāla fī ʿilm al-ḥisāb (Ali Emiri, Arabi, nr. 2785/3, fols. 91-96); a treatise on calendar titled Risāla fī maʿrifa al-taqwīm; a treatise on logic titled Fatḥ al-amr al-muʿallaq fī masʾala al-majhūl al-muṭlaq fī al-manṭiq (Bağdalı Vehbi, nr. 2196, fols. 119-127) and a treatise on language titled al-Ināya fī taḥqīq al-istiʿāra bi-al-kināya (Serez, nr. 3880, 15-17 folios).



Ahmed Efendi, Miftāḥ al-ṣaʿāda wa miṣbāḥ al-siyāda, c. I, Beyrut 1985; ŞN, pp. 552-560 (preface p. I-IX); Mecdî, s. 524-526; Nevî-zâde, Ḥadāʾiq, pp. 8-11; HA, I, pp. 143-144; GAL, II, pp. 425-426, SII, pp. 633-634; Jalal Muhammed Musa, Manhaj al-baḥth al-ʿilmī ʿinda al-ʿarab fī majāl al-ʿulūm al-tabīʿiyya wa al-kawniyya, Beirut: n.d., pp. 55-74; Osmanlı Matematik Literatürü Tarihi, prepared by Ramazan Şeşen, Cevat İzgi, (ed. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu), Istanbul 1999, I, pp. 64-65; İA, XII, pp. 42-44; Osmanlı Astronomi Astronomi Literatürü Tarihi, prepared by Ramazan Şeşen, Cevat İzgi, Cemil Akpınar, İhsan Fazlıoğlu, (ed. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu), Istanbul, v. I, pp. 138-140; Babinger, pp. 94-97; Ramazan Şeşen, Mukhtārāt min al-maḥṭūṭāt al-ʿarabiyya al-nādira fī maktabāt al-Turkiyā, Istanbul 1997, pp. 556-557; Ramazan Şeşen, Cemil Akpınar, Cevat İzgi, (ed. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu), Fihris maḥṭūṭāt al-ṭıbb al-islāmī fī maktabāt Turkiyā, Istanbul 1984, s. 280-282; Şakâik-ı nu’maniye ve zeyilleri, ed. Abdülkadir Özcan, v. I, pp. XI-XIII, İstanbul 1989; C. İzgi, Osmanlı Medreselerinde İlim, İstanbul 1997, v. I; pp. 69-77.

For short version of this study, see Ihsan Fazlioglu, “Ahmed Efendi (Taşköprülü-zâde)”, Yaşamları ve Yapıtlarıyla Osmanlılar Ansiklopedisi, v. I, Istanbul 1999, pp. 122-124.