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Classical, Middle Eastern, and Asian Languages and Cultures

Abdurrahman AtcilAbdurrahman Atcil

Assistant Professor of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Queens Hall, Room 345A
Phone: 718-997-5579

PhD, University of Chicago, 2010

Research Interests

My research and teaching relate primarily to religion and politics, bureaucracy, religious scholarship, intellectual history, and law in the Ottoman Empire in the early modern period.

I am currently working on a book manuscript tentatively entitled Defenders of Faith and Empire: Scholar-Bureaucrats, Sultans, and the Law in the Ottoman Empire (1453-1600), which traces the formation of a bureaucratic class of Islamic religious scholars (ulema) and its changing relationship with the ruling apparatus during the early modern period. In conjunction with the new Ottoman project of empire building after the capture of Constantinople (later, Istanbul) in 1453, the dynasty began to co-opt a group of religious scholars and appoint them to a civil bureaucracy that would represent, together with military officers, the central administration in the provinces. The lack of a prior institutional framework and an established pattern for the relationship between the ruling authority and religious scholars in the newly captured and formerly Christian-ruled lands provided a convenient environment for the Ottoman administration to disregard and/or reform the time-honored social and political privileges of religious scholars and establish an entirely new relationship with them. It arranged for the affiliation of scholars with, and their dedication to the continuation of, the Ottoman dynasty and enterprise in an institutional form by organizing them in a hierarchical professional structure. Consequently, the ever-independent Islamic scholars of the medieval period, who had derived authority from their expertise on scriptures and religious sciences and economically supported themselves through foundations, became government officials in the Ottoman Empire during the early modern period. The term scholar-bureaucrat is used to designate two sides of their identity. They were scholars dedicated to the realization of Islamic ideals, and at the same time, they were bureaucrats committed to the preservation and advancement of the Ottoman polity. On the other hand, the fact that scholars became part of the ruling apparatus in the sixteenth century played an important role in the transformation of the political ideology of the Ottoman polity and its assumption of the role of the champion of Sunni Islam, as well as in its willingness to recognize the supreme position of the religious law (şeriat) in the empire’s legal system.


MES 160: History and Civilization of Islam
MES 240: Revival and Reform Movements in Islam
MES 300: Topic in Islamic Studies: Islamic Society & Law

Recent Publications

"Decentralization, Imperialism and Ottoman Sovereignty in the Arab Lands before 1914: Shakīb Arslān’s Polemic Against the Decentralization Party," Die Welt des Islams 53 (2013)

"Greco-Islamic Philosophy and Islamic Jurisprudence in the Ottoman Empire (1300-1600): Aristotle’s Theory of Sciences in Works on Uūl al-Fiqh," The Journal of Ottoman Studies 41 (2013)

"The Route to the Top in the Ottoman İlmiye Hierarchy of the Sixteenth Century," The Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies 72 (2009)

"Ebusu‘ud Efendi” and “Logic and Law," The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law (forthcoming)


 Office Information

Miryam Segal
Department Chair
Location: Queens Hall, Room 215
Phone: 718-997-5570
Fax: 718-997-5577

Faculty and Staff Information

Language Placement

Language Coordinators

Upcoming Language Placement Exams

Summer 2016

Arabic: between 12 and 1:30pm
Queens Hall 245D

  • June 29
  • June 30
  • August 17
  • August 18

Hebrew: contact the Hebrew language coordinator at

Chinese: between 1 and 3pm
Queens Hall 345G

  • June 9  
  • June 16
  • July 21 
  • July 28
  • August 10 
  • August 24

Japanese:  between 12 and 1:30pm
Queens Hall 240 or as listed

  • June 15 - QH345E
  • June 29 - QH345E
  • July 13 - QH245C
  • July 27 - QH245C
  • August 3
  • August 10 
  • August 17
  • August 24 - QH245C

Korean: between 12 and 2pm
Queens Hall 345D

  • June 9
  • July 14
  • July 28
  • August 10
  • August 24

 Faculty Profiles


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