It is suggested that although Korkud’s works remained mostly uncopied, they were read in the palace by high-rank ulemas such as Kemalpaşazade (d. 1534), esp. on the matter of apostasy (see T181-185) but also on his analysis on rulership (T196).
None. The original work being in Arabic. For the present entry is used the extensive summary by Nabil al-Tikriti (T196ff).
Korkud composed Dawat al-nafs al-taliha ila’l-amal al-saliha (“An errant soul’s summons to virtuous works, through manifest signs and splendid proofs”) in Manisa and sent it to the court in order to ask his father to release him from his governing duties, as he no longer aspired to the throne and wished to follow an ulema career (or a kind of honorary retirement as müteferrika). This voluminous Arabic work, full of hadiths, Quranic quotations and scholarly commentaries, focused in showing that being an effective ruler is incompatible with being a pious and proper Muslim, criticizing at the same time the imperial order as this was crystallized by the beginnings of the sixteenth century.
In his preface, addressed directly to his father Bayezid II, Korkud stresses the ephemeral quality of this world and the importance of the salvation of the soul, as opposed to earthly power. He defines the muflis (the “bankrupt”) as anyone who, albeit following the precepts of religion, is doomed to Hell because of his sins (T197-98). Then he proceeds in enumerating the five main reasons for which he decided to resign his candidacy for the Ottoman throne. The necessity of administration (‘urf), he states, leads to (a) committing murder not covered by the shari’a: Korkud explicitly refers to siyaset punishment, i.e. “administrative” execution, noting that the only case for permissible murder of a Muslim would be retaliation for murder, adultery or apostasy, and adding that according to all the ulema ordering someone else to commit murder is a grave sin even if the sinner does not commit the murder in person (T200); (b) seizing and spending illicit wealth: the author considers the various taxes a mixture (at the best) of permissible and impermissible expropriations of wealth, admitting all the same that were they abandoned, the ruler would have no resources whatsoever from his subjects. Even if the subjects accept paying their taxes, this does not invalidate the illegality of these extortions; moreover, the ways these revenues are spent are often sinful, e.g. when they support Sufis; (c) associating with sinners, e.g. Melami dervishes (a straight-forward innuendo for Bayezid’s supporting various Sufi orders); (d) abandoning one’s spiritual “emptying of the heart”, i.e. concentration on devotion to God and withdrawal from the worldly affairs; to this effect, Korkud cites some historical anecdotes with princes and rulers abdicating in order to follow a sinless life; finally, (e) causing civil strife in the struggle for succession: because of the “emptiness of power” (T207: khuluw al-imâra), internal disputes and conflicts are inevitable and the Ottoman experience only proves that fact.
The rest of the treatise addresses various topics. First, Korkud analyzes jihad and criticizes what he conceives as its Ottoman conception, i.e. that focusing in its external, military dimension; the most important jihad, he argues, is the one seeking knowledge and truth rather than plunder. In this respect, he asserts that scholars should be considered higher than soldiers; knowledge is more important than wealth, and a Holy War against non-believers is justified in the eyes of God only if it follows the right course and if the intent of the ruler and his soldiers is purely spiritual. The only exception, he says, is when there is an imminent danger for the Muslim community (this was perhaps inserted in order to make Korkud’s argument compatible with the justification of the persecution of apostates, made in his contemporary treatise on apostasy).
Then, the author elaborates his argument on withdrawal from the association with sinners (T211). From the time of the Prophet onwards, he argues, each generation is worse than the previous one, and the society of his days is especially guilty of material greed; moreover, living in a court arises jealousy for every possible facet of one’s life, and jealousy or slander is indeed a grave sin. Korkud lists a number of ways to fight one’s desire for alcohol, gluttony, sleep, and all kind of temptations inherent in court life; the only sure way, he concludes, is poverty and withdrawal from any governmental affair. Power and wealth inevitably give rise to enmity and envy.
After lengthy discussions on the nature of knowledge and self-knowledge and on sin, guilt and penitence, aiming to show that the only way to save his own soul was to withdraw immediately, i.e. before his death, from all worldly affairs (he also stresses that for a ruler this is even more obligatory: T227), Korkud attacks vehemently the “Sufis” and especially the Melami fraternities, who flourished in Bayezid’s court, various magicians, and some famous mystics, including Ibn al-Arabi (T231). He also condemns those ulema who consider ‘urf, i.e. the imperial administrative practice, equal to the shari’a, and then embarks to several particular complains: the indiscipline and material orientation of the janissaries, the postal system which leads to the harm of the peasants, or the failure of the imperial administration to enforce the religious obligations of its Muslim subjects (T232).
In his conclusion, Korkud puts forth his demands, i.e. to be considered either an ulema or a müteferrika with extended stipend (but extracted exclusively from licit taxation of non-Muslim subjects), free from all administrative duties. His demands do not constitute disobedience, he states, since obedience to one’s ruler does not include carrying out sin (T233).