According to the termini ante et post quem, the composition of the treatise must be set with great accuracy between September 1632 and June 1633 (M:vii); i.e. just before Murad IV embarks on his great redress project and in the wake of his successful suppressing of the sipahi rebellion.
Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz Ms. or. quart. 1209, fols 129a-136b.
Murphey, R. (ed.-tr.), Kanûn-nâme-i sultânî li ‘Azîz Efendi: Aziz Efendi’s Book of Sultanic Laws and Regulations. An Agenda for Reform by a Seventeenth-Century Ottoman Statesman (Cambridge, MA 1985).
Kânûn-nâme-i Sultânî ("Book of Sultanic Laws and Regulations") starts with the usual eulogy for the Sultan, who has restored the proper status of the timar lands that had been held “captive and languishing… for the past sixty years” as sepet timar, and who also “has put to the sharp sword all those accursed ones who prefer harmful behavior” (M3). Then Aziz Efendi begins his treatise proper with a chapter on “the ancient law” on viziers (M4-6). In the era of the sultans of old, he states, kept four viziers in office, with their respective stipend fiefs, their stewards administering these fiefs, and their retinues (more than a thousand men for the Grand Vizier and five or six hundred men for the other three). However, since the time of Murad III the number of the viziers has surpassed this limit of four; imperial lands were distributed to them and these were farmed out by the viziers to their own household (kapu kulları). This practice led great portions of land and revenue to ruin and waste. Since these viziers could no more maintain more than thirty or forty men, they were incapable of reviving the necessary ceremonies and duties. Besides, they were useless for the Sultan in time of crisis, i.e. whenever “perpetrators of obstinacy” rebelled, so that the ruler had no choice than to seclude himself in his palace. True, this present Sultan reassigned the lands and suppressed the rebels and evildoers; however, instead of reducing the number of viziers to the traditional four, he added another three, ignoring the fact that “excess of ministers is the cause of the poverty of the treasury” (kesret-i vüzerâ bâ’is-i kıllet-i hazîne olduğu). Aziz Efendi accuses the chief defterdar of having assigned to himself substantial additional revenues and thus having “betrayed the public treasury” (beytü’l-mal). His advices are that the number of viziers be reduced again to four, that the Grand Vizier be independent in his office, and that defterdars lose the rank of a vizier. Moreover, villages that have been given to useless person who declared them as vakfs, in opposition to the law, should be redistributed as timars to the army. As for the palace service, it has become filled with “low, undesirable types and city boys”: these have to be expelled and substituted by Albanians, Bosnians and other of slave origin (kul cinsi), as the ancient law ordains.
This brings Aziz Efendi to his second chapter, on the subject of the salaried troops (M6-12). Following the tradition of scribal reform manuals, he cites in detail the numbers of the janissaries and of the salaried cavalry, showing that they have grown exceedingly because of certain innovations. These were the practice of recruiting apprentices (ağa çırağı) or sipahis’ sons (ferzend-i sipahi), as well as concealing the death of a soldier and selling his pay-ticket to “a shepherd, an agriculturist or else a robber” (becâyeş; the author accuses the then commander of the janissaries and now chief defterdar, Mustafa Paşa, for introducing this practice in 1623). The results are two-fold: on the one hand, the army has swollen with useless rabble who have fled their provinces and thus thrown their own tax-burden to the rest of the peasants; on the other, the constant need for revenue to cover increased expenditures leads to more and more oppression and therefore more and more ruin of the land. Aziz Efendi sets then a detailed road-map for the Sultan, laying down drafts for imperial prescripts: after a careful inspection has shown the fiefs available for reassignment, the Sultan should summon some of the provincial governors to the capital with their forces. Then, he must order the janissary commander and other officers, as “shareholder[s] in the fate of this noble state” (M8: bu devlet-i ‘aliyyeden hıssedâr), and declare to them that he has decided to reduce the number of viziers to four, to reassign misappropriated military fiefs, to chase out low-origin intruders to the palace service; after these words, he must ask them what should be done with people who belong to the military but are unfit or occupied in other professions. The officers being compelled to answer that they will follow the Sultan’s orders, he should ask them to summon all their soldiers. In the same time, the armies of the provincial governors summoned before should occupy their posts in order to intimidate those from among the janissaries who could think of rebellion. Thus, a proper inspection and investigation of the janissary pay-rolls will lead to keeping the honest and real soldiers and expel the unfit and intruders. Aziz Efendi estimates that no more than 15,000 true janissaries will remain, i.e. just a little more than those existing in the beginnings of Murad III’s reign. If the corps sticks then to the old rules of admission and function, it will become again a mighty army. In a similar vein, the commanders of the salaried cavalry should be warned that “through the negligence and carelessness of [the Sultan’s] state ministers” (M11: vükelâ-i devletim ihmâl u gafletleri sebebiyle) outsiders have filled their ranks as well; inspections again will procure diplomas for the real sipahis, reducing them to six or seven thousand men. The same must be done for the rest of the salaried kuls.
The third chapter, and a highly original one, deals with the Kurdish chiefs of the East, in the wake of Murad’s Persian campaign and in view of the next one (M12-18; cf. M:vii-viii and 52 n.56). Aziz Efendi argues that these chiefs, the governors of Diyarbekir, Van and Mosul must act as a strong barrier against Iran. True, being Sunnis (Sünnî Müslimân… sünniyü’l-mezheb) they are closer to the Ottomans than to the Safavids and have proved their loyalty during Selim I and Suleyman’s wars; however, the thoughtless policies of these Sultan’s successors gave way to provincial governors distracting huge sums from them and alienating the Kurdish population from the Ottoman state. Again offering draft orders, Aziz Efendi urges the Sultan to prevent provincial governors of interfering with the Kurdish chiefs’ succession, to assure the latter of his care and favour, and of his resolution to guarantee their autonomy, and finally to appoint a respected ulema for the dispute between the Kurdish chiefs and the usurers. The ulema should issue documents prohibiting interest and considering interest already collected by the money-lenders as part payment of the original sum.
The fourth chapter (M18-21) deals with several issues: first, Aziz Efendi complains that a great number of false claimants to descent from the Prophet fail to pay their taxes and even receive military salaries. A special inspection of the registers should be done; the true descendants must be carefully listed, with the help of the relevant officers, and the false ones executed. The author notes that this must be done with the help and support of esteemed ulema and true descendants of the Prophet, so as to prevent “idle chatter” against the Sultan. Moreover, the class of the ulema is in need of reform as well; the şeyhülislam and the kazaskers should be warned that appointments of judges must be done with respect of seniority and learnedness. Aziz Efendi ends this chapter with some draft orders to the various provincial governors, so as to inspect the proper assignment of fiefs to the right people, i.e. to scions of local military families (ocak-oğulları) and in no way to household servants of grandees (hizmetkâr).
In his conclusion (M22-24), Aziz Efendi lists the beneficial consequences of adopting the reforms he proposes. After essentially summarizing his previous chapters, he also adds a section “on the benefits to be derived from concealment and hiding of (state) secrets”, urging the Sultan to keep the content of his treatise secret, so as he may proceed swiftly in taking the measures proposed.
 Murphey translates “the artisans [in the palace service]” (M11); I think that cemî’-i esnâfı refers rather to the various groups of soldiers.