Yılmaz, M. Ş., “Political Thought in the Beginning of the Ottoman Empire as Expressed in Ahmed bin Husameddin Amasi’s Kitab-ı miratü’l-mülûk (1406)”, unpublished M.A. thesis, Bilkent University, Ankara 1998.
Amasi’s Kitab-ı mir’atü’l-mülûk ("Book of a mirror for kings") is divided into two parts of unequal length, following his two sources, without explicitly revealing them, Tûsî in the first and Ghazâlî in the second. The first part, designated as a treatise on morals (Y82-139) consists of three chapters, dealing with the first principles (mebâdî), the purposes (makâsıd) and the practical courses or measures (tedbîr) of ethics. The first chapter (Y82-98) consists of six sections; in the first (Y84-86), Amasi states that wisdom (hikmet) has its theoretical (‘ilm) and its practical (‘amel) part; he is going to dwell on the second, i.e. practical wisdom, which is also divided into that related to the self alone and that related to society in common (cemâ’ata müşâreket ile). The latter, in its turn, may concern one’s household or the “town and province and country” (şehir ve vilâyet ve iklîm). Thus, practical wisdom may, as a matter of fact, be divided into three kinds: the improvement of morals, the managing of the household, and the administration of cities (siyâset-i müdün) or political wisdom (hikmet-i medenî). As this science discusses in essence the human soul, its principles belong to the natural science (‘ilm-i tabî’iyye). The second section (Y86-88) deals with the human soul: its existence needs no proof (since no one is ignorant of oneself); furthermore, it is substantial (cevher; not symptomatic, araz), undividable, conscious of itself; finally, it is not corporeal and thus is independent of the body. In the third section (Y88-89), Amasi enumerates the faculties of the soul: the faculty of reason (nutk), which is peculiar to humanity, and can be either the theoretical (‘akl-ı nazarî) or the practical mind (‘akl-i ‘amelî), and the faculties of appetite (kuvvet-i şehevî) and passion (kuvvet-i gazabî), which are also found in animals other than man. He mentions that others name these powers “angelic soul”, “soul of passion” and “soul of lust” (nefs-i melekî, nefs-i seb’î, nefs-i behîmî). The fourth section (Y89-92), the author sets to prove the excellence of man, and he does this by explaining an elaborate hierarchy of beings according to their faculties and powers. The fifth section (Y92-93) further shows that the human soul is capable for the best and the worst, according to the extent and the way its faculties are used; finally, in the sixth section (Y93-98) Amasi explains, through a detailed analysis of the kinds of good (hayr), happiness and pleasure, how a man may reach completeness. Happiness (sa’âdet) is composed of four parts, called also virtues, namely wisdom, courage, honesty and justice (hikmet, şecâ’at, ‘iffet, ‘adâlet).
The second chapter (Y98-116), on the purposes of ethics, has four sections. In the first (Y98-99), Amasi tries to demonstrate that one’s morals may change, as there are ephemeral and constant features of the soul, the former prone to formation through education, punishment, example and even miracle. The second section (Y99-104) focuses in the cardinal virtues as exposed before. Amasi’s analysis is based on the three faculties of the human soul and their need to be kept in equilibrium. The reason, or angelic soul, when used with moderation (i’tidal) produces the virtue of knowledge (fazîlet-i ‘ilm) and through this, wisdom (hikmet); again when used with moderation, the faculty of passion is responsible for courage (şecâ’at) with the help of mildness (hilm); and that of appetite or lust, for generosity (saha) with the help of honesty (‘iffet). When these three kinds of virtue combine at peace with one another, justice (‘adâlet) is produced, the highest and most complete virtue of all. All these virtues have their excesses, which are not commendable. Amasi then enumerates the subdivisions of each virtue (wisdom comprises intelligence, quick understanding, easiness in learning, memory and remembrance; courage includes zeal, endurance, humility, public spirit [hamiyyet] and compassion; as for honesty, bashfulness, suavity, patience, contentment, dignity, chastity, freedom and generosity; finally, justice comprises faithfulness, familiarity, loyalty, compassion, fair retribution, compliance to Godly rules, resignation to God and piety), and proceeds to study the vices produced by excess or lack of these virtues. He reserves for justice the third section (Y104-107). Justice can be of three kinds, namely equity in distributing property or social rank, justice in financial transactions, and justice in punishment; in all three kinds, justice is knowing and determining the middle way (evsât), with the guidance of the law of God (nâmûs-ı ilahî). According to Aristotle, says Amasi, justice differs from other virtues because both its excess and lack is the same, namely oppression: if for excess of justice one is granted more than he deserves, another one is oppressed. After noting that the working of Godly law is evident from the equilibrium settled among the four elements, Amasi then proceeds in establishing the need of mankind for mutual help in order to survive; some have to serve others, and some have to give to others in order for justice and equality to exist (ba’zı âdem ba’zısına hidmet ide ve ba’zısından ala ba’zısına vire tâ ki ta’adül ve müsâvât ola). Inevitably there must be an intermediary (vasıta), and this is money. And for regulating the use of money with reason and justice, a ruler is needed. Thus, three things are required for the preservation of justice, namely the law of God, a human ruler (hâkim-i insânî) and money; inversely, an oppressor (câyir) is greatest when he disobeys the law of God, medium when he does not comply to the ruler, and small-size when he disrespects the function of money. The third oppression leads to robbery and plundering, but the oppression resulting from ignoring the first two requirements is greatest. Some sages divide justice into three parts: submission to God, respect for the rulers, for the rights of one’s fellow people (hukûk-ı ebnâ-i cins) and for just transactions, and submission to the laws and orders (edâ-ı hukûk ve infâz-i vasâyâ). Finally, a fourth section (Y107-116), of a more moral character, deals in detail with the “treatment of the diseases of the soul”, taking up in turn ignorance, wrath, fear of death, melancholy and jealousy.
In the third chapter (Y116-139) Amasi proceeds to the practical science of ethics, which is divided into two “classes”, the governance of the household and that of the “city”. As for the first, it is furthermore divided into five sections; in the first (Y116-118), Amasi examines the need for humanity to be organized into families: man needs food, and neither agriculture nor husbandry can be done by one man alone, so people must collaborate with one another. Furthermore, a place is needed for rest and protection; a wife to bear and raise one’s offspring; and servants to help. Thus, the five pillars of the house (which, Amasi notes, is not meant just as a construction but as the locus of the family) are the father, the mother, the servant and the means of sustenance (kût). The second section (Y118-119) deals with economics as a source of sustenance: they may be viewed from the point of view of revenue, of keeping hold of the former, and of its expenditure. Revenue may come through seeking it (e.g. with trade or craft) or incidentally, such as gifts or inheritance. The first way includes many categorizations, notes Amasi, but restrains himself in stressing that justice, honesty and generosity are necessary. As for keeping hold of the wealth, he emphasizes that it must not deprive the members of the household of their means of subsistence, nor be in at the expense of religious duties, nor, finally, lead to avarice. The same goes for spending one’s wealth: the priority should be the expenditures ordered by God, e.g. canonic alms, then should come expenses showing generosity, such as various kinds of presents and gifts, and finally necessary expenses for food, clothing and so forth. The subject of the third section (Y119-121) is the administration of the household; Amasi warns that marrying must aim to the keeping of one’s wealth and the need for offspring, rather than to the satisfaction of lust. A good wife must be virtuous; it is better to be a free woman than a slave, and better a virgin than a widow. To govern a wife, one should inspire awe, display generosity and keep her occupied with the household affairs, in order to avoid “things like going out of the house or seeing strangers”; furthermore, the husband should show affection, consult with her for every affair, and preventing her from the company and temptation of strangers. In the fourth section (Y121-125) Amasi deals with the government of one’s children, including lengthy discussions of the good manners (âdâb) for conversation, eating and drinking, and showing respect to the parents. Finally, the fifth section (Y125-127) concerns servants and slaves, with advice on their selection, their treatment and punishment, as well as the characteristics of several races.
Now, the second class of ethical practice, i.e. the government of cities, is dealt with in three sections. In the first section (Y127-130), Amasi sets to demonstrate the need of mankind for settlement (temeddün). He draws the distinction between simple and complex bodies; the further reach their perfection from their complexity, and this is attained through the aid of various means. Man as well needs help not only by external means but also by his fellow men, since no person can produce all the goods needed for one’s subsistence. Thus, “the human race is naturally in need of society, and this kind of need is called civilization (temeddün); this term derives from the word ‘city’ (medîne), which is defined as every locality where people gather and help each other with the various professions, in order to procure their means of life” (Y128). However, the aims of each person in this association are different, and this would lead to a situation where the more powerful enslave the weaker. For this reason, there must be a power (tedbîr) to keep everybody in their houses, ranks and limits, preventing tyranny and oppression; this power is called governance (siyâset), and it can be procured either with a wise law (kânûn-i hikmet), called then divine governance (siyâset-i ilâhî), or by other means. A law of God (nâmûs-ı ilahî) is needed. Amasi explains that in the field of the regulating principles (takdîr-i evzâ’), a person has to be put higher than the others by Godly inspiration (ilhâm-i ilâhîyle ayruklardan mûmtâz ola). This person was called by the ancient sages nâmûs (νόμος) and his orders nâmûs-ı ilahî; respectively law-giver (şâri’) and sharia by the Muslim ones. Similarly, in the field of issuing orders (takrîr-ı ahkâm) a person has to be exalted also with God’s confirmation (te’yîd-i ilâhîyle); the ancient called him “absolute king” (melik-i ale’l-ıtlâk) and the Muslims imam. The rest of the section is devoted to the disapproval of asceticism: the composition of mankind is such that those who chose to live alone deprive the others of their help; the result is oppression, since no virtue can be exercised without the company of other people. Neither justice, nor honesty, courage or generosity can be exerted by one’s own. In the second section (Y130-135), Amasi makes distinction between the “virtuous government” (siyâset-i fâzıla), called also imamate, where the imam sees the subjects as friends and treats them with justice, and the “imperfect” one (siyâset-i nâkısa), called also tyranny (tagallüb), where a tyrant, himself a slave of his appetites, turns the subjects into his servants and slaves. Now, those who seek kingship must have seven virtues: namely, fatherly attitude (übüvvet) to make people love him, high aspirations (uluvv-i himmet), resulting from the control of his passions and lust, solidity of opinion (metânet-i rey), determination (‘azîmet-i tamâm), patience, wealth, and good assistants. In order to guard their realm, on the other hand, they have to unite their friends and divide their enemies. They must display justice toward their subjects and protect them; in the first place, they must treat each class with equity, in such a way that no class takes preponderance over another, just as the four elements in nature. In this simile, the men of the pen, i.e. ulema, judges, scribes, engineers, astrologers, doctors, poets etc., correspond to water; the men of the weapons, warriors of the Holy War (mücâhidler ve gâziler), men of courage and assistants of the dynasty (a’vân-ı devlet) , who guard the world order, are likened to fire; the men of transactions (ehl-i mu’âmele), merchants and craftsmen correspond to air; and finally, the farmers, without whose assistance no sustenance can be held, are likened to earth. Secondly, rulers must reward those of their subjects who practice good deeds, incite those of middle disposition toward good, and punish the evil-doers (avoiding as much as possible execution, however). Thirdly, they should distribute gifts and ranks evenly, with equity and generosity. Granting favours is one of the foremost duties of a ruler and it has to be done with justice. Furthermore, the king must have his mind set on his realm, which is more important than to keep a strong army; he has to consult decent and wise people, keep himself informed on the state of his enemies with spies, and generally avoid war if he can practice persuasion (istimâlet). But if he has to campaign, then he must not go in person, but trust the leadership of the army to someone courageous, wise and experienced. Again, as he urged the king to avoid executions of criminals, Amasi also maintains that keeping prisoners is more useful than slain them. The third section (Y135-139) deals with the relations of the kings with their subjects, and proceeds to a series of advice destined for those who serve the king in person: for instance, they have to be readily available at all times; they should avoid to oppose the king, but try to influence his opinion gradually, with examples, stories and witticisms; they should not be greedy or take advantage of the king’s favour. The most difficult service is that of the vizier: many want his position and may use their friendship with the king to usurp it.
The second part of Amasi’s work (Y139-156), based on al-Ghazali, is programmatically devoted to “advice and stories” and indeed it is full of stories, mostly concerning Sassanian kings, that illustrate its meanings; it includes three sections. The first (Y139-151) warns the Sultan to be grateful for God’s grace and urges him to follow uprighteousness in two ways, between himself and God, on the one hand, and between himself and the people, on the other. The latter kind corresponds to justice, and has several degrees. The first degree is the recognition of God’s rights over man and particularly over the Sultanate. Among God’s blessings (nimet), the second most important (after faith) is authority (velayet), as shown by various sayings of the Prophet; rulers, who are blessed thus, must be aware of their respective obligations. At this point, Amasi quotes the famous “circle of justice” in Arabic (and so may be credited with the first appearance of it in Ottoman literature): “there is no religion without king, no king without army, no army without wealth, no wealth without improvement of the cities, and no such improvement without justice” (Y142). The second degree of justice is the respect for the ulema; the ruler must listen to their advice and act accordingly. As for the third degree, it is that the sultan should not be satisfied with preventing his own unjustice; he is also responsible for the misdeeds of his officials. Oppression of the subjects on their part is to be credited to the ruler himself. One story goes typically: “They asked a king who had lost his power, why did power change hands and why did his realm go away. And he answered: Because I was proud of my power and might, and haughty about my opinion, knowledge and reason, so that I avoided consultation; because I handed over important affairs to small people, lost all opportunities in time, and was lazy and neglectful concerning the affairs of the people” (Y149). The second section (Y151-153) deals with viziers, and stresses that they should be upright, wise and just, since a Sultan needs a vizier for the administration of his realm, as a helper and an associate (mu’în ve müşârik). Amasi notes that a good vizier has many enemies and few friends, so he has to abstain from asking favours from the Sultan. Finally, the third section (Y153-156) is devoted to “advice of the wise” and contains the traditional ethical advice given “from Plato to his disciple Aristotle”, as well as Arabic stories emphasizing that reason cannot be dissociated from religion and knowledge, the need for abstinence, and so forth.