More than 20 mss. See Şakir Yılmaz, ““Koca Nişancı” of Kanuni: Celalzade Mustafa Çelebi, Bureaucracy and “Kanun” in the Reign of Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566)”, unpubl. Ph.D. thesis, Bilkent University, Ankara 2006, 248-49.
Balcı, M., “Celalzade’nin Mevahibü’l-hallak fi meratibi’l-ahlak isimli eseri”, unpublished MA thesis, Harran University, Şanlıurfa 1996: a detailed synopsis.
Mevâhibü’l-hallâk fi merâtibi’l-ahlâk (“Talents bestowed by the Creator in the levels of ethics”) is much closer to the “mirror for princes” genre, being a creative translation of Husayn Vaiz Kashifî’s Ahlak-ı Muhsinî. In comparison with his model, Celalzade added scattered pieces of eulogy of the Ottoman lands and their excellence (Ş196-97), as well as chapters on envy, calumny and reason (‘akl); what is more important, he rewrote Kashifi’s last chapter on “the servants of a ruler”, dividing it into two, “On the vizierate” and “On the sultanate” (Ş232). He also added a long introductive chapter on the ninety-nine names of God (esma-i hüsna: B27-34; on this chapter being an original addition by Celalzade to Kashifi’s work, see Ş232), explaining how each one is connected with certain moral qualities (such as, the holding of the fast, the respect for the elders, the purity of heart and so forth), and may contribute to man’s moral education. Part of this chapter is advice directed to the Sultan, with emphasis on the ephemeral character of power and the need for constant thought of the Hereafter (B32-33; cf. B50).
The main part of the work consists of 55 chapters on various moral virtues and vices, e.g. on faith, prayer, resignation, good manners, humility, justice, benevolence, purity etc. (B24-26). The source of ethics, says Celalzade, is reason, which may guide humans away from the Satan-like features of man (passion, lust) toward their angel-like characteristics (B37). Celalzade’s emphasis on reason (which, he says, is the best vizier a sultan can employ) reaches the point of dividing humanity into three groups, namely the intelligent (‘âkil), the fool (ahmak) and the sinners (fâcir). A perfect individual exhibits a synthesis of knowledge (‘ilm), reason and patience (hilm). Other chapters deal with moral values and political principles, such as honesty (sıdk), courage (şecâ’at), consultation (meşveret), or justice (‘adâlet). The chapter on trustworthiness (emanet) claims that people has been entrusted to administrators by God; hence, rulers have to meet the people’s needs and govern with justice, which is the utmost degree of religiosity (B48). The chapter on gratitude (şükr) contains an interesting scheme of the ruler’s need to be grateful in practice for God’s blessings: in return for his kingship, he must practice justice toward his subjects; in return for the largeness of his territories, he should care not to covet his subjects’ property; in return for his orders being followed, he has to recognize his subordinates’ efforts; for being found in such a high place, he has to be compassionate with the low ones; for being rich, he must give charity and distribute his favours to whom deserve them; and so forth (B54). In other chapters, Celalzade urges the Sultan to be compassionate, to have his gates open for the people (B59), to be generous (B74) and mild (B80), to promote knowledge and to care for the ulema (B75), to impose the religious duties and prevent his subjects from doing wrong (emri bi’l-ma’ruf ve nehyi ani’l-münker, B84), to be vigilant and use spies (B86), and so forth. Celalzade’s system of values is one of mutual obligations: a chapter on the “duties to be obeyed” (riayet-i hukûk) lists the obligations one has toward the others: i.e., toward God, one’s parents, relatives, teachers, neighbours and guests, as well as the mutual obligations of the people toward their administrators and vice versa (B82). This integration of the individual morality with the state politics can also be seen in the chapter on “governing” (B97: siyaset): governing can be either individual (siyâset-i nefsî), meaning one’s struggle against his passions with the help of reason, or collective (siyâset-i gayrî), i.e. the administrators’ being aware of any oppression or mischief among the people, so that they may reform the perpetrators or punish them if necessary.
The chapters on the sultanate (B60-63) and the vizierate (B64-67) are among the largest in Celalzade’s work (and also contain much original material). The Sultan is “the soul for the body of justice, the eternal life for the body of country” (cited in Y159: pâdişâhlar ‘adâlet bedenlerinin rûh-ı revânları, memleket tenlerinin hayat-ı câvidânları, canlarıdır); kingship is necessary for societies, since its results are “the protection of the cities, the safety of the subjects, the security for their properties and means of life, the promulgation of knowledge and faith, as well as the driving away of oppressors, evil-doers and mischief-makers” (B60). Celalzade argues that the Sultan should divide his time among four duties: the administration of state affairs (mesâlih-i mülke nazar), the inspection of the condition of the peasant subjects, the maintenance and use of the army, and the fulfillment of divine commandments and prayer. Besides, he must care for: the defense of the realm of Islam; the inspection and repair of castles and fortresses; the persecution of evil-doers and oppressors (müfsid ve zâlim) and the security of the high roads; the punishment of the Sharia-proscribed crimes (hudûd-ı ilâhî); the application of the Sharia through the emanation of appropriate laws and the appointment of judges and administrators; the distribution of lands to officials and soldiers; the protection of the peasants against mischief-makers; the listening to the advice of wise counselors; the granting of audiences to the subjects in order to impose justice; and the use of spies (Ş241-42; B61-62). As for the subjects, they may be divided into three categories: those who may believe anything, without being able to distinguish between good and wrong; those who may be guided to the right path through encouragement and intimidation; and those who are virtuous and behave according to reason (B62-63; reflecting in a rougher style Devvani’s and Kınalızade’s [K486ff] division of men into five categories). Respect for the great ones, compassion for the oppressed, persecution of oppressors and care for the security of the roads, are the five things that produce love for the Sultan in his subjects’ hearts (B63).
In the chapter on the vizierate, the author couples the grand vezir and the divan scribes largely responsible for a just administration. Like he did before for the Sultan, Celalzade likens both of them to the soul and heart, which give life to the body (B64). As a matter of fact, it is the scribal class that gets a great emphasis in this chapter, as the divan scribe (debîr) is described next to the grand vezir. Celalzade suggests that the grand vezir should be a man of pen (ehl-i kalem) rather than a member of military class (ehl-i seyf), since a scribe is “the eye, ear and hand of a Sultan” (padişahın görür gözü ve işidir kulağı ve tutar elidir; quoted in Y159), while furthermore kâtib means “vizier” in Persian, which implies that the two titles are closely connected and even interchangeable (Ş240). Celalzade’s eulogy for the scribes shows their importance even in military affairs, as in their hands the pen becomes “an instrument of peace as well as war” (Ş240). As for the viziers, he mainly emphasizes that they must be pious, while he gives a long list of moral qualities they should possess, such as humbleness or patience, but also of good manners, e.g. to answer briefly to the Sultan’s questions, or to stare continuously towards him (B65-67). As with other contemporary authors as well, it is in Celalzade’s advice toward the vizier (not the Sultan) that we encounter the four cardinal virtues and their corrolaries (B67).
A chapter on justice (adalet; B68-70) defines it as the equal treatment of the groups of people, without any of them being treated more or less than it is worth. These groups, governed from the four elements, are the men of the sword (governors and soldiers, under the element of fire), the men of the pen (viziers and scribes, under the element of air), the artisans and merchants (under the element of water) and the peasants (under the element of earth); it is to be noted that the ulema are completely absent from this categorization. Celalzade stresses that it is justice that produces the well-being of the states and oppression that brings them down, giving a list of kings who, although infidels, were successful because of their justice (and, also, of Islamic dynasties that declined because they forgot justice: B70). In all, Celalzade’s formulation of “the circle of justice” is impressively original, since it introduces towns and cities in the classic series of dependences: “with justice, a kingdom may last even if its master is an infidel, but with tyranny it cannot stand even if its master is a believer... There is no king without army, no army without wealth, no wealth without urban dwellers, no urban dwellers without peasants, and no peasants without justice; justice is the most important and necessary of all” (B69; quoted in Y159: mülk ‘adl ile kâyim olur sâhibi kâfir ise dahi, amma zulm ile durmaz viran olur sâhibi mümin olursa dahi... melik ‘askersiz, asker mâlsuz, mâl şehirlersüz, şehirler re’âyasuz, re’âya ‘adlsüz olmaz ‘adl cümleden mühim ve lâzım imiş). Elsewhere, a slightly different version of the “circle of justice” (a dynasty needs people to contribute their wealth) replaces justice with compassion (şefkat), giving as an example Mehmed II mild policy against the inhabitants of conquered Istanbul (B81).
Rulers must be surrounded by intelligent advisors, with whom the Sultan should consult; in fact, consultation (meşveret) is so important (and, one should note, so much based on reason rather than piety) that even the advice of intelligent infidels can be legitimately followed (Ş241). On the other hand, there are categories of people with whom consultation is not advisable: the ignorant, one’s enemies, the jealous, the hypocrite, the mean, those who cannot dominate their passions (B71).
Şahin 151: “Creative and selective rewriting of” Kaşifî’s Ahlâk-ı muhsinî, composed in 1494/95 and retaining the moralistic side of its predecessors without their systematic analysis of society and kingship. Kaya Şahin, Empire and Power in the Reign of Süleyman. Narrating the Sixteenth-Century Ottoman World, Cambridge 2013, 151.
Mehmet Şakir Yılmaz, ““Koca Nişancı” of Kanuni: Celalzade Mustafa Çelebi, Bureaucracy and “Kanun” in the Reign of Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566)”, unpubl. Ph.D. thesis, Bilkent University, Ankara 2006, 158, erroneously considers Celalzade’s work as based on Ghazali’s Nasihat al-muluk].