Completed in 1581, with minor additions added by 1586.
Nine mss., among which one dated 1627 and another 1698 (See Tietze, 9).
Tietze, A. (ed.-tr.-notes), Mustafâ ‘Âlî’s Counsel for Sultans of 1581, 2 vols, Vienna 1979-1982
In the preface of Nushatü’s-selâtîn ("Counsel for Sultans") (Τ 1:17/89-37/120), Ali stresses the importance of justice and of administrators (hükkâm) not promoting to the high offices the rabble (erâzil) that is in their service, noting that sultans must now rely to viziers as it is impossible for them to inspect themselves their army and lands. However, “in this matter [of unqualified persons appointed to high posts] ignorance is by no means an excuse; unawareness of the situation of the vezirs (vükelâ) will not count as a valid defense on the Day of Judgment”. The sultan will not be excused, although his servants conceal the harsh reality. The present sultan, as his ancestors, prefers isolation than mixing with the people and has delegated all power to untrustworthy administrators; but then it is his duty to protect the subjects against these administrators’ oppression. (T 1:18-23/91-98, and ff.; cf. similar thoughts in B82: “neither permission nor allowance is authorized for deputizing someone else in [the kings’] place”). The sultan must have close contact with high and low and interfere personally, promoting people of intelligence and not only those trained in the Palace (T 1:25/101). Besides this, generosity is praised as a prerequisite of a ruler or his viziers, illustrated by the story of Firdewsi (T 1:29-32/106-12). Ali further illustrates his point with stories showing how irresponsible appointments can bring forth ruin and disaster; the bad deeds of such people are to be blamed on the vizier who appointed them. Here Ali also speaks against converted infidels attaining high posts, that is against the extensive use of kuls in administration (T 1:36-37/119; cf. above).
Now Ali proceeds to an introduction (T 1:37-40/121-25), showing God’s special favors bestowed on the Ottoman dynasty, namely: the excellence of the sultans’ palace and retinue; their religious orthodoxy; their freedom from plague; their absolute power to appoint their own people as governors of far-flung provinces; their extraordinary military power; the fine state of their finances. These bestowals incur a strong responsibility for keeping their lands in justice and good order.
The first chapter (T 1:41-65/126-62) discusses the matters necessary for kings, as presented by the previous Ottoman rulers or the ancient caliphs, who governed with equity and “through beneficial innovations and laudable rules” (T 1:41/126: nev-âyîn-i hasene ve kavânîn-i müstahsene). These requirements (lâzime), some of which have their origin on previous literature are seventeen in number, namely: (1) to gain the love and loyalty of their subjects, by protecting the poor, studying history, restraining their own violence (dest-i ta’addîlerini kasîr idüb), not giving over the affairs of the state (umûr-i mülk) to eunuchs, mutes and other courtiers, respecting the ulema and taking care of the army (T 1:41/126-27); (2) to choose an educated, well-mannered and honest companion (musâhib), without granting him any office or rank (T 1:41-46/127-35); (3) to reward those who offered good service to themselves and their ancestors, to retain governors who have shown good and praiseworthy conduct, especially in frontier regions (T 1:47/135-36); (4) to employ an extensive network of spies in order to check the well-functioning of all services and officials, since reports by officers or clerks in favour of other fellow-officers are not free from self-interest (T 1:47-48/136-37; cf. also B25-26); (5) to dismiss and banish usurers (ribâ-horân), naibs and other corrupt local personalities who oppress the subjects with their loans and whom even governors fear (T 1:48/137); (6) to control tightly the conduct of the divan secretaries, especially to remove those addicted to drugs, and to give special attention to the election of the re’îs-i küttâb and the tuğrakeşân/ nişâncı, being the jurisconsults (müftiyân) of the imperial laws (T 1:48-50/138-40); (7) to appoint wise men in high offices, not giving attention to objections such as “This is not the old custom” (kanûn-i kadîm); this view is illustrated with a story about Selim I saying that “in selecting [the officials] [the Grand Vizier should] screen everybody in [the] glorious capital city down to the porters that carry loads on their backs” (but this example is somehow corrected below, T 1:67/165, when this low-descent Grand Vizier [Pirî Paşa] is described as a descendant of a saintly family and as a worthy and wise fellow) (T 1:50-53/140-44); (8) to reward governors and soldiers in order to have their weapons and equipment complete, and to dismiss those who neglect these duties (T 1:53-54/144-46); (9) to create charitable foundations only with the personal property of the Sultan, i.e. his share of the booty, and not with the public treasury (beytü’l-mâl) (T 1:54/146; cf. B121, where the constructing of mosques, dervish lodges etc. in a flourishing city is condemned as hypocritical); (10) to send the janissary cavalry (bölük halkı) to Egypt instead of leaving them go astray in Istanbul after their exit from the imperial palace (T 1:54-55/146-48; cf. B18); (11) to suppress demagogical preachers, who cause distrust against the sultan and his officers among the people (T 1:55-57/148-50; cf. B172-73); (12) to prevent peasants from leaving their homelands and dwell in cities, or at least to collect the due tax (çift-bozan resmi) (T 1:57-58/150-51); (13) to exert liberality with equity, and not to consider the lavish spending of money as generosity (sahâ vu kerem) but as waste and dissipation (T 1:58-59/151-53); (14) to protect the public treasury (beytü’l-mâl-i müslimîn) from unnecessary expenditures, such as the keeping of numerous palaces in the same city or the waste in the palace kitchen and the court artisans (T 1:59-62/153-57); (15) not to show excessive honour to those who come from other countries, in the expense of people who have served the Ottoman sultan for years; especially, not to give high offices to Turks or Kurds (T 1:62-63/157-59; cf. B81); (16) to offer safety in office to people that have not committed serious mistakes, as such people’s positions must be “consolidated by perpetuation”; the old practice of dirliks being hereditary offices (ocaklık) should be reinstated (T 1:63-64/159-61); (17) finally, to prevent interventions of the beğlerbeğis to their provinces’ finances (T 1:64-65/161-62).
In the second chapter (T 1:66-86/163-88), Ali deals with the disorder (ihtilâl) of his days, contrary to the old customs (hilâf-i kavânîn). This happens in eight ways, namely: (1) Many people are covetous for high positions, which are granted to them; thus, “the scum (edânî) begins to gain power by lavishing money [in bribes]” (scum meaning “of lower origin” here) and “the high classes (e’âlî) are disappointed and stunned” (T 1:66/163). Judges become directors of finances or provincial governors (T 1:66-70/163-68). (2) Offices are given by way of tax-farming (iltizâm), with fraudulent pledges. If the registers of such revenues (mukâta’a) were checked, there would appear that they are quite disadvantageous for the state; moreover, these revenue-farmers oppress the subjects in order to increase their gains (T 1:70-71/168-69). (3) Provinces (either beğlerbeğiliks or sancaks) have started to be divided into further provinces, thus reducing the income of their governors and burdening the people with more exactions. Here, in describing the unfoundedness of an unjust governor, M. A. gives a list of the desired qualities of such an official, namely justice, reliability, valor, sagacity, friendliness (meant here as the opposite of rudeness) and piety (‘adâlet, emânet, şecâ’at, firâset, hüsn-i hulk, diyânet) (T 1:71-75/169-74). (4) The ulema are not honoured and protected. They have to visit viziers in order to prevent the ignorants from overtaking them; vacant offices are given according to the candidates’ relations with powerful men and not according to worth; provincial judges are often ignorants (even “Turks… of the merchant class”, renc-ber tâyifesinden), sometimes presenting even fraudulent diplomas (T 1:75-79/174-80). (5) Sons of viziers are appointed governors while their fathers are still viziers, thus being able to oppress the people without fear of punishment. According to Ali, the office of beğlerbeği should be given neither to princes nor to viziers’ sons (T 1:80/180). Moreover, sons of officers who have held high offices in borderlands should not be given high offices in the heartlands of the empire (iç il hükmindeki) (T 1:79-81/180-82). (6) The Ottoman coin has been debased and untrustworthy. Money-forgers have made it worthless and its prestige is rapidly declining; moreover, money-changers (sarraf) “render defective what is complete”. In a marginal note, Ali explains how Jewish money-changers exploited the monetary regulation of 1585/86 to their favour (T 1:81-84/182-85). (7) Viziers and governors endow their servants with fiefs; this used not to happen until their masters were dead. The servants in their turn use these revenues in order to become merchants; lower people occupy thus the higher offices and the public treasure is distributed to unworthy men (T 1:84-85/185-87). (8) Governors promote their own men to posts of deceased persons or vacant; then they exchange these offices with fiefs, which they transfer to their new place of appointment, in order to carry their men with them in good honour (T 1:85-86/187-88).
The third chapter (Τ 2:9-47/119-73) discusses “the weaknesses in the general situation (ahvâl-i cumhûr) as caused by certain evil abuses”. As it seems, the difference from the previous chapter lies in the fact that these abuses are not alterations of the old law, but misdeeds of established officers. In the beginning, Ali observes that just as the Grand Vizier is responsible for the well-being of the subjects in times of peace, the field marshal (serdar) is responsible in times of war. The first set of “abuses” (Τ 2:9-20/119-135) concerns thus the army; a serdar should be insightful and intelligent, wise, perspicacious, patient, and forbearing. He should keep in check the men in his service and know how to keep control of his anger; he should care for the timely measures in order to safeguard the well-being of his soldiers during a campaign; he should completely abstain from taking bribes; he should dismiss the corrupt and the drug-addicts from among his scribes. A second factor leading to the disintegration of public things (ihtilâl-i cumhûr) is the misdeeds of the registrars of the land (kâtibü l-vilâye) (Τ 2:20-25/135-41). They take bribes, take away from the timariots their possessions and “by and by they turn to do business with cash” (nakdîye ile satu bâzâra mübâşeret idüb: Τ 2:20/136). There must be a just evaluation of the value of the timars and a fair distribution of them. Another matter is the regulation of the standard prices (narh-i rûzî) (Τ 2:25-27/141-44). Here Ali’s main point is that if this matter is not administered with equity, “this leads to the enrichment of the low class and to the bankruptcy and distress of the military class” (and not, as one would expect, the further impoverishing of the poor). The rencber (translated by Tietze as farm absentees, i.e. equivalent of the çift bozan) “break out of the circle of poverty”; this leads their relatives from the provinces to follow their example, and ultimately to the ruin of the timariot soldiers, who lose their peasants and have to make up with a constantly rising cost of living. In previous times, the post of the muhtesib was given to some ulema, while now everyone is considered qualified. Another point concerns the state of the charitable foundations founded by the sultans (Τ 2:27-29/144-47). Due to misadministration, the food they offer is inedible. The contrast to the establishments of Evrenos Beg in Rumelia is striking; Ali writes boldly that “the sultans of the House of Osman have withdrawn with lack of interest whereas that afore-mentioned beg possesses the secret of sainthood and working miracles”; were the Sultans to inspect again and again the functioning of their establishments, the situation would be much better. Then Ali proceeds to the tyranny of the collectors of boys for the janissaries (Τ 2:29-30/147-48). Uneducated and harsh, they do not consult the local judge or governor and oppress the zimmis, by taking bribes or children that are not to be taken. “In particular, the service assigned to them is itself at variance with the Divine Law. It was only adopted in the past out of need as a means to increase the number of Muslims” (Τ 2:30/148). Another point concerns the collecting of old arrears, i.e. debts to the state treasury, by unrestricted officials without recourse to the local judge (Τ 2:30-32/148-50). The very existence of such arrears is an insult to the functioning of the central and local financial bureaucracy, who presumably does their best in collecting all dues in time. Then Ali takes up (like Lütfi Paşa) the subject of the extensive use of couriers (ulak), leading to oppression for the subjects (Τ 2:32-34/151-54), and the matter of the salaried garrisons of the fortresses (T 2:34-35/154-55), who cannot be paid properly due to the misadministration of the officials involved. Next he proceeds to the levy of army provisions (nüzûl) and extraordinary taxes (‘avâriz) (Τ 2:35-39/155-60): there are not spent entirely for military purposes, but shared between governors, judges and their substitutes. Ali notes as a bizarre curiosity the fact that the necessities of the army “are always provided by the miserable and poor… whereas in certain sea ports and other cities and towns there are rich merchants” (Τ 2:36/156). “The excess of world-enjoyment of the rich is counter to perfect wisdom and circumspect policy”. The same is valid for usurers. Such people should be heavily taxed for the benefit of the army and the treasury, as it happened during the reign of Mehmed II or Selim I. Next, Ali turns to the old-age and invalidity pensions (Τ 2:39-40/161), given to unworthy and unqualified people. The corn-profiteers (muhtekir), who get rich causing dearth and scarcity, among them greedy magistrates and governors, constitute another factor of decline (Τ 2:40/161-62). A category called by Ali “agents” (iş erleri) and “friends at court” (maslahatgüzâr), who occupy the office of arbiters in court (muslih) and take profit from both litigants is also a target of criticism (Τ 2:40-41/162-63). Tietze identifies them with the şuhûdü’l-hâl. (cf. J. Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, Oxford 1994, 194 –note by Menage). Some other criticism concern various goods available in the market: the disregard for standard measurements of textiles (Τ 2:41/163) and the wasteful use of gold thread (Τ 2:41-42/164), which is accused because thus the precious metal does not yield benefit at all and loses its value. After all, “if everybody would conduct himself according to his profits and income, high and low could be clearly distinguished from one another”. Another point is the constant campaigning of the imperial army (Τ 2:42-43/164-66), regardless of the needs and abilities of the soldiers. Reiterating a motive from the second chapter, Ali then speaks of the conferment of offices and ranks on the basis of a pledge (T 2:43/166-67), more specifically the post of guarding mountain passes. This leads to men of low rank advancing to high ranks on the basis of a simple promise that is not even fulfilled. The next point (T 2:43-44/167-69) concerns the offices of financial agents (‘ummâl) and tax-farmers (mültezim). Their high personal expenses (including bribery) and the debts they have incurred before obtaining the post make this practice destructive for the public treasury; moreover, the amount of all their salaries could no doubt cover the salaries of the janissary cavalry. Thus, Ali proposes the abolition of tax-farming (according also to the Holy Law) and the conferment of the collection of mukata’as to these sipahis by way of trusteeship and supervisorship (emânet u nezâret). This would also put an end to the matter of the so-called arrears (bakâyâ) as a responsibility of the subjects. Next, Ali devotes one paragraph (T 2: 44-45/169-70) to criticize sharply the interference of women to the affairs of the state, citing examples from the Islamic mythology. Finally, the last point concerns physicians, oculists, healers and surgeons (T 2:45-47/170-73). In the times of Ali, these doctors are promoted simply for being under the protection of a powerful official, and not according to their knowledge and skill.
The fourth chapter of the book (T 2:48-95/174-224) is a kind of autobiography, obviously with the main aim both to stress Ali’s education and skills that justify his giving of advice, and to illustrate this state of decline described in the previous chapters. Here he states explicitly his bitterness on not achieving the high posts for which he was fit and which had been promised to him (T 2:70ff/196ff). In the end of this chapter, Ali wonders whether it is just and wise for a Sultan to appoint insufficient men to high posts only because they were raised in his palace, while skilled and educated men are staying without high positions solely because they have been brought up outside it. Such evil practice has been in use since “the early days of the reign of the late Sultan Suleyman” (T 2:93-94/222-23).
An epilogue (T 2:96-109/225-46), divided in ten sections, gives various piece of advice, addressed not to kings and viziers but to their servants. The first section (T 2:96-101/225-34; cf. also B110) deals with the rules of conversing with kings and other great men. Ali stresses that men of learning and culture “would be the perfect match to the noble royal temperament”. There is a marked difference between the companion (musâhib) and the courtier (nedîm), since the former is a wise person who can give useful advice, while the latter evokes laughter and gaiety (but cf. B26: “it is an error for a musahib to seek high office”). There are certain rules distinguishing various occasions to speak to the king; one must approach him when riding in horseback in a different way than when in a banquet. Here Ali speaks of the rules of good behaviour, which he was to take up again in his Mevâidü’n-nefâis. The second section (T 2:101-102/234-36) deals with the need of getting along well with both high and low, as people “are all brothers in their humanity, friends in their familiarity and relations, neighbors in their closeness to one another, equals in their talents and capabilities, and kinsmen of body and soul in respect to their blood relationship”. The third section (T 2:102-104/236-38) concerns the relations with servants (hidmetkâr); all people, from kings to servants of low rank, are creations of God. Consequently, sultans must not treat sipahis with contempt, nor ulemas “crush the laymen (cühelâ) with their disdain”; servants and slaves must be treated with kindness and mildness. In the fourth section (T 2:104/238-39), Ali observes that excessive servility and affection towards the womenfolk is not permissible, as well as overly attachment to possessions, landed estates, and palaces. The fifth section (T 2:105/240) warns in a similar way against overabundance of food in banquets and excessive liberality in such meals; the same goes for furnishings and clothes, when one is not in harmony with his rank (hasb-i hâline göre, mikdârına göre, haddinden tecâvüz kılmamak) (sixth section, T 2:105-6/240-42; more analytical descriptions in B137-39 [clothes] and B143-44 [dwellings]; cf. Andreas Tietze, “Mustafâ Âlî on Luxury and the Status Symbols of Ottoman Gentlemen”, Studia turcologica memoriae Alexii Bombaci dicata), while oversupply of horses leads also to upheavals and trouble (seventh section, T 2:106/242). In the eight section (T 2:106-7/242-44), Ali talks also against display of learnedness and knowledge, “all the more so as scholars of learning and wisdom, men of education and eloquence are in our time looked upon with misgivings by high and low and with jealousy by notables and people of importance”. The ninth section (T 2:108/244-45) deals with Holy War, a duty imposed on all Muslims, who in their turn should not show laxness or avarice in this respect. Finally, the tenth section (T 2:109/245-46) concerns worship and observations of religious prescriptions.
In a short Appendix (T 2:110-14/246-53), Ali defends himself against accusations of self-interest and bias, saying among others that he is “aware of the hierarchy of people (derecât-i enâm) and in every manner acquainted with the classes of high and low (tabakat-i havâss u ‘avâmm)”. In his conclusion, he stresses that such writings as his “are meant to further the orderly state of the world and the good functioning of the affairs of its inhabitants” (nizâm-i ahvâl-i mükevvenât ve intizâm-i umûr-i mahlûkât) (T 2:113/252); he has shown an ability and eagerness to comprehend the laws of the House of Osman and the innovations of the monarchs (kavânîn-i âl-i ‘Osmân ve nev-âyîn-i şehriyârân) (ibid.). Finally, in the Supplement (T 2:115-16/254-56), Ali emphasizes that the great merit of his book lies in the fact that it has examples and stories from his own experience, giving reliable information on the time present. Sultans, viziers, generals, judges and administrators must all study this book with attention.
Ali stresses that his Counsel for Sultans differs from others in the fact that it uses personal experience and recent stories; uses stories about Iskender etc. Elsewhere, he speaks with contempt of Lütfi Paşa, as an ignorant Albanian (B41).