The work became very popular in the Ottoman medreses. Among the various survived manuscripts are the following:
Trans. into Turkish by Meşrebzâde Mehmed ‘Ârif as Tercüme-i Siyâsetnâme (Istanbul 1275/1858-9); published (from a manuscript form) by A. Akgündüz, 4: 127-173 (facs. follows). On the translation (not very faithful) see Akgündüz, 4:124 and U. Heyd, Studies in Old Ottoman Criminal Law, ed. V. L. Ménage (Oxford 1973), 198 fn. 5 (“rather free and enlarged”).
Dede Efendi’s Risâlat al-siyâsa aş-şar’îya (“Treatise on the government in accordance with the Holy Law”) is mainly a synopsis of the predominant views on Islamic administration and politics in his era. As Uriel Heyd notes, “[t]here is… very little original thought in Dede Efendi’s work[, as h]e mainly quotes various authorities in the field of public and especially penal law”. Dede Efendi divides his treatise in five parts and an epilogue. In the first part (A132-146), he studies the legitimacy of the extra-canonical authority of the ruler (siyâsa; on the translation of the term cf. Heyd 199). Quoting several hadiths and other authorities, the author brings several examples of the Prophet’s companions punishing evildoers (guilty of blasphemy, sodomy) in acts that should be attributed to this authority, i.e. without recourse to the Holy Law. The administrators to whom the king has granted the right of executing his orders (A134, in Meşrebzâde’s translation: taraf-ı saltanat-ı seniyyeden tenfîz-i hükme me’mûr olan vülât ve hükkâm) have the competence of taking decisions according to the statutes emitted thus (ahkâm-ı siyâsiyye), and this does not contradict to the Holy Law. The causes leading to the need for such authority are widespread sedition (fesâd-ı münteşir), cases which pertain to the common good but for which there are no Quranic rules (masâlih-ı mürsele), such as the keeping of judicial registers, the mining of coins or the creation of prisons, but also (A136-37) divergences in the şari’a laws due to the change of necessary preconditions (tağayyür-i ahvâl-i muktaziye). The examples Dede Efendi cites are of a rather narrow nature (e.g. problems in accepting women’s testimony), but in a more general vein he notes that it is quite appropriate to obey and pay attention to the disputes of each period, which give rise to extensions of the competence of political authority (tevsî’-i ahkâm-ı siyâsiyeyi mûcib olan ihtilâfat-ı asriyye). A fourth (and very similar) cause is that if the mischief multiplies in society, broader measures need to be taken and so the competence of political authority has to be expanded. Whenever the historical changes (tağayyür-i zaman) cause disputes and conflict, what was improper in an older period might be considered proper at present, and consequently extra-canonical authority could be properly extended (A139). Furthermore, this expansion has been made in accordance with the rules of the Holy Law; and all the more (and this is the sixth cause), God himself granted such changes and expansions, as for instance when He permitted with the Quran practices heretofore prohibited. It is due to this reasoning that, for instance, the execution of habitual criminals (A142: sâ’î bi’l-fesâd) by Sultanic order has been deemed necessary; Dede Efendi cites quite a few authorities to the effect that this “execution for reason of state” or siyaseten katl is proper and even obligatory, as it contributes to the public order and the sense of justice (A144: hengâm-ı âsâyiş ve adâlet).
The second part (A146-151) deals with the “just political government” (siyâset-i âdile). Dede Efendi notes that the legitimacy of political authority has been proven by means of Islamic jurisprudence; he then raises the question whether it is proper for judges to act on penal and other cases according to these “political laws”. The author quotes again several authorities: according to a Hanbali scholar, when a Sultan delegates sovereignty (A147: tefvîz-i velâyât) to judges, it is not forbidden that they may use common custom (örf-i müte’aref), since it may happen that a faithful warrior (emir-i harb) interferes with the judicial affairs, while it is not recorded that the judge’s sovereignty interferes with the war affairs. Dede Efendi notes that the Hanefis accept clearly that judges may use “political laws” (ahkâm-ı siyâsiye). He cites the Meliki and Şafi’i (Mâwardî’s) opinion, namely that there are several cases in which things permissible to a secular governor (vâlî) are improper for a judge: the former may (and the latter may not), for instance, widen his power or punish at once a manifest criminal, instructing a compromise between adversaries, take information from witnesses out of the usual and legal course of a trial and so forth. But then he rejects all these cases by quoting Hanefi authorities, reverting thus to the conclusion that judges can be authorized to apply “political laws”.
In the third part (A152-157), Dede Efendi dwells more into this subject: he cites another list of cases in which, according to al-Irakî and Mâverdî, secular administrators (vülât-ı cerâyim) can act independently of the Islamic judges and even surpass them (for instance, they may punish an adulterous woman or a thief without waiting for a full-fledged proof according to the Holy Law, or they may base their decision on the information given by their officers or “helpers”, a’vân-ı emâret). It is to be noted that most of the examples Dede Efendi chooses have to do with penal law and, more especially, with what the Ottoman kanuns named “formentors of corruption” (sâ’î bi’l-fesâd). The fourth part (A157-166) elaborates further these points, establishing the conditions and terms for attributing suspicion and guilt (isnâd-ı töhmet), as well as various matters and details pertaining to punishment. Dede Efendi notes that tyranny comes whenever the “officials and administrators” (ümerâ ve vülât) use oppression and innovations to go against the Holy Law and the “just government” (siyâset-i âdile), thinking that “the properly religious government is minor than the administration of the people and of the affairs of the community” (A158: siyâset-i şer’iyye siyâset-i halk ve maslahat-ı ümmetten kâsıradır deyü), i.e. that it is more important to administer with success than to follow God’s justice. The point of delegating authority to the administrator (A165: mevzû’-ı velâyet-i vâlî) is to stop corruption and tyranny in the towns inside his jurisdiction, while the kadi’s task is only to apply the Holy Law; administrators and judges have to practice their respective authorities each, avoiding to interfere with the sovereignty delegated to each other. More generally, the point of government (medâr-ı velâyet) is to imitate the caliph, who is the imam of the Muslims; and the imitation of government, be it judicial or political (gerek kazâ ve gerek emâret), may be widened or specified by custom or scrutiny (örf ve tansîs ile kâbil-i ta’mîm ve tahsîsdir).
Finally, the fifth part (A166-170) deals with the various sorts of “discretional punishment” (ta’zir), with a view to justifying Ottoman practices such as monetary fines (A167). In the end of this part, Dede Efendi mentions also the obligation to “commanding right” (A170: emr-i bi’l-ma’rûf), perhaps as a corollary reason for an administrator to yield power.
Dede Efendi quotes in length his sources to the extent that Uriel Heyd have written that there is little original thought in his work. See U. Heyd, Studies in Old Ottoman Criminal Law, ed. V. L. Ménage, Oxford 1973, 199.