After 1557, when Celalzade had retired from active service. Probably the writting begun in the early years of Suleyman’s reign (surely before 1534; see Y154).
More than 20 mss (see 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, 247-249).
Celalzade planned Tabakat ül-memâlik ve derecât ül-mesâlik (“Layers of kingdoms and levels of routes”) to be “a general panorama of the Ottoman enterprise” (Ş167), “meant to reflect the sixteenth-century Zeitgeist” (Ş169). What survived, i.e. the history of the Empire from 1520 to 1557 would only be the last section or layer (tabaka) out of thirty. The first sections would describe the population and the Empire (memâlik-i mahmiye tafsili), speaking of the ulema and the learned men, the peasants, the soldiers, as well as the fortresses, lands and regions (memâlik ve ekâlîm), and the wealth revenues of the Empire (products, gems, mines etc.: hazâin, cihâz, cevâhir, emvâl, me’âdin). (Ş171 and 173-74; K9a). More particularly, the work was conceived as follows (K10b-20b; cf. Ş195-6): the first section would describe the salaried servants of the state (erkân-ı devlet, ayan-ı saltanat), with twenty subsections or levels (derece) on the palace personnel, the viziers (vüzerâ ve erkân-ı devlet ve ayân-ı saltanat), the janissaries, the sipahis, the palace porters, but also the musicians and the palace artisans (including scribes: erbâb-ı hurûf ve ustâdân ve nakkâşân ve resm-keşân in K11a). The second section would deal with the beylerbeyis and their provinces, with twenty-one subsections on each individual province; similarly, in the third section the fortresses of the Empire would be enumerated, again in four subsections by province (this time the geographical units are greater). In the fourth and fifth sections Celalzade promised to write of the auxiliary troops (müsellem, yaya, akıncı etc.), while the sixth section would be devoted to the navy. The seventh section would deal with Istanbul. The next sections would concern the twenty provinces of the Empire, depicting the number and rules of their timars, their towns, villages, holy endowments and population, all in subsections according to smaller administrative units. Finally, the thirtieth section would deal (and indeed deals) with Suleyman’s reign.
There are some remnants of the virtue tradition, such as the praise of Rüstem Paşa (Y149-150; K502b-503a) for his six vezirial virtues, namely the observation of the religious precepts in his daily life, his listening to the Koran, his gentleness and softness of speech, his observance of the Holy Law (evâmir-i şer’) in state administration, his charity and endowments, and his zeal.
The Sultan, as the ultimate source of the Ottoman kanun and hence of the law (since Celalzade gives much emphasis to discretionary punishment by the Sultan [siyaset], e.g. in the cases of Molla Kabız or of the collective punishment of levends), is above the law; unlimited power may eventually cause oppression (zulm), but not with the Ottoman sultan who is “supported by God” and guided by “divine inspiration” (see Y199-200). Speaking of the Egypt kanunname, to whose compilation he also must have played a role himself, Celalzade notes that it was “a moderate law (i’tidâl üzere miyâne bir kânûn)… in a way that does not cause any loss for the Sultan’s treasury and does not harm the tax-payers” (Y206; K127a). In contrast, depicting Mamluk rule in Egypt he attributes their failure to their system of kingship which did not have any established dynasty; thus, they fell prey to the “fancy of kingship” (sevda-yı saltanat ve malihülya-yı hilâfet) which prevents them from seriously looking to the problems of their realm (K104b; Ş202).
A special place in Celalzade’s work is reserved in the praise of the scribal career and the importance of the government bureaucracy. Speaking (in his Selimname) of his own professional options in his youth, he argues that as a medrese teacher he would be financially insecure and as a judge prone to fall prey to unlucky circumstances, while a scribe has peace of mind and ease (rahat, huzûr) (Ş30). Celalzade describes his highest office, that of nişancı, as “the greatest among all offices and the noblest among all services… [Because] all great sultans… needed two types of servants to rule over vast lands; men of pen and men of sword (erbâb-ı tiğ ve kalem). As a matter of fact, sword and pen are twins, one of them is the soul and the other is the body (biri ten ve biri can). But the pen is above the sword. That is because the sword aims to destroy whereas the pen aims to produce (biri kâti’ biri nâbitdir)… The rule of the sword devastates a country whereas the rule of the pen causes prosperity”. Furthermore, it is difficult to find good scribes (contrary to good soldiers); and scribes and chancelors are busy to collecting revenues, while all other servants of the Sultan cause expenditure (with their salaries) (K259b-260b; trans. according to Y89-90; cf. Ş222-23 and a similar praise of the pen and the scribes in Celalzade’s work on Prophet Yusuf: Ş240).