The Textual Evolution of the Ottoman Seyhülislams' Fetvas: A Cross-Corpora Computational Analysis

Bogaç Ergene, Atabey Kaygun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In this article, we use a mix of computational techniques to identify textual shifts in the Ottoman seyhülislams' fetvas between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. Our analysis, supplemented by a close reading of these texts, indicates that the fetvas underwent multiple forms of transformation, a consequence of the institutional evolution of the seyhülislam's fetva office (fetvahane) that aimed to speed up and streamline the production of the fetvas: over time, the texts appropriated a more uniform character and came to contain shorter responses. In the compositions of the questions, we identified many "trigger terms"that facilitated reflexive responses independent of the fetvas' jurisprudential contexts, a tendency that became stronger after the second half of the seventeenth century. In addition, we propose in the article a methodology that measures the relative strengths of textual and conceptual links among the fetva corpora of various Ottoman seyhülislams. This analysis informs us about possible paths of long-term evolution of this genre of jurisprudential documents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-545
Number of pages30
JournalIslam - Zeitschrift fur Geschichte und Kultur des Islamischen Orients
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.


  • computational
  • distant reading
  • Fetva
  • seyhülislam
  • textual


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