Abdurrahman Atcil

Assistant Professor of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies


email: aatcil@qc.cuny.edu
phone: 718-997-5579

Office Hours

Monday 11-12
King 113A


Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2010
M.A., Bilkent University, 2002
B.A., Marmara University,1999

Research Interests

My research and teaching relate primarily to religion and politics, bureaucracy, religious scholarship, intellectual history, and law in the Ottoman Empire in the early modern period.

I am currently working on a book manuscript tentatively entitled Defenders of Faith and Empire: Scholar-Bureaucrats, Sultans, and the Law in the Ottoman Empire (1453-1600). My focus is on the formation of a bureaucratic class of Islamic religious scholars (ulema) and its changing relationship with the ruling apparatus during the early modern period. Since the foundation and early expansion of the Ottoman polity was in the formerly Christian-ruled lands, the Ottoman dynasty had a convenient environment to establish an entirely new relationship with religious scholars. In conjunction with the rise of Ottoman imperialism after the capture of Constantinople in 1453, the dynasty began to co-opt religious scholars and to organize them in a hierarchical professional structure. Many factors (e.g., policies of the dynasty, domestic crises, changes in the political map and religious divisions of the Islamic world, and the continuous movement of scholars into the Ottoman central cities) interacted and helped in the growth and development of the hierarchy of scholars. By the end of the sixteenth century, scholars in the Ottoman government service had differed from their counterparts in the pre-Ottoman period and other areas in significant ways. They were still scholars dedicated to the realization of Islamic ideals, but at the same time, they were bureaucrats committed to the preservation and advancement of the Ottoman polity. Hence, the term scholar-bureaucrats is used to designate two sides of their identity.

Recent Publications
“Decentralization, Imperialism and Ottoman Sovereignty in the Arab Lands before 1914: Shakīb Arslān’s Polemic Against the Decentralization Party,” Die Welt des Islams (forthcoming, 2013)

“Greco-Islamic Philosophy and Islamic Jurisprudence in the Ottoman Empire (1300-1600): Aristotle’s Theory of Sciences in Works on Uūl al-Fiqh,” The Journal of Ottoman Studies 41 (forthcoming, 2013)

“Ebusu‘ud Efendi” and “Logic and Law,” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law (forthcoming)

“The Route to the Top in the Ottoman İlmiye Hierarchy of the Sixteenth Century,” The Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies 72/3 (2009)



This course is a survey of political, socio-economical, and cultural aspects of the history of the Islamic World from the rise of Islam until the late twentieth century. A chronological account is paired with the treatment of themes such as scripture, law, science, philosophy, mysticism, court culture, literary traditions and daily life throughout the course.


This course examines ideas of religious and political revival and reform that Arab, Turkish and Iranian intellectuals expounded from the eighteenth century until the end of the twentieth century. We contextualize diverse interpretations concerning the role of religion in a modern society, secular approaches to religion and the critique of both religious establishments and nation states. We also explore the ways in which Muslim reformers synthesized cultural trends to revive the Islamic faith in the face of Western economic and political hegemony. Works of intellectuals and reformers, such as Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Hasan al-Banna, Ziya Gökalp and Khomeini, are read and analyzed.


This course explores the origins and development of Islamic legal theory and practice in the pre-modern period. Topics of discussion include the sources of law, the formation of the legal schools, divine and human elements, and stability and change in the law. In addition, it investigates historical problems related to the application of Islamic law and particularly deals with the issues of divergence between theory and practice, the delayed development of public law and the legal tools of adaptation.

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