A chief müneccim Seyyid Mehmed Arif Efendi: A distant relative of mine
It was exciting as well as surprising when I learned that one of 37 Ottoman müneccims is my relative from the maternal side; the 35th chief müneccim Seyyid Mehmed Arif Efendi, the father of my mother’s aunt’s husband.
It was just by accident, an elderly member of our family, Arif Kaman, who was given the name after his müneccim grandfather, told me that he had some seals, booklets and badges left by his grandfather. I have seen that Arif Kaman has showed great care to what his grandfather left behind. He has one of his photographs that shows him in his official dress and with four badges on his chest. Arif is keeping one of those badges while my other cousins have the remaining ones. His dress (kaftan) is now being exhibited at the Arts Museum and his authorization paper (berat) is preserved by Arif’s cousin in İzmit/Turkey. Arif also showed me the official seals that Mehmed Arif Efendi used when he was the chief müneccim. On one of these seals is written ‘“es-Seyyid Mehmed Arif 1316” (Aydüz, see the appendix for “Vesikalar ve Fotoğraflar” part).
To get more information about my müneccim relative, my cousin, Eda, organized a family meeting and I went to see them just before I publish my book Soru Astrolojisi (Horary). At the family meeting, I learned that Seyyid Mehmed Arif Efendi frequently practiced astrology in his daily life. He chose the auspicious hours when he needed to give his most important decisions, or to arrange his daily routines, such as the time to move to the summer house, to buy a new cloth and to wear it. He also prepared horoscopes for each of his children and told them how their life would be and what they would expect from it. Practicing Mevalid on a regular basis, Seyyid Mehmed Arif Efendi told my uncle Sacit (Arif’s father) that he would have an average life, which means he would neither get a high status nor fall in disfavor and neither he would be very happy nor he would be too unhappy. In our family meeting, Arif also told us that Seyyid Mehmed Arif Efendi made accurate predictions so that he calculated the time when he was going to die. Thus, he asked the family members to be in his room at that specified hour and date. Although initially nobody knew why they had to do that, they soon understood that it was the day when he passed away…
We know that serving between 1903-1909 in the palace as the chief müneccim, Seyyid Arif Efendi was born in 1853, died in 1940 and buried in the Eyüp Cemetery. There is a street named after him in İzmit where he was born in. We also know that he had bought a house in Süleymaniye/Istanbul to be closer to the palace during the time when served as the chief müneccim. Uncle Sacit told us that his father knew several languages, primarily Arabic and Persian. He was a very learned person who made astrological calculations, read/wrote books and spent his time on scholarly matters in his room for whole day. He donated some of his works to the Islamic Arts Museum when he was alive and his family donated the remaining ones after his death. Some of his published works are found in Süleymaniye Library and in Beyazıt Library, both of which are located in Istanbul. My future plan is to collect his works to shed a light on the history of Ottoman astrology.
Longing for the past and astrology in current day Turkey
It is not any different from in other countries, in Turkey people are longing for their past, that is the Ottoman past. In other words, people today are usually interested in Ottoman Sufi philosophy and sciences. This became much more obvious when a conservative AK Party have started to rule the country for 13 years. The Party’s conservative stance however make some Turkish astrologers worry about the future of astrology, but there is nothing to worry about it since AK Party is very fond of the Ottomans, who they see as their great ancestors. We should remember today that the Ottomans were who officially practiced astrology and maintained the office of chief müneccim.
I would also want to say that in the last March, I received a phone call from the assistant of a Turkish statesman, a Vice Prime Minister, who is interested in astrology. I indeed invited him to the conference titled ‘Is Astrology Scientific?’. I have seen that his assistant who I talked on the phone knew about me through social media. In my opinion, this clearly shows that astrology are welcome in Turkey even by the high ranking statesmen.
Although today astrologers practicing popular astrology frequently appear on media and create information pollution, I do not see any problem with those who talk about popular astrology. There are also other astrologers including me who share scholarly and sound knowledge. I share my knowledge on some TV programs and more specifically just before the New Year’s Day, I participate various TV programs to make predictions on economic and political issues, such as local or general elections. So far, I have not seen any reaction and problems. Through TV programs, I can inspire people to learn astrology and introduce our AstroArt Astrology School, which gives courses and organizes conferences in order to teach astrology in a proper way.
The AstroArt Astrology School have organized the International Astrology Days for four years. In 2015, it hosted well-known international astrologers. The major topic of this latest conference attended approximately by 350 people was ‘Is Astrology Scientific?’, which Roy Gillett, Dr. Glenn Perry, Robert Currey, Dr. Lea Imsiragic gave talks on. Prof. Dr. Mahmud Erol Kılıç who has been the Head of the Islamic Mysticism at the Faculty of the Divinity/Marmara University, the Director of Istanbul Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum and is currently the General Secretariat to Parliamentary Union of Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and I too gave speeches on this particular subject.
It becomes obvious at the conference that Prof. Kılıç is a real supporter of astrology. During his speech at both the conference and on the TV show which we together attended, Kılıç said that astrology was not really opposed by religion at least to a certain degree. There, he went further and recommended that the Faculties of Divinity should give courses in astrology.
I would like to say at this point that at the AstroArt Astrology School, we teach not only modern astrology techniques but also ancient ones that passed down to us from the former astrologers/müneccims. We also benefit from the Sufi tradition that we combine with astrology to have a better understanding of cosmology.
More recently, we follow the Ottoman müneccims on the importance of the the planets that were considered noble and strong in a certain degree and sign. To give more detail, the Ottomans calculated the Sun at 19 degrees in Aries to start something important. Following their path, we arranged a meeting on 9th of April in 2015, on which the Sun was at its maximum point, 19 degrees in Aries. At that day, we started a project (Tarihi Astrolojik Metinleri Araştırma ve Kazandırma Projesi-TAMAK) to make research, translate, and transcribe ancient astrology texts as well as to discover the themes of astrology recorded in the works of the well-known Sufi masters. Inthis way, it is possible to see how astrology developed after the spread of Islam.
The project focuses on two main points:
1-Medieval Islamic Astrology
We are planning to translate the texts in Arabic and Ottoman Turkish and to make them published by The AstroArt Astrology School Publishing House. Moreover, we will organize seminars, workshops and give education on the new research outcomes. In this way, I believe that we can produce a great deal of knowledge for researchers and students of astrology as well as for others who are interested in this field.
Finally, our project group which is consists of seven people include Assoc. Prof. Nalan Turna, who is an expert on Ottoman history, students of astrology who know Arabic and Ottoman Turkish, and the instructors for Arabic. Şükran Öztürk is an Arabic language teacher; Şükran Bakacak, Zeliha Coşkun, Güzide Ülger are very good in Ottoman Language. Mustafa Konur is the editor and myself as the chief of this group.
Oner Doser, AMA, MAPAI
AstroArt School of Astrology (ASA)