Spiritual Subjects
Central Asian Pilgrims and the Ottoman Hajj at the End of Empire
Lâle Can


Contents and Abstracts
1 Rewriting the Road to Mecca
chapter abstract

Chapter One begins the exploration of hajj, by following a pilgrim named Mirim Khan, who recorded his travels through Sevastopol, Istanbul, and Mecca circa 1902. As our guide, Mirim Khan highlights the anxieties facing pilgrims in the steamship era and helps us approach the hajj from the perspective of ordinary people, rather than empires. The chapter considers how this genre of travel writing contextualized manifold hardships, including the dislocations of colonialism. Specifically, it explores how the author drew on Sufi concepts and practices to imbue the cosmopolitan Ottoman capital with meaning as a pilgrimage destination, and to help readers make sense of the significant challenges on the roads to Mecca. Engaging with spiritual facets of the hajj, the chapter posits, is integral to understanding how it diverged from other forms of migration, and how Istanbul became such an important part of the pilgrimage from Central Asia.

2 Sufi Lodges as Sites of Transimperial Connection
chapter abstract

Through a bottom-up history of the Sultantepe Özbekler Tekkesi, Chapter Two explores how Ottoman Sufi institutions facilitated pilgrimage and migration across empires and integrated of Central Asians into migrant communities. Drawing on the lodge's private archive, this chapter introduces us to a wide cross-section of pilgrims, as well as the Ottoman shaykhs who worked to regulate foreign Muslims' mobility for the central government and helped mediate many of the challenges travelers faced in Istanbul. The chapter fleshes out the contours of a pilgrimage network—something often mentioned in studies of hajj, but seldom presented in any detail. Sultantepe, the chapter shows, was not only a lodge for pilgrims in transit, but also a space where people classified as foreign Muslims could forge the kinds of connections that allowed them to become locals and, sometimes, Ottomans.

3 Extraterritoriality and the Question of Protection
chapter abstract

This chapter traces convergences between pilgrimage, nationality reform, and extraterritoriality that led to the emergence of spiritual subjecthood. When Central Asians began to assert rights to British and Russian nationality—sometimes after decades of living as Ottomans—or were claimed as such in death, the Ottoman Foreign Ministry used international law to articulate a new policy of caliphal protection over subjects of European protectorates. Although they were not subjects of the sultan, they had become protected by the caliphate. Ottoman failure to clearly enunciate the contours of caliphal protection, and to effectively challenge European extraterritoriality, however, meant that many Central Asians became liminal subjects facing uncertainty. Through attention to the many dead ends in archival records, this chapter counters the view that competing jurisdictional sovereignty increased opportunities for people via practices such as "shopping" in multiple legal forums. Imperial competition, often led to a narrowing of legal horizons and possibilities.

4 Petitioning the Sultan
chapter abstract

If Ottoman statesmen viewed the caliphate as a means to counter extraterritoriality or assert power over Muslims beyond their domains, they likely did not anticipate the ways they would be called to account. Chapter Four explores how Ottoman claims of caliphal protection culminated in heightened appeals for logistical and material support from Central Asians—often couched in the language of "spiritual assistance." By following petitions through the halls of government, this chapter shows that while the Porte took its obligations toward pilgrims seriously, it struggled with their potentially destabilizing presence: pilgrims taxed the government's resources, threatened imperial order, and needed to be moved quickly through Ottoman space. The chapter also calls into question conventional wisdom about petitioning and imperial patronage, and helps us see how the caliph's claims of protection shaped a rights discourse among people who were effectively excluded from legal subjecthood and a viable legal nationality.

5 From Pilgrims to Migrants and De Facto Ottomans
chapter abstract

This chapter examines two understudied forms of hajj-related migration and paths to subjecthood. It works back from the First World War and the abrogation of the Capitulations, when there was a rush of applications for legal naturalization (telsik). It contends that this process was the formalization of spiritual subjecthood, and elucidates why many of the tensions between hajj patronage and nationality reform could not be eradicated prior to the war. By telling the story of becoming Ottoman from the perspective of Medina and Istanbul, it explores the role of local communities in determining what it meant to be an Ottoman or a foreigner. Together with Chapter Two, it demonstrates that the connections foreign Muslims forged to the empire were heavily dependent on local networks rooted in specific sites, then connected to other networks, and all subject to global forces.

Conclusion: A Return to Sultantepe
chapter abstract

The conclusion explores the persistence of the protection question in the early years of the First World War and the path toward naturalization after the abrogation of the Capitulations. It also considers the reverberations of spiritual subjecthood into the early Republican period, and assesses the importance of recognizing the salience of religious belonging in the late Ottoman Empire. It briefly returns to the Sultantepe lodge in 1936 and 1958, with two stories that highlight the legacy of the hajj and how the Sufi network there persisted and continued to connect Central Asian migrants to the old Ottoman capital.