Between tension and rapprochement: Sunni-Shi"ite relations in the pre-modern Ottoman period, with a focus on the eighteenth century


HISTORICAL RESEARCH, vol.90, no.249, pp.526-542, 2017 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 90 Issue: 249
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.1111/1468-2281.12191
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.526-542
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The Ottoman empire is known for its ethnically and religiously pluralistic social fabric, but also for defending the mainstream Sunni branch of Islam in opposition to its Iranian Safavid rival. This article revisits the Ottoman construction of Sunnism and suggests that, despite strict state policies from above to exclude Shiites and communal pressures from below in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, channels of dialogue could not be closed down in the long term. By focusing on a specific intra-religious dialogue of 1743, that aimed at reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites, this article highlights a probable case of de-confessionalization'. Close examination of the textual account of this inter-communal meeting demonstrates how the Ottomans were torn between defending their Sunni identity and the need for rapprochement to avoid further sectarianism in broader Muslim society.