Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy
Samuel Schelwig was born in 1643 in Lissa, now Leszno in western Poland. He was the son of a preacher man and studied at Breslau and Wittenberg. In 1663, he earned a Master of Philosophy and became a preacher at Wittenberg Castle Church (All Saints’ Church). In 1667, he served as an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at Wittenberg. In 1673, he was appointed a professor of philosophy at Danzig (modern Gdansk, Poland), where he taught classes on philosophy, logic, metaphysics, ethics, and economics. In 1675, he became a professor of theology, and in 1681, Schelwig ceased to give lectures on philosophy and concentrated solely on theology. After receiving his doctorate degree in theology in 1685 from the University of Wittenberg, he was appointed rector of the prestigious Danzig Academy, where he held the position until 1715. As a proponent of Lutheran orthodoxy, Schelwig prevented a more Pietist influence in the curriculum at Danzig Academy. Also, in 1693, he began a dispute with a colleague, Konstantin Schutz, accusing him of speaking in favor of Pietism. This controversy resulted in several polemical writings being published back and forth, and continued for years, drawing the intervention of the town council. Schelwig also engaged in conflict with the well-known leader of Pietists, Philipp Jacob Spener, and made a journey across northern Germany to defend orthodox Lutheranism against Pietism. Schelwig’s experiences with Pietists resulted in three influential works: Itinerarium Antipietisticum (1695), followed by his most comprehensive anti-pietistic tract, Die sektiererische Pietisterei (1696-97), and then Synopsis controversariarum sub pietatis praetextu motarum (1701-2). He married twice and had a total of twelve children, three of whom reached maturity. He died in Danzig in 1715.1
Variant Names: Samuel Schelwigius, Samuel Schelgvig, Samuel Schel-wigen, Samuel Schelguigius, Sam. Schelgvigius, and Samuele Schelguigio
Summary and Analysis
Schelwig begins his oratio by celebrating the recent Ottoman defeat at Vienna, saying that he intends to contribute to the fight against the “Turkish Hannibal” by attacking the Turks using his own field of expertise—philosophy. After a short and unfavorable assessment of the Turkish attitude toward philosophy compared to that of other major civilizations, Schelwig outlines the Turkish system of higher learning, beginning with grammar and continuing through rhetoric, dialectic, and philosophy, and ending with theology and jurisprudence. He asserts that the Turks are deficient in areas like music and history-writing and suggests that their alleged deficiency in logic goes back to a ban by Muhammad, who did not want his doctrine to be undermined. He then gives a cursory and dismissive assessment of Turkish metaphysics, pneumatics, and physics, citing many bizarre assertions on the nature of the universe and supernatural beings from the Qur’an, and suggesting that anything that seems philosophically sound is borrowed from Christian or Greek philosophy. Schelwig claims that the Turks were discouraged from learning mathematics by the teachings of Muhammad, their only knowledge of the discipline being borrowed from the Christians for sailing and torture, or for fortifying their cities and fortresses. He does, however, concede that the Turks achieved some things in practical philosophy, yet are not capable of theoretical philosophy. That is why, for Schelwig, the Turks are interested more in the table and cup that they see than the tableness and cupness that they do not see. He perceived Turks as people who can point out the concrete features present in reality, yet lack the theoretical mind to consider the abstract ideas that relate to reality in the way that Lutheran philosophers can.
Schelwig thinks that Turks’ inability to understand theoretical philosophy is reflected in their sensuous view of heaven. He acknowledges that some of the ‘finer minds’ dismiss these tales as allegory, but thinks the majority of Turks believes these tales to be literally true. He then describes the five daily prayers of Islam, after which he enumerates the many things that Muslims swear oaths by to avoid swearing by the name of God. Schelwig is far more admiring of Islamic ethical practices relating to judicial testimony, business dealings, and charity. He does, however, condemn the apparent Turkish tolerance of sodomy. A description of Islamic hygienic practices follows, but Schelwig dismisses a common fable about alcohol’s prohibition as too foolish to recount. He describes the Turks’ kindness to animals and their refusal to kill even insects and lice while on the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, but claims that they do not extend this kindness to humankind, especially Christians.
Schelwig turns then to a discussion of Turkish practical philosophy which he divides into political and economic philosophy. On Turkish political philosophy, Schelwig attributes the Turks’ submission to their rulers—even tyrannical ones—to the Qur’an’s injunction about obedience. He also claims that the Turks view wars against the infidel as an obligation and outlines the teachings and policies of Muhammad that led to a highly militarized Islamic society. A description of how the spoils of war are divided gives way to an outline of the rules of
Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy 209 inheritance and power dynamics in Islamic society. He notes that the Ottoman sultan tends to ignore these customs to appropriate the riches of the wealthy, and he describes the traditional punishments for murder, adultery, theft, false accusations and drunkenness. Schelwig then discusses Turkish economics (i.e., household management), outlining the Islamic rules concerning marriage, including the number of spouses allowed to a man, modest dress, proper sexual behavior, divorce, remarriage, and the duties of parents and children toward one another. He also touches on Islamic property laws as they relate to familial relations and explains that the goal among the Turks is to increase the family fortune.
1 hilofophicæ Profesfioni, De novo Dodtore , ylujpicato profl>iceretur>
In fplendidisfimâ Panegyri, die XXX. Juin M. T)C. XXCVL
S. Theol. D. & Prof. Publ. Athenæi Redtore atque ad SS. Trinitatis Paftore.
G E D A N I,
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Figure 9.1 Samuel Schelwig, De philosophia Turcica, oratio inauguralis, 1686 (Courtesy of the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden).
It is significant to note that despite Schelwig’s negative portrayal of Turkish philosophy he still shows awareness of early modern Islamic philosophy and acknowledges that the Turks made important contributions to grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic. Paradoxically, he finds this surprising given Muhammad’s discrediting of logic as it lends itself to argumentation and critique of the religion. Although Schelwig sets out to present an account of Turkish philosophical developments, he only does so with the intent of discrediting Islamic practices and teachings to differentiate Protestant Europe from its Islamic counterparts.
Another significant point Schelwig makes is about Sufism as he positions himself against mysticism by comparing Muslim Sufi dervish groups to Catholic Jesuits. He condemns both Muslim mystics and Jesuits as being involved in politics where they do not belong because, for Lutherans, religion and politics cannot mix. By comparing Sufis to Jesuits, Schelwig kills two birds with one stone: extending his negative appraisal to Pietism as well as Catholicism. He also compares theological and legal Islamic schools to Scholastic/Catholic philosophical theology movements by calling Ash‘arite and Shafi'ite schools Realists, while calling the MuTazilite school Nominalists. Schelwig uses the Ottoman Turks as a foil to construct his own identity through his criticism of Islamic philosophy and mysticism.
Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy (Danzig, 1686)
In the Name of Jesus,
S.R. Majestatis, the most outstanding Burggrab, the glorious, most noble, most insightful, most wonderful, quite worshipful, most excellent, most famous, most notable, most humane men, the masters, patrons, sponsors, colleagues, hosts, and friends, who should be honored and cherished with due observance, and you, the future of the country, the most flourishing crown of the citizens of this Athenaeum:
The Turkish Hannibal is no longer before the gates of Christendom. By a twist of fate, he [the Ottoman Sultan] was stricken by a terrible defeat near Vienna thanks to the virtue of our most invincible King and Lord, John III, and the allied Princes, especially the Elector of Saxony. The Turkish Grand Vizier sought aid from his weakened infantry, as he was being pressed by the conquering troops—Germans on one side, Venetians on the other. The Sarmatians and Roxolani joined with us in a most favorable treaty and armed alliance against the common defiler of the Christian world. We beseech God Almighty with worshipful entreaties and prayers that they may make the Turks’ victory doubtful in the battles to come. That insatiable plunderer of all nations is finally vomiting forth what he has unjustly devoured over the course of so many centuries. Let him belch forth his half-eaten provinces. However, many have submitted to the yoke of the treacherous Muhammad; since they
Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy 211 were forced to do so against their will, let them become subject instead to our God and Savior. Let our most merciful King, surrounded by an angelic guard, increase the glory of his name, long ago established by daring deeds and the wise administration of affairs in peace and war. Let him go after Camenecius (Kamianets-Podilskyi) has been recovered, after the Tatars have been bested and overturned, after the Moldavians and Wallachians have been freed from slavery, after the Danube has been made secure, after Constantinople has been cowed, let him return, victorious and triumphant. What shall we do in the meantime? Or how shall we explain the division of our labor? Once, when King Philip of Macedon was said to be setting out with his army, all the Corinthians were hard at work: some furnished weapons, others built up walls, each worked on his own task, which was intended to hold back the enemy. When Diogenes the Cynic saw this, as no one would make use of his counsel, he girded himself in his cloak and rolled the barrel in which he lived up and down through the Craneus (this was the name of the gymnasium in Corinth) with great dedication. When he was asked by one of his friends why he was doing that, he said, “I keep working with my barrel so that, with so many people engaged in work, I will not be the only one caught doing nothing.”
Therefore, it is certainly not permitted for us to be lazy when our most merciful King and so many other heroes among Christians are engaged in this single mission: that the Turk be sought out, attacked, and wiped out. But truly, you should mind well this warning, which many a man offered wisely: “Whatever skill someone knows, he must practice it.” I shall not hurl wood with catapults, nor rocks with ballistae; I shall neither strike walls by driving a ram, nor shall I drive a scythed chariot, nor shall I equip my head with a helmet. Let those things which the divine will has purposed for others be alien to me. I will also abstain from those other weapons, creations of modern times, which were unknown to our ancestors. Because I do not know their names precisely when I describe wartime matters, I must be satisfied with the terminology that I learned from reading Vegetius, Frontinus, Aelian, and other authors of martial affairs. Nevertheless, I shall attempt to achieve greater and more useful things than Diogenes. It is my intention to attack those Turks clad in togas [the philosophers], using my pen as a spear. Therefore, I make for the battlefield—unarmed against the unarmed. I have delved into Turkish Philosophy over the span of a few days, so that I may praise virtue in the enemy wherever possible, but also critique their foolish and pointless doctrines, which are most widespread although they are easily refuted. While I strive to do this, I seek no more effort from you, my patrons, sponsors, friends, most honored and cherished men of all orders, than I hope—nay, than I promise to myself.
Among the barbarians, philosophy once thrived and historians say that they first endowed the Greeks with wisdom. Tatian the Assyrian,
a Christian of gentile origins, speaks boldly: “O Greeks, it does not befit you to pursue the barbarians with hatred and to begrudge their principles. For did not your scholarship start with the barbarians?” The Assyrian and Babylonian astrologers, known as Chaldaeans, ought to be mentioned alongside Egyptian priests, Persian magi, Indian gymnos-ophists, Celtic druids and bards, and Bactrian sramanas; many Greeks went to these people to benefit from their learning. Even now, various schools of philosophers in the expansive Chinese Empire teach wisdom. The foremost follows Confucius, “the Socrates of China” as he is called by Christians, because he was believed to flourish at the same time as Socrates and because, like Socrates, Confucius first cultivated a doctrine of morality. Certainly, the authority of that man is no less among his followers in the East than that of Plato and Aristotle in the West. Likewise, among the Muslims, philosophy finds many students, and some have met with great success. The Moors of Africa brought Averroes into Spain. He deserves to be hailed as the Commentator of Aristotle for the books he published, which adroitly illuminated the mind of Aristotle. Arabia has produced many wise mystics, who are known as the loquacious speakers (mutakallim, theologians), since they argue with ‘great subtlety.’ Ibn Furak and al-Shahrastanl stood out above the rest. Even now, the Persians incorporate astronomy into their poetry, and the observers of the stars, the minatzim [munajjim], are held in high regard by their King and Princes.
Perhaps what I have said about Turkish philosophy will be thought blasphemous. Who are those men and what sort are they? If we look at their name, ‘Turk’ or ‘Turkish’ indicates a crude and rustic person. Thus, they are so ashamed of this name that they prefer ‘Muslim,’ or ‘Musulmán,’ meaning ‘saved’ or ‘believing.’ Nevertheless, their nature and customs, which trace their beginnings back to the ancient Turks, do not depart even a finger’s breadth from their crude and rustic origins. Since the Turks are thought unfit for conducting affairs, apostates and the children of apostates, those born of Christian ancestors, are entrusted with most important offices. Therefore, why should we think nothing useful can be created from such base material? The Turkish hatred of literature has its origins with the birth of Islam. Under the influence of the caliph ‘Umar, the Turks only valued the Qur’an. The caliph sought out all manner of books and sent everything he acquired to the baths to be burnt; they provided heat for half a year. Lest anyone believe that the Turks’ attitude has changed since that time, let us pay heed to the observations that Wenceslaus Baro of Budowa made during his many years of travel. He found kindlier fates among the barbarians than he did at home among his own people. As an eyewitness, it would be wrong to question his trustworthiness. He left this testament to his children: “I myself have heard from others that Turks cannot understand what is in the Qur’an since it is prohibited to translate it into Turkish, except for
Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy 213 a few compilations, which contain some of their prayers and rituals.” And in another passage, he continues: “The Turks learn nothing except to read and write, but only a few of them, for they mock scholarship and all books, both those of their countrymen and of others.” Hence, the Turks who wish to apply themselves to scholarship ‘occur seldom, swimming in a great void,’ compared to all the others who, like cattle who follow their bellies, spend their lives in silence. Nevertheless, even in Turkey itself, schools are fostered, even good ones, which Solomon Schweigger in his Itinerary has not hesitated to call ‘academies.’ Lest someone think that Schweigger misapplied that word, he accurately describes the advances that the Turks make in their studies. For if, as is fair, we trust Schweigger’s account, a Turkish student who is skilled in reading and writing is called suhte or softa in their own language. If the student is capable, he is placed in the higher College and learns Persian, Arabic, and Turkish grammar. They divide this curriculum, over twenty volumes, into etymology and syntax, of which the first is called sarf, the latter nahw. Dialectic, or mantiq, follows grammar, so that it is possible for us to have [philosophical] discourse with them. After this, they study six books on kalam, by which they mean rhetoric and philosophy. After this course of study is completed, whoever has excelled is called a Talisman—that is, a Master of Arts. Then, if the student has loftier ambitions, he advances to the high college of theology and jurisprudence, which is called medrese. The only thing missing is medicine, which the Turks tend to relegate from the schools to barbershops and apothecaries to their detriment. Georg Christoph of Neitzschiz, who spent seven full years on an Eastern journey, agrees with Schweigger’s testimony. Christoph counted five schools of this sort at Constantinople, in which each teacher has his own quarters. In the first year, two garments and two small loaves of bread are provided for everyone, with barley-water for drinking. In the second year, there is a daily allowance of one as-per, which is a type of coin, and it increases to two in the third year. If anyone wants to live more lavishly, he must provide it himself, or earn it with the scribe’s pen. According to Stephan Gerlach, there were five muderris, or professors, teaching at the school in Constantinople, near the Temple of Suleyman. In another school, which Sultan Bayezid had founded, the Mufti, the highest priest in Turkey, taught. But he also says that the payment of professors does not exceed seventy aspri per day, and many receive less. Michael Heberer observed a school at Pera, or Galata, which is a suburb of Constantinople across the Bosphorus, in which around 500 youths were trained under various masters, dressed in silken clothing. Therefore, it is quite clear that Apollo is not entirely exiled from Constantinople. We have been able to find few things about the academies of other cities. Johann Boehme, author of The Customs of Peoples, says that he visited many grand gymnasia among the Turks, but he does not provide much detail. Yet we learn from him that somegymnasia may be found [outside Constantinople], because Lazarus Soranzius writes that when Mehmed III, tyrant of the Turks, was still a youth and had surrendered Manisa at the order of his father, he slaughtered 2,000 students for a trifling cause.
Since it is clear that at least some men in the massive empire of the Turks apply themselves to scholarship, let us consider what sorts of disciplines or to what end they commit themselves. Certainly, their false Prophet ordered them to stay away from poetry, just as Plato once cast the poets out of his Republic. In the Qur’an, it is utterly forbidden to compose poems with such ferocity that poets are condemned to the kingdom and power of devils until they cease lying or practicing their art. Nevertheless, I recall, last year, when I was at Leipzig studying daily with the most learned men with which that famous Academy abounds by the grace of God, that I saw a small Turkish book filled with erotic poems in the library of my old friend, August Pfeiffer, a man most gifted in Eastern languages. Thus, it is evident that some men, through poetic license, as they call it, broke the laws of their own religion and followed their hearts rather than the Qur’an. A passion for annalistic history and chronicles is almost nonexistent among the Turks. To quote Ogier Ghis-elin de Busbecq:
The Turks have no sense of time or age, and they mix up and confuse all their histories in a strange way. For instance, they will not hesitate to declare that Job was the head of court for King Solomon, that Alexander the Great was in charge of his army, or things even more ridiculous than these.
There are other examples, and many more appear in the Qur’an, which we would discuss here if there was not a danger that it would soon become unbearable.
Therefore, we now move to the ‘instrumental disciplines’ of philosophy: grammar, rhetoric, and logic, which are offered to students in Turkey, but not to an advanced level, as we have proven with absolutely trustworthy evidence. The Turks study logic despite the fact that Muhammad wanted the practice of logic, which is particularly useful in argumentation, to be alien to his followers. For hardly anything is attacked more frequently in the Qur’an than logic. In the first place is that lovely law: “If anyone wants to argue, order him to hold his tongue until the day of final judgment, when God will settle all scores.” Guillaume Postel offers the reason for the ban, saying that the Impostor “frightens his followers so that they do not look into his doctrine and his deceit does not reveal itself.” According to Postel,
Muhammad says, ‘Do not confuse true with false, cover up and hide what is true and you will be wise.’ Muhammad reveals himself
Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy 215 plainly here when he enjoins them to hide from what is true, which is what he did, casting forth all the most untrue things.
I cannot pass over a few cunning remarks which Muhammad included in his Qur’an. Unless I am mistaken, Muhammad seemed to be a logician—that is, to argue with himself. The question was: “What flame eats and drinks, and if it is snuffed out once, cannot be kindled and restored until the Day of Judgment?” The answer is the natural fire in the human body—of course, it is maintained by eating and drinking but is not restored after death, unless a chain is fashioned between body and soul in the resurrection of the dead. Another laughable question was: “what two things are such that one of them is always large and the other is always small?” The answer is that pebbles are never not small, and mountains are never not large. Another question was: “what moisture takes its origin neither from the sky nor from the land?” The answer is the sweat of animals worn out by effort. Another question: “how large is the universe?” The answer is that the universe does not surpass one-day’s journey, for from the sunrise in the morning until the sun sets in the evening, the sun goes around that far every day. I have chosen these examples out of many to illustrate the skill in argumentation with which the Turks would attack us if the opportunity presented itself to them. I purposely exclude the remaining question, which cannot pique our longing unless for those born in the land of wethers and under the thick air.
So, with mouths open and hindrances banished, we can now examine the heart of Turkish philosophy. To begin, we will keep the order that is customary in our schools; we will examine theoretical philosophy first, including metaphysics, pneumatics, physics, and mathematics, and then practical philosophy. As for metaphysics, the Turks are more often considered to have the table and cup that they see concretely than the ‘tableness’ and ‘cupness’ that they do not see. Diogenes once used this example to mock Plato and his concept of ideas; but Plato offered a response, which fits the Turks no less than the Cynic: he has eyes, with which the table and cup are seen but he does not have a mind, with which the ‘tableness’ and ‘cupness’ are seen. Nevertheless, traces of metaphysics are evident in the excerpt from the small Turkish book of ‘Aziz Nasafi the Tatar, which Andreas Müller, the steward of Eastern Obscurities, particularly Chinese, published by the Library of the Elector of Brandenburg; and they are obvious to someone who is researching a little more carefully. Otherwise, how would we know what they say about essence and attributes?
Some think that essence and attribute more properly belong to pneumatics, which our contemporaries consider to be its own discipline, different from metaphysics. In fact, the essence and attribute are connected to God insofar as He is the chief object of pneumatics, which
‘Aziz Nasafi proposes in his praiseworthy little work, using these words: “The attributes of God are the essence of God, in their own way; and His works are His life, in their own way; His names are His appearance, in their own way.” A little later, Nasafi writes: “The attributes, indications, and comparisons of God are in fact His essence, because there is no existence without essence.” In his Commentary on this question, Muller states that Muslims pose the following question: “Do the attributes of God differ from His essence?” The Ash‘arite and Shafi‘ite affirm this, but the Mutazilite deny this. So, the same sects that have risen in the West among the Scholastics have also risen in the East. For those Scholastics who share the former [Ash‘arite and Shafi‘ite] opinion are called Realists, while those who share the latter [Mu‘tazilite] opinion are called Nominalists. Moreover, we approve of what is in the Qur’an concerning God’s omnipotence, omniscience, justice, the creation of the universe, and that God is recognized from the creation and preservation of the things that He made. On the other hand, we disapprove of anything that describes God as finite and limited in place, or, what we despise above all else, “as the Creator of sin.” The False Prophet speaks appropriately at times about Providence; but he errs because he pulls Stoic Fate from the pits of Hell. The reason is because this belief [i.e., belief in fate] bolsters martial resilience, when those who go to war think of the end of life as prescribed, to the year, month, day, hour, instance, such that it cannot be avoided, nor adjusted, nor changed for any reason. God is followed by the angels, whose division into good and evil the Turks recognize as we do. But in other matters, they prattle about trivialities, ridiculously and childishly, arguing that angels are corporeal and that they engage in forbidden congress with women; that they surpass the world a thousand times in size, and have 70,000 heads, and 70,000 tongues in each mouth; and that they die before the final judgment. The argument that the angels are divided into 70,000 armies and that each army consists of 5,000 angels is nothing but the product of Muhammad’s imagination. As for the soul, they think that if it is separated in infancy from the body it is polluted with sin; then it becomes a spirit, which they call a jinn.
Now we move onto a discussion of physics. The Muslims have few reasonable men among their ranks, and come up with the most horrendous opinions. Muslims count up seven heavens, the first of which is of green water, the second of pure water, the third of emerald, the fourth of gold, the fifth of hyacinth, the sixth of extremely calm clouds, the seventh of lightning bolts. The Muslims also tell lies about heavens of smoke; they say that this smoke traces its origins to sea-mist and is enclosed in golden gates. They likewise teach nonsense about the stars, saying that they are bound to heaven by shackles and meddle in earthly affairs; devils lie in wait to interfere with heavenly matters; the sun and moon have souls and are faithful to God; and the moon shines more dully than the Sun because the angel Gabriel struck it with his wings
Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy 217 as he was flying past. Nasafi rightly establishes that man is the microcosm, but it seems that he took that from Christian books, unless he took it from Pythagoras, who spoke in a similar fashion. Nasafi recognizes three souls in man: the vegetative; the sensitive; and the animal, by which, if he means “rational,” he agrees with Christians in this regard completely. Gerlach says that, according to the Turks, Man is more powerful than angel, such that angel served Man and is only of spirit, while Man shares in both a bodily and spiritual nature at the same time. Concerning the origin and qualities of Man, the Qur’an says the following: the embryo awaits the seed for forty days, assumes the color of blood for forty days, gains flesh over another forty days, and finally is completed over the remaining forty days, and is endowed with life by an angel breathing a soul into it.
The variation in face and skin color comes from the fact that God first fashioned man out of dust of various colors that were chosen deliberately; women are weaker than men because God fashioned Eve from a rib on the left side; for if it had been otherwise, because of the perfection of the right side, there would have been no lapse in willpower from Adam; children sometimes are more like their father, other times more like their mother, according to how one or the other engaged in the conjugal acts with greater desire and pleasure. If we turn to the same pandect of vanity concerning the origins and nature of beasts, we shall hear that the pig and the mouse came from elephant dung, and the cat from the sneeze of a lion, a completely Ovidian metamorphosis. The donkey bent its knee out of respect toward a young Muhammad, and spoke in a human voice like the donkey of Balaam; an elephant had done the same thing previously before Muhammad’s grandfather, ‘Abd al-Muttalib. Strange that the elephant did not also dance in this tale! Among the birds, the hoopoe assumed the duty of an ambassadorship, from Solomon to the Queen of Sheba, and executed it faithfully; and ants warned each other to flee, lest they be trampled by Solomon, who understood the languages of all beasts. “In saying such things, who/of the Myrmidons or Dolopes, or a soldier under tough Ulysses/would refrain from laughing?” There remain a great many fever dreams: the world rests upon a fish; another world may be found under this world; that within the seventh sphere of the world, there is a bull armed with forty horns, whose head extends to the East and its tail to the West, and from one horn to another there is a distance of a thousand-day’s journey; and Death will finally be changed into a goat and killed for its arrogance. We have taken these things from the part of the Qur’an which the Turks treat with the greatest honor of all. Since the Turks consider truth irrelevant, preferring instead the most tasteless myths, they prove that saying of Martial’s: “it has not been granted to everyone to have a nose.”
Let us examine a few little blossoms from other authors. It is, of course, delightful that, just as the pagans once argued that the rose camefrom the blood of Venus, the Turks say that it came from the sweat of Muhammad, and thus they do not allow a single one of its petals to lie on the earth. They absurdly claim that the motion of the world arises because it rests upon columns which are turned about by a cow. They nonsensically describe the ascent to heavenly paradise as one hundred steps, the first of which is of silver, the second of gold, the third of hyacinth, coal, pearl, and so on. They also believe that certain women become pregnant after long speeches and constant bodily action; and they bear children whom they call Nefes oglu, that is, “the offspring of the Spirit.” Unlike Christians, Muslims keep dogs out of the house, considering them foul and unclean animals, and adopt cats instead, as they are thought to be much cleaner and are treated with a certain reverence. Muhammad held cats in such esteem that, when one had fallen asleep on his shirtsleeves and he had to attend to a pressing holy matter, he preferred to cut off his sleeve than to disturb the sleep of his most beloved animal. We pass over other trifles with a dry foot, as they say, lest a lack of time forces us to leave the other parts of philosophy untouched, particularly those in which the Turks are somewhat more skilled.
Therefore, we must speak now about mathematics. Few among the Turks have knowledge of this, except for certain Apostates who rely upon knowledge taken from Christians for sailing and siegecraft, or for fortifying their fortresses and cities. Muhammad has frightened the rest of them away from this discipline that otherwise delights humanity with such great joy and usefulness. Muhammad equated mathematicians to morons, just as the Roman emperors once equated them to witches.
But in practical philosophy, to which our discussion now turns, we admit that the Turks are not altogether blind. One must hope that one always lives according to the precepts of philosophy. But oh! This is the thing; many tears arise from here, because the advice of the Poet [Persius] is also ignored among Christians at every turn: “It is trivial to talk about virtue; to live according to virtue, that is work, that is effort!”
Let us now talk about Turkish political and economic ethics. They philosophize on the Highest Good, which exists beyond the slime commonly attributed to Epicurus. By acting in accordance with the Qur’an, they aim for paradise, which abounds with all sorts of pleasures more appropriate for Sardanapalus or Elagabalus rather than blessed minds. They believe that they will occupy houses roofed in silver; lie on couches of gold; lie on sofas and carpets fashioned from silk; walk clad in the most costly clothing and jewelry; abound in wealth and various trappings of pleasure; refresh themselves with supremely sweet springs and waters that run year round; feast upon the liver of the fine fish, Albehut or Alimpeput; lie under shady trees and eat their fill of fruit; drink from cups of silver and crystal and myrtle, in such a way, though, that they never become drunk, nor vomit up again the food and drink once it has digested in their bellies. The most beautiful maidens will also attend
Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy 219 upon them, with round and heaving breasts and large and striking eyes—such eyes, I say, to catch the attention of those who look upon them, by the glamour of their pupils and the blackness of their brows, “invitations to love,” so to speak. The Turks look down on prostitutes; and yet, Postel proves that the Qur’an places prostitutes in Paradise. He says the Turks anticipate “sexual acts with both delicate boys and women, each of which will last for fifty years without pause.” What trumpery! What madness! What wickedness! Muslims of finer taste, such as Ahmad of Persia [probably the brother of al-Ghazali], repent of these cradle-songs; and thus, they consider all these things as allegorical. But most people take everything literally, according to Brother Richard of the Order of Preachers, who published Refutation of the Qur’an. Literal interpretation was deemed necessary by al-Ghazali, an authority among the Arabs; he labeled those who interpreted these [verses in the Qur’an] as allegorical as heretics. In order to reach the Elysian Fields, the Turks believe that mankind has various duties toward God, toward other men, toward oneself, and finally toward animals. So that “the song begins with God” as Virgil advises, the Qur’an stridently requires prayers to God, to the point that it is forbidden to forego them even in a military campaign. Muhammad enjoins Muslims to set themselves before God twice, at the beginning and end of the day. Today, however, those who are more devoted set aside five periods for prayer: the first before sunrise, which they call Salah [Sabah]; the second at noon, Vhile [Ogle]; the third around evening, Chnidi [tkindi]; the fourth at sunset, Acsa [Ak?am]; and the fifth at midnight, which is called Jastna [Yhisz]. In the first one, they bend their face to the ground four times; the second one ten times; the third one thirteen times; the fourth one eight times; the fifth one five times. Before doing anything, they address their Divinity in the following manner: “Lead me, and do not let me be led without you, Lord Almighty; For I die when I am the leader, I will be saved with you as the Leader.”
The Turks forbid and punish blasphemy [i.e., swearing], which you will not readily hear from any Turk, unless he has converted from Christianity. They discourage hasty oaths, but if serious testimony is required, they are ordered to swear not by God, out of reverence for Him, but by worldly things. Muhammad himself established the truth of his dogmas by swearing by the winds, rain, ships on the sea, angels, Mount Sinai, a book inscribed with a very fine map, a lofty house, the setting of stars, night and the dawn, the heavens, the Morning Star, and springtime, so that he could lie so much more brazenly. Among the obligations that people have, these stand out: not to enter anyone’s house without permission; to greet people they meet on the road and answer those who greet them with kindness; to honor contracts and other deals, especially treaties; not to refuse to give testimony for anyone if they are able to give it; to be on guard against false testimony; not to accept paymentfor testimony; to show favor to everyone equally; not to charge interest; to return deposits; to aid the impoverished with alms, or with whatever can be done; to take studious care of widows and wards, and not harm them in any way; not to make slanders or spew out foul words. These and other obligations deserve respect. Perhaps also this one: not to have business with the blind, the deaf, or the lame; for the Qur’an, following the example of Pythagoras, seems to speak symbolically and recognize failures of character through defects of the body.2 If this is taken literally, however, we see that Turks recognized what our men recommend: “We must beware of those whom nature has made note of [i.e., deformed people].” On the other hand, we absolutely deplore and curse in terrible terms that they allow the crimes of the Sodomites; in fact, they do not even reckon them in the tally of sins, by which detestable filth the majority of the wealthy and powerful are polluted. These are their most important obligations: to get up, and to wash their face and hands (up to the elbow) and their feet up to heel before prayers, unless bodily ailment prevents it, or if there is not enough water, to scrub them with pure earth; to wash their members after sex; to patiently endure insults against the faith by family members and entrust them to God; and to refrain from gambling; and most of all, from drinking parties, as though they were created by the Devil. I would explain the reason that wine is banned by the Turks; but since the tale of the angels, Haroth and Maroth, tricked by a woman who had mixed wine with their food, is terribly stupid, and the lack of time implores me to move on, I will stay away from it, and I will add only this single thing, that the Turks struggle against this prohibition no less than others, and they always desire what is denied. Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq is insightful on this topic:
I saw a certain old man in Constantinople who, after he had taken a goblet in his hand to drink, first let out great cries. When we asked his friends why he was acting that way, they answered that he wanted to remind his soul with those cries that it was going to another corner of his body or was leaving altogether. That way, it would not be convicted of that failure which he himself was going to allow, and it would not be polluted by wine which he was going to consume.
Ah, well done! Who can purify himself of sin merely by shouting? We said before that the Turks are careful even with regards to animals. During the four months when they make a journey to Medina and Mecca, or send a proxy in their place, they completely abstain from any hunting at all, such that even lice, bugs, and fleas enjoy a reprieve. Besides that, they take it as a point of righteousness to set free small birds that they capture and bring back. It is also considered righteous if anyone feeds dogs and cats that they meet on the street, especially pregnant ones; if
Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy 221 anyone feeds them organs, bones, porridge, or leftovers of other side-dishes, in their house or on the street. Sometimes, for this reason, Turks are reproached by men of our faith because they do those things for wild animals which they refuse to humans, especially Christians. They justify this in the following way:
God has gifted man with reason, which is a wonderful tool for everything. Yet, man misuses reason, so that nothing unfortunate happens to him which he did not earn from his own faults; therefore, he is worthy of less pity. But nothing has been given to animals by God apart from their natural movements and appetites, which they cannot fail to follow; thus, they must be lifted up by human power and kindness.
Moving on to politics, with which our discussion will end, we find no family nobility among the Turks—among whom, of course, that satiric line holds: “Nobility is the one and only virtue.” The Qur’an commands obedience of subjects toward their masters, even wicked and tyrannical ones. They are ordered to sacrifice their lives, and the Turks submit to this command as Achille Tarducci wrote: “There is such great obedience that greater could not be imagined; and its like could not be replicated,” that is, among the Christians. Turkish monks [Sufi dervishes] are accused of the same thing that we accuse the Jesuits of doing—namely, that they set various traps against the lives of their Princes. Among others, Bayezid I learned this lesson to his misfortune when he was almost killed on a public road by such a knave who was begging for alms. The Turks consider war, particularly against those whom they call infidels, to be not only permitted, but even commanded by God. In order that war be waged bravely and with greater force, Muhammad exempted no one from performing military service except for the blind, the lame, and others who suffered from a serious ailment. Muhammad persuaded his followers that soldiers are loved by God more than other mortals, even those who perform the holy undertaking of a pilgrimage, and thus soldiers would have the finest rewards in the next life. Nevertheless, they are required to fight bravely; for those who would do otherwise receive temporal and eternal punishments. After victory has been achieved, however, a fifth part of the spoils, according to the Qur’an’s commands, are to be given to Muhammad or his companions, or to other impoverished persons. As for divvying up inheritances, the same Lawgiver decreed that a son should take as much from his father upon his death as two daughters; but if there are more than two daughters, that two-thirds should be passed down to them. If there is only a single daughter, she should have half. In the absence of children, the inheritance passes to kinsmen, with only a third reserved for the mother. When a wife dies, if she passed without children, the husband becomes heir to half thedowry; if she left children, then only a fourth. After the death of the husband, if there are no children, a fourth is left to the surviving wife; if there are children, she is due only an eighth. Today, however, hardly any of these commands are honored, because the Emperor of the Turks makes himself heir to those of abundant wealth, and leaves to his wives and children only as much as he wishes.
We should also discuss punishments. After Muhammad had ordered wicked men to be condemned and noticed that this was ineffective at motivating his followers to obey him, he decided that other forms of punishment would also have to be inflicted by the leadership. Thus, in the Qur’an, whoever commits intentional homicide should be cast into fire; whoever does it unintentionally should fast for two months, or he should ransom some prisoner of war and repay the kinsmen of the slain. An adulterer, if caught in the act, is given a hundred lashes; thieves have their hands cut off; whoever charges his wife with adultery and loses his case is cleansed of his impudence with eighty lashes; a like number of lashes purifies drunkenness; whoever is unaware of the severity of a sin when he engaged in it will have his punishment lightened.
Turkish economics is engaged with the three simple associations and with enlarging the family fortune. Thus, there are three rules in the Qur’an for those planning to enter the association of marriage. It is permitted for one man to have four wives—and in fact, however many he can support. No man may marry his mother, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, or the mother and sister of the daughter-in-law. One may not take a wife from another religion, nor marry a prostitute. It is proper for wives to go about with their faces uncovered before their husbands, children, kin, and family; before others, they must remain covered, unless they are unwell. It is considered wrong to have intercourse in the mosque or with a menstruating woman. Husbands should live at peace with their wives and not weigh them down with suspicions or false accusations. Wives should obey their husbands, live modestly, and keep their husband’s secrets. It is permitted to leave a wife by divorcing her. A wife whose husband leaves may be married to another man after waiting four months and with the permission of her former husband. No one may turn out a pregnant wife; he should wait for the time of childbirth, after which the offspring should stay with the father. It is proper for a widow to enter into a new marriage four months after the death of her husband. The father is governed by fewer rules, for the Qur’an commands nothing except that parents should nurture their children, and no one should ruin his own family by concealing poverty. In turn, children should love their parents, honor them, and willingly support them in old age. Association with a master needs no rules, although it is not right for the Turks to have a Muslim slave, and all things are permissible against a Christian, without exception. Finally, there is a custom that whatever
Inaugural Speech on Turkish Philosophy 223 profit is derived, by whatever means, a fifth part of it should be given to the false Prophet Muhammad.
Where shall we go now? Certainly, more time has been spent on Turkish philosophy than we had intended... [the author goes on to give his best wishes to Master M. Johann Christoph Rosteuscher of Danzig, who will succeed him in the professorship of Logic, Metaphysics, and Ethics] [...]. I beg God Almighty to save our most peaceful King, the Curia, the Church; and protect this office of the Holy Spirit against the designs of Satan. Amen.
- 1 Schelwig’s biography was compiled from the following sources: Johann Georg Walch, Historische und theologische Einleitung in die Religions Streitigkeiten der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirchen, vol. 1 (Jena, 1733), 740-5; Johann Heinrich Zedier (ed.), “Schelwig oder Schelgvig, Samuel,” in Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon aller Wissenschafften und Künste, vol. 34 (Leipzig, 1742), 1204-15; Johann Horkel, Der Holzkämmerer Theodor Gehr und die Anfänge des Königl. Friedrichs-Collegiums zu Königsberg (Königsberg 1855), 15-62; Heinrich Schmid, Die Geschichte des Pietismus (Nördlingen, 1863), 227-342; Eduard Schnaase, Geschichte der evangelischen Kirche Danzigs aktenmäßig Dargestellt (Danzig, 1863), 80-183; Christian Friedrich David Erdmann, “Schelwig, Samuel,” Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, vol. 31 (Leipzig, 1890), 30-36.
- 2 [MK] Here, Schelwig does not present the correct understanding of the Qur’an although he is careful about his interpretation concerning the blind, deaf, and lame (being a symbolic character defect rather than a physical defect).