WALTER G. ANDREWS’S “THE AGE OF BELOVEDS” AND A DIFFERENT LOOK AT ANDROGEN
Associate Professor, Amasya Univerty, Faculty of Science and Literature, Turkish Language and Literature Department, email@example.com, Türkiye.
ABSTRACT: It is always necessary to strive to understand societies and reveal the facts about them. Societies lose many of their features over the centuries; As a result, it is necessary to remind them again with scientific researches. In this context, the Ottoman State left many of its features on the dusty shelves of history. There are many issues that can come out of these dusty shelves. It is the desire and duty of every scientist to investigate and reveal them. However, in some sensitive issues, scientists should be very careful and take care not to hurt communities in matters that do not have clear information. It is very difficult to describe a society that has not been lived in with its past. The foreign researcher who sees the matters symbolized by that society as real will inevitably fall into this profound error. Also, if these issues are about a state like the Ottoman Empire, which everyone is curious about but lacks clear information, and the rulers of this state, it can be more misleading. In this article, Walter G. Andrews’ ” The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early-Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society” will be discussed and some of the author’s mistakes will be revealed. In addition, how the concept of “androgens” should be understood in Ottoman poetry will be revealed. Our aim is to reveal some issues that will cause misunderstandings about the Ottoman state and people.
KEYWORDS: Walter G. Andrews, The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early-Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society, Ottoman culture, misconceptions, book review.
Date of Submission: xx-xx-xxxx Date of acceptance: xx-xx-xxxx
Societies research and accumulate each other in order to learn to act together, not to separate. No society approaches another in order to humiliate the other, and no society can be subjected to an obligation to resemble the other. The masses, divided into two poles as the Western world and the Eastern world, and trying to understand each other, unfortunately, have always been thrown away from each other in a whirl of doubts. Scientists have often been responsible for these misunderstandings. Many scientists from the West and the East have confused even more by writing articles on subjects they do not have sound knowledge. This confusion is sometimes – indeed – made out of ignorance; however, often deliberate confusion has been pursued. East and West are two brothers who want to understand each other, but are afraid to understand, put their prejudices before knowledge and actually deify their fears; Abel and Cain. The main thing is for brothers to live in peace; but there is one fundamental test in the world that makes this difficult: the devil. Here, the devil who deceived Abel and Cain still makes two brothers named West and East hostile to each other today. So what are the arguments of this devil? Of course highlighting the ego “we are better”, “you are worse”. Since it is not possible to make societies fully composed of good people, this fight is meaningless; However, these two brothers, West and East, continue this fight, which is clearly meaningless. It is very strange that humanity cannot attract each other so much, while all the prophets of Abraham – Isaac and Ishmael – said the same thing.
II. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
How does the environment of brotherhood and fighting that we have outlined above arise in the matter we have dealt with? It should be honestly stated that the children of the West and the East are free to make all kinds of criticism about themselves. They can wreak havoc on their societies, they can shout out their deficiencies; However, if the other sibling doing this is the situation, it immediately changes. First of all, the fact that these two brothers have a closed world immediately gives birth to imaginary and legendary information. In other words, there is a disagreement between the two groups due to the psychology of Abel and Cain. This insufficiency does not make one live in the other, it does not put one in the same mood as the other. So, whatever she does, a Westerner cannot fully understand the mood of an Oriental and “what and why”. This suspicious and cross-eyed look applies to both sides; However, we will focus on the point that the West does not understand the East because we are speaking in the context of a book review.
Walter G. (Andrews, 2018), as an American, used all his polite demeanor and all methods of psychological and sociological persuasion in his book. First of all, in such studies, the authors reveal that they have a very good command of the subject and that they see all the sources on the subject. Then look by listing the negativities from their own society, they say they exist in the West. After this exists in the West, all the mistakes of the brother in the East are counted and poured out. The writer, who often states that she is as objective as possible, agonizes to imply that she is not a classical orientalist. For the reasons we will discuss at length below, these efforts will never yield results.
For now, let’s say this much: It is necessary to be Eastern in order to understand and explain Eastern society. Of course, Western intellectuals will make all of the mistakes made by Ottoman intellectuals trying to understand the West. Let’s see if Andrews, who passed away in 2020, determined and correctly identified the Eastern society and the sexual tendencies of the Eastern society?
First of all, what is androgen, how should this concept be understood in Eastern society?
What is meant by this concept is basically the unification of the two genders; In other words, what is common to both men and women is that this hormone masculinizes the woman, feminizes the man, or de-sexes both. Westerners have researched their world a lot on this issue and tried to solve this problem, sometimes with prohibitions and sometimes with freedoms. Is this a problem? The question has been asked by some. Obviously, this concept, which is one of the starting points of lesbian and homosexual relationships, has generated a lot of controversy. In this discussion, the Western society sometimes wanted to reach a result with very strict penalties, as we said before, and sometimes postponed the problem by leaving everyone free of their own choice. Although Andrews states that this issue is complicated in the Western world, in her book “The Age of Beloveds”, her main purpose is the Eastern society and she emphasizes the need to examine this situation especially in the Ottoman Empire. The main purpose of the book is to deal with the relationships between men and women in Ottoman society.
We should not pass without mentioning a handicap here, otherwise it will make the subject difficult to understand, we think. What Western writers are most curious about is the Ottoman harem. Western intellectuals who could not enter the harem created a harem world that they dreamed of and served it to the whole world like a reality. This book insists on moving towards the same fate; because the author goes the same way again and uses every poem or prose that is written without its symbols. The worst thing is that he makes generalizations based on this.
It is necessary to open up this generalization issue with one more paragraph.
There is a clear truth: In every period, people had normal and abnormal tendencies. These trends existed yesterday, exist today and will be tomorrow; however, their share in most societies will always remain in small percentages. It is our main concern to explain the abnormal sexual inclinations of a small mass and to pretend that the whole society lived like this. Let’s make it real with an example. Lady Monteg, the famous work in Turkey Letters, says that indicates that a sheik’s drink and said: “There is no ban for those who drink wine on purpose.” Today, hundreds of writers who lack basic knowledge, especially those who write on social media – and not few of them want to base their ulterior motives – use these seeds of doubt as historical and common knowledge and sow in the hearts of every Ottoman grandchild living today. These sentences, presented as historical facts, cause the new generations to look at their own society badly.
Well, if we accept the word androgyn as genderless and say, “Is there a counterpart to this in Divan poetry?”
This is the beautiful point. Western intellectuals, who understand what we have to say now, will know a little about us. Of course, this is the case for those who are prejudiced and not bigoted to just worship their truth.
The basic question is, is God male or female?
The basic concept in the religion of Islam is “Allah”. The word Allah is a special name. There is no equivalent in any language. The word Allah does not include the meaning of masculinity and femininity. This is the main point of separation between the Western and Eastern brothers. It is difficult to explain to a society that sees God as a man (Zeus); To prove that God is a creator who does not need gender. The day we achieve this, it is revealed that God is one and can do everything, and Abraham’s purpose is realized. Since this will not happen, let’s go back to the book and explain the situation. Andrews says in his book Divan poetry that there is a genderless lover, and he explains this with androgynous. However, the basic explanation is hidden in the above reality. God has no gender and is the beloved god in divan poetry. Divan poet basically means God when he says beloved. Many Western scholars do not believe in this information and say that sexual fantasies made are covered up. Then it is not possible to tell them what we have written below.
In Divan poetry, lover is god. That god created this world perfectly and wished to see his own beauty through the eyes of people who would love him. The reason for the creation of the universe, according to the divan poet, is the wish of God to watch his own beauty through the eyes of people. In other words, God has set people on knowing and loving him.
So how will people describe it without seeing it?
At this point, just as theologians emphasize “worship” and sects “dhikr”, literati also brought “beauty” to the fore. Although it is said that the woman entered Islamic poetry from the poetry of Jahiliyya and sat in the center as a beloved, one secret should not be overlooked here: woman is a symbol, it gains meaning according to the context in which it is used. For skeptics, the woman may only be a sexual object, but not in the philosophy of divan poetry. Deciding to praise God for his beauty, the poet of Islam must first discover the most beautifully created object. The most beautiful thing God has created is “human”. Women are the most beautiful of all.
Now, who wants to portray God as the most beautiful and to praise him in constant symbolism, what, what created thing should he prioritize? Should he liken a bear or a pig to God; or is it an ox?
No, the supreme being created by God is human, the most beautiful form of man is a woman or a young handsome man. So when the poet says “my beloved”, he first says “my god” and then he’s talking about a living woman. In order to understand this, it is necessary to go through the books that mention basic symbols and psalms and to explain a few ghazals.
Since our subject is sexuality and sexuality in the Ottoman Empire, we can easily defend what we said above. Islamic poetry in general and Ottoman Divan poetry in particular used this symbol. Well, aren’t there any exceptions? Of course there is. However, when a poet mentions his beloved, he has captured a fairly free narrative space as he primarily describes God. A poet telling about his truly lively lover; When he explains to his wife and friend, he can easily say that the saints make me say that. If we want to give a rough statistic on this subject, ninety percent of the poets understood and explained God when they say “beloved”, belief when they say “love-wine”, tekke when they say “tavern”, and sheikh when they say “saki”. Behind these symbols, if some poets voiced their sexual impulses, they also fall within the ten percent.
Well, have the works expressing sexuality and perversion never been written?
Why not write? As in every society, there were people with this tendency in the Ottoman Empire, and there were poets who told about them. There was yesterday, there is today, it will be tomorrow. As we said at the beginning, if we generalize their place and number in society, we will accept that we have an immoral past. A mentality that perceives every beauty we talk about in our ghazals as “women”; we are told there “God”, they are astonished when they say. Until Nedim or Sünbül-zade Wahbi came, this symbolism remained intact. After them, the phenomenon of women and sexuality returned to the age of ignorance. However, this should not mean that Nedim’s poems are completely “unreligious”. It can be said that it is more likely to be interpreted that way.
How can the terms boy, sodomy be explained?
As we said above, there may and will be deviant relationships in every age and every society. The important thing is not to explain these as they spread to the general public. Andrews, in his book, to show that sodomy was quite common in the Ottoman Empire; He implies that madrasahs only accept male students and from here, sodomy, male-to-male relationship has become widespread. Yet another reason is the strict protection of women.
Some of these claims are of course true. However, there is an allegation that, basically, these madrasas were gathered as if people from the countryside who were out of place and were unemployed after leaving. It is known that Ottoman madrasahs have always educated elite, superior people, and many of these people were the children of an elite segment. Since no one will consent to his son being abducted by someone else, he will not send children to places where such situations occur. Although accepting that there may always be exceptions, the publications showing sodomy common in the Ottoman Empire should be examined more carefully. It is another recklessness to imply that Suleiman the Magnificent had such a relationship with Ibrahim Pasha. It is a disaster that this is a necessary relationship for power. It is very wrong to make generalizations based on “Hamamiye” or “Bah-names”.
Andrews speaks of “mahbub” and “mahbube” so much that it is as if every sultan, every vizier, every high-ranking civil servant tries to make love to boys and girls. It is as if Istanbul, built on two shores, became a Sodom and Gomore. The writer, who softened and softened a narration about Fatih Sultan Mehmet, actually pulled the seed of doubt in silence. This is what orientalists have in common: they doubt and keep quiet.
Who is all this harmful for?
Books such as “The Age of Beloveds” would not create any social trauma if only interested parties read and evaluated them; however, today there are thousands of manuscripts of writers who quote from these sources and write on all social media. At the beginning of the books cited by them are works such as “The Age of Beloveds” by Andrews. With these misleading and generalizations, the present generation, which we can call the grandchild of the Ottoman Empire, is surprised by the perverse relations of its ancestors and hates them. The disaster grows even more when this work, published abroad, introduces the Ottoman Turk and today’s Turkish nation as a sodomy. As a divan poetry researcher, we watch with amazement even the comments containing many perverted sexual tendencies about Mihri Hatun (Hakverdioğlu, 2016), which we have researched throughout our lives, both in the work and on the internet. One of the biggest insults is that she is compared to Sapho who is a lesbian in terms of sexuality. Mihri Hatun is a virgin, a scholar who died like that, a poet. Even though the sources say that, it is nonsense to make her seem to be in secret relations with allusions. Those who compare her to Sapho without ever knowing her will never realize how big a mistake they have made. Those who label the grandson of Pir Ilyas, one of the greatest saints of Anatolia, because the word “boy” is mentioned in his poem, and those who say that he kept a secret lover because he mentioned a few male names, unfortunately, are the ones who never cared about his work. Let’s not forget, the person who likened her to the perverted Greek poet Sapho is Hammer, also a Western historian.
Let’s finish by highlighting one more truth with Mihri Hatun. In Mihri Hatun’s poems, she is a beloved woman, like all poets. She is a woman with her hair, eyebrow, height, female, stature and fetish eyes. This is an opportunity for Western orientalists or orientalist fans who do not want to understand the above point. Immediately, they build a relationship, lesbian, woman to woman. However, we said: In Turkish Divan poetry, the term dear is used for “god”. Whether you accept it or not.
As the famous Turkish poet Sezai Karakoç said:
“You are what I say in all poems
If I said Suna (a beautiful bird), you are, if I said Leyla, you are”
Walter G. Anrdews examined the sexual tendencies of the Ottoman Empire in her work called the The Age of Beloveds and reached quite striking results. All sources used in the work are correct and many sexual tendencies have been expressed by Ottoman poets. However, at the beginning of this book, the purpose of giving a narration such as Fatih Sultan Mehmet’s interest in a Byzantine boy and then giving up this with word games could not hide. The aim is to reveal the immorality and corruption in Turkish society. This is where the biggest mistake occurs. The Turkish nation differentiates positively from all nations in terms of morality, monogamy, loyalty to its spouse and valuing women. The Turkish nation, who adopts a monogamy lifestyle like a wolf, has never made concessions to perversion. Those who read the famous Moroccan traveler Ibn-i Batuta (Aykut, 2019) know that Turks are conservative about marriage. They don’t marry everyone to their own daughters. They do not make concessions about polygamy or illegitimate relationships like Arabs, Persians and Europeans. In other words, perverse relationships can be considered worthy of the Turkish nation at last. The examples and places where the works are exemplified in the book are the districts of Istanbul called Beyoğlu and Karaköy. These places always contain different ethnic groups of the Ottoman Empire. Relationships may have occurred here. It is possible to admit that this is a bit of truth, but when we consider the whole book, a picture of society emerges that are indistinguishable from Europe, even more perverse than that. When interpreting its sources in this context, we find wrong the attitude of Western materialism that does not accept symbolism. The symbolism or entertainment purpose in most of the sources used to prove that aspects such as sodomy and prostitution are common in society has been ignored. In particular, since the concept of beloved in ghazals cannot be understood by an orientalist, perverse conclusions have always been drawn. Trying to prove that there were no deliberate conclusions by saying that these existed in European culture, Andrews could not be convinced at all.
To repeat, the Ottoman-Turkish society did not experience a The Age of Beloveds. Like every society, it has not prevented people who are deviant in sexual matters from growing up, but this disease cannot be generalized. Otherwise, seven hundred years of world domination of the Ottoman Empire cannot be explained with a menial society. It is our main issue to see our own youth as the segment affected by these resources. Besides, with this work published all over the world, the Turkish nation is misrepresented. It would be more correct to praise or criticize Divan poetry and Ottoman society by those who were born from this culture and who lived this culture.
Let’s end with a sufi divan poet named Mir Hamza Nigari:
Leb-i la‘lin temennâsıyla yanmış bagrı pür-hûnam
Şarâb-ı nâb-ı la‘linden kerem kıl yandım ey dilber (Bilgin, 2003)
“Burned by the will of your “O beloved” red lip, my chest full of blood
Give me the wine of your red lip, O dear, I am very thirsty.”
O dear, I am a burning lover, whose heart is filled with blood with the longing and desire of your red lip; please bestow on the pure red wine of your lip, give it; I burned, let me put out my fire.
If we accept this couplet with its first meaning, we must say that the poet wanted “red lip wine” from his lover to extinguish the fire in his heart. However, if we leave it with such a simple explanation, it is obvious that nobody will understand anything from this explanation. Therefore, it is necessary to know what is the red lip here, what is “full of blood”, what is “red wine” and to solve the couplet in the real sense. Otherwise, today’s youth will imagine that poets dream of different fantasies to kiss the beloved from this couplet and hundreds of such couplets.
The main truth to be stated in this couplet is this: “O my God, I am so eager for the kiss of life that gives you eternal life, brings you to the most beautiful paradise, and gives you the joy of watching your beauty and your beautiful face. Please, oh my God, give me eternity from the pure red wine of that lip, give eternal faith. Give the happiness of faith that bestows immortality on me. Fill me with the wine of love and faith so that I can meet you.”
We can misunderstand the word of a Muslim sheikh; but if we give the opposite meaning, we will not surrender the right in any case.
Androgyny can only be explained by the fact that God is not male or female in the Turkish-Islamic civilization; not with lesbianism or homosexuality.
It is necessary to be aware of all the conditions of a society, especially in order to understand and explain it in a sexual aspect. Andrews cannot be expected to understand this.
Someone should have told Mr. Andrews that literary works are not history books that tell facts. Sorry, that wasn’t done.
Andrews, W. G. (2018). Sevgililer Çağı. İstanbul: YKY.
Aykut, A. S. (2019). İbn-i Batuta Seyahatnamesi. İstanbul: YKY.
Bilgin, A. (2003). Hamza Nigari Divanı. İstanbul: Kule.
Hakverdioğlu, M. (2016). Mihri Hatunu Anlamak. Ankara: Gece.