Ahmet Hamdi Akseki, a major contributor to Islamic literature, was commemorated on the 68th anniversary of his death.
Akseki — also the third president of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate – is known in Turkey particularly for his works on Islamic ethics.
Akseki was born in 1887 in the Akseki district of Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Antalya.
He began reciting the Quran when he was 5 years old. Later, he took classes in Arabic and followed the lectures of Abdurrahman Efendi at Mecidiye Madrasa.
Besides Arabic, Akseki received lessons in Persian, the Islamic religion, “tafsir” (the interpretation of the Quran), “fiqh” (Islamic law) and hadith (the sayings of Prophet Muhammad).
In 1905, Akseki moved to Istanbul to study for a doctoral degree at Darulfunun (Istanbul University) from which he graduated first in his class.
Receiving both a traditional and modern education, Akseki held three diplomas from different faculties at the age of 32.
Public service and publications
During his senior year at Darulfunun, Akseki was appointed as a teacher of ethics, religion and religious philosophy at Mekteb-i Bahriyye-i Sahane (Heybeliada Naval School) on Heybeliada island in Istanbul’s Adalar district.
Beginning his writing career in 1908, he worked for Sebilurresad magazine as the Romania-Bulgaria correspondent before the Balkan Wars broke out in 1912.
His impressions of the region were published in the magazine under the title “Letters from Bulgaria”.
Later, he traveled to Anatolia to support the Turkish War of Independence with his writings, sermons and conferences.
Between January 1922 and November 1923, Akseki worked as a teacher of Islamic studies at Ankara High School.
While teaching here, he was appointed to the Religious Affairs and Foundations Directorate.
Reforming the curriculum of Dar-al Khilafah madrasahs (religious schools), the number of these institutions more than tripled during his tenure.
In 1924, Akseki was appointed as a member of the advisory council at the Religious Affairs Directorate.
During his service at the directorate, he contributed to Elmalili Hamdi Yazir’s widely-read translation of the Quran and translation of a summary of the great hadith of Muhammad al-Bukhari.
In 1925, however, Akseki was tried by the Court of Independence in Ankara for being a member of an Islamist organization. Later, he was found innocent and released.
Akseki opposed Westernism and nationalism while he defended the idea of “Islamic unity” for the liberation of Muslim societies.
At the request of then-head of religious affairs Mehmed Serafettin Yaltkaya, Akseki wrote a report arguing against the use of Turkish in the five regular prayers practiced by Muslims every day.
Akseki was appointed head of religious affairs after Yaltkaya’s death in 1947. He previously served as his deputy.
He died on Jan. 9, 1951 in Turkey’s capital Ankara, where he was buried with nearly 70 publications to his name.
Major publications by Akseki include “The Religion of Islam” (Islam Dini), “Religious Lessons 1-2” (Dini Dersler 1-2), “The Religion of Islam is Intrinsic” (Islam Dini Fitridir), “Islam is a Natural and Universal Religion” (İslam Dini Tabii ve Umumi Bir Dindir), “Morality Lessons” (Ahlak Dersleri) and “Book of Religion for the Soldier” (Askere Din Kitabı), with many more that have not been published.
In 2012, the 6,000-person capacity Ahmet Hamdi Akseki Mosque was erected next to the Presidency for Religious Affairs in Ankara in his memory.