Skip to main content


CSI'S Monday Majlis: Nikola Pantic

Is It Religion or Magic, and What Is Between Them? New (Old) Approaches to Ottoman Institutional Sunnism (1600-1800)

The CSI Monday Majlis is a Monday evening, online event, where invited speakers present on aspects of their current research

Event details

Monday the 7th of November. 17:00-18:30 (UK time)

Nikola Pantic, Is It Religion or Magic, and What Is Between Them? New (Old) Approaches to Ottoman Institutional Sunnism (1600-1800)

Register in advance for this meeting:

My talk discusses relations between religion, wonder-working, and magic in early modern Sunni Islam. Broadly analyzing the history of Ottoman religious dynamics, the talk presents arguments for defining a Muslim priestly sodality. This corporate entity is identified through a considerable overlap between the Sufi and ulamaic functions, and is represented by state-appointed religious authorities. I further focus on the collective representations of baraka, often interpreted by the ulamaic circles as Allah’s grace. It was believed that religious professionals used baraka to cause wonders. Wonder-working, as the mechanical aspect of Ottoman Sunni Islam, was for the most part included by Sufi teachings and practices, which were therefore integral to Ottoman Sunnism. Most prominent Sufi masters and their disciples formed a part of the institutionalized priestly sodality networks that were present in the region. Ottoman religious professionals over time made doctrinal and social distinctions between their own thaumaturgical (wonder-working) beliefs and practices, and those commonly interpreted as magic (siḥr). Although conceptually and anthropologically congruent, thaumaturgy and magic retained their distinctive character until the modern reforms and beyond. Looking into the thin line between wonder-working and magic allows for rich socio-anthropological discussions about the relationships between religion and magic in history, which represents another main point of my presentation.