published in Bulletin of SOAS, 68:1, pages 1-20 School of Oriental and African Studies, 2005
Abstract: "In the last days of the Ottoman Empire during the armistice period (1919–1922), Abdullah Cevdet, one of the original members of the Young Turk Osmanî Ittihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti (Ottoman Committee of Union and Progress), caused a considerable public upset in 1922 by publishing an article on the Baha’i religion in his journal Ictihâd. The religious authorities and the Turkish press quickly responded, accusing him of attacking the Prophet Mohammad and Islam, and praising the Baha’i religion. Consequently, Cevdet was sentenced to two years in prison, although he never served his sentence.
This paper aims to analyse this case in the context of the Weltanschauung of Abdullah Cevdet. Was he really the irreligious materialist historians usually depict? Did he regard religion solely as a tool to effect change in society? And, in this fashion, was ‘Baha’ism’ just an appropriate catalyst and an intermediary step to convert Muslims to Positivism? Or was Cevdet a committed man who wished for the well-being of humankind and thus proposed the Baha’i religion as a world-embracing movement of peace? By quoting at length from Cevdet’s Baha’i article and portraying his trial, I will try to show that he did not see the Baha’i religion simply as an instrument or an intermediary step between Islam and Positivism, but that he identified himself with it. This is also attested in the statements of his adversaries."