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Sabahheddin Bey

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Sabahheddin Bey

Prince Sabahaddin of Thrace (born as Sultanzade Mehmed Sabâhaddin Beyefendi Hazretleri; 13 February 1878, İstanbul—30 June 1948, Neuchâtel, Switzerland) was an Ottoman sociologist and thinker. Because of his threat to the Ottoman dynasty due his political activity and attitude, he was expelled.

Prince Sabahaddin was a person full of surprises. He was connected to the Ottoman Palace through his mother, but was known as a Young Turk standing in opposition to that regime. Allegations of his close affinity to the ambassador of England could not be proven. As a follower of Émile Durkheim, Prens Sabahaddin is considered to be one of the founders of sociology in Turkey. He established the Private Enterprise and Decentralization Association (Teşebbüsü Şahsî ve Ademi Merkeziyet Cemiyeti in Turkish) in 1906.


Prens Sabahaddin was born in Istanbul in 1878. His mother was Seniha Sultan, daughter of Ottoman Padisah Abdülmecit I, and Nalan î Dil Kadın Efendi. His Father was Mahmud Celaleddin Paşa, the son of Kaptan ı Derya Gürcü Halil Rifat Paşa.

Prince Sabahaddin, nephew of the Sultan Murad V, Abdul Hamid II, Mehmed V, and the last Sultan Mehmed VI, had a versatile education at the Ottoman palace and is considered the founding father of Ottoman liberalism.

Sabahaddin fled in late 1899 with his brother and father, who had fallen out with Abdul Hamid II, first to Great Britain, then to Geneva, the center of opposition to the Ottoman Sultan. After a warning by the Federal Council in Geneva in 1900, they left and went to Paris and London. Sabahaddin advocated revolutionary violence and led the opposition in exile.

During the first phase of his career in political opposition (1900-1908) he sought unity between Christians and Muslims met with Muslim and Christian leaders. He received support in the cause of the Young Turks. In this time he met Edmond Demolins and became a follower of the school of social sciences. Sabahaddin advocated liberal economic policies in his Teşebbüs-ü Şahsi ve Adem-i Merkeziyet, which became a rival to Ahmed Rıza’s Committee for Union and Progress. This division plagued the Young Turk movement before 1908 and would provide the central dispute in the more institutionalized political discourse of the Second constitutional era. After the Young Turk revolution and the seizure of power by the Committee of Union and Progress in 1908 he returned to the Ottoman Empire.

His Liberal Party was banned in 1909 and 1913 he had to flee again. The first World War I, he spent as head of the enemy in western Switzerland.

In 1919 Sabahaddin returned in the belief back to realize his political vision, to Istanbul, but was ultimately banned in 1924 by the victorious Nationalists under Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk). His project of a democratic Turkey contained means of decentralization and private initiative, elements of the social theories of Frederic Le Play and Edmond Demolins. In 1924, after the establishment of the new Republic of Turkey, he was exiled out of Turkey by law which expelled all the living members of the Ottoman Dynasty on March 3rd 1924 and thus, from 1924, Sabahaddin had to live in retirement in Switzerland. In his autobiography "The Witness" (1962, first edition; 1974, revised and enlargened second edition), John G. Bennett notes that in his later years he had become an alcoholic because of his frustrations, disappointments, and exile out of Turkey and had died in great poverty and oblivion.

He died in 1948, his body was kept in a metal coffin for four years in Switzerland.

In 1952, Prince Sabahaddin's remains were transferred to Istanbul, Turkey and buried in the mausoleum of his father and grandfather.

Offspring and descendants

From his first marriage, with Tabinak Kadin Efendi, he had a daughter, Fethiye Sabahaddin Kendi (1899 – 1986) unmarried and without issue. Prince Sabâhaddin's second Wife was Prenses Kâmûran,the younger sister of his first Wife Tabinak.


Sabahaddin, his brother and father were supporters of Mu'tazilism. The Mu'tazili, المعتزلة Arabic, Al-Mu'tazila DMG (also Mu'tazilite), is within the Islamic Kalam theology of a rationalist-oriented school in the 8th to 9th century was the most influential.

Influences on other people

Sabahaddin had, unknowingly, influenced many people including John G. Bennett who was introduced to him by Satvet Lutfi Bey (Satvet Lütfi Tozan) in Istanbul during 1920 while working as an intelligence officer for the British Army which were among the occupying forces of Istanbul after the First World War. Sabahaddin introduced Bennett into the world of spirituality by borrowing, among others, the book and encouraging him to read Les Grands Initiés ("The Great Initiates") by Édouard Schuré. He had also introduced to Bennett an English woman living in Turkey, Winifred "Polly" Beaumont, to whom Bennett had married. Among the others Sabahaddin had introduced to Bennett, the most influential was doubtlessly G.I. Gurdjieff - Bennett has assumed him as his mentor and his master for the rest of his life.[1]



  • H. Bozarslan, «Le Prince Sabahaddin (1878-1948)», in RSH, 52, 2002, 287-301

Auteur(e): Hans-Lukas Kieser / EGO

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