Author’s note: I would like to thank Owen Phelan and the journal’s anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article. Of course, all lingering shortcomings are mine. I am also grateful to Abdul-Karim Rafeq, Charles L. Wilkins, and Cihan Yüksel Muslu for sharing insight and unpublished work that helped sharpen my understanding of Aleppo in this period.
This study investigates the spectacular communal murder of a leading Ottoman official in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. This murder, and Istanbul’s vigorous response, erupted over a decade after Sultan Selim’s defeat of the Mamluk Sultanate in 1516–17, suggesting Aleppo’s incorporation into the Ottoman Empire was not as seamless as is often assumed. Indeed, close examination, using sources that reflect a mix of perspectives, reveals an extended and difficult period of transition—this despite well-rehearsed methods of conquest and a clear intent to hold the city tightly, given its strategic military and commercial importance. Interlocking concerns were at issue, from flux in state practices of property inspection and revenue collection to changes in the hierarchy of sanctioned Islamic legal identities ( madhhab s) and alleged abuse of the urban economy. Aleppines and imperial agents both clashed and collaborated in areas linked to the application of state law ( ḳānūn ), an evolving discourse of justice, and an effort to rework and freshly legitimate inherited legal pluralism. To grapple with this complex and understudied scene in sixteenth-century Aleppo, the article combines a focused murder inquiry with a full thematic consideration of Ottoman justice and a close look at the city’s Mamluk background.