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Dr. Mahmut Arslan Opens Discussion On Comparative Work Cultures And Ahi Traditions

The Traditions Of The Ahi Order Are Examined Through The Lens Of Work Ethic

Washington, D.C. - On May 7th, 2021, the Yunus Emre Institute in Washington, D.C. hosted Dr. Mahmut Arslan for a discussion about the unique customs and traditions of the Ahi Order. Dr. Arslan is a professor of business ethics at Ibn Haldun University and has extensive knowledge on the Ahi brotherhood. Through a thorough presentation, Dr. Arslan explored the Ahi work ethic and how it had a lasting impact on Turkish culture.

Dr. Arslan began his lecture by explaining that the word ahi, which means “brother,” comes from Arabic. The Ahi brotherhood was a guild in the 13th century created by Ahi Evran, who was a Turkish scholar, theologian, and philosopher born in modern-day Azerbaijan. This guild was different from other Islamic movements because they also were involved in other spheres of life, such as the military. The Ahis were merchants living in cities, so their ethical code naturally involved business ethics. Ahi business ethics were related to the core Islamic principles of unity (tawhid), equilibrium (muwazana), free will (hurriyya), responsibility (masuliyya), and benevolence (ihsan).

The Ahi Order viewed work similarly to many Protestants because both groups believe hard work pleases God and will lead to good fortune. There were many similarities between the Ahi code of conduct and Catholic social teachings, such as solidarity, recognition of human rights, and respect for the Earth. Although the Ahi movement was a medieval Muslim order, their values can still be applied to non-Muslims all over the world. Dr. Arslan concluded his presentation noting both Ahi and Christian ethics work to minimize the harmful impacts of capitalism. Ahi values can be applied to business today as fair wages, sustainable sourcing, and encouraging ethical consumption and labor practices. He noted that many problems in modern business – corruption, harassment, or exploitation – could be reduced if businesspeople followed the core message of Ahi ethics, which could be summarized as controlling one’s hands and words while respecting the dignity of others.

Guests had a number of questions about the Ahis. One guest had a question about whether the Quran was the sole text that guided the Ahi Order or if there were other sources. Dr. Arslan answered that the Quran and the hadiths were what guided the Ahis but this was true of all Islamic orders at the time. What differentiated Islamic orders was their interpretations. Another guest was curious about the popularity of guilds like the Ahi Order. Dr. Arslan explained that they were common but they were secret societies. The audience thanked Dr. Arslan for answering their questions and complimented his efforts to raise awareness about the Ahis.

Yunus Emre Institute is a Turkish cultural center located in Washington, D.C. and around the world. The institute hosts events and programs that educate the public about Turkey’s culture, history, and language. For more information about the institute’s mission or online programs, please email or follow @yeewdc on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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