Yasin Ceylan

Harran: The Seat of Cultures and Philosophical Thought


Harran was an important city as a habitat of commercial and cultural activities for centuries. Its name is mentioned in different versions in historical and religious literatures, which goes back to the second millennium B.C. When it was captured by the Muslim armies in the ninth century, it possessed a philosophical school where Greek philosophy and Hellenistic culture were being taught. Unlike the city of Edessa, another center of importance in the neighborhood, where Christianity with its different theological sects was dominant, Harran kept its paganistic cultural identity even after its occupation by the Muslims. Some historians claim that the school of philosophy (Bayt al-Hikmah= The House of Wisdom) established in Baghdad in 830 AD by the Abbasid caliph al- Ma'mun was, as a matter of fact, a replica of the school in Harran or its transference to the Abbasid capital.

It can be regarded as a pleasant coincidence that the philosophical conventions for the last three years, being held under the auspices of the Governor of Harran and the professors Ionna Kuçuradi of Hacettepe University and Zuhal Karahan Kara of the Harran University, in the present little town of Harran, rather than the glamorous modern city of Urfa (Edessa), which is now a theological center of Islam , gives the impression that we philosophers are somehow unconsciously guided to follow the centuries-old tradition of the secular identity of Harranian Culture.

It is our common hope that Harran regains her historical role of enlightening the people of the Middle East, through unrestrained philosophical disputes, whereby the unfortunate people of this part of the world could be salvaged from the pseudo-religious superstitions and nonsensical traditions that have captured the intellectual horizons of the thinking folk for the last eight centuries.

As a philosopher born in the same region, it is my deep-felt expectation or, rather a dream that these annual philosophical activities turn into an established institute under the guardianship of International bodies, so that it can acquire a universal recognition as a philosophical center. This expectation will not materialize unless some developed states or international organizations pay attention to the historical importance of Harran, and contribute to the revival of her universal mission.

Within such an envisioned project Harran can be the place where the West meets the Orient, as a result of which a more advanced worldview of global recognition can be formulated for peaceful coexistence of all cultures in the world. This way, some individual cultures as a way of life for certain communities will not be alienated only because they are not in harmony with the mainstream dominant culture. Such a global discourse by the representatives of different mentalities and philosophies may also contribute to a global consensus on human dignity, regardless of what they think and believe.
Harran possesses a geographical advantage beside her historical glory which entitles her to become a world center for philosophical congresses. It is located at the crossroads where the East-West and South-North civilizations of the past intersected, and it still preserves that advantage to become the place where western philosophical schools meet the old Asian wisdom. I hope it will be possible for this little town, in the years to come, to be the host for distinguished philosophers from all over the world.


© Prof. Dr. Yasin Ceylan, ODTÜ Felsefe Bölümü Öğretim Üyesi.