Ottoman rule: Islamic state

Muhammed Salahetdinov,
from the materials of Badr Publishing House
Kavkaz-Center 2004-04-27 00:21:56

By mid-13th century the dynasty of Abbasid Caliphs ceases to exist. At
the same time the process of collapse is being observed in the Seljuk
state, which the Abbasid Caliphate used to be a part of. Osman, son of
Ertogrul, takes over for his father and becomes a ruler in one of the
provinces located between the cities of Bursa and Ankara. Osman sees
how separated the Islamic world is and how it is being torn to

pieces by the enemies attacking from all sides, and by internecine
wars inside, and wishes to fix this unattractive situation. He takes
actions aimed at the formation of a state system that will be supposed
to unite the Muslim world in the future, which will be based on
Islamic principles commanded by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

In 1299 he invites prominent Islamic scholars and says to them, `I
have enough power and might for Jihad, and I am charging you with the
task to mobilize all your knowledge to form the social system of
Muslim community based on Islamic principles'.

And that was the time when the process of creation of new society
started, which was supposed to continue the relay race of the Islamic
rule of Ummah (Muslim nation worldwide) based on the Koran, Sunnah and
Ijtihad (decisionsmade by Muslim elders in the spirit of the Koran and

The process of expansion of the state was under way, when methods of
Javaat, enlightenment, diplomacy and armed confrontation are used. The
life of citizens and the structures of the state system are built by
the eternal laws of the Most High on the new vast expanses of the
state. As a result, new state entity gets a status of a Caliphate
founded on the institution of Shura (Council). In this state the
authority of Sheikh al-Islam becomes indisputable for the rulers as
well for the subjects. Starting from the period of rule of Selim I,
who subdued the entire East Anatolia, Armenia, Kurdistan, Northern
Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Hijaz, Ottoman rulers stick to the
principle that regional and provincial rulers must demand that the
subjects obey the orders of the Caliph, who in turn coordinates his
orders with the Sheikh al-Islam, who determines whether the orders
agree to the Islamic canons. The Shura (Council) known as Divan
Humayuni, consisting of ministers, influential people, and prominent
Islamic scholars was the legislative body representing justice. One of
the graphic confirmations is this episode from the Ottoman
history. Caliph Muhammad Fatih (Mehmet the Conqueror, Sultan Mehmet
II) oppressed one of his fellow believers, who in turn appealed to a
Judge with a complaint. The Judge appointed the day and subpoenaed
both claimant and the Caliph to court, where the Caliph had to obey
the Court. So, Islamic Shariah draws no distinctions among people: the
rulers and the subjects are all equal before the justice.

It must be mentioned that in the dynamic and multinational state all
nationalities: whether Turks or some other Muslims, Christians or Jews
wereOttomans first of all. They were a part of one flexible entity,
which was beyond such things as ethnic background, religion or
nationality. Flemish diplomat and scholar Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq
described his visit to the camp of Sultan Suleiman in 1555: `The
Sultan's headquarters was filled with his assistants including higher
officials. None of those present showed any superiority, but everyone
was trying to show their virtues and bravery; none was bragging about
his birth, for here honour is in accordance with the post and the
nature of duties thereof. Thus there is no fight for seniority;
everybody knows where he belongs and the functions he is supposed to
perform. Sultan himself is the one to assign duties and posts, and to
evaluate the merits and the levels of claims that his subordinates
might have, without looking at the wealth or importance╗.

`Each person has the opportunity to be promoted. Top posts are often
held by children of shepherds. And they are proud of their birth
instead of being ashamed. Our method is different from theirs; we have
everything depending on the birth and all higher posts are distributed
solely in this connection'.It is a know fact that Hayreddin Pasha
At-Tunisi was an ordinary servant, but he became Governor of Tunisia
and was granted the seal of the Caliph of Istanbul for his
efforts. Egyptian Province sent an inquiry to the capital (Istanbul)
requesting to send an economist to organize a program for the
region's economic development. Armenian Christian Nubar Pasha
was the one to be sent.

The Ottoman Empire was the only superpower that recognized all three
monotheistic religions. Thanks to the first Sultans, the Turks revived
and reunited the Islamic world on its Asian territories, and then
thanks to the Ottoman Dynasty they brought the European lands of the
Eastern Christian world backto life. While uniting the East and the
West, the Ottomans filled the vacuum that was formed after the
collapse of the Caliphate in Asia and Byzantine Empire in Europe, in
order to be developed within the same space in the form of a new
Muslim civilization. The superpower stayed in this form all the way
until the end of the 19th century, when it reached its decline due to
various reasons. The last Islamic sovereign was Abdul-Hamid II. Muslim
scholars say it was the time of the decline of the last Caliphate.

So what were the reasons why that process had started? Such a huge and
mighty state as the Caliphate was lacking in maneuverability and
mobility when technical revolution started in Europe. And as a result,
we can now see that the European states, which are smaller in size and
have a lot less population, are ahead of the Ottoman state in the
level of technical advancement. This is the reason why the process of
Westernization (Europeanization) started, when one civilization
started replacing the other. This process was initiated by the
educational reforms. Pro-Western moods got stronger during the rule of
Abdul-Hamid, when many young people were going to the European
countries tostudy and returning with the new foreign approaches on
building the country. At that time foreign influence in the Ottoman
state was quite active everywhere. This is when the middle class was
being formed, which in turn started bringing new ideological idea of

Western historian Arnold J. Toynbee wrote that the loss of flexibility
caused the decline of the Ottoman system, which was most fatal in the
history of the Ottoman society. Ottomans were unable to challenge the
call of the West by rapidly changing their social institutions on
time. After resorting to self-defense, the Ottomans had to look for
salvation by using other methods. For two and a half centuries they
had to be undergoing Westernization.

The so-called Committee of Union and Progress was founded in the very
beginning of the 20th century. Lord Albert Kinross, British historian
and writer says that the members of the Committee enjoyed secret
support from organized groups of Free Masons, Jews and Donme (Jews
converted to Islam), and were more determined in their actions than
members of the Paris organization were, which the Committee merged
with in 1907. The Committee was also supported by some of the
officers, which Sultan never expected. In 1909 Sultan Abdul-Hamid I
was forced to resign and his brother Rishad was appointed instead of
him, but at the same time he was stripped of all of his
authorities. The Committee of Unionand Progress starts fully running
the country. The godly slogan of the Ottoman Caliphate `There is no
deity but God and Muhammad is His Messenger!┬╗ was replaced with the
slogan of the French Revolution: `Freedom, Equality and
Brotherhood'. And now the policies of Pan-Turkism started becoming
official in Turkey.

In practice it would mean imposing the Turkish language on other
non-Turkish Muslims. Nationalist tendencies among the Turks are now
getting stronger. Such phenomena in Europe, like searching for
national and ethnic roots, are gradually being manifested in the
political and cultural advancement of Pan-Turkism.

The end to the Islamic rule and to the Islamic influence in the state
is coming to an end. The final touch in the drama in the collapse of
the Ottoman Caliphate was the creation of the Turkish Republic in
1924, when the religious government was totally replaced by secular
From: Baghdasarian