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    Default Islam and the Ottoman Empire

    Islam and the Ottoman Empire

    If you read many Western histories of the Ottoman Empire, you may not even learn that the Ottomans were a Muslim empire. They are often seen as a typical European multi-cultural empire whose only purpose in existence was to promote its own interests. The truth is far from this, however. Throughout its history from the 1300s to the early 1900s, the Ottoman Empire was a strongly Muslim state at its core. Islamic law and ideas formed the basis of society, law, and government. Ottoman sultans saw themselves as the protectors of the Muslim world. With this emphasis on Islam, however, protection for other religions in the empire was ensured in ways that would take Christian Europe centuries to match.

    The Ghazis

    At the very beginning, the Ottoman state was nothing more than a small tribal alliance led by a Turkish bey, by the name of Osman. His beylik (small state) in western Anatolia bordered the hostile Byzantine Empire. Osman was known as a ghazi, or a soldier of the faith. In the Turkish culture of the time, huge emphasis was placed on being a Muslim soldier defending Muslim lands against Byzantine attacks. The Byzantines had been in a state of war with Muslim empires on and off since the Righteous Caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali.

    Under Osman, the Turks of Anatolia found a common identity in sticking to Islam in all walks of life, and using their expertise as soldiers in defense of Muslim lands. This emphasis on Muslim identity is seen in Osman’s advice to his son:

    Son! Be careful about the religious issues before all other duties. The religious precepts build a strong state. Do not give religious duties to careless, faithless and sinful men or to dissipated, indifferent or inexperienced people. And also do not leave the state administrations to such people. Because the one without fear of God the Creator, has no fear of the created…Depend on God’s help in the esteem of justice and fairness, to remove the cruelty, attempts in every duty. Protect your public from enemy’s invasion and from cruelty.
    Clearly, the patron of the Ottoman Empire (Ottoman is a Latin corruption of Osmanli, the Turkish name for their empire) placed great emphasis on Islam as a pillar of his state. All subsequent sultans of the Ottoman Empire were coronated with Osman’s sword by a religious scholar. This symbolized the status of the sultans as the defenders of Islam.

    Leaders of the Muslim World

    From their humble beginnings as a small Turkish state in the 1300s, the Ottomans would grow to become the premier Muslim empire throughout the 15th to 19th centuries. In 1517, the Ottoman Empire extended its domain to include the Arabic-speaking regions of North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula. With this, they now controlled the 3 holy sites – Makkah, Madinah, and Jerusalem – and thus bore the responsibility of the protectors of the holy cities.

    In the holy cities, the Ottomans placed much emphasis on the protection and preservation of Islam’s most important places. The oldest parts of the current Masjid al-Haraam in Makkah, the inner arcade of pillars, was built by the Ottomans in the 1500s. In Madinah, the Ottoman Sultan Suleyman greatly decorated the grave of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), while also protecting the grave from damage with a brass and gold covering that still stands today. In Jerusalem, Sultan Suleyman ordered the rebuilding of the city’s walls, which also still stand.

    Besides just architectural achievements, the Ottomans were the ensurers of the yearly pilgrimage to Makkah. They organized official processions of pilgrims from Yemen, Central Africa, and Iraq. The main pilgrimage routes however were through Damascus and Cairo. Every year the sultan would appoint a special delegate who would lead the pilgrimage from Damascus. He would take with him vast amounts of gold and silver as a gift to the people of Makkah and Madinah to help support them economically. During the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II in the late 1800s, a railway was built from Istanbul to Madinah, to help transport the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims going to the holy cities.

    In addition to protecting the holy sites, the Ottomans saw it as their duty to protect Muslims worldwide, whether or not they lived within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman naval fleets intermittently aided Muslim rebels fighting persecution in newly Catholic Spain in the 1500s. Also, in 1565, the Ottomans sent their fleet to distant Sumatra (present-day Indonesia) to protect the Sultanate of Aceh from Portuguese attacks. From these examples and others, it is clear the Ottomans were very willing to use their military power to protect Muslims everywhere, regardless of whether they were a part of the Ottoman Empire or not.

    Islam and Government

    Unlike the modern secular ideas regarding government separation from religion, the Ottomans felt that Islam should play a vital role in the government. After 1517, the Ottoman sultan was also the caliph or khalifah of the Muslim world. The caliph ideally plays a role as a spiritual and political leader of all Muslims worldwide. With the sultan-caliph at the top of the government, a complex religious bureaucracy developed that ran the religious affairs of the empire.

    According to Islamic law, the most important and basic duty of a Muslim ruler, particularly a caliph, was to maintain Islamic law throughout the empire – the shari’ah. Scholars of Islamic law, the ‘ulema, were organized in a heirarchical fashion. At the top were two top Islamic judges that were permanent members of the sultan’s group of advisors. Under them were the qadis, or judges, of the major cities of the empire, such as Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad. They oversaw all the laws of the Ottoman Empire, and presided over civil and criminal cases in their cities. For example, a qadi‘s job included diving up inheritance after someone’s death, finding solutions between two feuding parties, and prosecuting criminals. These qadis also oversaw lesser qadis that presided in smaller towns throughout the empire.

    Before laws could be sent down to individual qadis throughout the empire, they had to pass through another Islamic branch of the government. Separate and independent from the sultan was the mufti of Istanbul – also known as the shaykh al-Islam. Mufti is an Arabic word meaning a scholar qualified to interpret religious laws, and shaykh al-Islam means “the scholar of Islam”. The shaykh al-Islam had the right to review any laws the sultan wanted to implement, and reject the ones that went against the shari’ah. In many cases, the sultans would work closely with him to ensure all of the empire’s laws conformed with Islam. For example, Sultan Suleyman was nicknamed Kanuni, meaning “the law giver” because he personally went through all the empire’s laws in the mid-1500s with the shaykh al-Islam to ensure none contradicted Islamic laws.

    The Millet System

    While analyzing the Ottoman Empire’s Islamic character, one must keep in mind that much of the empire’s population was not Muslim. Large communities of Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Catholics all lived in the empire. At some times, Muslims even formed a minority of the empire’s population. At no time in the empire’s history were non-Muslims forced to abide by any Muslim laws. Instead, a system of religious pluralism, known as the millet system, was implemented. In the millet system, each religious group was organized into a millet, or nation.

    Each millet was allowed to run by its own rules, elect its own leaders, and enforce their own laws on their people. For example, after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II had the Orthodox Christian community of the city elect a new patriarch, who served as their leader. By not enforcing Islamic laws on non-Muslims, the Ottoman Empire ensured social and religious stability and harmony within its borders for much of its history. Contrary to this, throughout the rest of Christian Europe, religious freedom only began to take root in the 1700s and 1800s. Denial of rights and persecution of non-Christians continued, however, as is seen in the Holocaust of the 1940s and the ethnic cleansing of Muslim Bosnians in the 1990s.


    While the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey, officially employs a policy of state secularism, the history of the Ottoman Empire is intertwined with Islamic history. For centuries, the Ottomans were the protectors of the Islamic faith. They presided over the holy sites of Islam, and made it their mission to protect Muslims from outsiders. Islamic law was the fundamental basis of the empire’s law system itself. Along with this emphasis on Islam, non-Muslims never had their rights violated, and in fact found stability and protection in the Ottoman Empire.

    Hourani, Albert Habib. A History Of The Arab Peoples. New York: Mjf Books, 1997. Print.
    Itzkowitz, Norman. Ottoman Empire And Islamic Tradition. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1981. Print.


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    When Five Kuffar Countries Attacked The Ottomans

    On 18th of March 1915 England, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Scotland launched a massive naval offensive against Ottoman Empire in order to capture Istanbul and secure sea routes to Russia.

    The battle of the Dardanelles started off with the joint offensive of the British and the French in a bid to capture Istanbul and to give support to their ally Russia. The offensive expected to be crowned with victory in a very short time was pushed back by the Ottomans' unprecedented and unusual defense both at sea and on land. The British and French armies were defeated in the battles at the Strait of Dardanelles and in the Gallipoli peninsula and coerced to withdraw. This is considered an important breaking point in terms of both Turkish and World history.

    This Video was made by the Turkish presidency to remember the martyrs and veterans of that battle.

    video: http://viewpure.com/3_3b3dmw194?start=0&end=0

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    The Fall of an Empire and the Fall of Medina

    A short documentary about the Defence of Medina with English subtitles.

    Fakhreddin Pasha did not surrender. However some of his soldiers started rebelling and wanted to arrest him. Some officers tried to take him down, Fakhreddin Pasha was resisting and they threw sand in his eyes, arrested him and handed him over to British officers. Fakhreddin Pasha had tears in his eyes and was screaming that he will never give Medina to the enemy. Captured soldiers were sent to camps in Egypt, where they had to jump in a pool with acid for "disinfection", some soldiers became blind. Some soldiers were lucky and could escape; they walked by foot from Medina to Beirut and took a ship to Istanbul. Many Arabs did not participate in the Arab revolt; they shared their food and homes with the Ottoman soldiers, and the people of Medina were crying when Fakhreddin Pasha was arrested, they were saying: "Don't leave us."


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    Ibn Taymiyyah’s Letter To The Christian King of Cyprus

    by Dr. Saleh As Saleh

    Imam Ibn Taymiyyah rahimahullaah wrote a letter to the then Christian King of Cyprus inviting him to Islam and exposing the lies and corruption being committed by the priests and monks whilst they knew fully well that they were upon falsehood. After mentioning the devoutness of the King, his love for knowledge and good conduct towards the people, Ibn Taymiyyah then invited him to embrace Islam and adopt the correct belief. He did this in a gentle and exemplary manner addressing his intellect, and entrusted him to behave benevolently towards the Muslims in Cyprus, not to strive to change the religion of a single one of them.

    Audio - 52 minutes: https://abdurrahman.org/2016/09/15/i...ing-of-cyprus/

    The Conquest of Cyprus

    When Selim II entered the throne Venetian pirates kidnapped the Egyptian Defterdar (head of financial department). Cyprus belonged to Kingdom of Venice and Venetian pirates were attacking several Ottoman territories, that's why it was important for the Ottomans to conquer Cyprus. On 15th May 1570 Ottomans conquered Cyprus. The "Holy League" (Kingdom of Venice, Austria, and Spain) wanted Cyprus back and defeated an Ottoman Fleet, however they were not able to get Cyprus. As soon as the Ottoman fleets recovered, the Kingdom of Venice asked for peace and agreed to pay compensation to the Ottomans.


    The westerners claim that the Muslims were at war with them and invaded their lands. Yet, real history shows that Muslims were always attacked by the westerners and as a result they lost their territories. Another thing westerns claim is that Muslim "pirates" were attacking their ships when it's these people who had pirates attacking Muslims.

    Notice how these people join countries to form a gang to attack Muslims. On March 18, 1915 England, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Scotland launched a massive naval offensive against Ottoman Empire and lost. They did the same when they attacked Iraq and Afghanistan, they created their "allies of good" gang and attacked one country at a time.

    This is why it's so important for Muslims to learn their own history.

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    Environmentally Friendly Architecture in Ottoman Masjid

    Sinan's architecture acknowledged the importance of harmony between architecture and landscape, a concept which did not surface in Europe until the 16th century.

    This is Suleymaniye Mosque in Eminönü district.

    Ottoman Muslims' Kindness To Animals

    During the Ottoman era, people used to summarize faith as "respecting the words of Allah and his creatures;" therefore, they did not overlook animals, while they were helping people in need.

    According to Islamic culture, people should avoid being unjust to others, and it places animals' rights above human rights since it is possible to compensate for the wrongdoing to people by asking for their forgiveness; however, it is not possible with animals as they lack reason.

    Conquer of Constantinople

    “Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will her leader be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!”

    Narrated from Bishr al-Khath`ami or al-Ghanawi by: Ahmad, al-Musnad 14:331 #18859

    The Battle of Manziker

    The Battle of Manzikert was fought between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuq Turks on August 26, 1071 near Manzikert (modern Malazgirt in Muş Province, Turkey). The decisive defeat of the Byzantine army and the capture of the Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes played an important role in undermining Byzantine authority in Anatolia and Armenia, and allowed for the gradual Turkification of Anatolia.

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    Muslim Rulers Protected Non-Muslims in Their Lands

    Throughout Islamic history, non-Muslims living in Muslim societies have been guaranteed security and were free of intimidation and harassment.

    In 1463, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II issued the following royal decree:

    "I, the Sultan Han the Conqueror, hereby declare to the whole world that, The Bosnian Franciscans granted with this decree are under my protection. And I command that: No one shall disturb or give harm to these people and their churches! They shall live in peace in my state. No one shall insult, put in danger or attack these lives, properties, and churches of these people! By declaring this decree, I swear on my sword by the holy name of Allah who has created the ground and sky, Allah's prophet Mohammed, and 124,000 former prophets that; no one from my citizens will react or behave the opposite of this decree!"

    [TR] Fatih Sultan Mehmedin Bosna ruhbanlarının dinî hayatlarını serbestçe sürdürebilmeleri hakkındaki fermanı -1463


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    Grand Bazaar, The First Shopping Mall

    Grand Bazaar, built in 1455 (upon the orders of Fatih Sultan Muhammed) The 500-year-old Grand Bazaar, is one of the largest indoor marketplaces in the world as well as the oldest shopping spot in the world. It has 60 covered streets, over 4,500 shops, 60 restaurants, mosques, hamams and fountains which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. You can simply find here anything from antique furniture and old coins to great food. What sets the Grand Bazaar really apart is that some of the shops date 500 years back and are authentic craft stores.

    video: https://www.facebook.com/OttomanSult...1871695510269/

    shop online - http://www.grandbazaarshopping.com/

    Tourism - http://www.grandbazaaristanbul.org/G..._Istanbul.html

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    Ottoman Women During the Advent of Western Feminism

    by Zara Huda Faris

    “As to women, as many, if not more than men, are to be seen in the streets [i.e. going about their daily activities, etc] […] I think I never saw a country where women may enjoy so much liberty, and free from all reproach, as in Turkey […] The Turks in their conduct towards our sex are an example to all other nations; […] and I repeat it, sir, I think no women have so much liberty, safe from apprehension, as the Turkish – and I think them in their manner of living, capable of being the happiest creatures breathing.”

    – Lady Elizabeth Craven, A Journey Through the Crimea to Constantinople, 1789[i]

    Lady Elizabeth Craven, 18th century travel writer, playwright and author, made these observations about the women of the Ottoman Caliphate (an Islamic state) in 1789, before the advent of feminism in Europe and three years before Mary Wollstonecraft would publish A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), the 300-page appeal that would become the foundation stone and herald of modern feminism.

    The observations of Lady Elizabeth Craven and others, along with records of court proceedings, financial dealings and political documents, reveal that women of the Ottoman Caliphate actually experienced greater liberty and protection than their post-enlightenment Western counterparts, and notably without the need for feminism. Yet, today, feminists strive to convince Muslim women of the exact opposite: that Muslim women have always suffered because of Islam and, in a strange twist of thought, advocate feminism as the solution to the problems of the Muslim world.

    This article looks at the condition of women living under an Islamic Caliphate that continued to exist until as recently as 1924 – the Ottoman Caliphate – and compares their circumstances with the Western circumstances that gave rise to feminism in the West. As we will see, the very recent historical precedent of the Ottoman Caliphate demonstrates that women of the Muslim world historically never needed feminism in order to guarantee their rights – rather, they simply needed the full implementation of their own belief system – Islam.

    Muslim country v. Islamic state

    Before turning to the comparison, it is important to note the fundamental difference between a Muslim country and an Islamic state. The Ottoman Caliphate was an Islamic state – i.e. the shari’ah (the sacred law of Islam) ruled supreme as the only source of law – for over 600 years and until its cessation in the early 20th century. This shari’ah provided the Ottomans with their legal framework for governing public and private aspects of daily life, including personal, political, social and economic activities, both civil and criminal. This shari’ah also enabled the Ottoman Caliphate to include and protect women of Africa, Europe and Asia – which included Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Anatolian, Greek, North African, West Asian, and women of the Balkan Peninsula.

    The Muslim countries of today, however, such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Turkey and much of the Middle East, are secular and not Islamic – i.e. the constitutions of these countries posit that Islam may be just one of many post-colonialist sources of the law. Otherwise, these countries are secular, corrupt, and tyrannical and cannot be looked upon for an example of Islam in practice. In fact, the ordinary men and women of these Muslim countries would be liberated by the establishing of an Islamic state in their lands.

    Legal Status

    In the West, women lost their own legal identity (and their names) upon marriage, at which point they could neither sue nor be sued, and their husbands would have to sue or be sued on their behalf.

    In England, and most English speaking colonies, the doctrine of coverture identified women according to their marital status. A married woman did not have her own legal identity separate from that of her husband – upon marriage, hers was subsumed by her husband’s identity, and she was known as a feme covert (i.e. a married woman or, literally, a “covered” woman). This legal concept prevailed in the West from around the 12th century until the mid to late 19th century (i.e. almost alongside the entire period of the Ottoman Empire).

    “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing…”
    – William Blackstone, 18th century English jurist and judge, explaining coverture[ii]

    Coverture was a double edged sword, hindering the lives of all women and men together – denying the free will of wives also denied their accountability. For example, a married woman could not file lawsuits in her own name, and her husband would have to do so on her behalf, but this also meant that if someone wanted to take civil action against the wife, her husband would have to be sued in her stead. This devolving of accountability from the woman to her husband was even the subject of satire in English literature. In Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, a Mr Bumble was informed that “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction“, to which Mr Bumble replied “If the law supposes that […] the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.[iii]

    Coverture was only in relation to civil, not criminal, action; as we know, England and the American colonies were still reeling from burning women at the stake for criminal offences of treason and witchery – even as late as 1784![iv] Although coverture was only in relation to civil law, it is interesting to note that, as recently as 1972, two US states allowed a wife accused in criminal court to offer as a legal defence that she was obeying her husband’s orders![v]

    Meanwhile, women of the Ottoman Caliphate had legal standing regardless of marital status, the like of which caused even non-Muslim Ottoman women to prefer Islamic courts to their own courts.

    The Women of the Ottoman Caliphate, like men, upon reaching puberty, were considered individual subjects of the state, having their own separate legal identity, in accordance with Islamic law. They retained this legal status regardless of whether they married or remained single.[vi] Muslim women also retain their own surnames upon marriage, as a reminder of their own identity and their own accountability.

    Along with men, women were granted extensive legal rights, including the right to register complaints and claim their rights before the local Islamic judge (in Arabic, the Qadi), and they could do so independently. They did not need an accompanying male relative, in fact they could take legal action against their own husbands or male relatives if need be. Ottoman women of all social levels, from the countryside and the cities, frequently used the Islamic court system to defend their interests and, in most cases, judges upheld women’s legal and property rights.[vii]

    In fact, Islamic Qadi courts were perceived to be so favourable in treating issues of concern to women, that even non-Muslim Ottoman women frequently preferred to take recourse in these Islamic Qadi courts despite the fact that, under the protection of the Ottoman Caliphate, each religious community had access to its own religious or cultural proceedings, as each religious community enjoyed cultural and legal autonomy, managing its own internal affairs, under the leadership of its own religious hierarchy.[viii]

    Economic Activity

    In the West, women did not have control over their own property upon marriage; their husbands were responsible for their upkeep and were forced to pay off their debts.

    The doctrine of coverture meant that, because the husband and wife were ‘one person’, the wife did not have control over her own property and her husband could use and dispose of her property without her permission (unless otherwise agreed before marriage).

    As such, a wife could also not execute contracts. In the 19th century, in circumstances where a wife could dispose of her property (for example, if this was permitted by her husband), then a ‘privy examination’ would have to be conducted where she had to be separately examined by a judge (without her husband present), to determine whether her husband was pressuring her into signing the document. This was seen as a means of protecting married women’s property.

    On the other hand, because they were seen to be the same person in the eyes of the law, the husband was also legally bound to provide for his wife, as much as himself. It also meant that if a woman entered the marriage already with debt, or she incurred debt for them, her husband was the debtor and obliged to pay off the debt – not the wife.

    In Britain, this persisted at least until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870, which altered the law so that a wife could own, buy and sell, sue and be sued, and be liable for her own debts.

    Meanwhile, women of the Ottoman Caliphate had always been economically independent and active and, in some industries, so much so that guilds had to seek state intervention against women’s monopolies.

    “The Turkish wife has been called a slave and a chattel. She is neither. Indeed, her legal status is preferable to that of the majority of wives in Europe, and until enactments of a comparatively recent date, the English was far more of a chattel than the Turkish wife, who has always had absolute control of her property. The law allows her the free use and disposal of anything she may possess at the time of her marriage, or that she may inherit afterwards. She may distribute it during her life or she may bequeath it to whom she chooses. In the eyes of the law she is a free agent. She may act independently of her husband, may sue in the courts or may be proceeded against, without regard to him. In these respects she enjoys greater freedom than her Chrisitan sisters.”
    – Z. Duckett Ferriman, 1911

    Amongst the Islamic rights delivered to women under the Ottoman Caliphate was the Islamic right to inherit, acquire, control and dispose of property according to their own will, without requiring consent from fathers or husbands. In other words, Ottoman women were legally entitled to manage their own wealth, and they very much did so.

    In fact, women played a fundamental role in the Ottoman economy, including being landholders, holders of military fiefs, borrowers, lenders, private tax collectors, and partners in business. Ottoman women from various backgrounds were commonly trading and dealing in marketplaces.[ix]

    It is documented that ‘upper class’ Ottoman women (who were more likely to be ‘cloistered’ behind screens) did not commonly deal directly with men, and were perceived by foreign observers as being ‘forced’ to use male employees and agents to act on their behalf. This prompted some observers to comment on this with strange sympathy, as if these ‘upper class’ women were somehow being oppressed, despite the fact that they were powerful business owners who are documented to have owned many of the shops in the market in the first place.[x] How unfortunate these women must have been to have employees running their businesses for them! Also, these ‘upper class’ women wielded further influence through the patronage of fundamental architectural projects.

    Women of the Ottoman Caliphate were also involved in crafts, silk and cotton spinning. In Mosul, cotton-thread making was an industry that was by and large carried out on a part time basis in the home. At one point, this industry was actually monopolized by women, to the extent that cotton-weaving guilds were forced to seek state intervention against this monopoly![xi]
    Ottoman women also played a fundamental role in the distribution of wealth and, during the 18th century, Ottoman women of all classes established 20-30% of all charitable foundations/trusts (in Arabic waqf pl. awqaf). Schools, hospitals, caravansaries, baths, fountains, soup kitchens, hostels and mosques were financed throughout the empire by women from their own personal resources, for the benefit of the public.[xii]

    Political Involvement

    In Britain, universal suffrage for men and women was not achieved until 1928.

    In Britain, only very wealthy men could vote, which excluded the vast majority of men, and excluded women altogether! It was not until 1918 that all men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 could vote, and it was not until 1928 that all men and women over the age of 21 could vote.

    Meanwhile, men and women of the Ottoman Caliphate were required to be politically active.

    Under the Ottoman Caliphate, women had the same right as men to directly petition the Divan – the council where viziers debated the politics of the state, and men and women both had a right to pledge allegiance (equivalent of the vote) to the Ottoman Caliph.

    The social segregation of women from men was most common among the upper class families, whilst women of lower classes were generally more free to circulate, partly because of their heavy involvement in economic activities.[xiii] As such, it was commonly believed by European foreigners that such upper class women must have been oppressed and restricted. In reality, the late 16th century of the Ottoman Caliphate was actually known as the “sultanate of the women”, when the mothers of the sultans and other royal women became increasingly powerful and influential from behind the veils and screens of the harem. Although the harem was not, and is not, an Islamic concept, the sultanate of the women does demonstrate emphatically that just because women are behind screens or veils, this does not mean their role in society is restricted.

    Social Life

    In the West, neither men nor women had the right to divorce, and if they were wealthy enough to get a legal separation, remarrying meant the death penalty.

    Divorce was not legal under English law until the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. Prior to 1857, a form of legal separation could be achieved only through a complex annulment process or through the passing of a Private Act of Parliament (which entailed lengthy public debates about the couple’s intimate life in the House of Commons). Both of these measures were highly costly procedures, and so this legal separation was restricted to the very wealthy.

    Not only this, but husbands and wives who had so separated were prohibited from remarrying – ‘bigamy’ was first prohibited and prosecutable by the church and then, in 1604, bigamy was made a legal felony and was punishable with the death penalty![xiv]

    Meanwhile, in the Ottoman Caliphate, polygamy was rare and divorce, whilst a last resort, was initiated by both men and women.

    “Turks rule countries and their wives rule them. Turkish women go around and enjoy themselves much more than any others. Polygamy is absent. They must have tried it but then given it up because it leads to much trouble and expense.”
    – Saomon Schweigger, German Protestant minister who travelled to the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 16th century.

    Marriages were mostly arranged by parents and families, emphasizing the importance of family in Ottoman society. Women of the Ottoman Caliphate had the right to refuse a match, and prenuptial contracts were not uncommon. Polygamy was permitted, in accordance with Islamic law, but in practise was actually quite rare, with over 95% of men having only one wife.[xv]

    Ottoman jurists “viewed married couples as enjoying reciprocal, as opposed to symmetrical rights”.[xvi] For example, a married woman of the Ottoman Caliphate was duty bound to obey the husband she consented to marry – as long as he did not ask her to do something bad or haram – the legal status and political and economic activity of women clearly demonstrates, however, that Muslim men were not overbearing or oppressive to their wives. Furthermore, because men are, in the eyes of the law, financially responsible for women and children, divorce procedures are different for men than they are from women, although both are allowed to seek divorce. In practice, women of the Ottoman Caliphate had a great deal of flexibility in ending unwanted marriages. In 18th century Istanbul, for example, separations, annulments and divorces initiated by women were frequent enough to even create concern amongst social observers. Being a union of two families as opposed to just two people, divorce was distressing regardless of who initiated it, but divorce was nevertheless an option for either the husband or the wife.[xvii]

    Legitimate causes for divorce from either party included incompatibility, financial problems that led to altercations between spouses, ill treatment including physical abuse, adultery, failure of either party to keep to the basic expectations of marriage, especially not doing the work the family needed from either husband or wife. In some cases, divorce was initiated by the wife if she was not satisfied with the house to which her husband had taken her, or by the husband if his wife did not produce sons.[xviii]

    After divorce, both men and women were free to marry again. For non-Muslim Ottoman women whose religions or traditions did not normally permit divorce, conversion to Islam was a common path to liberation from unhappy marriages.

    Do Muslim women need feminism?

    As we can see, the women of the Ottoman Caliphate had no need for feminism in order to obtain the rights ordained for them by their Creator. Not only did the Ottoman Caliphate implement and protect the rights of Muslim men and women, but it also accommodated the vast and various groups of non-Muslim women living under its protection. It should be emphasized that this justice and prosperity amongst men and women long preceded the advent of feminism in the West, and continued until very recently (the early 20th century). Unlike women of the ‘post-enlightenment’ West, Muslim women never needed the patch-work and gender-biased solution of feminism in order to seek justice and obtain their rights, which were guaranteed under the Islamic Caliphate. It would seem that Western women invented feminism out of desperation, because they did not have Islam. So the question we must ask ourselves is, given that Muslim women had always found Islam sufficient for their rights, why would they ever need feminism?

    [i] Elizabeth Craven (Baroness), A Journey Through the Crimea to Constantinople: In a Series of Letters from the Right Honourable Elizabeth Lady Craven to His Serene Highness The Margrave of Brandebourg, Anspach, and Bareith, London.

    [ii] William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (Vol. 1, 1765, pages 442-445)

    [iii] Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, 1838, chapter 51

    [iv] http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/burning.html

    [v]The Law: Up from Coverture, Time Magazine, published Monday, March 20, 1972, accessed at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...942533,00.html

    [vi] Jenie R. Ebeling, Lynda Garland, Guity Nashat, Eric R. Dursteler “West Asia” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Ed Bonnie G. Smith. Oxford University Press, 2008. Brigham Young University (BYU). 1 November 2010

    [vii] Ebeling, Garland, Nashat, and Dursteler

    [viii] Colin Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: The Structure of Power, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002

    [ix] Mehrdad Kia, Daily Life in The Ottoman Empire, Greenwood, 2011

    [x] Kia, M.

    [xi] Ebeling, Garland, Nashat, and Dursteler

    [xii] Ibid.

    [xiii] Ibid.

    [xiv] Bernard Capp, Bigamous Marriage in Early Modern England, University of Warwick, 2009

    [xv] Ebeling, Garland, Nashat, and Dursteler

    [xvi] Kia, M.

    [xvii] Ebeling, Garland, Nashat, and Dursteler

    [xviii] Justin McCarthy, The Ottoman Turks: An Introductory History to 1923 (London, New York: Wesley Longman Limited, 1997)

  9. #9
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    Central London


    He was a great leader after Hazrat Umar (R.A).


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