Well-protected Ottoman lands are the cradles of humanity. When Adam descended on Ceylon Island and so Eve on Jedda, they met in Jedda and recognized each other, then built the first temple in order to worship God. Noah’s Arc landed on the Mountain Judi, a section of Ararat Mountain. Abraham was thrown into fire near Urfa, where the marks of the lake still exist.
Similarly, the civilization appeared in the valleys of Nile, Euphrates and Tigris and flourished here as well as floods and particularly the deluge of Arim devastating the whole Arab tribes occurred in Yemen. Moses received the divine tablets in Mount Sinai and Jesus began spreading religion to invite people to noble ethics in Palestine.
Our prophet appeared in Mecca and as he was the lord of all prophets he attained lofty glories.
In short, most of the prophets lived in Palestine and Arab lands as well as many jurists and philosophers expanded their knowledge by coming to the Asia Minor or Egypt. Zoroaster’s invitation to the sect of two principles good and evil occurred near the gulf in Basra. Seven Wonders of the world stand within the well-protected Ottoman lands as well as agriculture, industry, physics, astronomy, the discovery of compass, science of letters, grammar, medicine, natural sciences, parchment paper used for writing, great development in navigation all occurred in these lands.
Pyramids, vine orchards, Iram of the Pillars, Iraq and Arabic peninsula’s marks are brightly bestowed.
From whichever point of the well-protected lands we would like to look at, we would see a source and origin of civilization, development, magnanimity and power. Evidence to this is shown people of Himyarites, Qahtanites, Old Egypt, Babylonia, Chaldean, Assyria, Medes, Persian Empire, Alexander the Great, Ethiopians, Jews, Amalekites, Phoenicians, Palmyra, Ghassanids, Batalisa, Seljukids, Sassanians, Greek states along the Mediterranean shores, Punics, Marib. Saba etc.
In addition to this, the magnificent empire constantly became a scene of competition for the ruling powers. Every state appearing in the world tries to clean marks of civilization and monuments of the previous states in order to keep only their own cultural aspects. Therefore, cities in Troy, Palmyra, Tiba, Manif, Niniveh, Babylonia and others went into ruins. These conditions undoubtedly come from the deficiency of the ancient civilization and this was the absence of an international law to abide by.
When the religion of Islam shiningly appeared and invited people to obey God’s rule, this light filled the world by the rise of our master. The prophet invited people to the straight path and declared that he came to complete the virtues.
If the Islamic law is implemented, Islamic religion’s similarity to the religions of Moses and Jesus revealed by God will be seen in respect to five principles and five worshiping pillars.
Therefore, the light of Islam spread brightly with this strong beginning and noble principles at the horizons of human civilization that had been divided between Roman and Persian empires. As known well, these two empires established their governments in place of nations, and as they inherited the sciences and culture of the previous nations, they appropriated the world’s most beneficial and important legacy and succeeded in battlefield even over those who had acquired previous tradition.
Islamic Conquests with Religious Freedom and Justice
Even though a few thousands of Arabs began to invite people to Islam, could it be possible to spread Islam by sword?
No, it was not possible. Attila, who attempted to have a world empire with a force of millions of Tatars, could not overcome on nations across the borders of Roman Empire and had to withdraw barefoot with his soldiers without taking the power and people under his control and by leaving no fame and glory after all these hardship and difficulties.
As for Islam, it did not have millions of populations. It did not have the perfect war weapons on which the Romans and Persians trusted on the battlefield. Indeed! Compared to the enemies, Islam did not have equivalence in respect to number, force and order. Then, what was the factor that brought the civilized world under the rule of Islam within fifty years? Undoubtedly, this factor included complete freedom of religion regardless of ethnicity, legal equality and brotherhood among Muslims. This noble principle necessary for the human perfection and civilizational development had been unknown and not existed until the rise of Islam. In addition, the Treaty of Hudaybiya stood as the first international treaty that the pride of the world, the prophet, signed.
When the Muslims laid siege on Jerusalem during the caliphate of Umar I, the Christians under siege, fearing from Muslims’ fake promise of religious freedom and justice, demanded that the caliph himself should come and sign the agreement of peace and submission in front of them. Umar right away came from Medina to Jerusalem and signed the treaty bringing the city under the rule of Islam
Arians and Nestorians and the Christians of other sects considered the Islamic conquest with content and they welcomed Islam with a feeling of joy and appreciation just as the joy and appreciation that slaves entering into the world of happiness by dissolving their shackles would feel and some of their elite were also honored by the clear religion of Islam. As the Christians and Jews who kept their religion attained the freedom, security and comfort under the just rule of Islam to the degree that they had never attained under the Roman rule, they became happy and content, not being in deep sorrow by the decline of the Roman Empire and the rise of Islam’s power. Therefore, the religion of Islam carries this civic behavior and civilized manner that it maintains all sides be exposed to Islam and all hearts be attracted by Islam.
As the religion of Islam maintains the whole Muslims as brother, unlike others it does not assign the same meaning to the concept of nation. Once someone becomes Muslim, he is considered to beleong to one nation regardless of his ethnic origin whether it be Turkish, Persian, Kurdish, Albanian, Frankish, Indian, Chinese, Black. It is of the religion of Islam.
This principle accounts for the rapid conquests of Islam. It is that ensure the continuation of its influence. Just as Arabs conquered Damascus, Africa, Asia without fighting, non-Arab Muslim Mahmud Gazali conquered India, and Turkish Islam and non-Turkish Seljuks conquered Asia Minor and Ottoman Turks conquered Roman and Byzantine Empire without fighting. History books are faithful witness to us in this respect.
Yes, the enterprise of Ottoman sultanate instituted by lofty auspice growing a universal empire from a tribe was staying next to Domaniç mountain, raised by the perfect modesty and good manners. Both itself and the ones following it acting according to the principles of Holy Quran posed an example to virtue, courage and justice. Therefore, within a short period of time, certain towns and villages such as Nicaea and Nicomedia in Kocaeli or Tinya came under the rule of Ottoman flag of justice without seeing any coercion or violence from the courageous Ottoman men. Similarly, Bursa submitted to Sultan Orhan, the noble successor of Osman, without facing any coercion and violence. Nowhere in the world the word of recruited soldiers was heard of up to that time. Orhan, dwelling in paradise, installed the method of recruitment for a standing army under the name of janissary and strengthened the power and glory of the state. Therefore, the institutor of the recruited and standing army was the aforementioned sultan. European states later followed him by copying his recruited standing army.
Just as Spain, in western Europe, entered into the just rule of Islam by the invitation and demand of Musa b. Nusayr by Count Julianus, the rulers of Biga and Edirne appealed to the Ottoman rulers in the same way and submitted the cities to the Ottoman just rule without any coercion and violence and after submission they became servant and loyal to the Ottoman dynasty. After conquering the lands of Rumeli and Anatolia peacefully, the Ottoman state began to fight against the crusading forces in Europe. These wars however did not serve for the old idea. In other words, while the former crusading idea was bigotedly only to capture Jerusalem from the hands of Muslims, this second wave of crusading idea was to capture Istanbul and inherit the legacy of Byzantine Empire. Therefore, lest its name be deleted, the battles in Kosova, Nicopolis and Varna took place and many innocent Muslims shed blood.
I hope nobody forget the war captives taken by the Ottoman courageous soldiers in these aforementioned battles received a good treatment and were released with a low ransom fees. Which side of the world had seen such a condition up to that time.
Ottomans felt the need to conquer Istanbul in order to hinder the wars with crusading forces ending with killing of many innocent people and to remove the perils afflicted on the sultanate due to its inheritance of the Byzantine legacy. Mehmed II sent letters of invitation to submit the city to the people of the city, but because no response was given other than warfare, the aforementioned sultan defeated the city by force in order to realize the holy harbinger by the prophet’s tradiont “Istanbul will certainly be conquered…” As he was an Umar-like sultan, once he conquered the city, similar to Umar he kept the Patriarchate in Istanbul and invited and soothed some of the escaped Christians and treated them with honor.
This is the way of Islamic conquests. In other words, the Muslim conquests did not come into being by Arab and Turkish swords made of steel but by justice. Muslims never uttered the aphorism of “Woe to the defeated.” Instead, they treated the defeated ones well and kept them in good conditions. The eloquent witness to this is history.
When greater part of Asia, Europe and Africa came under Ottoman rule during the reign of Selim I, the pride of eternal warrior, the whole world accepted that the Ottoman Empire stood as the sole state and government for the protection of Holy Cities. Therefore, the last Abbasid caliph living in Cairo at that time left the lofty and noble caliphate to the Ottoman dynasty and submitted to the aforementioned sultan by the requirement of Islamic law and by the shared view of Muslims. Upon this, committees came from different angles of the world and submitted to Selim I by recognizing him as “the sultan of lands and ruler of seas, servitor of two holy cities.” In short, no dynasty from various Muslim and non-Muslim nations, except for the Righteous Caliphs, exercised the titles of rulership in defending the country against enemies like Ottomans.
As known well, the French king Francis I, was defeated and taken captive near the city of Pavia by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, saying proudly “the sun does not set in my country” for his rule in Low Countries, Belgium, Burgundy, Italy, Spain and the whole America from the north to the south. He wrote imploring letters to Suleyman the Magnificent and appealed to his courageous protection and benevolence by saying that “everything except for honor is spoiled.” As these words of imploring words flattered the feelings of Suleyman, a campaign was initiated in order to save Francis I and so Hungary was occupied, Vienna was sieged, and especially the naval battles were fought between Grand Admiral Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha and Andrea Doria in Spanish seas and many sacrifices were made.
Ibn Khaldun resembles in his Muqaddimah the states and governments to human bodies. Just as human being is born, lives, slowly grows, strengthens, then becomes sick with a stroke, wanes, then the help of physician is needed when necessary, governments and states go through similar conditions.
Even eternal Ottoman state, like other states, faced sometimes calamities just like the horizons reach the highest points. But everytime members of Ottoman dynasty found solutions to each one of illnesses of every sort. Abdulhamid I, Mahmud II, Abdulmecid acted as physicians to the illnesses of the Ottoman state. Abdulhamid II, succored by God and the sultan, member of the noble dynasty, turned these well-protected lands into developed and civilized country.
Traces of Progress and Civilization during the Reign of Abdulhamid II
When his Excellency caliph ascended the noble throne and sultanate, the conditions of Ottoman state is well known. Even one tenth of the traces of progress and civilization at present were did not exist. As the wholehearted and nobly crowned sultan saw these conditions of the country, allocated all kinds of graces and noble favors to all traces of progress and civilization and even endeavored day and night in order to bring this civilization into reality. Of the traces of progress are his inauguration of schools to kindle the light of education, such as school of politics, military medical school, engineering school, law school, schools for the deaf and blind, school of fine arts, Galatasaray, Naval Academy, Tribal school, middle schools and high schools in provinces, cities and towns, Observatory, Royal Museum, School of Assistant Judges etc.
The offprint of the paper presented by Numan Kamil, one of Mabeyn-i Hümayun scribes and member of Lisbon Society of Geography and correspondent. This is translated from French by Zeki, a writer of newspaper Mâlûmat. (Istanbul 1316. The whole texts is reprinted in Hilafet Risâleleri, ed. İsmail Kara, (İstanbul: Klasik 2002, v. 1, pp. 353-371).