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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Discovering the Ottomans By llber Ortayli

This was a book that I picked up whilst browsing in a book store a few months ago. History is one of my favourite subjects and I like to delve into the past every now and then. Sometimes looking back is difficult because of the things that have occurred and sometimes it is interesting because the past can indicate to the future, as well as explaining the present.

The book is aimed at the average Turk who is ambivalent to the great Ottoman past. The author makes a real effort in trying to engage the reader into looking into this past and bringing out its many jewels.

The Europeans had been telling the Ottoman Empire that it was outdated for many years. When the empire ‘fell’ at the hands of the Mustafa Kamel, he re-enforced this idea. What then spread was a rabid type of secularism much like what we see today in Turkey. Islam was pushed into the background as other government systems and policies were sought.

Ilber paints a picture of an Istanbul that you would love to be in. He speaks about the family unit, how they used to be together and united. He speaks with great nostalgia about the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. This really encourages the reader to look back at the Ottoman heritage and ponder is there something that they have missed?

Turkish people must wonder why they have so many visitors to Istanbul. Why are they coming? What are they going to see?

He ends with something that had a profound effect on me, “As writers, educated people and ordinary citizens, the Turkish people are expects at misunderstanding and misinterpreting the Ottoman Empire, and believing that things were the exact opposite of the way they actually were. Let us hope that we will make up for this in the future.”

Turkish people should be rightly proud of the Ottoman Empire as the greatest manifestation of the Islamic caliphate system. It is not without truth that the Ottoman Empire was the single longest lasting caliphate, some six hundred years.

Misunderstanding the past is not just a Turkish problem we as Muslims need to accept the blame as well. Just about every country that was occupied by European or Western forces, sing this same refrain, that Islam is backwards etc. If that was true then the West is backwards as well because the basis for the Western system of almost everything lies with Islam! So they are actually calling themselves backward as well!

So read your history start with life story of the Beloved (may Allah bestow upon him peace and blessings) then read selected works that have been recommended to you by someone who has read them.

This book is a good place to begin to understand the legacy of Islam and the most successful manifestation of this was the Ottoman Empire.

(The picture is the grave of Muhammad Al-Fatih or Mehmet; the famous Ottoman Sultan (may Allah show him mercy)).

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