The Ottoman Empire as an Islamic State
We could consider that empires have a great influence in the shaping of world history. Some segments of history are even divided among great empires. It is a general notion that empires had a very large influence in we view history. The significance of empires could be just as immense as of religions. Religion is an integral part of virtually all cultures. One of the greatest empires that had ever been established is the Ottoman Empire. The famous motto of the Ottoman Empire even says “the eternal state. ” On the other hand, with the approximate of one billion to 1.
8 billion, Islam is definitely one of the largest and most influential religions in the world . And with all the evidences from history, the great Ottoman Empire is undeniably an empire who had represented Islam. The Ottoman Empire could be categorized as one of the greatest Islamic state that had ever existed. To understand more of the Ottoman Empire, it would be very helpful to explore how it had viewed and approached religion. An understanding of its religion would pave the way for us towards better understanding of the Ottoman Empire. After all, we cannot deny the influence of religion on how people and societies think.
Moreover, most style of governments is heavily influenced by the dominant religion of the state. The Islamic influence of the Ottoman Empire could even be observable from its origins. It is generally accepted that the Ottoman Empire is an offshoot of the early Mediterranean empires. These early Mediterranean empires, particularly the Byzantine Empire, are deeply rooted to the Islamic religion. The Ottoman Empire had displayed Islamic influence in many aspects of culture and tradition like in government, legislature, art, architecture, cuisine among many others.
The Ottoman Empire then adopted these Islamic influences then elaborated them into new forms that had given them a distinctive cultural identity which could be associated with the Ottoman Empire. In many sense, the Ottoman Empire is a genuine Islamic state ever since it has started. The very reason for that is that it is the successor to early empires that are closely associated with the Islam religion. The Ottoman Empire is an offshoot of the fall of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. And when political powers were consequently divided, Osman I founded the Ottoman Empire.
Even the Islamic symbol, the crescent moon, finds its origins in the history of the Ottoman Empire. When the Turks had successfully dominated Constantinople, now more commonly known as Istanbul, the Turks had used the flag of the city as a symbol, which is the crescent moon. It is also said in some legends that Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, had dreamt of the crescent moon. In his dream, the crescent moon is stretched from one end to the other encompassing the earth. According to the legend, Osman had considered the dream of the crescent moon as a good omen.
And immediately, Osman had kept the crescent moon to be the symbol that would represent the Ottoman rule . There is also a notion that the five points on the star in the symbol should represent the five pillars of Islam, but this is purely a speculation that is not confirmed. Although, the flags of the Ottoman Empire did not consider the five points as a standard. Since the Ottoman Empire was the most dominant empire in the Muslim world in some point in history, and it had been interacting with other empires and cultures—may they be hostile or neutral, the design of the flags of the Ottoman Empire was retained in the minds of the people.
As a result, the symbol that Osman had used to represent the Ottoman Empire had become closely associated with the Islam religion. Osman’s dream of the crescent moon is also known as “Osman’s Dream. ” It is said in a Turkish legend that Osman had a dream of creating the greatest empire that had ever lived. The Ottoman Empire had a reputation that it was the dominant empire in the Muslim world. This had caused the empire to be the target of other empires, particularly of the Christians of Europe. But although the Ottoman Empire had a reputation for being entangled in wars and disputes, its approach to the other religions has been overlooked.
Perhaps one of the most notable, but then overlooked aspects of the Ottoman Empire rule was their toleration and respect for other religious beliefs. The primary constituents of the empire, the Turks, are all holding on to the Islamic faith, but they did not force their beliefs on others. The Ottoman Empire had permitted other religions to practice their faith on Ottoman territory. The Ottoman government had permitted other religions to pray inside their places of faith, teach their religion inside religious schools or seminaries, and even gathering in masses.
Since faith is the main issue, the tolerance of the Ottoman Empire to the other religious groups within the territory could be viewed as recklessness to the part of the Ottoman government. But in fact, the respect for other religions proved to be and effective style of governance for the Ottoman Empire. Most of the previous empires, especially from the Byzantine had heavily persecuted Christians. The tolerance of the Ottoman to the other religions had them avoid internal conflicts within their territories. After all, some of their conquered territories were initially Christians, particularly the Balkans.
The Ottoman Empire had done this through letting other religious groups have their own educational, judicial, and welfare systems. But of course, this religious tolerance had its limits. After all, the Ottoman Empire is a devout follower of the Islam faith. It was just understandable that the Ottoman Empire gave the preference and most political power the Muslims. Out of all the religions, it was still the followers of Islam that felt more privileged than other people of other faiths. In this sense, the toleration of the Ottoman Empire to the other religions is very unique in comparison to the other empires.
Most other empires could have banned and punished other religions for having a different faith from the preferred religion of the state. The primary religions that the Ottoman Empire had tolerated were the Christian and Jewish faith. If we are to look for further concrete evidences, both figuratively and literally, of the Islamic influence on the Ottoman Empire, we could just view the products of the Ottoman architecture that are still standing today. We would be surprised to know that most of the products of Ottoman architecture are mostly mosques, the place of worship for Muslims.
One of the best known products of Ottoman architecture is the Suleymaniye Mosque. This particular masterpiece of architecture is actually a grand mosque. The size and the design would immediately suggest that this is to be a place of worship that can house a large number of Muslim worshippers. This particular mosque began construction under the rule of Suleiman I, also known as Suleiman the Magnificent. It was designed by the Mimar Sinan, the great Ottoman architect whose name is much associated to the era of the Ottoman Empire. The construction only took seven years, from 1550 to 1557.
The Suleymaniye Mosque is considered to be heavily influenced by another early Islamic structure, the Dome of Rock and the Hagia Sophia. The Dome of Rock is a product of the time of Solomon, who is considered as one of the greatest ancestors of Islam. There are many similarities in the design of the two religious structures. The Suleymaniye Mosque is considered to be Suleiman I’s expression that he had surpassed the great leaders that had preceded him. The Hagia Sophia is a product of the Byzantine Empire, from which the Ottoman Empire had gotten its Islamic influence.
Historians say that the Suleymaniye Mosque could be considered as an offshoot of the Hagia Sophia. That is because they say that the Suleymaniye Mosque wa designed after the Hagia Sophia, though the primary difference was that the former was smaller than the latter. The Suleymaniye Mosque includes a public kitchen and a hospital that was dedicated to the poor. It also houses four schools that are all dedicated for the teaching of the holy book of Islam, the Qur’an. The tomb of the ruler that ordered its construction, Suleiman I, is also located in inside the Suleymaniye Mosque .
The tomb of the great Ottoman archictec, Mimar SInan, is also just located at proximity of the grand mosque. The Suleymaniye Mosque is currently considered as one of the best known tourist attractions in Istanbul. It is also currently considered as one of the most important structures of the Islam religion. Moreover, the Ottoman Empire is generally accepted as one of the three great Muslim Empires. The three major Muslim empires are namely the Ottoman Empire, Mughul Empire, and the Safavid Empire. These three major Muslim empires were established during between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Even the fall of the fall of the Muslim empires is much associated to the fall of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Conclusion There are many evidences that would confirm that the Ottoman Empire is a genuine Islamic state. We could just see these evidences both in the past and the present. History tells us that the Ottoman Empire had originated from early Islamic empires. It is the fall of the early Islamic empires that had paved the way for the flourish of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire had remained true to what it had learned from its origins, especially to its inherited religion, Islam.
The Ottomans remained devout to the faith and had embraced Islam as a way of life. Even the style of governance reflects much influence of the Islam religion. Moreover, there are much evidence that are available today that would confirm the Islamic nature of the Ottoman empire. These evidences would range from artifacts to grand mosques that we could still view today. And as a conclusion, the Ottoman Empire is an Islamic state not just because history tells us so. It is an Islamic state because it is an empire that had played a significant role in history by representing the Islam religion during the empire’s illustrious existence.
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