Dr. Muhammad Al-Ghamqi

Dr. Muhammad Al-Ghamqi

The fall of Constantinople marks the end of Christian political presence in the Middle East and its decline to Europe.

At the beginning of the 20th century, pressure increased on the Ottoman Empire, labeled as the “sick man,” with conspiracies to overthrow it.

World War I concluded with the defeat of Germany and its allies and the decision at the “Treaty of Lausanne” to abolish the Caliphate system.

Erdogan has built his politics on reviving the cultural heritage of the Ottoman Empire and defending Islamic identity.

Europe failed to realize that the dominance era had passed and the world was preparing for a new civilizational cycle, reviving Islamic glory.

A hundred years have passed since the fall, or rather, the overthrow, of the Caliphate system, where European powers bear a significant responsibility. Ottoman-European relations were marked by constant European caution towards the Muslim Turks, who often served as a formidable barrier to the Islamic Ummah and played a crucial role in its revival. This explains how Europe dealt with the Ottoman state during its power peak and the diligent efforts, during its weakness, to dismantle it, conspiring to overthrow it and end the Caliphate system, which was practiced for four centuries. (1517–1924)


The Seljuk Turks Confront Byzantium:

Europe could not conceive that the Islamic Caliphate would return after the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258 CE at the hands of the Tatars, after being weakened by a series of devastating European Crusades in the East starting in 1096 CE. This was despite the liberation of Jerusalem from the Crusaders by Saladin in the Battle of “Hattin” in 1187 CE.

Fate dictated that two powers would be present during the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate: the Mamluks in Egypt and the Seljuks in Anatolia, contributing to a new revival for the Ummah.

Speaking of the Seljuks (named after Seljuk bin Duqaq), they are a Turkish dynasty descended from the Qiniq tribe, which, in turn, belongs to the Turkic Oghuz group. They migrated from Asia and crossed into Iran, where they established their Great Seljuk Empire. They then advanced towards the Christian Byzantine Empire (the Romans), competing to achieve the glad tidings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for whoever conquers Constantinople, the capital of the Romans: “Verily, you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful commander will that conqueror be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!” They succeeded in establishing the Sultanate of Rum in the Anatolian region.

During their era, the famous Battle of “Manzikert” took place between the commander Alp Arslan and the Romans. However, the Seljuks faced difficulties in advancing towards Constantinople. Support came to them from Turkish Oghuz tribes led by Ertuğrul, who excelled in the jihad movement. The Seljuk sultan Alâeddin rewarded him with land on the borders of the Roman lands, where he established an emirate loyal to the sultan.


Ertuğrul Dynasty Conquers Constantinople and the Balkans:

The Ottoman dynasty, founded by Osman after the death of his father, Ertuğrul, marked the beginning of the Ottoman era. In 1299, Osman declared independence from the Seljuks and established the Ottoman State, which was named after him. This marked the start of the Ottoman era, lasting until the 20th century, initially as a state and later transforming into an Islamic caliphate from 1517 onwards, with its capital in Istanbul, the former Byzantine capital.

The conquering of Constantinople in 1453, led by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, was a pivotal moment in the history of relations between Europe and the Islamic world. It symbolized the end of Christian political presence in the Middle East and its retreat into Europe. Europeans became increasingly concerned about the perceived threat posed by the Muslim-Turkish element. The Ottomans, starting with Orhan, Osman’s son, have achieved significant conquests in Europe and the Balkans since the mid-15th century. They firmly established Islamic presence in the heart of Europe, countering Serbian dominance over the Balkans (Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Montenegro).

In response, Christian forces completed the elimination of the Islamic presence in Al-Andalus by capturing Granada, the last Andalusian emirate, in 1492.


 The Peak of the Ottoman Caliphate in the Era of Sultan Suleiman:

With the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate in 1517 by Sultan Selim I, the grandson of Mehmed the Conqueror, the Ottoman state's authority strengthened, and his son, Suleiman the Magnificent, who ruled for approximately half a century (1520–1566), further elevated the stature of the Ottomans. During his reign, they became a formidable force globally, especially in Europe, where their policies with Suleiman “the Magnificent,” as they call him, were either confrontational, reigniting Crusade wars against his advances in Europe (Rhodes, Hungary, Vienna’s brders), or conciliatory, aligning with him, as happened with Francis I, the king of France from 1536, to an extent that enraged the Church.

However, signs of weakness in the Ottoman Empire emerged after reaching its power peak by the end of the sixteenth century. This coincided with the rise of new European powers such as France and Britain, characterized by colonial expansion. They exploited their relationships and alliances with Istanbul, securing privileges granted by some sultans to compensate for their inability to repay their debts. Through these concessions, they gradually intervened in Ottoman affairs. This intervention took various forms, starting with sowing nationalist discord among Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Berbers, etc., within Muslim society as part of a political strategy of “divide and conquer.” The influence of secular thought, advocating the separation of religion from the state and societal life, started to seep through Ottoman society. France, in particular, became Christians' sponsor in the East, notably in Lebanon and Syria.


 The Military intervention and the “Divide and Conquer” policy:

Then came the phase of military intervention and colonization, paved by Napoleon Bonaparte's military campaign in 1798 against Ottoman-ruled Egypt. Napoleon advanced to Palestine, specifically Jericho, attempting to sway the Jews with the first promise of a homeland in Palestine. However, the initiative failed, leading to another initiative known as the “Balfour Declaration” in 1917.

By the beginning of the 20th century, pressure increased on the Ottoman Empire through psychological warfare, labeling it as the “sick man" and conspiring to overthrow it, especially after Sultan Abdulhamid II refused to grant a homeland to the Jews in Palestine under the growing European support of the Zionist movement.

The result was the isolation of Sultan Abdulhamid II from power in 1909, under the pretense of demanding reforms within the state and the pressure from secular opposition movements, such as the “Young Turks” movement and the “Committee of Union and Progress.”


Overthrowing the Caliphate and Combating Islam:

The First World War (1914–1918) provided an opportunity to dismantle the Ottoman Empire through agreements, promises, and conferences aimed at eliminating a historical adversary. One of the most significant was the secret “Sykes-Picot” Agreement in 1916, a French-British understanding to divide the Fertile Crescent region (Iraq, Syria, etc.). Additionally, the official British “Balfour Declaration” in 1917 promised a homeland for Jews in Palestine (achieved in 1948 after favorable conditions were created by the British mandate, leading to the forced displacement of Palestinians).

The war ended with Germany's defeat and the punishment of its allies, including the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the decision to abolish the Ottoman Caliphate came at the “Lausanne Treaty.”

According to “Encyclopedia in Islamic History” by Dr. Ragheb El-Sergany (p. 222), the “Lausanne Treaty,” held in 1331 AH, was attended by representatives from the Ankara government. The English set conditions for recognizing Turkey's independence, known as the “Four Curzon Conditions,” which included:

  1.  Abolishing the Ottoman Caliphate.
  2.  Severing all ties with Islam.
  3.  Expelling supporters of the Caliphate and Islam from the country.
  4.  Adopting a civil constitution instead of the old Turkish Islamic-based one.

 Despite attempts to support the caliphate, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's influence had strengthened, successfully removing anyone in his path. In 1341 AH, he announced the abolition of the Caliphate, declared the Republic of Turkey, cancelled religious posts, empowered his soldiers to forcibly take off women’s hijab, and mandated in the constitution that putting statues of him across Turkey. He banned the Adhan in the Arabic language and changed the Turkish script from Arabic to Latin letters.


 The Religious Awakening in Turkey:

However, the religious awakening re-emerged with the appearance of reformist movements with Islamic inclinations, such as the Nurcu Movement, named after Said Nursi (1878–1961). Subsequently, the contemporary Islamic movement led by Necmettin Erbakan, the head of the Welfare Party and the Prime Minister of Turkey in the late 1990s, emerged. His successor, the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, continued this path through his Justice and Development Party.

President Erdogan has built his political agenda on reviving the cultural and civilizational heritage of the Ottoman Empire, defending Islamic identity, and restoring the glory of the Turkish state. This is achieved through a firm economic and military infrastructure, transforming Turkey under Erdogan into a regional power with influence in Asia and Africa, in addition to its NATO membership. This explains the raising fear among European counterparts from this growing regional power, hence the reference to Erdogan as the “Sultan,” pointing to the Ottoman Caliphate era!


 Turkey as a Balanced Regional Power:

Perhaps the European rejection of Turkey joining the European Union is a significant indicator of this fear. Today, Turkey combines economic, military, and demographic strength (85 million people) with a growing Islamic identity after being a symbol of a distinctly secular Muslim state in Ataturk’s time.

Turkey's response to this rejection was to label the European Union as the “closed Christian club.” Ankara established alliances and blocs with countries in Central Asia with a Turkish majority, such as Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Additionally, Turkey positioned itself strategically amid shifting international dynamics by fostering diplomatic relations with Russia, China, and Gulf Arab states. Turkey seeks to establish proactive international relations, leveraging the European Union's experience to unify the Islamic front and maintain diversity.

Recent developments, such as the war in Ukraine and occupied Palestine, confirm that the Turkish side cannot be ignored or bypassed. It is in Europe's interest, feeling threatened at its eastern borders, to maintain a certain level of relationship with the current Turkish leadership. Europe also counts on a post-Erdogan era, anticipating the possibility of a new leadership with a secular inclination. However, Europe has yet to realize that the era of dominance has passed, and the world is preparing for a new cultural cycle where glory returns to Islam and its people.


European Union Model vs. Islamic Caliphate

As much as the European powers were keen on overthrowing the Ottoman Empire and abolishing the Islamic Caliphate in the early twentieth century, they were also focused on unifying after the destruction caused by World War II.

“Robert Schuman,” the French Foreign Minister in the 1950s, is considered the founding father of the European Union. He stated, “Europe will not be built all at once, nor within a comprehensive framework, but through tangible achievements, creating real solidarity in the first instance.” He also remarked, “Europe, before being a military alliance or an economic entity, must be a cultural community in the noblest sense of the term.”

Based on this, one of the distinctive features of the European Union is its pursuit of the common interest of the European bloc, which is to become a balanced force in international decision-making with the motto “United in Diversity.”

This is achieved by unifying visions and positions on critical issues, cooperating on common ground issues despite differences in language, political systems, and cultures, and consolidating internal unity to address challenges.

 The European internal borders were opened after the “Schengen Agreement” in 1985, which endorsed the freedom of movement for people and goods. Individuals could travel between multiple European capitals on the same day without passing through customs or border police. Additionally, regional European institutions were established without violating the sovereignty of member states, allowing them to make decisions benefiting individuals and groups. Thus, European citizens could appeal to the European Court if their rights were not upheld in their home country.

One of the European Union's most significant achievements is fostering a mindset of overcoming differences and historical remnants. This paved the way for countries like Germany to become substantial European economic powers.

If we reflect on the philosophy of the European Union, it appears to be closest to the system of the Islamic Caliphate, which was based on unifying the Islamic Ummah within a framework of diversity. The key difference lies in their references: the Islamic Caliphate theoretically relies on Islamic Sharia in its policies and laws, while the idea of the European Union is grounded in secular laws.


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