Shahid Amin Malik
The television series on the founding fathers of one of the greatest empires of the world, the Ottoman Empire, reveals the extraordinary courage, gallantry, and self-belief of the Turkish people. Unlike its admirable foundations, the end of the Ottoman Empire was abrupt and disgraceful. Unfortunately, the empire’s decline after World War I is not depicted in the television series. Even after a century, the empire’s demise is still being mourned by Muslims the world over. Not just sorrow, the empire’s end has also left a wound on the Muslim world’s geography, politics, economy, status and especially their unity.
During the late nineteenth century, the Ottoman realm had lost all of its pride, power and honour, hence the Ottoman ruler was called “the sick man of Europe”. Sultan Muhammad V had become a figure-head and the actual stewards were the handful of people called ‘Young Turks’. The empire had been hollowed as if by termites and rivals were waiting for their chance to seize power. Finally, the long awaited opportunity came when the Ottoman kingdom was dragged into the world war despite the reluctance of the Sultan. He had no choice expect to call for a united jihad against the Allied powers. After that, the tragic history of Muslims began.
Ottomans saw not a single victory in the entire war, except the victory of the Gallipoli campaign which resulted in the glory of Ataturk. Meanwhile, the Allied powers did not leave any stone unturned in conspiring against the Sultan. They found their trump card in the form of the Husayn-McMahon agreement of October 1915, in which Sherif Husayn ibn Ali, the emir of Mecca, was promised independence if he revolted against the Turks. It was the blow which broke the spinal cord of Ottomans.
While the Allies were promising Arabs independence, they were also promising Israel to the Zionists if they helped them during the war. British hypocrisy was revealed when they supported Ibn Saud’s invasion of Mecca, which drove out the Sharif family from Arabia and established in its pkace the Saudi clan. All this while, the Allied nations were distributing the Muslim lands among themselves.
These events did irreparable harm to the Muslim ummah, probably the greatest catastrophe that befell Muslims since the Mongol and Crusade invasions. The decline of the Ottomans shattered the unity of Muslims. Borders were drawn and the current Middle East countries, riven by violence ever since, were created. The Balfour declaration sowed the seed of Israel in the very heart of the Muslim region. The pride and honour of the old Muslim elite was taken away. This dispossession led to the emergence of resistance organisations across the Muslim world. Islam changed from just a religion to a rallying cry for revolutionaries and conservatives alike. Politics became an integral part of Islam. Striving for the re-establishment of the Islamic caliphate was popularised as the religious obligation of Muslims.