The Ottoman Collapse

The Ottoman Collapse

Since then, the Ummah is shackled in a seemingly unending confusion

After the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), Europe relatively didn’t get bogged down into a war which it couldn’t handle. Nonetheless, the First World War changed the shape of the entire world. More or less 40 million people disappeared from the face of the world. If conventional history is followed, the accidental assassination of Prince Archduke Franz Ferdinand stirred up the flames of the war. Apparently, this seems plausible. However, neither the war nor the assassination of Archduke was accidental. All of it was premeditated, well thought out and calibrated. It was planned by those who wanted to dismember the Ottoman Empire.
In the 1900s, there were six major powers in the world: Britain, France, Russia on the one side, and Germany, Austria-Hungry and the Ottoman Empire on the other. Among the latter, the Ottomans posed a major challenge to the European civilisation in two ways. First, the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid-II crushed the Jewish dream of morphing Palestine into a Jewish nation. Second, for the European civilisation to actualise its Nation-State concept, Ottomans were a hurdle as they held the rich Middle East states in their tight clutches.
Myriad persuasions, endless threats and vicious cycle of mysterious attacks hadn’t dissuaded the Ottoman Caliph, to the dismay of his opponents. Caliphs who came after Sultan Abdulhamid Khan couldn’t keep the empire intact. Just two years after the start of the World War, the title of the Caliphate was in danger when Sharif Al Hussein rebelled against the Ottoman Empire. On behest of the nemesis of the Ottoman Empire, Sharif Al Hussein tried to damage the relationship between Hijaz and the Ottoman Caliphate. At the end of the war, the Ottomans only exerted their sphere of influence in and around Istanbul. The worst of the worst had befallen the Ottomans. An Empire which ruled for nearly 600 years was caged in Istanbul with an emblematic title of Caliphate, which too had lost its legitimacy throughout the war.
In the aftermath of the war, the Central Powers were defeated, the Allies came out triumphant. Nonetheless, the war had changed the whole scenario. The core purpose of the war was accomplished. The giant Ottoman Empire was hollowed out but kept on lingering in Istanbul till 3rd March 1924. Syria and Lebanon were occupied by France. Palestine, Jordan and Iraq were controlled by the British Empire. Armenia was given to East Anatolia and Istanbul was jointly influenced and controlled by Britain, France and Italy. The situation was awfully bleak for the Turks. Forced capitulation incensed the Turks. To get out of the mortification, a secret organisation was formed by some Turkish officials. The then nominal Caliph of the Ottomans also shored up this initiative surreptitiously.
Mustafa Kemal, who wasn’t even a Turk, was chosen to spearhead the insurrection against the foreign occupation. Mustafa Kemal was born in 1881 in Salonica (Greece). Although Salonica was a part of the Ottoman Empire, the residents were of Albanian and Slavic origins. Considering the presence of France, Italy and Britain as a sinister threat to her interests in Turkey, Soviet Russia also extended her support to the insurrection in infancy, but clandestinely. With the Soviets at their back, the revolutionary movement of Kemal and his accomplices grew stronger by leaps and bounds. Amidst his soaring strength, Kemal compelled the government in Istanbul to conduct fresh elections. The government in Istanbul capitulated, unable to resist Kemal. The elections were held at the end of the year 1919. Kemal won the election. However, to eschew incarceration he didn’t return to Istanbul. Instead, he stayed in Ankara.
Moving uncompromisingly towards the end objective, an agreement was passed in Parliament which stated that Turkey should be freed from foreign occupation and her integrity resuscitated forthwith. This brazen move chagrined Britain, France and Italy. Therefore, on 16 March 1919, martial law was imposed in Istanbul and the Parliament was dissolved on 18 March 1919. A special Martial Law Council was set up in Istanbul which condemned Mustafa Kemal and his associates to death. In an act of rebellion, Mustafa Kemal built a new parliament in Ankara and announced himself as its first Speaker and Prime Minister. Seeing an increasing rift and instability in Turkey, Armenia and Greece launched attacks on Turkey. Seeing Kemal getting bogged down with Armenia and Greece, Allies awaited with enthusiasm the destruction of Mustafa Kemal’s Government in Ankara. On 10th August 1920, Treaty of Sevres was signed between the Ottoman Government in Istanbul and the Allies. This Treaty simply added to the further balkanisation of Turkey. Under this Treaty, the Ottoman Government reluctantly ceded Eastern Thrace and the city of Izmir to Greece and acknowledged her sovereignty over them. The Ankara Government refused to accept the agreement and kept on fighting Greece and Armenia.
On 30th October 1920, Mustafa Kemal defeated and defenestrated the Armenian forces from Turkey. And on 10th January 1921, Greece was also defeated. On 16th March 1921, Russia openly announced her agreement of camaraderie with Kemal’s Government in Ankara. To cement this cordiality, Soviet Russia offered arms and funds to the Ankara Government, bolstering them further against the Allies, Armenians and Greeks. In the same month, Greeks suffered their second defeat. Fighting obstinately against the revolutionary forces of Mustafa Kemal, Greece again launched an attack on Turkey on 13th July 1921. Haplessly, this time also out of exhaustion and inadequacy, Greeks fled the battleground on 13th September 1921. Sensing the desperation of the Allies, the then Ottoman Prime Minister and his cabinet resigned in November 1922.
Since Mustafa Kemal and his revolutionary forces were gaining ground, the Allies initiated deliberations with the Ankara Government. To accept the Modern Turkey, inter alia, the Allies placed three conditions before the Ankara Government in the Treaty of Lausanne:
1. Abolition of Ottoman Empire/ Caliphate
2. Crackdown on communists in Turkey
3. Acknowledging the sovereignty of the Allies over the territories which once were parts of Ottoman Empire
Mustafa Kemal shamelessly accepted all of them. On 6th October 1923 Mustafa Kemal entered Istanbul. On 29th October 1923, Kemal became the President of Modern Turkey. On 3rd March 1924, the Turk Parliament abolished the office of Caliphate. With the abolition of the Caliphate, the Muslim Ummah was left to wander in the wilderness of oppression, ignorance, depravity and materialism. We must admit that Al-Azhar University of Egypt attempted to restore the institution of Caliphate, but failed abysmally. The reason for their failure was rooted in the incomprehensibility of modernity. The intelligentsia that participated in the Caliphate Conference failed to put forth a blueprint via which the institution of Caliphate could have been revived. The intellectual failure at the Caliphate Conference buried the office of Caliphate through and through. Since then, the Ummah is shackled in a seemingly unending confusion. The scenarios of Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Kashmir are enough to sear our hearts.
To wrap this up, I wish to quote a statement of Dr Muhammad Iqbal (RA). Iqbal said in 1931: “The worst danger facing the world of Islam is not the nefarious designs of Zionism or greed for imperial power; it is atheistic materialism and territorial patriotism.”

The writer is a Law student at JMI, New Delhi. [email protected]


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