The Fall of the Ottoman Empire – An Example of the Consequence of Ghafla

Much of the recent history of the Umma can be understood as the simple consequence of ghafla – of heedlessness of Allah ta‘ala. The Ottoman empire, for instance, is a good example. By Allah’s decree and permission, this state continued for an astonishing six hundred years or more, from 1280 until 1924. In fact, the Ottoman sultans were the longest-reigning of any significant dynasty in world history. No family, in China, India, Europe or anywhere else, ruled for so long. And the achievement is the more remarkable when we look at the size and the diversity of the empire. Many races, religions and languages were present; there was no obvious unifying criterion for all the sultan’s subjects; and yet the empire endured.

It is not difficult to see why Allah should have given the Ottoman state such success. The sultans always respected the ulema and the shuyukh: Sultan Mehmed, who liberated Constantinople from the Byzantine oppression, was the disciple of Ak Shamsuddin, himself of the lineage of Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, radiya’Llahu anhu. With such men to pray for them, the early sultans could hardly be defeated in battle. Another factor in Ottoman success was the insistence of the Ottoman ulema on tolerating differences of opinions among Muslims. All classical writers on Muslim political theory have taken to heart Imam al-Ghazali’s insistence that the Muslims are never served by attempts to impose one narrow definition of the faith on everyone else. That kind of totalitarian approach results only in hatred and civil war, bringing misery and weakness to the Muslim community.

The Ottoman demise resulted not from the adoption of a narrow definition of Islam that set Muslim against Muslim, but from a thoughtless Westernisation among the ruling classes. Adopting the materialism of Western Europe, the Ottoman nobility and middle classes began to abandon the Sunna. The turban began to disappear, followed by the remainder of Muslim dress. Houses began to be designed to bring the sexes together, rather than to separate them. The mosques in rich sections of town emptied, except on Fridays. And the high men of the state, with some exceptions, were increasingly reluctant to ask the great ulema for their prayers.

The Ottoman empire ended, effectively, with the First World War. Sultan Abd al-Hamid had been overthrown by a Westernising clique which then decided to bring the empire into the war which ended in its dismemberment. If the Ottomans had remained loyal to the Sunna, and hence avoided injustice, bribery, and weakness on the field of battle, the Ottoman state would in all probability be in existence today, and its model of an Islam which tolerates diversity would still prevail, instead of the nervous, intolerant little groups which fill the Islamic scene today.

Source: When the Generous appears with the Name Avenger by Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad

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