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Who was Ahmad Shah Durrani?

    In the history of Afghanistan, there have been many mighty rulers and sovereigns, however, one stood out from all of them. He was a  pious, patriotic, and merciful man who had all the profound traits of an exceptional leader, and ruled his lands with justice. He not only became the hero of all Afghans but also saved Islam in the subcontinent. In this video, we will go through the chapters of the life of Ahmad Shah Durrani, the Afghan ruler who united the Afghan tribes and became the founder of modern Afghanistan, as well as the father of his nation.   Ahmad Shah Durrani      Ahmad Khan Abdali was born in Herat, in 1723. He was the son of Zaman Khan, and the grandson of Dawlat Khan. He was from the Pashtun Sadouzai Tribe, a sub tribe of the Abdali Tribe. The story starts in  1732 CE, in Farah, Afghanistan, when Ahmad Khan's older brother, Zulfiqar Khan was defeated by his enemies. Zulfiqar Khan took his younger brother Ahmad Khan with him and fled to Kandahar, where they sought

From Turban to Fez: The Story of how the Ottoman Empire Westernized

    Count Nikolay, the Russian ambassador to Istanbul writes that when he arrived at the headquarters of Patriarch Barmanus, the latter personally read him a draft with "many noteworthy recommendations against the Ottomans." The draft wrote: "It will be impossible to defeat the Ottomans and destroy their state. They have great patience and are of firm standing. Likewise, their pride and self esteem are evident in their character. This morality is founded in their attachment to their religion, their satisfaction with fate, and their obedience to their sultan, their leaders, and their elders. Therefore, first their sense of obedience must be tackled, their moral ties must be shattered, and their religious adherence must be weakened. The quickest way to achieve this is to make them accustomed to foreign thinking that does not correspond to their surroundings, and behaviors that are different from what they are familiar to. When their Ottoman essence is shaken, the unique strength that was the cause of their successes will also shake. It is for this reason that victory on the battlefield is not enough to overcome the Ottoman Empire. Destruction of Ottoman institutions in a manner that the Ottomans do not perceive is what should be done." Regarding this draft, the Russian ambassador stated "This diagnosis was completely realized in a precious way that was very accurate during my time in Istanbul." In this video, we will explain how the Ottomans slowly fell into the trap laid for them by Europe, and how through the means of westernization, the Ottoman Empire was dissolved.

    The Ottoman Empire was filled with the sights and sounds of the world. It was an international superpower that influenced the entire world. Other countries and dominions organized its policies according to the vision of this great power. Its lands spread across three continents, with dozens of different ethnicities, over the course of hundreds of years, disparate to the kingdoms before it. The empire's armies carried out conquests all throughout Europe, passing through the lands of Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and then Austria. Only at the walls of Austria did the Ottomans halt. They found themselves at this juncture, for the first time, unable to advance, conquer and continue its tide. When the walls of Veinna resisted another Ottoman conquest, and flowing victories turned to defeat, the Ottomans reflected on their conditions. They figured that they had no choice but to look for a way to revive the empire and to continue to flourish. They felt that a reform was necessary. For the next few centuries, the Ottomans would continuously adapt to the ways of the west, through ideology, as well as clothing and practices. However, the question is why did the Ottomans decide to go after Westernization and follow the very ways of their foes. How did these westernizing reforms take place, and what became the result of it? 

    The widespread corruption throughout the Ottoman administration during the late 16th century threatened the very stability and political unity of the empire. Thus, the Ottoman sultans of the period saw that there was an urgent need of reform during the early 17th century. Initially, the need of reform was inspired by Islam, its history, and its culture. The prevailing thought at the time was that the application of islamic law and a system based on Islam in the various institutions of the government would restore the empire's previous splendor. 

    The rulers asked for the opinion of the Ottoman intellectuals of the time, who provided detailed reports. At the forefront of these reports was that of Koci Bey, an officer of the royal Ottoman court. In his report, Koci Bey proposed "The decisive and firm application of the Islamic Shariah and its laws will stop the empire's decline, maintaining security, and stopping rebellions and riots in the island. The state can then be free to reform itself. If the Muslims respond to the calling of Shariah, they will soon return to the era of conquests." However, no one could respond to this proposal, and hence it was no implemented. Negligence in the application of the Shariah to deter people from crime led to the corruption of the army, who found fertile pasture to increase their influence and oppose every reformist movement in the empire.

    The 18th century came and now the Ottoman Empire had reached some of the worst levels of corruption in its history, at a time when Europe was making huge strides in all aspects of its civil development. This led to some Ottoman thinkers arguing for the adoption of reform through the methods of Western Europe. They argued that this would ensure the preservation of the ottoman Empire's unity, its future, and its continuity. Thus began a reform movement inspired by the west. 

    The state began sending its ambassadors to Paris and Vienna to learn about the ways of Europeans. Among the most famous of this era was Mehmed Celebi Efendi, who travelled to France in 1720. Mehmed Celebi Efendi, in his inflated report, praised the social life of France, its cultural and political institutions. At a time when the Ottoman palaces were still characterized by their simplicity, he spoke of the Grandeur of the French palaces. This report left a great mark on the heart of the Ottoman sultan and his advisers. 

    The sultans now began building luxurious palaces, and a new way of life revolving around extreme luxury and extravagance began spreading around Muslim countries. This consequently led to an expansion in the gold industry and its traders and led to the transfer of the gold trade from Muslim traders to the hands of the Christian merchants. However, it did not lead to any fundamental reforms of the state. 

    As a part of westernization reforms, the Ottoman administration gave the non-muslim citizens statuses higher than those of the Muslim citizens. European countries benefited from this reform, as it led to the propagation of Christianity and nationalism, which encouraged independence from the empire in those places which were inhabited by Christians. Furthermore, Western countries such France and Russia were even given the rights to defend Catholic and Orthodox Christians, despite the fact that it was already the Ottoman state's duty to protect them. These new reforms made many conservative Ottomans as well as the Janissaries to rebel against every European inspired reform, whether beneficial or not. 

    State officials then wrongly believed that the decline was caused by military defeats in the battlefield, so doing the early 19th century they began focusing on establishing a powerful westernized army. Eventually, Sultan Selim III established a new westernized army. Training material was improved, the Bosporus forts were strengthened, the military artillery was upgraded, and a new engineering school as well as a navigating school were established. Sultan Selim also hired European teachers and engineers to assist in the transitionary process, many of them being French. However, this angered the Ottoman military and so they revolted and dethroned the sultan, making sure all his reforms were revoked and abrogated.

    Selim III also transformed the educational system with the constriction of new schools and printing facilities alongside the free circulation of western literature and the provision of government grants for Turkish students to study abroad in Europe. Upon their return, many of these students would have much more westernized and un-Islamic mindsets, thinking not like their countrymen but rather like their adversaries. Many of them even became part of secretive organizations that helped overthrow the Ottoman regime.

    Thus, western principles such as secularism and nationalism were soon championed as the liberating and superior forms of social governance, as the French, British, and Germans had demonstrated it to be. Previously, subjects of the Ottoman realm were identified and categorized not by their ethnic or linguistic attributes but by their religious identities. Hence, Muslims of different ethnicities such as Kurds, Turks, and Arabs were all considered as one community united through faith, whereas an Arab Christian, for example, was considered part of the Christian community despite the common language and ethnicity he might've shared with his Muslim Arab neighbors. This form of social governance and classification had worked for the Ottomans and for their subjects for centuries. However, due to the occurring westernization movement in the Ottoman realm, the alien concept of nationalism was beginning to gain support from minorities who saw it in their best interests to call for a unifying identity based on race and nationality, and not religion. While this may have been a rational and even enticing prospect for the non-Muslim communities living in Ottoman lands, the same could not be said for the many Muslim communities who would suddenly be re-characterized as minorities based on their ethnic or linguistic affiliations. The call for nationalism would divide much of the Muslim world that did not share the same culture or language as the ruling Turks.

    Napoleon's conquest of Egypt was a tremendous historic event that not only stunned the Muslim world due to Egypt's centrality and historical significance in Islam, but more so due to the three years in which Napoleonic rule was applied in Egyptian society had exposed the Muslim World o the apparent superiority and greatness of western industry, science, and technology, By the time Napoleon was banished from Egypt by Mohammed Ali Pasha, the seeds of change had already been firmly planted and were germinating in the collective consciousness of Egyptian society. This brief, yet impactful moment in history has been characterized by certain historians as the 'breaking down of the walls' of self sufficiency within a Muslim realm that had up until then considered Europe as an underdeveloped civilization, in contrast to the magnificent monuments of grandeur and beauty prevalent in Muslim regions such as Andalusia, Damascus and Istanbul. 

    The worst stage of the westernization reforms came in 1812, when the empire signed the Treaty of Bucharest, in which various concessions were made to many western countries within the Ottoman Empire. This treaty further increased the Ottoman European provinces desires to gain independence from the Ottomans. Furthermore, it intensified ethnic and religious conflicts in many areas, most notably in the Balkans. After many of the states eventually became independent, a greater problem arose in the forced Muslim emigrations that followed. Because the matter was not given enough attention, those who were afflicted lost their confidence in the regime. Thus, the Ottoman state's reputation further worsened in the eyes of the public. 

    During the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, yet another attempt was made to create a newly modernized army that benefited from European equipment, weaponry, and training. When the janissaries revolted against this, the sultan was quick to abolish the Janissaries institution and replaced them with a new institution called the Mansure Army. Despite these changes, the states decline continued. And while all this was taking place, the Ottomans were losing many territories due to treaties signed by the big states of Europe, as well as the many riots that continued to take place. Corruption and anarchy continued to spread throughout the Ottoman realm.

    The wave of westernization that followed these reforms would be mostly absorbed by the military class, making the Ottoman soldiers and commanders some of the most westernized subjects of the Ottoman Empire. The French, English, and German languages were soon taught to officers as part of the military regime. This of course, opened many avenues of learning and the study of European philosophical classics, and cultural ideals. Such cultural, philosophical and political reforms in the army unwittingly marked the military class as the leaders of revolutionary change throughout the Middle East in years to come. Foreign ideas such as secularism and nationalism crept into the Muslim world through such reforms. 

    It is also noteworthy to mention that it was Sultan Mahmud II that abolished the Ottoman tradition of wearing turbans. Instead, he mandated that all Ottoman officials must wear the Fez. This decision was inspired by the Ottoman Naval Command, which had returned from the Maghreb having embraced the style. The intention behind this move was to replace the historical turban, which previously acted as a marker of identity. 

    Then came a man named Mustafa Resid Pasha. He was the Ottoman ambassador to Paris, and he was a man who influenced the state immensely. he believed that the European Parliamentary system had advantages, and that if the Ottoman state adopted it, better relations with Europe would be ensured. Mustafa Resid soon became the grand vizier, and passed the Tanzimat Reforms, which carried out a wide ranged westernization of the country. It was largely inspired by European ideas on law and administration. It even noted its inspiration from Western laws on legislation, public rights, and public duties. The Tanzimat Reforms also replaced Islamic law with secular law, something that is believed to have been a major reason for the downfall of the empire. As the previous code of laws protected the rights of all citizens in a way that was not seen as harmful. However, the imported secular laws made to copy the ways of the west upset much of the folk of the empire, and did not help in the rebuilding of the Ottoman administration. Furthermore, the Tanzimat reforms created systemic weakness, and failed to replace the power of the sultan. Some historians believe that the reforms were only carried out to please the big states, and were not even believed in by those who passed them.

    Mustafa Resid became very influenced by Freemasonic thought, and has been considered by many historians as the first Freemason in the lands of the Ottoman Empire. He created a group of Ottoman intellectuals who believed that the only way for the Ottoman to survive would be through westernization. This group would later be known as the Young Turks. 

    A great problem that arose from constitutional monarchy, which Mustafa Resid urged for, was that parleimant members did not work for the benefit of the ottoman state, but rather for the benefits of their own groups or ethnicities. It was a successful way of ruling for countries like Britain and France, however, the Ottoman Empire was not a colonizing state that distinguished between its citizens. Britain and France on the other hand, only let British and French officials in parliament. Thus, it was different as the Ottoman Empire was not a nationalistic state, and the system of governance had to be different from that of nationalistic and colonizing nations such as France and Britain. Sultan Abdul-Hamid himself explained it best in his own words: "The Ottoman Empire is a state consisting of many different nations, and conditionality in this kind of state is the death of the original foundation of the empire. Is there an Indian Parliament Member in the English parliament? Is there an Algerian representative in the French Parliament? Even after his dethronement, the sultan continued to question this kind of governance in his following statements:
"What happened after the decree of constitutional rule? Has the state debt fallen? Are there now more roads, ports, and schools? Have the state laws become more logical and reasonable? Has personal security improved? Are families living better lives? Are people dying less and having more children? Has global opinion about us become less biased? The most effective medicine becomes harmful in the hands of those who are not doctors, or those who do not know how to prescribe the medicine. And I regret to say that recent events have shown the truthfulness of my words."

    Later on, a Muslim explorer by the name of Abdurreshid Ibrahim would say regarding the conflict between the Muslims and their western adversaries:
"Ahead of us is an ongoing struggle between the east and the west. Muslims have been in recent ties at the end of an intellectual defeat, more so than a military one. The weapons of war in today's western world are not really for military purposes. It's about entrenching the Muslims with fear of a philosophy and ideology contrary to their own whilst propagating that same ideology. If Muslims demand their freedom based on their religion Islam, and they deeply appreciate the meaning of Islam, they will realize the meaning of life, and it will then be possible for them be leaders and pioneers for all the countries of the east. There is no doubt that this would leave western nations despondent, whilst true civilization true civilization will once again brighten the world. This true civilization is Islam. 

    The Westernization era would shortly end with the reign of Sultan Abdul-Hamid, and instead, a period of useful Ottoman reform would begin with the modernization of technology, military, schools, transportation, communication, and hospitals. This reform would prove most fruitful, as it stuck to the Ottoman essence, rebuilt the reputation of the state and united Muslims around the world for a common cause. It proved that the Ottomans did not have to lean towards westernization and Europe for progress, but rather their own essence and the support of the Muslim world itself. However, with the dethroning of Abdul-hamid II, the Young Turks, who were then known as the Committee of Union and progress, took over. Thus, another failed attempt at Westernization occurred that cost the very existence of the empire. What the Ottoman pro-western reformers did not realize was that the true way of reform would have been an Ottoman way, not one imported from the west, as westernization did not improve the situation of the state, but rather fragmented the empire and weakened it to the point that it soon dissolved. Of the main reasons was nationalism, an idea that was born in Europe. The Young Turks would create a policy of Ultra-Turkish-nationalism and began Turkifying an empire that was home to dozens of different ethnicities and many different nations. They replaced Arab bureaucrats situated in key Arab provinces with Turkish officers, and imposed the Turkish language in key educational establishments in order to promote a Turk-centric society at large, which alienated other nations (especially Arabs) and provoked the Arab revolts. Thus, in the end, after the tragic downfall of the empire, it was soon realized that the words of Koci Bey had truth in them, and that the path of Abdul-Hamid II was one that would have established prosperity. However, it was too late when the Young Turks and the various other pro western reformers realized their mistakes. The prophecy of the patriarch had already come true.


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