On this very day, 3rd of March 1924, the world witnessed the greatest calamity that they have ever encountered, whether they knew it to be, or not. It was on this very day that the Turkish National Assembly, formed on the 23 April 1920, officially abolished the Caliphate, ridding the world of the justice and order that only a State founded on the rules and laws of the Creator can achieve.
In this short article we will look at some of the key reasons to how the Europeans influenced the ‘Young Turks’ as well as some underlying factors that arose much earlier.
Conflicts and the Change of State Structure
Internal conflicts are a problem for all civilizations due to the fact that man by his very nature seeks to dominate other men. These were often instigated by those who wish authority to be theirs, and backed with theological arguments to win over the masses. In the end, those who arose as victors had the bay’ah (pledge of allegiance) from the people and resumed the Caliphate upon the Ahkam Shari’yah (Divine Rule).
It is agreed upon that the structure of the Caliphate existed all the way up until the abolishment in 1924 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The Muslims had a leader to transfer the bay’ah to at all times, even during the era of decline. Some would claim that the change of term from Wazir to assistant was a sign that the Caliphate had shifted away from the proper structure of an Islamic State that had been predefined by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), however the assistants did not possess the characteristics of the ministers that is usually found in a democratic system. The power remained in the hands of the Caliph.
Historians claim that the Caliphate had become hereditary rule after Muawiyah (RA) designated his son Yazid as his successor. It is historically incorrect to understand the transference of the bay’ah as hereditary due to the fact that the bay’ah had been sought at all times. Ibn Katheer (may Allah be pleased with him) wrote in his well acclaimed book Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah that in the year 56 AH Muawiyah called on the people including those within the outlying territories to pledge allegiance to his son, Yazeed, to be his heir to the Caliphate after him. At which the masses did, even though the sons of Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab and Ali (may Allah be pleased with all of them) were not in favour of this, however they remained silent.
The hereditary rule that existed in Europe was completely different to way in which the bay’ah was transferred in history of the Caliphate. There is no pledge from the people for a new King or Queen and it is out of the control of the people in a hereditary system. Instead it is decreed that the King or Queen decides which one of their offspring assumes the power after their demise, or the next eldest in line.
One aspect that affected the Muslims, we can safely say, is when they came into contact with the Greek philosophers and their ideas. They were confronted with questions such as “Does man have a free will or is he forced to carry out certain actions?” or “Does man create his own actions or does God?”
This successfully created a split in the understanding of “Al Qadaa wal Qadar” and many groups emerged, such as Al Jabriya, Al Mu’tazila, and Ahl ul Sunnah with differing views only to be corrected in the 1950’s.
This signalled the decline in the understanding of the Muslims on how to tackle new realities that they faced, and this struggle continued all the way up until the very last days of the State. However this lack of understanding does not necessitate that the State was somewhat un-Islamic nor a fully functioning one.
No Attention for the Majlis ash-Shura (The Consultative Assembly)
After the era of ar-Rashidun Caliphate, the Majlis ash-Shura (the consultative assembly) had been abandoned and given less attention. The main reason for this was that the Majlis ash-Shura was not a basis for ruling but rather a part of the state’s structure and one of the rights of the people. It was indeed negligent on the part of the Caliph but it did not entail that the ruling system became un-Islamic. As it was still being enacted according to Shari’ah. One cannot assume that Shura (consultation) is the same as the democratic assembly, due to the fact it is only the expression of opinion on matters and not a branch of ruling as it is in a democratic set-up.
The West creating inroads into the Caliphate
It started to become clear that the West had been instigating the sectarian and nationalistic tendencies that were not existent previously, at least not at this level. This was especially the case in the birth of Wahhabism and the Saudi rule. The British supplied ibn Saud with weapons and money to seize parts of the Caliphate and effectively strike the State from within. After a period of lull it enraged again in 1788 under the leadership of Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud (The son of Mohammad ibn Saud) expanding out towards Kuwait and nearby areas. They presented the Muslims with an ultimatum that they either accept the Wahhabi math’hab or die by the sword and this was used in the end by the British as a political tool to destabilize the Caliphate and incite sectarian wars, not too different to what we are experiencing today.
The Khaleefah had ordered his Wali’s (governors) of Madinah and Baghdad to expel the Wahhabi’s and retake the land that had been taken but it was to no avail. In the end it was the Wali of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, a French agent that was only governor of Egypt due to his staged coup with the help of France, that successfully crushed the Wahhabi’s and rid that region of British influence. These proxy wars between two rival nations evidently proves that the Islamic State was in disarray and unable to handle its internal affairs. Its fate becoming a toy in the hands of the disbelievers. Muhammad Ali then revolted against the Caliphate to break away and was supported openly by France and occupied Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Only to later be faced with a strong army dispatched by the Caliph with the help of Britain, Russia and two German states.
Undercover Centres to Promote Arab-Turk Nationalism
The European countries for a while had been inciting nationalist chauvinism and encouraging separatist movements in Europe to the Muslim population that were either living there or studying abroad. They specifically focused their agenda on the Arabs and the Turks as they knew this to cause the most contention amongst the Muslims. The British and French embassies in Istanbul and other main areas of the Islamic State, had started this incitement.
Istanbul was the heart of the State and Beirut was an important province under the latter period of the Caliphate. It was these two areas that bore fruit for the West. The centres that were established gave the impression that they were spreading various sciences, just as any school would for children, however these centres were for adults.
It was in 1875 that the “Secret Association” was established in Beirut by five Christians who concentrated itself on the basis of a political idea. It became a political party based upon Arab nationalism and used to incite hatred against the Ottoman State, calling it a “Turkish State”. They spread leaflets discussing in length that Turkey usurped the Caliphate from the Arabs and violated the Shari’ah, all this despite the fact that those who ran this organisation were indeed Christian and only harboured hatred for Islam.
The Istanbul Centre was seen as a more short term ploy by the West and targeted the Caliphate’s officials in the heart of the State, Istanbul. The most devastating aspect of this was the establishment of the “Young Turks” movement whose alias was “Union & Progress”. This committee was formally established in Paris by Turkish youth that had been imbued with French thoughts and deeply cultured about the French revolution.
It was only a matter of time before the Young Turks would stage a coup and seize power of the State in 1908, and now inevitable that the Caliphate was heading for destruction. They enjoyed total control and in this time they would see Turkish Nationalism to be the most important priority for them as a party. The following year in 1908 they began to show contempt for the Arabic language and began teaching Arabic grammar and inflection in Turkish. To the point that the ambassador of the Ottoman State to Washington published a communique to the ‘Ottomans’ living in America that they were prohibited to send letters in Arabic, while fully aware that none of them could speak Turkish.
The unknown junior officer in the army who became a hero after his support for the Germans in World War I. He gained the trust and respect of the army and was treated with caution by those who opposed him due to his influence. Little did they know, he was plotting to seize power and withdraw from the war. It was only in 1917 when Baghdad fell at the hands of the British, that Mustafa Kemal openly called for the withdrawal from the war.
It was not long after in 1918 that Mustafa Kemal began gifting the enemies of the State parts of it. The British easily occupied Syria and when the German commander said to him “I cannot issue the order to execute such a plan and I cannot take the responsibility of leaving a large area of the Ottoman Empire as an easy prey to the enemy without giving a last shot.” Upon this Mustafa Kemal said “I take full responsibility.” During this time the Arab leaders who were spurred on by T.E. Lawrence asked Mustafa Kemal to use his influence to hold a unilateral peace treaty with the Allies. This influence became clear in his telegram to Caliph saying “I hope that we can meet as friends by the time the terms of the truce have been signed.” contrary to the Caliphs wishes.
Thus, the Caliphate was signed off and dismembered by the British and the French. They used their work on enraging nationalism as the basis for the borders. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 was agreed by Mustafa Kemal himself. After a few more years of discontent and the Europeans grasping at their claimed territories, the Islamic State was officially abolished on the 3rd of March 1924, by the Greater National Assembly.