The Ottoman Empire and Religion

Covering parts of three continents, the Ottoman Empire was at its peak of its power between the sixteenth and seventeenth century. It was also known as the Ottoman state and it existed from around the year February 1299 to the 1st of November the year 1922.It was founded under the leadership of Osman, a man believed to have been given the vision to establish this magnificent empire. It is a myth that is still being held by the people of the region today.

The modern day position of the Ottoman Empire is Turkey.Also, the modern day Turks are the citizens of the Ottoman Empire. The leadership after Osman took up the title Sultan and this together with the Caliphate system formed the highest ranking administrative positions in the empire. Leadership was hereditary meaning that it was transferred from father to son. By many accounts, this empire has been displayed as an Islamic establishment. But it had significant differences with the other Islamic establishments that existed during this time.

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The judicial system of this empire was quite accommodative for an Islamic system. It had Islamic courts which were the primary courts and they formed the cornerstone of administration in the empire. But there were also other courts that were not based on Sharia law and were meant for the interpretation of the law as understood by non-Muslims who were part of the empire. They included Jews and Christians who had been welcomed to the empire and lived in groupings called millets. But the Jews and Christians had the freedom to take their cases to the Islamic courts if they wanted to and many did as a way of giving judicial credence to their cases, given the immense unofficial respect that was given to the Islamic courts. It should be noted that this recognition was informal and any decision from the other courts were equally respected in the empire.

The third type of courts was the trade/commercial/industrial or business courts. In these courts, disputes emanating from business within the empire were solved. The parties involved determined the inclination and sometimes, both Islamic law experts and Christian and Jewish judicial officers would sit side by side and decide a case. They were more concerned with securing justice and fairness and religion was never a key consideration. New laws into the three types of courts came from the top leadership as well as the judicial experts of the three courts. The stand of the citizens of the empire was key in coming up with new laws and the emperor always ensured that any new laws were people-friendly.

The differences between the Ottoman Empire and other Islamic establishments of the time include the lifestyle of the people that had both western and eastern European elements instead of Asian or Middle Eastern like most Islamic states of the time. Most Islamic entities of that time detested western cultural influences and made it mandatory for their citizens to adhere to the Islamic way of life. The system was also very tolerant in terms of religion to the extent that they allowed Jews and Christians to worship freely without being persecuted. In other Islamic states of that time it is only Sharia law that was recognized and members of other groups were subjected to great persecution especially on the grounds of religion. Plurality was accepted and considered a strength instead of a weakness that would have torn the empire apart.

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