Once upon a time, the Ottomans ruled

Dr Iftikhar Salahuddin engages audience as he narrates tale of old Ottoman Empire

Our Correspondent January 31, 2017

KARACHI: At the 42nd event of the Sixth Sense Forum lecture series at the Aga Khan University Hospital’s auditorium, physician Dr Iftikhar Salahuddin spun a tale, engaging the audience and captivating their imagination through a frank and detailed discussion on ‘Ottomans - The Last Muslim Empire’ Tuesday evening.

“The Ottomans ruled for over 550 years and had as many as 37 sultans,” he asserted. “The empire at one time was so strong that it had encompassed most of Asia, Europe and Africa in its fold.”

He went on to narrate how, in the 14th century, a man named Ottoman, took over as the founder of the empire. “His grandson, Sultan Murad, annexed most of the places with the help of Janissaries,” he said. “One of his descendants was Sultan Mehmet II, who was a remarkable man and who admired art and architecture to a great extent.”

However, he said, it was Mehmet’s desire to conquer the city of Constantinople when he was 21 years of age, which he did. “Entering the Topaki Palace gate, he changed the city’s name to Istanbul,” said the physician.

“Another notable Sultan was Salim Yavuz in the 16th Century, [who] was known to be a devout Sunni,” he said. “But his popular descendent was Sultan Suleiman, The Magnificent, who took many victories under his name, so much so that the non-Muslims feared the Turk bells from ringing in a place as far as an Austrian village.”

Salahuddin narrated a bit about the private lives of the sultans, most of whom were offspring from concubines. “But not to forget there were power feuds,” he said. “Besides, marrying for love was considered a very Western concept.”

“In 1556, with Suleiman’s death, a gradual decline was witnessed in the Ottoman Empire, from military level to governance,” he went on to narrate. “It was also the time when Russia took over Crimea and Ukraine [and] Napolean in the 18th Century became a great enemy of the Empire. Resultantly, 80% of the empire was lost.”

He talked about how the Young Turks Movement was inspired by the French Revolution, which had called for a parliamentary form of government. In 1922, Kemal Ataturk abolished the concept of Sultanate and later took the capital from Istanbul to Ankara, he maintained.  “It was Ataturk who saved Turkey of today and propelled it towards modernism,” he said. About the present leadership, Salahuddin appeared unaware as to where it was headed.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2017.


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