Essay on Ottoman Empire


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My neighbor came to my house the other day and we got into a discussion about Islam and Christianity. She asked me some very powerful questions about the culture of Islam and the oppression of the female population in this society. Her questions were very challenging but sincere. I also sensed a feeling of pride and accomplishment in

her voice when she spoke of the freedom of living in the west for Christian woman and any other woman who chooses to come out. I decided to answer the question to the best of my knowledge by giving her a brief history of Islam and some of the most influential dynasties from the Muslim world and the important role that women played in stabilizing these cultures. I believe that the role of women has been misunderstood in the west because of the general racism towards the religion and the ignorance and bad propaganda created by the American leaders.

Muhammad who is the founder of this great religion is a great prophet known to all scholars. With the rise of the religion we experienced expansion in Crusader Jerusalem, expansion to North Africa and we improved on the great Spanish city of Cordoba. Not many know that in the 11th century Cordoba was one of the most important capitals in Europe. People of the most different cultures and religions – Jews, Muslims and Christians – were living peacefully together, and important philosophers, scientists and artists emerged from here.[1] But the Islamic world achieved greater success in the Gunpowder Empires from the period of 1300-1650.[2]  Within the Gunpowder Empires women played an intricate part in manufacturing goods for the economy, the creation of Art and running the affairs of the Harem. This paper is written to provide evidence of the importance of the Muslim women in these three dynasties. To continue, my conclusion will also give reasons to why women in some of these regions may not have achieved the freedom entitled to them.

The Ottomans are one of the greatest and most powerful civilizations of the modern period. Their moment of glory in the sixteenth century represents one of the heights of human creativity, optimism, and artistry. The empire they built was the largest and most influential of the Muslim empires of the modern period, and their culture and military expansion crossed over into Europe. Not since the expansion of Islam into Spain in the eighth century had Islam seemed poised to establish a European presence as it did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.[3]  To continue women had a very large influence on the power of the Sultans. This power was conceived in the Harem. To the Europeans a harem is given such a negative description. Many uneducated Europeans view a harem as a place where a man obtains sexual gratitude over women he controls as his slaves. These women are only considered to be in a harem for sexual depravity. In Arabic culture the term “harem” means sacred and referring to religious purity. Thus the concept is that of the privilege of privacy and the protection of women, whether in a modest home or the palace of the sultan.[4] These women were shrewd and very powerful behind the scenes. This was the opposite to Europe, where the powers of the various states strived to be public and in the open. The power in Ottoman Turkey was based on seclusion or division from loyal subjects. The Turkish Sultan was very much a King who ruled all of his territories. The vast territory was never divided up amongst his generals like the Roman Empire or European states. The only people, who had contact or aided in decisions were the Grand Vizier, also serve under the Kizlar Agha (master of the girls), the Chief Black Eunuch and the beautiful women of the harem.[5] On many occasions it was the Sultans favorite harem who, welded more influence or did more damage. A prime example of this in Ottoman history was the story of Roxalana.

Roxalana or Hurrem Sultan was a cruel but extraordinary woman who gained a tremendous amount of power from the harem. It was said that Suleyman was attracted to her silent charm and she became his favorite. She gave him a son and rose to become third most important woman in the harem. Roxanna was aware of Ottoman laws, which was established by Mehmed the Conqueror. The law stated that the eldest son would become Sultan and by rights he could kill all of is brothers to secure the crown for his offspring’s. Roxalana engineered the banishment of Suleyman first born son and mother to a far region of the empire. She was also behind the Sultan killing is best friend and minister Ibrahim. The influence of Roxalana and her secret cruel behavior also engineered the death of the true successor Mustafa the first born. Roxalana died before she could see one of her sons become Sultan, but she proved she was a very capable woman with power to destroy the lives of her enemies.harem2

The harem was therefore a place where a woman could manipulate the ruler if he was weak or proved unfit. To manipulate a King a woman needed to be educated. The harem was not only for sexual indulgences. The women of the Harem could paint, read, write and play many instruments. Not every woman was presented to the Sultan or rich magnate who could afford a harem. Only the most beautiful were presented to the master. To continue the head of the woman was in charge of the education of her son. All the sons were educated by their mothers. You had so much competition that you could not trust your child to be educated or cared for by another woman of the harem. This woman could poison that child.

The Ottoman woman from the harem not only instigated war she was involved in the economy. To continue this economy included the making of expensive rugs, silks, cottons and other luxury goods. These, merchandise were big part of trade and money for the nation and it was controlled by the woman because they could spend the profit as they felt fit. The skill of embroidery was important in Ottoman culture and these women created schools to teach other young girls the art of embroidery.

The woman of the harem, were also involved in the constructions of some very important mosque. In  1597 the Yeni Valide Mosque began construction. This plan was supervised by some of the most powerful women in the empire. It was Safiye Sultan who began the work until the death of her son Mehmud the third in 1603. [6]  Over the 63 years control of construction was supervised by three other women. The building was constructed for religious and social functions. The design was unique but it also gave the woman who completed the building visual access, she was no longer confined to the Harem. This was her work of art a woman’s work of art.

Once again the woman of Osman Empire had a lot of freedom they had better rights than  American or European women during the same period. These ordinary women worked all jobs. They were also exempt from tax. The woman jobs and opportunity showed no favors for the man. These women even had the freedom to own their own land and also obtain divorces and more important the right to own inheritances. It was just like today a woman could be awarded money in court for a divorce or even pay extra money to be divorced from an unwanted husband. Wealthy family’s also entrusted woman with land as this is Arabic law known in all regions.

The custom of clothing in Islam is very much the same for the man. As westerner’s we only have to look at the clothing of Arab men in Saudi Arabia and traditional Iran and Iraq. The woman is ordered always to wear a veil but the men’s clothing also orders him to be covered in the Ottoman period. He was also required to wear a hat.

The power of woman can only be compared to the European woman of that period and I will dear to say that a woman obtained more pleasures and social freedom within the Ottoman Empire. This freedom was evident in my studies of all, the European woman who were captured and sold into slavery. It seemed that they were happy in the new life of relaxing in the harem palaces of the Empire. To continue this hidden power could be accredited with  the downfall of the Empire and Sultans. Many Sultans were introduced to wine and alcohol by the  European women. In later years the Ottoman elite even started to dress more like Europeans. This influence of alcohol is against the teachings of our God but the women were powerful enough to indulge some Sultans in the evil of wine. The world of Islam was more advanced than Europe we were called the gunpowder empire because we for centuries in the region of these empires had learned mathematics and medicine along with philosophy from our Persian ancestors. In the centuries where we were assimilated into the Mongol and Turkic stock, the woman of these Islamic regions had inherited a fierce fight that  would be passed to the bloodlines of future Turks. I believe the bloodline of women coming from the Russian regions and Germanic slaves also aided in pushing Ottoman Turkey towards Europe. A prime example of this was the story of a beautiful young girl named Aimee du Buc De Rivery  who was taken captive and sold into slavery within the Ottoman Empire. Aimee took the name of Nakshedil. She introduced French culture to the people. During the reign of Abdul Hamid, Aimee taught him French and an ambassador was sent to France. I and many people know of this woman in the old movie from The Eighties called the favourite.

Ottoman rule although dangerous and cruel and maybe not the ideal place for a woman to strive. It did create some very influential women that brought unique cultural and artistic changes to this Islamic dynasty. The role women played was unique and sometimes it seemed they were worshipped like a divine God. The Ottoman Empire was base purely on territory thus making it the largest of the gunpowder empires. The second empire known as the Mughal dynasty was based in India and it also strived under the sometimes leadership of some remarkable women.

So many people look at our culture and past as people who destroyed cities and learning. The Europeans today consider us a nation of people who have no respect for the woman. In studying about the Mughal Empire based in India we will learn of Shah Jahan who built the most beautiful palace in the world for his wife Mumtaz Mahal in Agra.[7]


[1] Not many know that in 11th century it was one of the most important capitals in Europe. People of the most different cultures and religions – Jews, Muslims and Christians – were living peacefully together, and important philosophers, scientists and artists emerged from here.[1]

[2] the Gunpowder Empires from the period of  1300-1650.[2]

[3] The Ottomans are one of the greatest and most powerful civilizations of the modern period. Their moment of glory in the sixteenth century represents one of the heights of human creativity, optimism, and artistry. The empire they built was the largest and most influential of the Muslim empires of the modern period, and their culture and military expansion crossed over into Europe. Not since the expansion of Islam into Spain in the eighth century had Islam seemed poised to establish a European presence as it did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

4 Thus the concept is that of the privilege of privacy and the protection of women, whether in a modest home or the palace of the Sultan

[5] The only people, who had contact or aided in decisions were the Grand Vizier, also serve under the Kizlar Agha (master of the girls), the Chief Black Eunuch and the beautiful women of the harem.[5]

 

[6] It way Safiye Sultan who began the work until the death of her son Mehmud the third in 1603.

[7] woman. In studying about the Mughal Empire based in India we will learn of Shah Jahan who built the most beautiful palace in the world for his wife Mumtaz Mahal in Agra.[7]

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