After the Russo-Turkish War and the occupation of Algeria and Egypt by France, the Ottoman Empire realized they were left behind by the Western nations in terms of economic and military. In order to preserve the Empire from falling apart, in 1839, the 30th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Mahmud II came up with a series of reforms – Tanzimât (meaning “reorganization”). It intended to use the social system of the Western nations as references, and turn the Empire into a secular modern state. For example, Mahmud II tried to enhance his Empire’s civil liberty of different ethnic groups, instead of just focusing on the Muslims within the Ottoman Empire.
However, this attempt was against by the Muslim group. As Hourani states: “For a Muslim, however, whether he was Turkish or Arab, the seizure of power by Europe meant that his community was in danger” (Hourani 104). Jamal al-Din al-Afghani was one of the Muslims that advocated for a reform of Islam. His Pan-Islamic ideas advocated for the cooperation of different political units within the Muslim community and against the colonialists together. This ideology saw the power of Sultan-Caliph himself as “the most powerful ruler on earth” (Reid 267). Similar to how Russian claimed their protection towards the Ottoman Christians in the 18th century, this ideology portrayed Ottoman Sultan as the protector of all Muslim communities “bound to come to the succor of his oppressed co-believers if they could prove worthy of him” (Reid 267). The 32nd Sultan Abdülaziz, because of the resistance of the modernization movement, took advantage of this ideology and started to see himself as the powerful Caliph as well.
According to Reid, Pan-Islamism ideology helped Muslims in the Southeast Asian to defense Western colonial powers like Dutch and Portuguese. However, when confronting the converging attack of two Great Empirical powers like Britain and Russia, this ideology did not work well when it was applied in the frontier of China then.
In the next two part of my blog, I’m going to argue that Yakub Bey tried to turn his regime (Kashgaria) into an independent Muslim nation-state, and the state failed because he set up policies that caused internal strife inside his nation, and failed to gather enough military force to fight against Qing China.
Keywords: Ottoman Empire, Mahmud II, Abdülaziz, 19th century