Islamic Society and the West: A Study of the Impact of Western Civilization on Moslem Culture in the Near East - Vol. 1

Islamic Society and the West: A Study of the Impact of Western Civilization on Moslem Culture in the Near East - Vol. 1

Islamic Society and the West: A Study of the Impact of Western Civilization on Moslem Culture in the Near East - Vol. 1

Islamic Society and the West: A Study of the Impact of Western Civilization on Moslem Culture in the Near East - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Having sketched the position of the Sultans in the Ottoman polity, we may next turn to the organization by which they ruled. In its nature this organization was to a great extent traditional: its main features were inherited from the Persian system, already somewhat 'Turkified', adopted by the Selcuḳids, which had itself been inherited, with modifications, from the 'Abbâsids through the Ǧaznawids. But the Ottoman system of government had features peculiar to itself; and these seem to have been due to the geographical situation of the Ottoman state in its early days. From the earliest times of Islâm the greatest monarch of the Domain of War had been the Byzantine Emperor. An attempt at the conquest of Constantinople had been made in the first century of the Hegira; and it had remained ever since an intermittent ambition of Moslem rulers so placed as to be able to dream of undertaking it. The prestige of Byzantium in Moslem eyes was immense. When, therefore, first all its former dependencies, and finally the city itself, fell to the Ottoman conquerors, it was inevitable that their conception of statecraft should be affected by that of the state they had overthrown. The adaptation was made the easier, moreover, by the fact that for centuries the Moslem and Byzantine forms of civilization had reacted strongly on one another, so that, largely through the growth of Armenian influence in the management of Byzantine affairs, the Empire had been progressively Easternized. There was, indeed, hardly one Ottoman institution but was modelled on those existing in one or another former and contemporary Moslem state. But they were welded in the new realm into a more consistent, and especially a more thoroughly organized, whole; and in this circumstance it is difficult not to detect Byzantine influence. The excessively bureaucratic character of Ottoman administration reflects, indeed, what we are accustomed to regard as Byzantinism par excellence. The notion of KḲânûn framing was an Ottoman innovation--and the very word is 'canon' in disguise. The recognition of the Sultan's 'urf initiative was another--and, though this would certainly have consorted well with the despotic power expected of the traditional Persian monarch, it was, in all likelihood, actually accorded in imitation of the Emperors.

It was only after the conquest of Constantinople in the mid-

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