The Joy of Ramadan in Ottoman Times

Part 1
By Harun Yahya
Muslim thinker


 The Ottoman Empire founded in the wake of the Seljuks ruled a wide expanse of territory for some 600 years and was one of the main shapers of global politics.

For six centuries, it ruled over millions of members of the three faiths and of various schools and sects, with all their different languages, cultures, races, worldviews and beliefs. In addition, Ottoman rule was based not on oppression and compulsion, but on tolerance and social compromise.

One of the main reasons for this behavior on the part of the Empire was the conception of justice and the ideal known as I’la al-Qalimatullah (Spreading the Word of Allah) adopted by the state’s rulers and administrators.

One element of the culture and civilization of this great state, the protector of Muslims and standard-bearer of Islam down the centuries, thathas survived down to the present is the joy of Ramadan.

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Ramadan is a month of blessings and contains the Night of Power, described as “… better than a thousand months” in the Qur’an (Surat al-Qadr, 3), itself sent down as a guide for all mankind.

Throughout this month, all the Muslims of the world fulfill their fasting obligations and give thanks to our Lord for all His blessings. In Surat al-Baqara, Allah tells us this about Ramadan:

{The month of Ramadan is the one in which the Qur’an was sent down as guidance for mankind, with Clear Signs containing guidance and discrimination. Any of you who are resident for the month should fast it. But any of you who are ill or on a journey should fast a number of other days. Allah desires ease for you; He does not desire difficulty for you. You should complete the number of days and proclaim Allah’s greatness for the guidance He has given you so that hopefully you will be thankful.} (Al-Baqarah 2: 185)

The holy month of Ramadan is one of great joy and excitement in Turkey, just as it is in the rest of the Muslim world.

Many customs and traditions inherited from the Ottomans still persist in Turkey today; these include the practice of stringing up lights between the minarets of mosques and spelling out messages, offering food for iftar and suhur to the poor and arranging large public banquets and social activities in which the public come together to reinforce the feelings of friendship among them.

Islamic Moral Values Formed the Basis of Ottoman Civilization

One of the small principalities that emerged following the collapse of the authority of the Seljuk Empire was that of the Ottomans.

That Ottoman principality soon became one of the most highly developed and important states of the time. And it quickly grew into a world power harboring many nations with different faiths, languages, races and sects under its umbrella.

The Ottoman nations represented an area where three continents came together: south-east Europe, North Africa and south-west Asia. At its greatest, it covered an area of 24 million square kilometers.

South America covers approximately 21 million square kilometers, which gives an indication of the huge size of the Ottoman Empire at its peak. The Ottoman Empire was the last and longest-lived of the great civilizations founded in these lands over the course of history.

Ottoman Empire had no greater ambition than to be the standard-bearer of Islam and to spread Islamic justice
The Empire maintained its borders at their fullest extent for 400 years out of its total 600, and even lost relatively little territory during the subsequent 200 years known as the period of Ottoman decline.

The Ottomans maintained their power and influence right up until the dissolution in the beginning of the 20th century, and more than deserves the title of “world state.”

Military strength alone is obviously insufficient to account for the long life of such a great state. It was mainly spiritual values, in other words the moral values of Islam, from which it drew its strength and which made it worthy of the name of world state.

The Ottoman Empire had no greater ambition than to be the standard-bearer of Islam and to spread Islamic justice and moral values across the world.

For that reason, the Ottomans brought Islamic values to the territories they conquered with no compulsion or pressure being applied, just as commanded in the Qur’an itself.

For the Ottomans, it was not just the well-being of Muslims and Turks that mattered, but that of all the Empire’s subjects, no matter what their faith or tongue.

As Islamic moral values require, the Ottoman sultans largely assisted those who sought their help, whether these were believers or not, and were aware that this was one of their responsibilities before Allah.

The way that major modern states encourage research into Ottoman history and set aside special funds for the purpose indicates something very important.

They always sought to implement the climate of peace, security and tolerance, commanded in the Qur’an.
The Ottoman Empire had discovered the secret of being a great state, and maintained that secret over its 600 years of existence.

What the West has been utterly unable to understand with regard to the Ottomans is that the Empire had a strategic vision known in modern political literature as “moral politics.”

Imperialist powers, on the other hand, have always acted along the policy of realpolitik. For that reason, they had no compunctions about inflicting policies that would lead to long-term chaos and instability on a country for the sake of their own short-term interests.

But the Ottomans never permitted any chaos or instability in the lands over which they ruled. They always sought to implement the climate of peace and security, justice and tolerance, commanded in the Qur’an.

In addition, unlike other nations, the Ottomans never occupied these lands in a spirit of colonialism, but sought to strengthen the Muslim world and spread their faith without resorting to any pressure or compulsion.

Some European powers considered the peoples living in the lands they conquered as inferior, as second-class entities and adopted cruel and repressive policies towards them, but because of the Qur’anic moral values they espoused the Ottomans always treated members of all nations in a just, compassionate and tolerant manner.


Harun Yahya was born in Ankara in 1956. He studied fine arts at Istanbul's Mimar Sinan University and philosophy at Istanbul University. Since the 1980s, he has published many books on political, faith-related, and scientific issues.

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