A Peace Country
The OTTOMAN PALESTINE فلسطين في العهد العثماني Palestine History تاريخ فلسطين
Ottoman Jerusalem Ottoman Sultan Selim captured peacefully Jerusalem on 28 December 1516 from Mamluks, and they possessed the Holy City until 9 December 1917 more than 400 years. Palestine was a peace country during this ages.. Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in peace together in this holy lands under the Muslim Government. Ottomans built the Walls and Citadel of Jerusalem and they decorated the Muslim holy Aqsa Mosque
and the Qubbat as-Sakhra (Dome of the Rock) with tiles. The Mawlawi and Naqshibandi dervishes from Turkey and Central Asia built their lodges. These are all visible proof that there was a Ottoman Jerusalem.
Ottoman Jerusalem Famous Turkish world traveller Evliya Çelebi describes this event as follows: "All the Ulama and pious men went out to meet Selim Shah. They handed him the keys of the Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. He then made presents to all the notable people, exempted them from the onerous taxes and confirmed them Sultan Selim prostrated himself and exclaimed “Alhamdulillah I am the possessor of the first Qiblah”. This cry of Selim the possessor of the first Qiblah (praying direction) is characteristic of the relation between the Turkish Sultans and Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a holy city for all, and therefore the people were exempted from taxes and received subventions (Surra) from Istanbul every year. The Ottoman Sultan was servant of the holy places of Mecca and Medina and also of the 3rd Haram and the first Qiblah (Jerusalem). The relation between the High Porte (as Istanbul was called) and Jerusalem was also important because Jerusalem was not only a Holy city for the Muslims (like Mecca and Medina) but it was also the Holy city of Christians and Jews. This multi-Holiness made otherwise strategically unimportant city very important for Turkish Rulers,. Despite this importance only one Ottoman Sultan, Sultan Selim visited Jerusalem. But this was not uncommon. Because of power balances Sultans could not leave the capital. Even Sultan Selim did not visit the other two holy cities of Mecca and Medina. So it was only Jerusalem that was honoured with
a Royal Visit of Turkish Sultan. The First and only royal visit after Sultan Selim was by a Westerner and that was Kaiser Wilhelm II from Germany who visited it in 1898. Until 9 December 1917 for more 400 years the city and Palestine lived peacefully under Pax Ottomana. Despite this 400 year long rule of Turks in Jerusalem there are not many visible Turkish Architectural Works. No slender minarets or Royal Mosque as in Balkans was build. The reason for this was respect for the local traditions and because there was a congregational Mosque of Masjid el-Aqsa. No other Mosque could be built that could surpass the holy shrine. Never the less, the City of Jerusalem has still a visible Turkish Presence.
Ottoman Jerusalem One of the best methods to mark a ruler’s sovereignty over a city is by putting inscription on places where people gather. Inscription is a visible stamp of the ruler. There are also many inscriptions in the city’s strategic and prominent places. Preservation of old City of Jerusalem as it survives today is the work of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent as called by Westerners and Kanuni by Turks. He undertook great infrastructural works to make the city more secure. Most important of his works is the rebuilding of the walls of the city. Jerusalem had in Mamluk times no walls. Suleiman the Magnificent remade the citadel and also he undertook efforts to bring water to the city where 6 Sabils are still witness of this. He decorated his infrastructural works with inscriptions. There are/were 35 inscriptions in Jerusalem bearing the name of Sultan Suleiman. That is abundant compared to other cities even to the capital Istanbul, Jerusalem comes in the first place for containing so many well-preserved inscriptions of Sultan Suleiman.
Ottoman Jerusalem Suleiman had a special relationship with Jerusalem. Evliya Çelebi describes Sultan Suleiman’s special relationship with Jerusalem as follows: "In the year 926/1520 Sultan Suleiman acceded to the throne and conquered the fortress of Belgrade 927/1521 and later on the island of Rhodes 928/1522 and accumulated thereby intense wealth. The Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w) appeared to him in a blessed night and told him: “O Suleiman you will make many conquests You should spend these spoils on embellishing Mecca and Medina, and for the fortification of the citadel of Jerusalem in order to repulse the unbelievers, when they attempt to take possession during the reign of your followers. You should also embellish its sanctuary with a water basin and offer annual money gift to the dervishes there, and also embellish the Rock of Allah and rebuild Jerusalem.” "Such being the order of the prophet Suleiman sends from his spoils one thousand purses to Medina and another thousand purses to Jerusalem. Together with required material he dispatched the master architect Koca Sinan and transferred Lala Mustafa Pasha from the governorship of Egypt to that of Syria, this latter having been ordered to carry out the restoration of Jerusalem, gathered all the master builders, architects and sculptors available in Cairo, Damascus and Aleppo and send them to Jerusalem to rebuild it and to embellish the Holy Rock."
Ottoman Gaza, Muslims Reading Quran Suleiman never visited the city but the works he implemented in the city and the inscriptions set on his behalf are proof of this relationship. Thanks to his imperial patronage the city has preserved its character and integrity. It is still a living city. Old City of Jerusalem could be without any doubt called his city, Suleiman city. After these immense works of Sultan Suleiman, the city became less of a point of interest for the later Sultans. In the 18th and 19th. century when the western (mainly) christian powers showed interest in Jerusalem the city attracted again the attention of Ottoman Sultans. To call a few examples of later works: There is the restoration of the Citadel by Sultan Mahmud I., and Abdülhamid II., renovation of Tile works of the Dome of The Rock in 1874 by Sultan Abdülaziz. In later times Sultan Abdülhamid II was active in modernizing the Arab provinces and trying to integrate the holy cities to the capital Istanbul; by building railways, and telegraph lines. His 25th year of accession was overall celebrated with building of clock towers in ottoman cities. The British demolished the Jerusalem Clock tower and sabil in 1922. In 9 December 1917 Turkish army withdraw from the city which became a scene of change, violence, war and struggle that it never had seen in the thousand years before. When one nowadays walks in the streets of Jerusalem one can hear the voice of the city desiring for the peaceful times of Pax Ottomana.
The Ottomans and Sacred Places in Jerusalem
Ottoman Palestine, Jerusalem Turcis Cusembareich, 1657 There are close spiritual relations between the Cave of Hira in Mecca and the Aqsa Mosque, and between Mecca and Jerusalem. In Mecca— to be more specific, in the Cave of Hira—Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, devoted himself to worship, and the Revelation started there, while the Prophet’s journey from the Sacred Mosque (in Mecca) to the Aqsa Mosque ended in Jerusalem. The Aqsa Mosque was also the place from which the Prophet started his heavenly journey. In addition, the Aqsa Mosque was the first of the two qiblahs to which Muslims directed themselves in prayer, and it was the place where Prophet Muhammad led the other prophets in prayer. Mecca, on the other hand, is the place where the first of the Two Honorable Mosques lies, to which every Muslim pays a visit at least once in a lifetime if they can afford to do so. It is also the place where the Cave of Hira is located, where the Glorious Qur’an was revealed for the first time. This is why Muslims love and concern themselves with all these sacred places equally.
The Ottoman Conquest Jerusalem was under Mameluke rule before the Ottoman era, which lasted from 1517 until the downfall of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1517, Sultan Selim I put an end to the reign of the Mamelukes in Egypt, and consequently the same in Jerusalem, which was also under the Mamelukes’ sovereignty. Once Sultan Selim I had established authority over Syria, Egypt, including the Two Honorable Mosques (the Sacred Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina), and the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, he decreed that no new churches or places of worship were to be built in the cities, the towns, or the villages of these areas. However, the places of worship already built were to be maintained in order to ensure that they were used according to their original purposes. The old buildings could be demolished only if they were rebuilt in their original places and in the same style of construction. By making such a decree, Sultan Selim I followed the example of the Commander of the Faithful, Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab, who, in 15 AH (637), acknowledged the due rights of all non-Muslim sects in writing. This conduct was likewise repeated by Sultan Selim I when he conquered Jerusalem; he proclaimed a written decree (firman) stating that all the rights of the Christians and Jews were to be observed. He thus ensured for all the sects of non-Muslims the right to practice their rituals freely. This decree, which was penned by the then judge of Jerusalem, was copied out by the Armenian Sarkiz KarakoÃ§, from the original copy, which is found in the State Archives of the Armenian Patriarchy in Jerusalem. It is also found in the Book of Churches in the Prime Ministerial Ottoman Archives in Ankara. In the abovementioned decree, Sultan Selim I defined the rights of the non-Muslims and forbade any violations of such rights. The following is a translation of the Arabic text of the decree, which in turn has been translated from the Turkish version of the document.
The Text of the Decree of Jerusalem “Let this decree be duly abided by. This honorable decree, decreed by His Majesty, bearing the monogram of the Sultan, with God’s help, states that: With God’s help, we have arrived in Jerusalem on 25 Safar (the second month of the Arabic lunar calendar) 923 AH (1517). In the company of the other priest, the Armenian Patriarch, Sarkiz, who came asking us to grant his
followers favors, in which regard they requested us to let them keep under their control the churches and other places of worship which from ancient times have been under their administration, as well as to renew the covenant granted to them by Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab and Salahuddin al-Ayyubi. Thereupon, it has been decided that the Armenian priests will continue to be authorized to hold under their control—as they have been doing—the Church of Qiyamah, the Cave of Bethlehem, where Jesus Christ was born, the keys of the gate to the north, the two candle-sticks and their candles at the gate of Qiyamah, the great churches, Mar Yaqub, the Churches of Dayr Az-Zaytun, Habs al-Masih and Nablus, including the churches of the Abyssinians, Copts, and Assyrians. This honorable decree states that nobody from other religions shall interfere with them. I have issued this decree ordering this: let it be duly abided by. The control and disposition of the abovementioned great churches are to be for their owners. Similarly, this applies to the churches located in the suburbs and inside the borders of the Armenian Patriarchate in Mar Yaqub. The same also applies to the places of worship of other sects, such as the Abyssinians, Copts, and Assyrians, i.e., they also have the right to practice their rituals therein, and control such places of worship themselves. Further, no one has the right to interfere in appointing or dismissing those who are in charge of religious affairs and those who supervise the monks, priests, metropolitans, and bishops. Again, all their religious affairs, their churches, temples, monasteries, and other sacred places are under their authority, and no one has the right to interfere. People of all sects have the right to enter the Church of Qiyamah, to go to the center and the tomb of Virgin Mary in the suburbs of Jerusalem. They also have the right to visit the Cave where Jesus Christ was born, the keys of the gate in the north, the two candlesticks at the Church of Qiyamah, the lamps inside the cemetery, and the candles. This may be done by keeping the ceremonies and acts of worship in the church Qiyamah performed according to the agreed beliefs. Thus, people of any nation have the right to enter the Church of Qiyamah, walk around it, visit its door, see the gold and the precious stones in its windows, watch and visit the temple inside, and to visit all the wells and the shrine of Mar Yuhanna in the yard of the Church of Qiyamah. People also have the right to visit Habs al-Masih, which is located near Mar Yaqub in the suburbs, visit the rooms of Yaqub, which is also located in the suburbs, and visit the rooms and the guesthouses near the Cave of Bethlehem. Furthermore, the previously mentioned Armenian patriarchate has the right to manage all the gardens and olive farms, and in general their churches, temples, monasteries, and shrines. They also have full control over all their possessions, their endowments, and whatever they own. No one should obstruct any Armenian person who comes to visit the Church or the Well called “Zamzam.” Similarly, no one is to cause any harm to their farms, their place of worship, or their shrines; no one has the right to forbid them from reaching such places. From now on, this decree of the sultanate is to be abided to according to the way explained. No one from any different religion should interfere in their affairs. Let my honorable children, viziers, pious tutors, judges, beylerbeyis (governor general), governors of sanjaks (i.e. subdivisions of a province), voyvodes (native princes; governor or mayor), subashis (policy superintendents), and the like act by this. Finally, no one should oppose any of them, whatever the case may be, and nothing of what has previously been stated is to be altered or changed. If any one interferes, changes, or alters something, they will be considered to be among the criminals and sinners in God’s sight. All should know that my orders, and my decree which bears my monogram—I, the conqueror of the world—will be certified, and let the content of this decree be duly abided by. This is written in 923 after Hijrah.”
From this we can see that Sultan Selim I, having arrived in Jerusalem, received the Armenian patriarch, the clergymen, and subjects; he granted them safety, treated them generously, and, further, renewed Umar’s covenant and Salahuddin’s treaty. It is worth mentioning that such treatment was not restricted to Jerusalem alone, but rather was introduced in many other places. For instance, Sultan Selim I also issued a similar decree for the monks of Saint Catherine Monastery in Sinai once he settled in Cairo in 1517. In this decree, Sultan Selim granted the monks of Saint Catherine the same rights he had previously granted to the Armenian patriarchate, the Abyssinians, and the Assyrian Copts in Jerusalem. It is noteworthy that throughout history there has been no single incident in which a Muslim leader has besieged a church or a place of worship, attacked it, or forbade water or food to be taken inside such a place of worship. Never has a Muslim army or security force pursued anyone sought refuge in a place of worship. The document presented here and many other documents remained in force throughout the ages. Even the decree of Selim I to the monks of Saint Catherine Monastery was preserved there until the Israeli occupation of Sinai; its whereabouts are now unknown to the author.
The Golden Age: Suleyman the Magnificent Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (1520-1560) showed remarkable excellence in the field of construction after he had ascended the throne; he also excelled in the field of lawmaking. After 55 years, all the Arab lands, up until Telmisan in Morocco, were within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Suleyman bestowed much of the spoils he gained in wars on the Two Honorable Mosques, as well as the Aqsa Mosque. He covered the external walls of the Dome of the Rock Mosque with flagstones made of ceramics of superior quality instead of using mosaic, which would have needed to be repaired from time to time. The result of this process was that the mosque attained a blue ceramic covering, instead of a mixture of red and green; this tiling has given the mosque its magnificent appearance, which has remained for many centuries. Also, instead of mosaic, Sultan Suleyman had the lower part of the walls covered with marble and surrounded the building from above with a girdle of dark blue ceramic with inscriptions in white. He further ordered that colored glass be fixed in the windows, which were firmly placed within cavities in bright white gypsum and plaster. In addition, Sultan Suleyman ordered that all the walls of Jerusalem be repaired, to give them the appearance they maintained until recent times. It is worth mentioning that the Church of Marqad Isa had no bells until 1545, so he commanded that bells be hung there. In 1555 there was a small building over the shrine in the circular part of the Church of Qiyamah, so he commanded that another structure, which was to be well designed and suitable to the shrine, be built instead of the older one.At this time, the church was divided between various discordant Christian denominations. Such discordance prevented the necessary restoration and reconstruction from being carried out and thus no bell tower had been constructed. This was the case until 1719. By a government order, all the drawings, figures, and styles had been preserved as they originally were when the tower was being built and during the necessary restoration work. In fear of changing the original appearance, renovation work that should have been done to the Church of Qiyamah was abandoned. In 1808, a fire broke out in the Armenian Church, which led to the destruction of its entire western section, and it was agreed that the Armenians themselves would handle the necessary restoration and renovation work, by virtue of a decree issued by Sultan Mahmud II (1808–1839). According to existing texts, the gilding of the Dome of the Rock Mosque was renewed and the Sultan ordered that the Mosque be restored from the outside. It was the Christian denominational differences that prevented the Church of Marqad Isa and its ornaments from being renovated, and it would have been possible to make use of the remaining places so that the church may be turned back to the state it had during the Crusades.The nineteenth century witnessed many events that disrupted the peace and tranquility of Palestine, in general, and Jerusalem, in particular. For instance, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), who was under siege in Egypt, attacked Palestine. As he set siege to Acre, he sent some French troops to attack Jerusalem. So the Turkish and French troops fought in front of Yisra’il; that is in front of Marj bin Amir, but the French troops were defeated. Then, in 1831, Palestine, in particular Jerusalem, was captured by the troops of Muhammad Ali Pasha, and this city came under Egyptian rule until the Egyptian issue was solved. Shortly after the enthronement of Sultan Abdulmecid I (1839-1861), the great powers at that time put pressure on the region. Eventually, France joined these nations and a treaty was convened in 1840 that forced Egypt to leave Palestine. After that, England and Austria exercised substantial pressure to restore Jerusalem to Ottoman rule. This continued until the end of World War I. However, during the last stage of the war, namely on December 8, 1917, Jerusalem was occupied by the British. Thus, this sacred city which had enjoyed an independent administration during the Turkish Ottoman era now was under British administration until 1948.The story of Sultan `Abdulhamid II and what he did to protect Jerusalem is a long story that needs an
entire article devoted to it. As-Safsafi AHMAD AL-QATURI