Religious tolerance existed in the Ottoman Empire because religion was essential for maintaining peace and tranquility. Because they were relied on during crises and catastrophes, religious authorities were respected. Furthermore, religious leaders had a significant role to play in ensuring that individuals lived in peace.
Religious tolerance in the Ottoman Empire could not be compared to religious tolerance throughout the Roman Empire, since diversity was not permitted. Non-Muslims, known as dhimmis, were permitted to practice their faith under tight controls. Christians were free to live as long as they acknowledged that Islam was the pinnacle faith in the empire. The Ottoman Empire established laws promoting religious freedom. This was due to the clergy’s duty to govern and manage public life.
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The state established a relationship with religion as an organized body that has the ability to execute governmental policies. In this regard, the government came up with a number of measures intended to regulate the operations of religious institutions. Other empires maintained friendly ties with the Roman Empire, such as the Greek Orthodox Church (Karpat 78).
In the Ottoman Empire, religious tolerance was essential in a number of ways. One is that the empire was bordered on all sides by Christian nations. In fact, it was the only Islamic state in Europe. Christianity was embraced by neighboring nations, implying that Islam might have been relegated to a lesser role. For example, Greece never accepted Islam despite living next door.
It’s possible that the state would violate other religious groups who are supported by major powers in Europe if it didn’t protect their rights. To avoid political inconsistencies, the state granted other religious organizations permission to practice their beliefs. Furthermore, the government had a goal of expanding its borders. Religious toleration was required for this aim to be achieved.
Because subjugated territories may continue to practice their cultural customs, it became simple to take down other states. Many kingdoms and chiefdoms fought foreign invaders because they violated their cultural rights and freedoms. The empire was able on numerous occasions to work with other foreign powers on issues such as collaboration and security simply by promoting religious tolerance.
A millet system is a form of governance in which minorities are empowered to run their activities without being hindered by the majority. After adopting Islam, Arabs introduced the system in the Ottoman Empire. The millet system was formerly utilized to meet the demands of society’s lower classes. The government would supply basic requirements such as food to those in need.
Minor religious sects in the Ottoman Empire were granted a set of standards, known as “millets,” that regulated their behavior in the empire. Their presence in society was acknowledged legally since they were permitted to worship their gods without restriction. Under the millet system, the majority was regarded as the norm, while the minority was required to obey the laws and customs of the majority.
By recognizing that Islam was the Empire’s official religion, Christians and other minorities were supposed to follow Islamic laws. In this case, Christians and other minorities were not expected to act in a way that would endanger the Muslims’ faith system. Local leaders oversaw the millets, which lived in clusters and could even form their own states within the larger Ottoman Empire. They had the freedom to establish their own tax regimen.
Despite this, the Ottoman Empire authorities required their approval for the agencies to function. Furthermore, the millets might have their own legal codes that might only apply within their borders. Islamic law could be used if there was a contradiction between non-millets’ rules and regulations (Imber 12).
Millets were permitted to take care of their own business, but they were expected to demonstrate loyalty by paying taxes to the major government. The millet system was confined solely to confessional communities. Each community was free to establish its own laws as long as they did not conflict with those of the Ottoman Empire. In today’s global environment, the term nation refers to the same thing as a millet.
Under the millet system, each citizen was supposed to obey his or her country’s legislation. Despite this, several European nations opposed it. The millet system has been utilized by a variety of countries, notably Israel, to address religious and cultural issues. The millet system is beneficial because of the wide range of beliefs among the Israeli people. Israel is a sovereign nation founded in 1948 under the supervision of the United Nations.
The population of this nation has a rich culture that makes it difficult for the authorities to impose a single set of laws. The millet process aims to strengthen Jewish identity by applying Jewish customs. Furthermore, because other nations would be alienated if Israel applied Jewish laws to all its citizens, the country cannot afford to do so.
As a result, the state permits various organizations to apply their personal laws to settle inter-group disputes. Israeli legal pluralism (millet system) has not been successful, according to on experts. The Israeli government gives several organizations the authority to establish courts that will adjudicate family and marital matters under the millet system. Furthermore, each group is granted autonomy to create its own religious court, which is tasked with resolving issues regarding religion.
In this situation, groups can only endorse marriages that are acceptable in their cultures. Muslim males may marry Christian females in the Islamic religion, but a Muslim woman cannot marry a Christian male because it is against the culture of Islam. Each religion has its own laws and rules when it comes to divorce. The millet system allows each group to use the set of norms that is identified culturally. A Muslim should not marry a Jewish in Israel since it is against the law (14). This regulation appears in the constitution, implying that the millet system can’t be utilized in such circumstances.
In certain regions of France, the millet system is still in use. Men are expected to keep their hair long, while women must wear hijab. In such areas, there are strict rules regarding the sale of specific goods. Alcohol is not available to certain age groups, while pork is prohibited. Furthermore, there is a public order in place that regulates club licensing and cinemas and theaters. Because they do not follow Islamic law, social gatherings are known as places of vice.
The Ottoman regime tolerated religious diversity for the same reasons as those discussed in earlier parts of this chapter. However, because it favored one religion, religious tolerance was limited. Islam was recognized as the greatest faith by political elites, and other religions were compelled to submit to it.
This was a violation since it demonstrated prejudice against one religious group. Islamic teachings influenced the concept of religious tolerance, not the constitution. This implied that Islamic law would be utilized to interpret major religious questions. In this example, homosexuality and abortion were expressly forbidden by religious rules since Islam opposed them. Furthermore, Islam never permitted Muslims to socialize with one another. The empire’s tolerance of religion was limited because Muslims could not join other faiths.
Furthermore, leadership was restricted to Islamic religious authorities. Non-Muslims were expected to wear identifying clothing in public areas so that they could be distinguished from Muslims. In reality, no Muslims were prohibited from participating in important political processes like voting and vying for top jobs in government.
To be allowed to practice their customs freely, non-Muslims were required to pay a special tax known as jizya. This was a fee paid by everyone who was not a Muslim in order for them to exercise their own customs peacefully. In other words, non-believers were permitted to buy their freedom, whereas Muslims were unable to do so. Adults living under Islamic rule were expected to pay taxes as an indication of loyalty to the government. Those who never displayed allegiance to Islam were frequently persecuted and oppressed. Ottoman tolerance was founded on goodwill and cleverness since it only benefitted Turkish Muslims.
The empires of rulers who accepted a belief in religious tolerance have almost always enjoyed a lengthy duration of peace and expansion, as evidenced throughout history. Under Osman’s leadership, the Ottoman Empire embraces a policy of religious tolerance, which pays off with rapid territorial growth and a highly disciplined military made up of cavalry and janissaries.
The Yuan Dynasty, under the Mongols, is noteworthy for its tolerance towards a wide range of religions found throughout most of Asia and Eastern Europe. The Chinese from the late Ming Dynasty were exposed to contemporary European science and technology through cultural interactions with Christian missionaries as a result of the religious tolerance policy.
Religious tolerance, as shown in the previous section, encourages cultural exchange by allowing for the trading of goods, ideas, and scientific technologies. It also allows for the diversification of religion as a source of accommodation for an empire’s diverse populations. Not only does force religious uniformity generate chaos (such as religious persecutions), but it also puts an empire at risk of economic and political stagnation. The Safavid ruler Shah Isma’il is the paradigmatic example of religious intolerance. Shi’ism is the only legal form of Islam recognized, and other sects of Islam, such as Sunnism and even deviant Shi’ism, are severely persecuted.
Three new empires emerged in the late 1300s: the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mongol. The Ottoman Empire was established by Osman Turks on Turkey’s Anatolian Peninsula. Shah Ismail created the Safavid Dynasty. Babur was the founder of the Mongol Empire and unified India’s Hindu and Muslim kingdoms. The Ottoman, Safavid, and Mongol Empires all had a significant impact on Middle Eastern history. Their successes were based on their shared empire, though.
The Chinese emperors achieved success because of the advances they made. There are several factors that aided the Chinese emperors in unifying their empire. Many countries dominated areas of the Middle East during this time due to their military might, developed economy, and strong government.
In the Ottoman Empire, the sultan was the supreme commander of the Ottoman armies, which were well-disciplined and adequately funded. The court’s operations, ministries, and bureaucracy were impacted by military ideas and techniques. Warfare was a significant part of the state’s business, and it proved to be very cost-effective for Turks. Every year, the sultan planned and usually led a meticulously prepared campaign intended to achieve his objective: capturing new territory and extending his empire.
Each campaign season, a new army was created. They lured the conquered people into the Ottoman military and, at its peak, there were nearly 20,000 soldiers in the Ottoman forces. The Ottoman Empire was similar to other Muslim empires of the time in that it was a “powder empire,” relying on gunpowder technology for its success. Janissaries were the name given to the Ottoman Empire’s firearms; they were elite gunpowder troops who were transformed from Christians. They were enlisted from among the local Christian community and indoctrinated into Islam before being trained as foot soldiers to serve the Sultan.
Another contributing factor to the Ottomans’ dominance is religion. The inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire were devout Muslims, and they felt they had a holy duty to spread Islam across the world. Furthermore, since the Ottoman state was based on its beliefs, religious leaders also became political leaders. This made it simple for citizens to submit to their leader. Furthermore, because the government was linked to religion, the social upheaval was impossible in the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Empire, like the previous empires before it, was tolerant to non-Muslims. The non-Muslims paid a tax but were permitted to practice their religion or convert to Islam. Furthermore, as an example, take the Mongol Dynasty’s Emperor Akbar the Great (the grandson of Babur). He secured most of India with artillery and diplomacy by taking advantage of the Moguls’ weakness.
During his reign, Akbar the Great became well-known for his kind nature: he implemented a policy of religious tolerance and encouraged interfaith marriages – even marrying a Hindu queen himself. He had several accomplishments during his administration, including attempting to ban Sati, establishing separate market days for women, and reconciling differences with the Hindu majority.