Turks defrauding history with Ottoman monuments narrative

Turks defrauding history with Ottoman monuments narrative

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Construction work on the Hijaz railway, part of the Ottoman network that ran from Damascus to Medina, in 1906. (Library of Congress)

The Ottoman Turks committed the most severe crimes against Arab Muslims and enjoyed oppressing and killing them. The Turks, in general, are now adopting a deceptive policy, which is that they cry over Islam and the sultanate, but they are in fact crying for their pride and power and presenting it in the name and protection of Islam for propaganda purposes. They aim to gain the support of Muslims of different nationalities, while, on the other hand, seeking to restore this power and authority through deceptive propaganda.

Turkish historian Zakaria Qurshon, in a series of recent articles, talked about the establishment of the nation state as a magical method for researching history, and he argued that it was an inevitable matter. And when he wanted to criticize, he said that Saudi Arabia went completely against this trend. That, instead of seeking to reveal history, it focused on denying it, justifying this with the rejection of the Bedouin culture of civil history and the consignment of Wahhabism — as he said — to history.

If we assume that Qurshon discussed the creation of nation states and a keenness to use national history reasonably, as he claims, we find that Saudi Arabia has a holistic and deeper view of this proposition. History in Saudi Arabia is discussed and presented based on the general framework of the history of Islam since the beginning of the Prophet’s mission in Makkah and its extension beyond that to the Arabian Peninsula.

However, such a matter is difficult for Qurshon to absorb. Present-day Turkey seeks to synthetically formulate a history of its own that represents its nationality, as Qurshon and his supporters understand. But the history in Saudi Arabia represents the pure source of the original culture from which the Turkish culture branched off. This matter is difficult to understand for those who are not aware that the sources have a different stereotype to the branches.

As for accusing the Wahhabi concept, as Qurshon does, of being based on insulting the era before Sheikh Mohammed ibn Abd Al-Wahhab and renouncing everything before the 18th century to establish a new era that does not recognize the past or history, this confirms the failure of the general perception of Qurshon regarding the Saudi view of history, as none of our Saudi sources have completely rejected history.

We can mention here what the Algerian scholar Mohammed Al-Hajwi said about the Ottoman promotion of the term Wahhabism and how it was unfairly attacked. Al-Hajwi talks about the teachings of Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab and the lies the Ottomans spread about them. He said: “The issue is political, not religious, and the people of religion are, in fact, in agreement and the Ottoman Turks raised this evil and spread this false propaganda against Abdullah bin Saud and kicked them (the Saudis) out of the Two Holy Mosques. They (the Ottoman Turks) were the ones who sought the help of the governor of Egypt, Mohammed Ali Pasha, and this helped them to expel the Wahhabis from the Two Holy Mosques and capture Abdullah bin Saud.

“It is true that the Turks are the ones who gave the Hanbalis of Najd the name of Wahhabis and they were the ones who spread the accusations and lies in the Islamic world about them and hired Muslim scholars in all countries to compose, write and lie about the Hanbalis of Najd. And they were the ones who wrote a book against Wahhabism and attributed it to Sheikh Suleiman ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, the brother of Imam Sheikh Mohammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, and they are the ones who took Abdullah bin Saud as a prisoner to Istanbul, but they breached the covenant they made with him and murdered him brutally. I believe that foreigners played a part in this war that the Ottoman Turks started on Abdullah bin Saud because they were upset that he had seized the Hijaz and spread security, justice, and mercy in the area.”

The Sufi concept dominated Qurshon’s arguments as he looked into Saudi history. He was not aware of the issue of differentiating between historical and doctrinal matters. The Saudi history books discuss history with everything in it and doctrinal books criticized the mystical Sufi manifestations, in which the Ottomans participated both directly and indirectly. The ideological proposition in Saudi Arabia does not recognize the name Wahhabism, which Qurshon uses and which represents an obsession in Ottoman and Turkish Sufi history. They are either confused between history and belief or they may understand the ideological proposition in the context of history defending their Sufi beliefs.

Qurshon himself previously wrote in one of his books about the teachings of Sheikh Mohammed ibn Abd Al-Wahhab in a way that expressly contradicted what he presented in his article. The difference between the two views is that the book was written at a stage when the Turks were not hostile to Saudi Arabia, while the article was written with a purely political goal that has nothing to do with scientific logic.

In his book, Qurshon wrote: “There is a great agreement between the ideas of Mohammed ibn Abd Al-Wahhab that aims to take the religion back to its original form and between the ideas of the Bedouins and their nature that accepted that.” He added: “It is correct, then, to describe this movement, or what is called Salafism, that it is a call to revive the origins and it is not a new doctrine or belief.”

In his article, however, he says that the Saudis discovered after 1960 that they could use history and that Saudi Arabia did not witness a search for history until the last quarter of the last century. He criticized the Najd region as representing an unstable culture and stated that it represents an obstacle for the Saudis.

Of course, here he contradicts everyone, given that Saudi sources are the best witness to the stages of writing about history and caring for it from early periods, whether at the official level or in the jurisprudence of individuals and their writings. Naturally, history in Saudi Arabia went through several stages of development, just like any other history. No logical person may understand his description of Najd as an unstable region or that it represents an obstacle for the Saudis, except as an abuse that is not based on logic.

Qurshon further claims that Umm Al-Qura University studies in 1980 and the Madinah Research and Studies Center angered the Saudi authorities for discussing the Ottoman era. This is a mere illusion that is not supported by logic. Studies and research continue and have not been interrupted in Umm Al-Qura University, the Madinah Research and Studies Center or any government institution, including the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah).

To give his claims importance and a presence, Qurshon spoke about King Salman, describing him as a good reader of history. In fact, Qurshon did not say anything new. King Salman has a balanced national approach, thought and orientation, and he is an important historical figure with his views, directions, outlook and historical analyses.

Qurshon wanted to suggest that King Salman discovered the possibility of using history by drawing attention from the Hijaz toward Riyadh. This argument is nothing but a hypothesis that he contemplates according to his own political orientations, while the reality is completely to the contrary. It is well known that the research centers and institutions that deal with and support history have published much more about the Hijaz than Riyadh and Najd, but we are not in the process of talking about differentiating between the Saudi regions because they are one unit. Suspicious goals cannot differentiate between various parts of the country. The national awareness of history has become a crisis for the enemies of Saudi Arabia because they seek to deepen a non-existent concept about dividing the country into conflicting and contradictory parts. This is far from the Saudi reality, but the manifestations of national unity have become troublesome for the enemies of the country.

Qurshon himself one day aspired to Saudi patronage, but he and his ilk cannot resort to historical extortion by manipulating phrases and exaggerating the fantasies they see. The homeland and its history are greater and deeper than blackmail, delusion and fraud.

Najd is a fixation of Ottoman history. Therefore, Qurshon emphasizes the description of the Najdi footprint, the Saudi expansion of the Two Holy Mosques, and says that it was trying to erase the Ottoman monuments. As usual, he contradicts himself by saying, on the one hand, that the expansions were necessary for the provision of essential pilgrimage services. On the other, he indicates that the expansions sought to obliterate the Ottoman monuments and we did not know how to execute the expansions while preserving their historical monuments.

What are the Ottoman monuments that must be preserved? And who are the Ottomans, for whom expansion must be stopped to preserve their monuments? Are their relics essential for serving the pilgrims? Or are they considered an essential component of the Earth that must be preserved?

The Ottoman Empire in Hijaz was nothing but a name and some stones, and there are many crimes and torments that they bequeathed to history, so how can their monuments be preserved?

The homeland and its history are greater and deeper than blackmail, delusion and fraud.

Talal Al-Torifi

If we are going to talk about monuments, we should dig deeper and demand the return of our antiquities that were looted from the Two Holy Mosques by the Turks and displayed in their museums. Here lies the difference between those who seek renaissance to serve Islam and Muslims, and those who try to defraud history and logic by imposing what has no value. At the same time, they forget that they stole a national right, which they must return. Therefore, the monuments are considered a dangerous file that Turkey must handle with caution. If this file is opened, things will turn against them and everything related to the Two Holy Mosques and the Arabian Peninsula will be formally and publicly judged by global public opinion.

I think that this is only a matter of time. Otherwise, the matter is settled and documented, and what belongs to the homeland will return to it soon with the will of God Almighty. 

  • Prof. Talal Al-Torifi is a Saudi academic and media specialist.

Read parts 1., 2. and 3. in the five-part series: 

1. Turks’ pre-Ottoman history based on myth and imagination

2. Turkey repeating Ottoman Empire’s crimes against Arabs

3. Turkish propaganda ignores Ottoman violations of Two Holy Mosques

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view