Joined: Jun 2010
a humble essay (mine): Nonmuslims in Ottoman Empire in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
EMPIRE AND SUBJECTS: NONMUSLIMS IN OTTOMAN EMPIRE IN SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES
In any event, the first thing that we can say ( even this is known phonmenon) is Ottoman is an empire. As pre-national state structures, empires have multinational ethnic mould; there is no terrain for ethnic identity in the empire logic. This point is essential in terms of our topic; therefore, we are going to examine the paradigm in question a bit.
In the earth which is before the process of “to become a nation”, there was a different cognitive framework which is social and political life; there were no notions like nation, citizenship, civil law, etc. In that era, the identity what is dominant in social sense is religious identity and as part of this kind of identity, people were subjects of states. And of course, judicial matters were a part of religious rules and religious institutions were dominant on this area mainly. İn short, there was religious identity instead of national identity (so the people are not citizenship, they are subjects) and there was religious rules instead of civil law. All of this cognitive framework has began turn to another cognitive channel with the process of “to become a nation”. The things like nation, religion are elements of culture and collective conscious (so, superstructure) basically. On the other hand, we can say that there are social, economic (so, substructure) reasons behind suchlike changes (superstructural, cultural). Developing trade, illumination and reform movements have changed class frame of Europa; capitalism has began rise. The dynamics behind the process of “ to become nation” are these. The breakpoint in question is eighteenth century and beginning of nineteenth century. Before of this, there was an earth which is developing dynamics. We are going to look at seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of Ottoman empire and relations between nonmuslims and governing aparatus of Ottoman state. The era in question is before the process “to become a nation” and Ottoman geography is distant from processes and movements in Europa. Therefore, the picture before the process of “to become a nation” is current in Ottomans: State and subjects of it.
First of all, let's we gonna look at the judicial and social position of nonmuslims in Ottoman state understanding.
JUDİCİAL AND SOCİAL POSİTİON OF NONMUSLİMS İN OTTOMAN EMPİRE
The point that people make contact with state is law primarily. For the states, there is definition of the people; this definitions can be changed from state to other state and according to their ideologies.
As an (in the pre-national state era) empire, Ottoman empire have islamic state ideology; founder ideology was the İslam. There was a specific definition for the nonmuslims in Ottoman empire. This definition is the term of “zımmi”. Zımmi means the nonmuslim people who accept the authority of İslamic state. Lifes and properties of zımmi is protected by İslamic state and they obey it and depend on it's law too. Zımmi have gave a kind of head tax in exchange for this protection.
The name of this tax was “jizyah”. Zımmi were exempt from military service and they could continue their religious, economic and social life as before. As part of millet system, each religious community( Christians, jews, armenians, etc.) had own partial judicial system (of course, İslamic law had top location ); there were own institutions to divorce, get married and for heritage. On the other hand, although zımmi had entity rights, muslims were more dominant in public space and there were rules which is nonmuslims should obey within islamic law. For instance: each nonmuslim group should dressed specific color and form peculiar to themselves and at the same time, they should worshiped secretly; in addition to these, riding a horse was forbidden for them in bazaars and streets (Zubaida, 2003: 97). On the other hand, to islamize nonmuslim children was forbidden absolutely too. (except devshirme system) (Zubaida, 2003: 182). As to Sultan, he was the protector of this order as divine.
In brief, nonmuslims had own habitat and partial autonomic judicial system but on the other hand, there were dominant İslamic rules which is they should obey in public space and social life.
This point is also nonmuslim's contact plane with Ottoman governing apparatus (especially judicial area).
Now, we are going to focus this point with concrete examples and handle seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
SEVENTEENTH AND EİGHTEENTH CENTURİES WİTH CONCRETE EXAMPLES
As we said previously, the point that people make contact with state is law primarily. Thereby, the examples have judicial context. A total deduction is not seem possible with regard to relations between nonmuslims and state. Therefore, we are going to focus local examples of Ottoman empire. One of these is Bursa, the first throne city of Ottomans and other is Sofia. While remarkable part of Bursa is proximity to administrative centre, remerkable part of Sofia is distance relatively. Unquestionably, there are differences in terms of politic and social conditions. We are going to try to interpret both of them in terms of relations between nonmuslims and state.
Bursa is the first throne city of Ottoman and also important mercantile centre in the west Anatolia. Before the conquest, population of city had been comprised Rums mostly. After the conquest, with the intensive migration, muslim population have began consitute massive part of population. Wheler (a rover) who have been in Bursa in the beginning of seventeenth century recorded which is there are 40.000 turks with 12.000 jews and limited number Rums and armenians in Bursa.1 When we look at the kadı sicils, we see that Rums, armenians and jews apply to kadı courts concerning divorce, get married, alimony in despite of they are not oblige. According to Karataş, When we look at kadı sicils, we see that some armenians apply to kadı courts (especially concerning get married) in despite of their ecclesiastics try to prevent (2005). Because armenians have paid less marry tax in kadı courts than pay to churchs (2005). Furthermore, armenian women wanted to utilize from mehir practice in İslamic Law. We can say same thing about divorce. Within church rules, divorce was quite difficult matter; İslamic law was more flexible than church rules in this matter. Another application reason is matters about trusts and associations; so administrative matters (Because kadı courts are part of administrative centre of state). For instance, Armenians who inhabitant Bursa have applied to Divan-ı Hümayun to restoration own old church in the end of eighteenth century (2005). İndustrial disputes is reason of application as well.
Sofia was the most important Orthodox Christian centre in Balkan peninsula during the tenth and twelfth centuries (Gradeva, 1997). Next centuries, in the Ottoman era, the region has began become Islamic; in the en of the sixteenth century about 99 percent of the population of this city were Muslims (Gradeva, 1997). In seventeenth century, Sofia was a stronghold of Ottoman authority in the Balkans in terms of political, religious and military. We see that authority borders of orthodox church was identified by “berats” in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; Orthodox Church have
unlimited authority on own community virtually in terms of religious matters ( the subjects like divorce, get married and heritage have corresponded to religious matters in that era). From the sixteenth century onwards, the Church has enhanced protectionist politics against the Muslims for own community; in an effort to avoid conversion to Islam (Graveda, 1997). May well be, the Christians have applied Kadı courts concerning administrative and economic matters rahter than familial matters in Sofia.
İN PLACE OF CONCLUSİON
We can say that sheriat is a kind of pre-existed civil law. Civil law cases relating to family and inheritance law; and criminal law cases. Sheriat is related with the same matters too. Nonmuslims had right of apply to kadı courts whenever they want. They were obliged to go to Kadı courts only in the matters related with muslims and criminal incidents. For the rest, Nonmuslims had own judicial constitutions within Millet system.
We have examined two local examples and we can conclude from these examples instead of conclusion: First of all, As pre-national state period, in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Ottomans multinational structure did not shelter any national or ethnic terms own cultural world. İn conjunction with this phenomenon, as religious communities; under the dominant islamic understanding; nonmuslims had own habitat and institutional structures in public space relatively. Both in Bursa and Sofia, the phenomenon that we can see is Nonmuslims were quite pragmatist regarding relations with the state. This pragmatism sometimes reflect as phenomenon of conversion but it usually show itself as go from own church to kadı courts.
- Zubaida, Sami. 2003. İslam Dünyasında Hukuk Ve İktidar. İstanbul: İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları
- Karataş, Ali İhsan. 2005. Fethinden XIX. Yüzyılın Sonlarına Kadar Bursa'da Ermeniler. T.C Uludağ Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi Cilt: 14, Sayı: 2
- Gradeva, Rossitsa. 1997. Orthodox Christians İn the Kadı Courts: The Practice of the Sofia Sheriat Court, Seventeenth Century. İslamic Law and Society, Vol 4, No 1.