Differences Between West and East Europe

Caliphate, Mosque, Suleiman the Magnificent

The Ottomans inherited a rich mixture of political traditions from vastly disparate ethnic groups: Turks, Persians, Mongols, Mesopotamian and, of course, Islam. The Ottoman state, like the Turkish, Mongol, and Mesopotamian states rested on a principle of absolute authority in the monarch. The nature of Ottoman autocracy, however, is greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted in the West, particularly in world history textbooks. The central function of the ruler or Sultan in Ottoman political theory was to guarantee justice (Adalet in Turkish) in the land. All authority hinges on the ruler's personal commitment to justice. This idea has both Turco - Persian and Islamic aspects. In Islamic political theory, the model of the just ruler was Solomon in the Hebrew histories (S├╝leyman is named after Solomon). The justice represented by the Solomonic ruler is a distributive justice; this is a justice of fairness and equity that comes closer to the Western notion of justice. In addition, however, adalet (justice) has Turco - Persian coordinates; in this tradition, adalet, or justice, is the protection of the helpless from the rapacity of corrupt and predatory government. In this sense, justice involves protecting the lowest members of society, the peasantry, from unfair taxation, corrupt magistracy, and inequitable courts. This, in Ottoman political theory, was the primary task of the Sultan. He personally protected his people from the excesses of government, such as predatory taxation and the corruption of local officials. For the Ottomans, the ruler could only guarantee this justice if he had absolute power. For if he was not an absolute ruler, that meant that he would be dependent on others and so subject to corruption. Absolute authority, then, was at the service of building a just government and laws rather than elevating the ruler above the law as Europeans have interpreted the Sultanate. In order to ensure adalet , the Ottomans set up a number of practices and...
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