Condition of the Muslims in late Ottoman period
Allah does not change the condition of a people until they themselves change. It is important to note that the weakness of the Muslims was a factor which allowed for the possibility of Western attack. After the Khulafa al-Rashideen, whilst the Muslims continued to expand and to reach new heights in knowledge, technology and civilisation, certain factors of weakness crept in. On the one hand, the Muslims’ understanding of Islam in its comprehensiveness began to fade as a level of scholarship began to fade and attention to the Arabic language and ijtihad also faded. On the other hand, the implementation of Islam also saw cracks as provinces were given more autonomy than centralised ruling demands, as mis- implementation of the bay’ah became commonplace and as some political groups sought to impose their sectarian views by force. These are some of the factors which led to Muslim weakness. By the late Uthmani period the effects of this weakness were significant and the Ummah faced a general intellectual decline, which also resulted in scientific and technological stagnation.
Nevertheless, whilst it important to understand that Muslim weakness allowed the West to pounce, it is equally important to appreciate the difference between the weakness of the state, due to actions of the Muslims themselves, and the destruction of the state, a result purely of actions by enemy states. The two are very different things, and the focus of this article is on the latter, that is, the role of the West in destroying the Khilafah.
“The Turkish weakness has created among the neighboring states a lust which must necessarily lead to the total ruin of a country already reduced to pieces … England had to change her tactics: she is trying to reserve for herself the best possible morsels, [S]he has started by seizing Cyprus to assure herself an observation post which com- mands Egypt and Syria”.
(French Consul in Aleppo (1898)
Implanting Seeds of Division & Weakness
The Western powers used missionary and political means to apply a policy of divide and conquer.
The kuffar of Europe began with missionary work. They had learnt from the crusades that as long as the Muslims were strongly attached to Islam and the Qur’an, the Khilafah could never be destroyed. So they sought to weaken the aqeedah of the Muslims and their Islamic concepts by the propagation of un-Islamic concepts and ideas. Ideas of nationalism, sectarianism, freedom, secularism, rebellion against the Khalifah and division.
Thus at the end of the 16th century the first missionary centre was established in Malta. It was the beginning of Western culture entering the Muslim world by British, French and American missionaries, who worked under the guise of educational and scientific institutions through centres and associations. Initially they did not progress beyond establishing a few small schools and publishing a few religious books, until, in 1820, the first missionary centre was established in Beirut and the missionary work began again in earnest. By 1834, the missionary expeditions spread out all over the region of al-Sham. In the same year, the noted American missionary Ely Smith opened a school for girls in Beirut with his wife.
In 1842, the American mission established the “Association of Arts and Sciences.” In 1850 the “Oriental Association” was established. In 1857 the “Syrian Scientific Association” was formed. Its program was designed to accommodate all sects and to serve as the spark for Arab nationalism. Wilfrid Blunt and James Finn were two British authors engaged in the covert British policy to establish an Arab caliphate and turn the Arabs against the Turks. They published The Future of Islam (1882) and James Finn’s Stirring Times (1880) respectively to this end.
Importantly, the missionaries had two main objectives:
1. To separate the Arabs from the Uthmani state;
2. To remove the Islamic bond from the Muslims; that is, to divide their unity which was based on Islam by pushing ideas of nationalism and sectarianism.
The effects of the missionary invasion were devastating. The Muslims educated in the missionary schools and centres became Westernised in their culture and become agents for the Western agenda. Many politicians too were made to stand against the ‘Uthmani State by promises of big rewards.
The missionary invasion was not designed as a solitary attack. It was rather the spearhead, behind which political and military attacks would follow. Thus when the effect of the missionary work in Syria and Lebanon came to fruition, as serious disturbances broke out in the mountains of Lebanon between the Christians and the Druze in 1841, Britain and France welcomed the opportunity to become involved in the dispute inciting civil strife. The French sided with the Maronites and the British sided with the Druze. The scenes were horrifying: theft, killing and pillage became common practice, whereas the Islamic State had not seen such sectarian violence over its thousand year history.
Also part of the political invasion was support for rebellion against the Uthmani Khilafah. The Western powers incited the people of the Balkans to rebel in 1804. They incited Greece to rebel in 1821. Most of the inhabitants of these places were subsequently expelled from their homes and forced to flee due to the savagery of the disbelievers. They went further still, secretly encouraging and supporting separatist movements, backing the nationalist movements and assisting in the establishment and operation of Turkish and Arab political parties such as the ‘Young Turks’, the ‘Union and Progress Party’ and the ‘Arab Independence Party.’