Religious policy of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II in the Syrian vilayets of the Ottoman Empire (1876-1909): methods and symbols

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The author examines the religious and political course of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909), aimed at strengthening the unity of the Ottoman state and society based on the principles of Islam, and the implementation of this strategy in the Syrian provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The research is based on reports of contemporaries, as well as research works in Russian and English. Particular attention is paid to the strategic role of Ottoman Syria (including Lebanon and Palestine) in the context of strengthening the religious authority of the Sultan as the caliph of all Muslims and recruiting prominent ideologues and supporters of Islamic traditionalism from the Syrian vilayets to serve the Sultan. The author especially examines the role of wo representatives of the Muslim intellectual elite: the Sufi sheikh Abu-l-Huda al-Sayyadi as a close associate of the Sultan who provided patronage to the conservative ulama, as well as Ahmad Izzet Pasha al-Abid, who became the main inspirer of the Hejaz Railway. The article also reveals the features of the state policy towards religious minorities (both Muslim and non-Muslim) and migration processes in the Syrian provinces. With the weakening of the international positions of the Ottoman Empire and the strengthening of foreign interference, Syria set an example of relatively successful modernization based on Islamic tradition. At the same time, confessional identity continued to dominate over ethnicity, and the emerging feelings of Arab and Syrian patriotism did not conflict with the principle of Islamic unity of the subjects of the Sultan-Caliph.

About the authors

Dmitry Rustemovich Zhantiev

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Author for correspondence.

candidate of sciences (history), associate professor department of Middle and Near East History, Institute of Asian and African Studies

11, building 1, ul. Mokhovaya, Moscow, Russian Federation, 125009


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