We ended last week’s blog on aspirations with some that don’t get to see their aspirations to fruition, yet this does not mean that their contribution was in vain. Often, what is even more important than victory itself is building victory; instilling the moral change and belief that higher truths are attainable through rightful action, even if it comes from a small group. Breaking the chain is hard, so it is truly remarkable when you see the people who actually did this.
For instance, there is Ertugrul, he was the father of Osman. If you don’t know who is Osman, he is the founder of the Ottoman Empire, one of the greatest empires in history. Ertugrul himself became leader of the Kayi tribe (a Turkmen people from the Oghuz clan) at a low point in time. You had the crumbling Seljuk Dynasty (which he served under), coupled with encroachment on two fronts from the Mongols in the East and the Byzantines from the West while trying to establish a safe haven for his nomadic people in the middle of Anatolia (Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey). His lifetime dedication to his religion firstly and his duty towards his people pushed him to aspire for justice for his own people and for whoever lived in his domain. By controlling Sogut and its surroundings, he laid the groundwork for his descendance who were rulers of their destiny for 6 centuries. His youngest son Osman took over as leader and pursued his father’s quest and aspired to found a state and got a glimpse of victory. As for his 9th generation descendant, Mehmed II (Muhammad Al-Fatih, the conqueror), he literally aspired to great heights and tasted victory in conquering the capital of the Roman-Byzantine Empire: Constantinople. A city that was the capital of the Roman empire for over millennia and had unbreachable walls (that is, until Muhammad Al-Fatih).
Once again, his aspirations were cultivated at a very young age, his Sheikh (Akshamsaddin, who was also his mentor) cultivated within Mehmed the goal of conquering that city by repeating to him this following Hadith:
“Verily, you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will he be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!”
Moreover, the Ottoman Empire reached its apogee under the rule of Suleiman the magnificent, which is a nickname given in Europe at his time, in Arabic, he is known as Al-Kanuni (the lawgiver). His domain was only rivaled by Alexander the great and Suleiman’s tenure, 46 years, was the longest of any Ottoman Sultan or Caliph. Unfortunately, all things come to pass. Once squandering and decadence are prevalent in a society, the auto-destruct sequence has been launched and is practically impossible to stop even if you have a head of state that is well-intentioned or rightful. That is what happened during the life of Abdulhamid II, the last true Ottoman Sultan and Caliph for Muslims. After him, the position became a figurehead and was abolished when Mustafa Kemal took over as president after WWI.
Now, do not think that building victory is only reserved for history or is not attainable nowadays. A contemporary example of building victory is found today in… you’ve guessed it… Modern-day Turkey. During the reign of Mustafa Kemal, wrongfully nicknamed Ataturk (meaning Father of Turks, in an affectionate way), he destroyed anything that had to do with Islam and turned towards secularism and nationalism. After his death, a series of military coups followed to overturn any government that might lean towards Islam (the most famous one, the coup, and execution of prime minister Adnan Menderes). However, a decade later, Necmettin Erbakan showed up on the political playing field. He founded multiple political parties based on Islamic principles. Obviously, these parties were often banned or dissolved and Erbakan would commute between political life and prison on a regular basis. He passed most of his adult life on the political scene striving to implement change, obtaining at best a flickering success… baby steps. It is only when Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a pupil of Erbakan, became the mayor of Istanbul, that the tide started to turn. His pragmatic stance on social and economic issues granted him popular support. In the late 90’s, the political party Erdogan was part of was deemed unconstitutional on grounds that it threatened the secularism of the state. It is then that the Turkish people truly saw his intentions and his convictions. After his imprisonment, his popularity grew, and he ultimately became the president of Turkey. We are now witnessing a glimpse of victory, and only Allah knows where things will go from here.
All these aforementioned people (except for Ataturk) had a willingness to support the religion of Allah. It is not to say that they are perfect and without fault. Just the fact of being in politics tarnishes a person. Politics at an international scale is like dealing with the mafia, militias, and pimps, but under international conventions; it is therefore practically impossible to come out white like snow (I don’t mean this as a drug pun). At best, a leader is often compelled to choose between the lesser evil rather than do what is best. However, these people (except for Ataturk, once again) did their best for their religion and people; and that is a big difference from most current leaders of predominantly Muslim countries.