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ITTIHAD-I MUHAMMADI CEMIYETI. A political and religious organization was founded around the newspaper Volkan (Volcano) in February I9o9 by Hafiz Dervis Vahdeti, a Naqshbandi from Cyprus. Named Ittihad-i Muhammadi Cemiyeti (Muhammadan Union), it is known for its role in the insurrection of April I9o9 in Istanbul that aimed to destroy the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP).

Conservative forces in the Ottoman Empire had been alarmed by the winds of change that blew through the capital after the restoration of the 1876 constitution in July I9o8. The press flourished with the end of censorship, workers went on strike, and smart middle-class women left the home to take their place in public life alongside men. The world of the conservatives was shaken, and they blamed the constitution. They objected to the sultan-caliph’s loss of power and to the weakened role of shari`ah in daily life. Initially, this opposition took religious form.

The first manifestation of religious reaction was the “Blind Ali Incident” of 7 October I9o8. A certain Hoca Ali Efendi led a large crowd to Yildiz Palace and asked Sultan Abdulhamid to abolish the constitution and restore the Shari ah, even though it was still recognized. This demonstration proved ineffective; it was spontaneous and disorganized and lacked the support of the liberal-conservative faction within the Young Turk movement.

During the first nine months of revolutionary activity, the real struggle for power was between the radical Unionists and the moderate liberals. The liberals were sure that they would win the December elections, but the elections were won by the CUP, though the liberals controlled the government. Only after the CUP had voted out the cabinet of Kamil Pasha on 13 February I9o9 did

ITTIHAD VE TERAKKI CEMIYETI

the opposition come out into the open. It took religious form, even though the liberals were as commited to reform as the CUP; the liberals were willing to use Islam to destroy their rivals.

The first issue of Volkan appeared on February 16. It was the voice of Ittihad-i Muhammadi and called for Islamic unity as the basis of the Ottoman state. The Ittihad’s doctrines and program were clerical and opposed to the reforms envisaged by the constitutional regime. Its own goals were described as nonpolitical, limited to reforming public morality in keeping with the principles of the shari `ah.

Volkan used its columns to attack the CUP and Freemasons, as well as the constitutional regime, which it denounced as the “regime of devils.” The religious prejudices of its readers were exploited fully with attacks on “modern” women and non-Muslims. The paper was distributed free, leading to rumors that it was financed by the Palace or the British Embassy. The Ittihad’s propaganda made great headway, and on 6 April the Seyhul-islam (Ar., Shaykh al-Islam) was forced to defend his government’s policies against Volkan’s accusations that these policies violated the shari `ah. Feelings against the CUP rose dramatically following the murder of an opposition journalist on 7 April and his funeral the next day. Meanwhile, Islamist propaganda had reached the troops

of the Istanbul garrison through itinerant theological students; on 10 April the troops were forbidden to have contact with such men. In this atmosphere of tension, the garrison mutinied on the night of 12/13 April and almost succeeded in destroying the CUP. But the mutiny was crushed, the Ittihad was proscribed, and some of its leaders, including Dervis Vahdeti, were hanged. Thereafter, the Ittihad-i Muhammadi and the events of I9og have come to symbolize religious reaction in Turkish political life.

[See also Young Turks and the biography of Abdulhamid H. ]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ahmad, Feroz. The Young Turks. Oxford, 1969. Useful for the history of the period 1906-1914.

Fahri, David. ”    “The Seriat as a Political Slogan, or, The `Incident of the 31st Mart.’ ” Middle Eastern Studies 7 (19’71): 275-316. Critical evaluation of the religious factor in the insurrection.

McCullagh, Francis. The Fall of Abd-fil-Hamid. London,1910. Gripping eyewitness account of the insurrection and the activities of the Volkan group.

FEROZ AHMAD

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/ittihad-muhammadi-cemiyeti/
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  • writerPosted On: July 10, 2014
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