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SAID HALIM PASHA, MEHMED (8 January 1864(65) – 6 December 1921), Islamic reformer and Ottoman grand vizier. Born in Cairo, Said Halim was the grandson of Muhammad `Ali, the founder of modern Egypt. At the age of six he came to Istanbul when his father was exiled by Khedive Ismail. Tutors taught Said Halim Arabic, Persian, French, and English. Later he was sent to Switzerland where he read political science. On his return to Istanbul he was appointed to the Council of State in May 1888 and given the rank of a civil pasha. He continued to ascend the administrative ladder and gain new honors.

For an independent-minded and cosmopolitan intellectual, life under Abdulhamid (r. 1876-1908) was suffocating. Therefore, Said Halim withdrew to his villa on the Bosphorus and devoted his energies to the study of history and religion, concerned as he was about the decline and stagnation of the Muslim world vis-a-vis the West. An imperial spy denounced him as subversive, and he was exiled to Egypt and Europe. There he joined the Young Turks, supporting their activities financially.

He returned to Istanbul after constitutional rule was restored in July 1908.

Said Halim became a member of the inner circle of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) and leader of the Islamist faction. In December 1908 he was appointed to the senate and the Islamic Education Committee. He entered the cabinet in January 1912 as president of the Council of State; in January 1913, during the Balkan wars, he became foreign minister. He was appointed grand vizier on 1 1 June 1913 while retaining the foreign ministry. Niyazi Berkes notes that at a time when the Ottoman government “was accused of pursuing a policy of Turkification, its Sadrazam was an ardent Islamist who wrote only in French and Arabic.” The appointment was designed to appease Arab/Islamic sentiment in the empire. Said Halim resigned on 3 February 1917 but remained in the senate, devoting himself to writing. The British who occupied Istanbul after the armistice of October 1918 arrested him in March 1919 and deported him to Malta. Released on 29 April 1921, he went to Rome, where he was assassinated by an Armenian nationalist on 6 December 1921.

Apart from his political role, Said Halim Pasha was also the secularly educated spokesman for the conservative Islamist faction of the Young Turks. His articles appeared in Sirat-i Mustakim and Sebil urresad, but not in the radical Islam mecmuast, the organ of the Turkists. Between 1910 and 1921 he wrote influential essays later published in various editions under the title Buhranlarimiz (Our Crises). Notable among these are “Islamic Fanaticism and Its Meaning, and Fanaticism” and “Our Imitations” (1910), “Constitutionalism” (1911), “Our Social Crisis” (1916), “Our Crisis of Ideas” (1917), “An Essay on the Decline of Islam” and “Islamization” (1918), and “Political Organization in Islam” (1921). The last essay was also published in French.

Said Halim was concerned with countering the West’s criticism of Islam. He argued that Islam was a rational religion that encouraged scientific thought and did not regard science as inimical to faith. Since the problems of Western society were different from those of Islamic society, he thought it was damaging to imitate and borrow blindly ideas such as constitutionalism. The world of Islam should find its own answers to its own problems in the context of its own traditions and heritage, especially the shari`ah. As for “Muslim fanaticism,” he argued that the phrase reflected “in reality, not the Muslims’ enmity towards Christians, but the West’s inherent enmity towards the East.”


Ahmad, Feroz. The Young Turks. Oxford, 1969. Useful for the politics of the period 1908-1914.

Berkes, Niyazi. The Development of Secularism in Turkey. Montreal, 1964. Superb study of Ottoman/Turkish intellectual history. Landau, Jacob. The Politics of Pan-Islam: Ideology and Organization. Oxford, 1990. Thorough study of an important subject.

Said Halim Pasha. “Notes pour servir A la reforme de la societe musulmane.” Orient et Occident i (January 1922): 18-52. French translation of Said Halim’s last article.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/said-halim-pasha-mehmed/

  • writerPosted On: July 22, 2017
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