Excerpts from my book entitled:
“The Legacy of Sultan Abdulhamid II:
Memories and Biography of HIH Sultan Selim bin Hamid Han”
Nadine Sultana d’Osman Han
Copyrights 1988 in French; 1999 in English; 2009 in Turkish
Sultan Abdulhamid i-sani Sultan Selim i-rabi
Ottoman tradition asserts that the first Turkish legend relates to the Ottoman leadership. This legend narrates that its people were led out of the Central Asian steppes by Bozkurt (meaning “gray she-wolf”).
Yusuf ibn Abdal-Hadi in his 17th century study of Ottoman genealogy, Silsilename,traces the genealogy of the Turkish dynasties to Adam and Eve, continuing with the ancient prophets and patriarchs, and ending with the Ottomans. Thus, tradition traces the ancestors of the Osmanlis, or Ottomans, to Adam and Eve and through them to Noah and his grandson Oghuz, one of the sons of Shem, who gave his name to the Oghuz tribes. Oghuz’s descendants remained in Asia for some time, where they led a nomadic life in the Altai and Urals lands. In the 6th century, they appeared in Transoxiana, east of the Oxus River. Some of these Central Asian nomads, descendants of the Tu-kin people of the Mongolian steppes, came to be known as “Turks”, meaning “strong”. The Western Turks, found mainly in Turkomanistan and Northern Iran, were called Turkomans or sometimes Oghuzs. As they conquered Persia and wandered through Western Asia, the Oghuz Turks founded powerful dynasties.
The Oghuz divided into 24 major tribes. From these came the dynasties of the Gaznevids, Karahanids, Seljuks, Ottomans, Kadjars, and others. The most powerful of these tribes was the Kayi, founded by Oghuz Han (Chief of all Oghuz tribes). In 985 AD they established themselves in the Bukhara region. In Khurasan Oghuz Han rose rapidly, creating the powerful Oghuz Kayi tribe, which later emerged as the Great Seljuk Empire (10th-13th cent.) to the east, west and south of the Caspian Sea. In time they became the direct ancestors of the last great Oghuz Kayi Empire: The Ottomans (Sultanate1281-1922, Caliphate 1517-1924) and Kadjars (1786-1925).
During the Gokturk Empire (552-744), another powerful Turkish dynasty, the Oghuz tribes had been converted to Islam by Sufi mystics sent from Persia into the Oxus regions. Hence they became warriors for the faith of Islam (Gazis), not only protecting it but also contributing to its revival.
Although Oghuz Han was the founder of the Kayi Tribe and created the Seljuk Empire, the real founder of the Great Seljuk Dynasty, as the Persian Dynasty created by Tugrul would be known later on, was Tugrul Bey (1038-1063 AD), who dominated Northern Persia (all of today Iran) and Iraq. The turning point for the Seljuks came from the Abbasid Caliphs (750-1258 AD) who had left Syria and had settled in Baghdad, Iraq, in 762 AD.
From 945 AD to 1055 DA, a weakened Abbasid Caliphate Empire was ruled by a Persian Shiite Buyid Dynasty. In order to preserve the Sunni branch of Islam, the Seljuks, led by Tugrul Bey, liberated them from the Buyid Dynasty. In recompense for this help, Tugrul Bey requested to be recognized by Abbasid Caliph Al-Qa’-im as Sultan. The request was granted in 1055.
The Abbasids themselves were descendants of Al-Abbas, an uncle of the Prophet (pbuh). Kinship between the Abbasid Caliphate and the Seljuk Dynasty was consciously substantiated by acts of marriage. Unknowingly, by his current actions Sultan Tugrul was creating for the Ottoman Caliphs — centuries later —a link of succession to the Abbasid caliphs, and through them lineage to the Prophet (pbuh).
Under Sultan Tugrul, the Sufi mystics were recognized as Sunni Moslems. Mystic Sufism had always been popular with the nomad Turkomans.
By tradition, the Seljuks shared the rule of the empire among all the princes of the ruling dynasty. Consequently, the sultan gave large provinces to members of his family, an action that encouraged the division of the empire as the relatives in turn created their own armies and administration. As a result, the empire divided into three major areas: Persia, Syria and Asia Minor. The name Great Seljuk referred to the Seljuk Empire of Persia.
The founder of the Seljuks of Rum was Suleyman of Cilicia (1077-1086), a son of Sultan Tugrul’s nephew Kutlumus. The Seljuks of Rum fought the Byzantines and the Crusaders, and during the 13th century won additional territories from the Greeks in Trabzon and from the Armenians. Under Kai Qubad I (1219-1237) the powerful Empire of the Seljuks of Rum covered most of Anatolia. Its subjects engaged in dynamic commercial exchanges with the Orient and the West.
The Seljuk Empire of Rum remains of great importance in Turkish history, for in time its rulers became instrumental for the rise of the Ottoman Dynasty that succeeded them. The Ottomans were descendants from the Great Seljuks of Persia through the lineage of sultan Tugrul’s nephew, Alp Arslan, whose father was Daoud. The Seljuks of Rum were also descendants of Daoud , via his son Kutlumus who was killed by the latter brother, Alp Arslan. While the Great Seljuks of Persia disintegrated, the Seljuks of Rum remained strong, thus perpetuating through the Ottomans the continuity of the Great Seljuks of Persia. The rise of the Ottomans was gradual, alongside the Seljuks of Rum to whom they remained loyal to the end of the Seljuks Dynasty. As the Seljuks of Rum weakened and finally collapsed in turn due to losses to the Christians as well as to the Mongols, the Ottomans replaced them by right and established a dynasty of their own.
As we look at its origins, we come to realize that the rise of the Ottoman empire was not a caprice of nature, but the logical outcome of an established order inscribed into an inherited legacy.
The Ottoman Empire started with its founder Sultan Osman Gazi (1281-1326 AD) and ended with Sultan Mehmet VI (1918-1922). The Caliphate survived two more years under Caliph Abdulmecid II.
The importance of the Ottoman empire cannot be over-emphasized. Many empires have been created and have subsequently disappeared within a relatively short time, whereas the Ottoman empire is unique in the sense that it has lasted in direct succession, for some 700 years; moreover, its cultural influence is still being felt today, not only in Turkey, but also in the world at large. Its collapse brought catastrophic political turmoil worldwide into the 21st century. The brutality of modern ongoing battles and its disregard for basic humanity shall result in disastrous consequences that might endanger the very survival of humankind and the planet.
Much has been written about Ottoman history, particularly on the late Sultan Abdulhamid II’s life: political, private and moral. Many writers have slandered HM Sultan Abdulhamid II, not because of his shortcomings as a leader, but on the contrary, because of his exceptional qualities as a political figure.
With the awakening of new ambitions in Europe, the Ottoman empire became increasingly an obstacle to the dreams of Europe as world masters for the approaching 20th century. Accordingly, Western nations launched a campaign of negative propaganda against the empire and secrets plots were concocted. These actions were beginning to bear fruit and the last days of the empire seemed a real possibility when fate intervened: Sultan Abdulhamid II acceded the throne. His effective and tireless leadership, the legacy of generation upon generation of strong leaders, rendered the expected collapse of the empire no longer a certainty. The new Sultan’s dynamic executive ability made him the subject of worldwide attention — and sealed his fate in the mind of the Western powers.
At the turn of the 20th century, both the Ottoman realm and Persia had become in the minds of the Western policy-makers, arenas to be dealt with urgently. In order to undo what had been forged together by iron will and against great odds by the Ottoman and the Kadjar ruling houses, the West first needed to declare them “sick’, and then to offer itself as the physician to heal the patients thus diagnosed. By a variety of schemes and stratagems, the rulers of both houses were drawn ever closer into arenas from which they will not be able to rescue themselves no matter how noble and glorious their last stand might be.
To achieve their ends these enemies first needed to discredit the ruling houses in the minds of the people. Tales of injustice, cruelty and arbitrariness had to be pinned on the persons of the rulers themselves, which to remedy, required, in turn, the outrage of an injured people. The people listened eagerly.
In Persia, they assassinated Nasser-ed-Din Shah (my great-great grandfather) only to realize, too late, that the evil they were fighting was not their king, now dead, but darker forces they could not pinpoint and did not know how to oppose.
In the Ottoman Empire, it was the treacherous act of members of the Imperial family coupled with the ambitions of elements in the armed forces as well as religious leaders, that resulted not in the assassination of the beloved Sultan of the Ottoman people, Sultan Abdulhamid II, (my grandfather) but in his imprisonment and untimely death. There too, the people realizing only too late what had been done in their name, could do no more than bemoan their own fate now, while watching their country sink into the abyss it was steered in by a mad maverick seeking glory in a war in which Turkey had no part and no stake.
As we turned into the 21st century the same elements are being repeated in both these former Empires called today the Republics of Turkey and Iran.
RULES OF THE OTTOMAN & KADJAR SUCCESSIONFor Him who has perception,
a mere sign is enough.
For him who does not really heed,
a thousand explanations are not enough.
OTTOMAN PADISHAH SUCCESSION
In the early era of the empire, the throne went from the last ruling sultan (padishah) to his sons, and at first not necessarily the oldest one. Around 1617, the rule of succession changed: the throne passed from brother to brother (in turn by seniority) of a padishah. If there were no surviving brothers, the throne passed to the nephews of the last padishah, first to the eldest son of the oldest brother (padishah). Should a padishah’s brother dies before having become padishah, his own sons were not in the line of succession. This was true for any sultan who had not been girded (crowned) padishah: his descendants were barred from acceding the throne. The new law also barred from accession to the throne the imperial princes born to a padishah while he himself was still a crown prince. When there were no longer brothers or nephews alive –– that is from padishahs, hence from older brothers –– the throne passed then, and only then, to the cousins, provided they were themselves sons of a padishah. At no time could an older cousin, or other extended imperial relative, have priority over a brother padishah’s or nephew of the padishah’s older brothers, or his own sons. Priority to the line of succession was rigidly set, as outlined above, regardless of age.
In effect, all the direct sons of a padishah were crown princes, hence they were first in line to the throne, with the oldest son being the first crown prince. It was a fair system since it saved a padi?ah’s younger son from being displaced by a ruler’s grandson. Second in line were grandsons –– whose fathers had the opportunity to become themselves padishahs — when no brothers of the first generation were still living, the throne passed to these grandsons in order of their father’s (padishah) age, i.e., to the eldest son of the eldest brother and so forth. Third in line came the direct sons of the latest padishah, when this latest padishah had no surviving brothers and no nephews (the grandsons of the earlier padishah) from older brothers, since the surviving nephews of a younger brother would not be in line for the throne, regardless of their age. Fourth and last in line were the cousins of the latest padishah, if this latest padishah had no surviving brothers or nephews from older brothers, or children of his own. However, these eligible cousins were nevertheless themselves sons of an earlier padishah. At no time do we find a padishah who was not himself son of a padishah, regardless of age.
The above-delineation of the rule of succession to the throne is confirmed by the following number data:
Direct Padishah to his oldest sons (not older member of the Family!) 15. Direct Padishah to his younger sons (or brother to brother) 12. Direct Padishah to his nephews (when sons were not available) 5. However these nephews were themselves sons of a Padishah as explained above. Direct Padishah to his cousins (when neither sons nor nephews were available) 2. Again these cousins were sons of a previous Padishah.
Again, the throne would never go to the oldest member of the Family (as erroneously believed by some writers) unless as outlined above. This was confirmed when Abdulmecid II, a son of Padishah Abdul Aziz was selected as Caliph, at the end of the Sultanate, and not to his older cousin, Salaheddin, son of the non-girded Sultan Murad. Sultan Murad (half brother to Padishah Abdulhamid II) was never girded and thus not a Padishah or Caliph. Hence, his son, Salaheddin, and descendants were not in line to the throne. In addition as explained above , Salaheddin was born while his father was a Crown Prince, thus not in line to the throne. This was the case also for the eldest son of Padishah Abdulhamid II, Prince Mehmet Selim.
Hence, in exile, the only legitimate Crown Heirs were the Sons of Padishah Abdulhamid II. After the death in 1973 of his last brother, Crown Prince Abid, my father, Crown Prince Selim bin Hamid Han, as the sole surviving son of a Padishah became Sultan Selim i rabi bin Hamid Han and the protector of the exiled Caliphate.
It is noteworthy that Fate chose as the last son of a Padishah, a son who combined in himself, the bloodline of the two last Oghuz Tribes: Ottoman & Kadjar, one Sunni and one Shiite — the two pillars of Islam.
The Kadjar law of succession was simpler that the Ottoman one. The throne went directly to the sons of the last Shah (Ruler) by order of seniority. However the Crown Heir had to be the son of both the Shah and of a Kadjar Mother. Hence my great-Grandfather, Prince-Governor Mas’ud Zell-os Soltan, who was the eldest son of Nasser-ed-Din Shah, was passed over by his less capable cadet half brother, only because his mother was not a Kadjar princess. This may have hastened the fall of the Kadjar dynasty.
Mas’ud Zell-os Soltan was well acquainted with the Ottoman Court ruled by Padishah Abdulhamid II. To fulfill his ambitions to the Throne of Persia that he felt should be rightly his, brought him to make in the tradition of the Courts, a marriage alliance with Padishah Abdulhamid II, by giving as a prospective bride his sixth daughter, Zell-os Soltaneh (later known as Seniha Zill-I Sultan), a few short years after the assassination of Nasser-ed-Din Shah. Alas, Padishah Abdulhamid II had his own difficulties and his subsequent deposition in 1909, made the ambitions of Prince Mas’ud Zell-os Soltan unrealizable.