Introduction to Ottoman Sultanate


Ottoman Sultanate was centered in present day Turkey, extending its influence into south-eastern Europe as well as the Middle East. It lasted from 1299-1923, succeeded by Republic of Turkey. The Ottoman Empire consisted of 29 provinces, spanning Europe, Asia and North Africa. It was called Ottoman (daulat Osmania) because the first Sultan was Osman I (1258- 1324).

In the first centuries of Islamic civilization, education was mainly conducted in mosques. During the Abbasid period, when Muslims started learning ancient sciences like philosophy, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, physics and chemistry, a need arose to teach these disciplines in newly created institutions like Baitul Hikma (750-1258) of Baghdad, or Darul Hikma (1005-1156) of Cairo.

The famous Islamic educational institution, the madrasa (college), was started to develop in the 10th century. The curriculum of the madrasa was concerned with religion and law, and not mathematics (or other secular sciences). But math did creep in occasionally because of topics like inheritance problems (a branch of law), which require calculation, and religious topics finding the direction to Mecca, times of prayer, etc. which require spherical trigonometry

In the 11th century a new madrasas were established in Iraq, Iran and Khorasan where religious subjects were taught. The State did not dictate their curriculum. Nizam al-Mulk (1015-1092), the prime minister of Seljuk Sultan Alp Arsalan (d.1072), founded a Nizameyya Madrasa in every major city of which Baghdad madrasa was the most famous. Jurisprudence was the main course of study in this system. During the reign of Nuruddin Zengi (d1174) and Salahuddin Ayubi (d1193) royal families founded many madrasas, and charitable institutions. During the Seljuk Empire (Iran 1037-1194), cities such as Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Konya, Malatya, Mosul, Meshed, Tabriz, Isfahan & Merv became great centres of learning.

The Chengez Khan invasion brought all scientific activities to an abrupt end in the Islamic world. However one hundred years later during the Ilkhanid period, especially Helagu Khan and Gazan Khan (d1304), interest in scientific disciplines increased. The founding of observatory in Meragha in Azerbaijan was an example of this renaissance. Mongol conqueror Timur (Tamerlane d1405) patronized madrassas, libraries, and cultural institutions. During the reigns of Timur and his son Shahrukh (d1447), Samarkand and Herat became outstanding centres of learning. Students from Ottoman Empire went to Samarkand to study, while scholars from Central Asia immigrated to Turkish centres of learning. Shahrukh’s elder son Ulug Beg (1449) was a stupendous scholar and an astronomer. After the demise of Timurid dynasty, numerous physicians and poets went to India, but many mathematicians and astronomers moved to Ottoman lands.

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