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Ahmed, Yakoob (2018) The role of the Ottoman Sunni Ulema during the constitutional revolution of 1908-1909/1326-1327 and the Ottoman constitutional debates. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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As a result of the Constitutional Revolution of 1908/1326 the authoritarian Hamidian regime was once again transformed into a constitutionalcaliphate/ sultanate-parliamentary system. Although not the same as the earlier project of 1876/1293, nonetheless due to revolutionary zeal the constitutional experiment of 1908/1326 was presented as a ‘renewal’ of the top-down constitutional project of 1876/1293 and the ‘national will’ as the Ottoman devlet continued to present itself as a significant actor belonging to the political concert of ‘civilised nations’. As the sole bastion of the Islamic world, by and large free from physical colonial occupation, as well as being a European and an Islamic state, by reintroducing ‘modern’ political structures the Ottoman devlet attempted to fashion itself capable from its own Islamic traditions to be able to adapt to the modern political orders. Predominately, narratives regarding Ottoman constitutionalism had focused on the secular-western merits of the Ottoman constitutional efforts, paying very little attention to the Ottoman proclamations of the Islamic merits of their constitutional exertions. In particular the historiography reflected that the Constitutional Revolution of 1908/1326 initiated a political turning point that paved the way for the ‘natural process’ of the establishment of the secular Turkish Republic. Not only that, on March 31, 1909/Rabi al-Awwal 10, 1327, a rebellion in Istanbul based on the failed promises of the new Young Turk government was categorised as a ‘religious’ reaction to the ‘progressive’ revolution of 1908/1326. This dichotomous representation presented the ulema (the religious Muslim scholarly class), the focus of this dissertation, in opposition to the constitutional efforts of the revolutionaries of 1908/1326. Yet, it will be shown that the ulema were part of the revolutionary activities of 1908/1326, and worked with the newly established government to maintain order in 1909/1327, as they were equally, if not more invested in the new constitutional order than the revolutionaries of the Young Turks. The spirit of the revolution and the relaxation of press activity presented the opportunity for the Ottoman ulema to present in their newspapers an ‘ideal’ that Islamic political authority reflected a conditional Caliphate parliamentary system that 4 was inclusive of ulema participation and somewhat facilitated nominal inclusion for non-Muslim minorities in the parliamentary decision-making processes. As parliamentarians the ulema consolidated their political vision via the constitutional amendment process in 1909/1327. In the Muslim press, they discussed the compatibility of the populist French Revolutionary ideals of liberté, égalité and fraternité or in Turkish as hürriyet, müsavat ve uhuvvet (freedom, equality and fraternity with Islamic norms while at the same time ‘intellectualising’ Islamic traditional ideals such as meşrutiyet (constitutionalism), şura (consultation) and adâlet (justice). This dissertation shall emphasise on the seminal moment of 1908/1326 and 1909/1327 and the challenges the ulema faced in this short but hostile period as a host of political fluctuations took place, such as the ‘progressive’ Constitutional Revolution, parliamentary elections, Counter-revolution and the dethronement of one of the most symbolic authorities in Late Ottoman History, Sultan Abdülhamid II. As discussed on each issue the ulema have been presented as either docile participants or reactionaries. However, as shall be examined the ulema were neither docile nor reactionary but instead vociferous, self-determining and central to the changes. Their activities and intellectual ideas as a networked community resonated to the masses across the Ottoman domains as their position as ‘guardians of the faith’ continued to be reflected.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: George Dedes
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2019 11:54

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