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Ottoman Empire and the Arabs Research Paper

Related Topics: Islam Middle East Authority Family

Pages:6 (1859 words)



Topic:Ottoman Empire

Document Type:Research Paper


Sharif Hussein Ibn Saud and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire


The Ottoman Empire was served by a strong military and centralized political structure, but with territory that stretched into both the East and the West, the Ottoman Empire was also greatly served by its geography and the diversity of this realm. At the heart of its rule was the power of Mecca and the religious significance Mecca held for the Muslims. The relationship among the Ottomans, the Arabs, the Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha and his Sons, the Sharif of Mecca and Ibn Saud in Central Arabia all contributed to the strength of the Ottoman Empire. This paper will examine these relationships, the geographical and diverse characteristics of the Empire and the role that Mecca played in holding it all together. Ultimately it will show that the Ottomans lost the Empire as a result of turmoil among radical factions in both the Ottoman and the Arab camps, with the British implementing a divide and conquer strategy to undo the Empire in WW1.

Geography and Diversity

In the 13th century, Anatolia was little more than a nest of independent Turkish principalities. Osman ruled one of these principalities on the Byzantine frontier. His people consisted both of Turkish tribes and Byzantine expatriates, some of whom had converted to Islam and some of whom had not. Osman began to grow his territory by conquering frontier towns that dotted the Sakarya River. Osman’s son picked up the mantle where his father left off, and stretched the Ottoman rule over Anatolia and to the Balkans. Venice ruled Thessaloniki but this too was taken by the Ottomans, and the Battle of Nicopolis at the end of the 14th century closed out the Crusades and, for the Christian West, ended in defeat. Mehmed took Constantinople the following year and agreed to allow the Eastern Orthodox to continue to practice its religion in exchange for the city’s recognition of Ottoman authority. From that point on, the Ottomans pushed westward into Europe and northern Africa, and eastward.

The Black Sea to the north, the Red Sea to the south, the Mediterranean to the west and the Caspian and Persian Gulf to the east essentially serve as the natural water boundaries of the Ottoman’s geographical realm. The diverse collection of people spread across this wide range included Christians (both Roman and Eastern Orthodox), Muslims, Jews (both Sephardic and Ashkenazi), Persians, Egyptians, and Russians. These people were ethnically, religiously, culturally, socially, and politically diverse, but the Ottoman Empire was able to rule over them by allowing them to maintain their customs so long as they demonstrated submission to the authority of the Empire. Stability was the end goal, not assimilation. Economically, the Empire was able to keep it together thanks to trade routes that obliged the East and West to go through Empire’s territory all along the coast of the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, the heart of the Empire (Faroqhi 2004).


Mecca played a major part in providing cultural unity to the Empire. Mecca was the destination of Muslim travelers during Hajj, and once captured by the Ottomans they provided safe passage for all Muslims making this journey. For this reason, the Ottomans became seen as “Servant of the Holy Places,” a beloved title that signified the respect of Muslims for the Ottoman rulers (Faroqhi 1994, 74). However, the Ottomans were not direct descendents of the Prophet, and so their authority was always tenuous at best. To maintain the well-wishes of the people, the Ottomans had to engage in various social projects, such as construction and financial support. They also had to entrust the care of Mecca to the Sharifs, who held a high degree of independence and autonomy though they submitted to the Sultan (Faroqhi 1994, 147).

This arrangement allowed for the British to create a wedge between…

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…at which time the influence of the House of Saud was totally achieved. The northern Najd was incorporated into the Saudi and by the end of the 18th century, al-Hasa was also absorbed. Taif and Medina were added in 1802 and 1804 respectively. By in 1818 the Saudi state was destroyed by Mohammad Ali Pasha, the Egyptian viceroy of the Ottoman Empire.

Six years later, however, the Saudi dynasty had returned and consolidated its power mainly in Nejd. Al Saud battled with the other main Arabian ruling family, al-Rashid. By the end of the 19th century, Al Saud had been beaten by al-Rashid and took up exile in Kuwait.

The British intervened in the 20th century to gain control in region and collaborated with the House of Saud to take back control of Arabia against the Ottomans. The story of Lawrence of Arabia tells of the intrigue that took place behind the scenes. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire in WW1, the return of the Saudi state was facilitated by the British, who profited by having a loyal family now in firm control of the territory. The current Saudi state exists as a wealthy, modernizing Arab nation that often works with the UK and the US towards Western foreign plans in the Middle East.


The Ottoman Empire ruled for centuries in the Middle East and along the shores of the eastern Mediterranean, stretching into Europe and into Russia in the Balkans. The land was diverse and full of a variety of ethnic groups—from Christians to Jews to Arab Muslims. The Ottoman Turks were able to maintain a balance of power during this time by respecting customs and engaging in favorable construction that improved the lives of the inhabitants. To maintain influence in the Arabic world, the Turks relied on the Sharif of Mecca—and when that balance was upset, the Empire came crashing down. With the support of the British, the House…

Sample Source(s) Used


Anderson, Scott. 2014. Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Atlantic Books.

Faroqhi, Suraiya. 1994. Pilgrims and Sultans: The Hajj under the Ottomans 1517–1683. London: I. B. Tauris. 

Faroqhi, Suraiya. 2004. The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It. London: IB Tauris.

Khaled Fahmy. 2009. Mehmed Ali: From Ottoman Governor to Ruler of Egypt (Oxford:Oneworld Publications.

Murphy, David. 2008.  The Arab Revolt 1916–18 Lawrence sets Arabia Ablaze. Osprey: London.

Wilson, Mary C. 'The Hashemites, the Arab Revolt, and Arab Nationalism' in The Origins of Arab Nationalism (1991), ed. Rashid Khalidi, pp. 204–24. Columbia University Press.

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