The Greatest Islamic Empire By S. Franklin Islamic History The three major empires in Islamic history were the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Empire, and the Mughal Empire. The Mughals claimed legitimacy by their ancestor, Tamer-the-Lame. Mughals were fairly tolerant of non-Muslims, as the majority of the common people in their empire were Hindus. This empire occupied most of modern day India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The Safavids controlled most of modern day Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan. Their claim to legitimacy was because of their descent from the seventh Imam (Tucker chapter 1).
The Ottomans ruled the territories of what today are Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan; parts of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen; as well as the cities of Mecca and Medina. These people were ruled by Muslims who were mostly tolerant of other religions. Christians and Jews were allowed to worship as they pleased, provided that they stayed subordinate. The Ottomans claimed their right to rule because of their great military victories. The Ottomans were able to defeat Christianity in most of the Islamic world in addition to controlling Mecca and Medina (the two most important cities in Islamic history).
While all these empires were successful for a time, the Ottoman Empire was by far the greatest of these. One explanation for this is that the rulers of this empire were more tolerant of people of other faiths, causing fewer rebellions within the empire. For this reason, they could focus more on expanding their territory. The different empires ruled over different types of people. For example, even though the Mughal government was Sunni Muslim, their subjects were predominantly Hindu. According to the Qur’an, the Hindus, as polytheists, should be put to death. Qur’an: 9:5 And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. ) However, it would have been terribly unpractical to kill the majority of the empire, so the Mughals decided to simply make the Hindus pay the jizya, the tax for Christians and Jews who were under Muslim rule. The Ottomans, on the other hand, ruled over mainly those of Christian, Jewish, and Shias.
The Ottoman’s subjects were also required to pay the jizya. Because the Ottomans had less people within their empire, they had a higher percentage for the jizya. The Mughals didn’t use a high tax for fear of rebellions among the Hindus. The Ottomans had fewer rebellions against this tax because they let the Christians and Jews give the money to their priest or bishop, rather than personally giving their money to a Muslim leader. This made the tax seem not humiliating to them. This was a highly effective way of taxing the subjects and is one of the many reasons that the Ottomans were superior.
The Shia Safavid Empire controlled a relatively large portion of the Middle East. Unfortunately for them, their land was between the Ottoman and Mughal empires, who were Sunni. While this was quite good for trade during peacetime, this meant that during wartime they would have to fight two fronts. Sunnis and Shias were almost always fighting each other. Most of the Safavid’s time and resources went into defending the territory they already held and fighting the many rebellions that were breaking out all over the Safavid Empire.
The Ottoman Empire, on the other hand, was able to use the majority of their funds to expand their territory. They also had far fewer rebellions because of how they effectively managed their minorities. The Safavids were also hindered in their expansion due to the fact that they initially refused to use any type of firearm. However, the Ottomans were very effective because they made the effort to use the newest technology to their advantage. The Mughal Empire was limited in their military numbers because of their large Hindu population.
They did use some Hindu soldiers, but they didn’t want the army to be predominately Hindu for fear that they might turn on their Muslim government. The Ottomans did not have this problem, so they had a more powerful military. In 1600, the Mughal Empire had a population of a hundred million people, while the Ottoman Empire consisted of only twenty-two million people. Even though the Mughals had over four times the number of people that the Ottomans did, the Ottomans were still able to become a greater military power, occupied the most land, and lasted longer than both the Mughal and Safavid empires.
In 1453 the Ottoman Empire captured Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. It was this event that made them known as one of the most powerful empires in the entire world. Although the Mughal and Safavid empires were powerful for a period of time, the Ottomans proved to be superior to the others. The Mughal Empire lasted from 1526 to 1757, the Safavid Empire lasted from 1501 to 1736, and the Ottoman Empire lasted from 1299 to 1922. The Ottomans emerged first and lasted the longest.
They had a very effective military, ruled the most territory, and most importantly they were able to take and control Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire was not only the greatest empire of these, but one of the greatest in the history of the world.
Works Cited Barkey, Karen. “Islam and Toleration. ” Studying the Ottoman Imperial Model . N. p. , n. d. Web. 12 Nov. 2002. <: http://www. jstor. org/stable/20059691 >. “Rise of the Ottomans. ” Rise of the Ottomans . N. p. , n. d. Web. 12 Nov. 2002. <mail-attachment. googleusercontent. com/attachment/u/0/? i=2&ik=8fe74fba6e&view=att&th=13ac37cc2ad48bd9&attid=0. 2&disp=inline&realattid=f_h91y0srf1&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P9DO27CM9_0GF_Zc5ziIaVm&sadet=1352677972776&sads=j2yU5Y8VaeRaLQ-tr6HkkZUDJXM>. Franklin, Great and Merciful Sultan Josh. “The Three Major Empires. ” Islamic History. CHESS. CHESS, Greeley. 12 Oct. 2012. Lecture. Tucker, Ernest. Nadir Shah’s quest for legitimacy in post-Safavid Iran. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2006. Print. Robinson articles: Ottoman Empire, Mughal Empire, and Safavid Empires.