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Ottoman Europe, Its Origins

Turkish-speaking nomadic tribes, originating from a large area in Central Asia, started migrating into the Arab world after 700, and by 1055 they had captured the Abbasid capital Baghdad. From the 9th century onwards, the Shamanist Turkish people began to embrace Islam due to the contact with Sufi Sheikhs who were travelling through Asia introducing Islam to the people. By the 11th century, they had created the Seljuk Empire which remained an Islamic Empire in Asia but was destroyed by the invading Mongols in the 1200s. The Mongols attacked Baghdad and massacred its inhabitants.

They destroyed a highly-civilised city in the heart of the Muslim world in 1258. The various Turkish tribes scattered west into Anatolia, present eastern Turkey, led by one of the greatest leaders known in history, Osman.

The developing Ottoman dynasty was named after him. The Turks became involved in the wars of the Byzantine Empire against Bulgaria, Serbia and the Crusader states that had been set up in the territory of present Greece after the sack of Constantinople in 1204. It was the fourth Crusade of 1204 that actually weakened Byzantium so much that it never recovered and had difficulties fighting the Ottoman army in the year 1453. The Ottomans brought Islamic elements and culture with them into Europe.

Ottoman Turkish soldiers first entered the Balkans around 1345 as Byzantine mercenaries and later returned to open it. They soon defeated the Bulgars and the Serbs.

Bursa capitulated in the year 1326 before Osman's son Orhan, who became the first sultan of the Ottoman Empire. After the Ottomans settled in 'Yeşil Bursa' (Green Bursa), they stopped being a nomadic people. Green Bursa got its name because of its parks and gardens.

Orhan began to organise a new state, gave the city its present name and began to coin. The second golden age of the city began with the improvement of silk production with the help of the Ottomans.

Bursa grew out of the citadel and some of the best Ottoman monuments can be found here. The roots of great Ottoman-Islamic art and culture lie in this city. In 1299, Orhan married Holofira, who was of Greek origin. After her marriage to Orhan Gazi, she converted to Islam and adopted the name Nilufer Hatun. Her son Murad became the third Sultan of the Ottomans.

Murad I was given the title 'Sultan of Rûm' and, being surrounded by artists and educated people, was benevolent and kind. He spent his youth in Bursa with the artists and teachers of the Islamic School of Theology. He spent almost all his life on the field of war and in constant movement with the army. He kept finding time between war periods to build great buildings and complete some artworks. In Bursa, he built mosques, schools and an Imaret (complex with soup kitchens, mosques, hospices, schools etc.)!

Sultan Murad I married in 1359 the Valide Sultan Gulcicek Hatun, who was also of Greek origin and gave him his son Bayezid. He became the next Sultan of the Empire.

Murad fought against the powerful emirate of Karaman in Anatolia and against the Serbs, Bulgarians and Hungarians in Europe. In 1385, he opened the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia and in 1389 Murad's army defeated the Serbs under the leadership of Lasar in the Battle of Kosovo.

Sultan Murad I spread his empire further towards Europe, conquered Macedonia and made Adrianople his residence. Adrianople was renamed Edirne and became the new capital of the empire.

This is only one example of the early and lasting impact of Islam on Europe by the Ottomans. There are many more interesting articles created from our 30 years of research. And many of those are exclusive to our Community Members. So, join our Membership Plan to receive weekly exclusive Ottoman Islamic history Content, by Dr Stef keris. The first 30 days will be free for you if you sign up now!

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