By Mohammad Mahdi
The New York Times has called it a soft bomb. We know it why. In these two months of lockdown, we are continuously hearing more or less about the Turkish series Diriliş Ertuğrul. The series containing about more than 500 episodes first released in 2014 has broken all the previous records thrusting the Turkish film industry to prominence worldwide. It was also one of the higher-rated shows on Netflix and has acquired attention all over the world. Estimates show that TV series revenues will hit $1 billion by 2023.
With its release in Pakistan in the early days of Ramadan, the series got its fame over the Urdu speaking countries including India. It has been watched in over 65 countries and is been translated in many different languages including Hindi, English, Urdu, and Arabic.
Diriliş Ertuğrul, the series based on the 13th century is a historical fiction based on the rise of the Ottoman Empire. The series containing five seasons was based on the five different periods of Ertuğrul‘s life, father of Osman Bey, the founder of the ottoman empire. Historians are not very familiar with the character Ertuğrul. The chronicles that remain of him were written and compiled by early ottomans about two centuries after his death. The historical records are a bit confusing so it is quite good to watch the serial instead of reading the historical records.
According to the social media’s representation of the series, it seems that the story is based on real-life history and adventures of the man, well it is not. The writer of the serial Diriliş Ertuğrul also mentions in his article that “there is no certainty in this historical data. But history has a soul. We think that we describe the spirit of the 13th century in history. We are shaping a story by dreaming”. So we must not see it in the vision of our history. But yes we can say that it was more or less like it. The basic ideology of the series is based on the Sufi culture of Islam. It teaches how a man’s devotion to his God can give him guidance and success. It also presents a more attractive view of the Islamic culture, especially for the young ones of the new generation who find themselves estranged from their roots.
A fatwa that says watching Ertuğrul Ghazi is haram
About a month ago while the series was been released in Pakistan, a fatwa was sanctioned on the serial by Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah (one of the Middle East’s oldest and most influential bodies responsible for issuing fatwas, or religious edicts). The fatwa mentions the Turkish series as impermissible to watch and haram for Muslims. According to Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, Turkey wants to restore its empire by motivating people through this drama and using it as a soft corner for its propaganda. It also claims Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would do anything to spread his power across the world, even using cultural and artistic products while it is haram in Islam. Jamia Binnori, a Karachi-based Islamic institute, has also issued a fatwa against it by saying that “the series contains messages of love that are unethical for Muslims and people don’t necessarily need to know of.”
We don’t know very well why the fatwa’s has been given on a particular TV series. Throughout the year, countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, and even Egypt earn millions of dollars by making films and movies. In a year dozens of series were produced and not even a single fatwa was sanctioned against it, hence one can contemplate the political agendas behind such religious decrees.
Restoration of the Caliphate
My teacher once asked me what I think about the restoration of the caliphate and is it easy to once more establish it. Most Muslims want the caliphate to be restored but it is a very difficult task to choose the right person as the caliph, that too one who all the Islamic countries agree on. We know from history after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the caliphate, in India many movements such as the caliphate movement and the movement led by Maulana Maududi came into existence. All over the world, hundreds of different movements led by different leaders sprung up. But it seems the voices which had risen once have all been lost in the chaos of modern times. Till now we don’t have any conclusion or any road map which can lead towards the right path.
It is a revolutionary idea to again restore the caliphate. But we all know how the great empires such as the Muslim Spain, the Fatimid Egypt, and Abbasid Baghdad once famous for its house of wisdom, within a few years was reduced to ruins. What is the root cause that takes the Muslim world towards nowhere? We have to remember how the Muslims were successful in their early days. Some historians even listed the cause of why the caliphate came into existence as the political divisions within the previous kingdom, the people not getting proper safety and a prosperous life took Islam as an opportunity to get out of this chaos. One of the other reasons for such great success of the Muslim empires was the legal terms which they offered to the people. Scientific studies and philosophy also boosted the economy and status of the empire.
The main thing which the Ottoman Empire lacked by the time of its decline was education and unity. Even if we look at the peak of the Ottoman Empire in the reign of Suleiman I also known as Suleiman the Magnificent, the things which were sustaining the empire was wealth and strength. Lack of unity and education promoted the decline of the empire. That’s why within a few decades’ the empire which ruled for about 600 years finally met its end. The Ummah which once prided in her history is now dependent on reminiscing about her past glory. But does this very act of reminiscing, as the Diriliş Ertuğrul’s overwhelming popularity is showering, really hold the possibility of rekindling the Caliphal dream?
Mohammad Mahdi is a young student scholar. He writes on religion and philosophy. Recently, he has completed his class 12th from Shaheen Academy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org