Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Original Meaning of the Word "Turkey"

Sultan Selim III exchanging eid greetings in front of the Gate Of Felicity**
An important fact that I suppose many people do not expect is this: The Ottoman administration and people never named their government or state "Turkey". The word "Turkey" (or Turchia, Türkei, etc.), which was used in European languages to mean "the land of the Ottomans", must have begun to be used in Turkish only toward the middle of the 19th century. Europeans, on the other hand, used to refer to the Ottoman dynasty, their state and the entire Muslim community under their rule as the Turks. There was also a similar usage among the Ottoman population in the Balkans. For example, if you would have asked a Muslim Albanian (or, for that matter, a Muslim Bosnian or a Balkan Turk), he would have said: "The pillars of Turkishness are five: To say the word of the testimony [i.e. the shahada, the statement that there is no other deity than Allah/God and that Muhammad (God bless him and give him peace) is His messenger], to pray the five daily prayers, to fast, ..." (These are actually "the five pillars of Islam".) Furthermore, even in our present time, oldish Muslims in the Balkans or with roots in the Balkans often form very similar sentences and understand the word Turk in this way.