Vatican and IslamRole of Vatican in Arab Nationalism

By Naveed Tajammal

To break the Ottoman Empire from within, the Vatican through its Jesuit Fathers, started their work in a low profile from 1625 onward, they were checked by the Ottomans and suppressed in 1773, but, before proceeding further we must have a glimpse as to who they were, a little before the Counter-Reformation was started by the Vatican to mend the split in the Western Church [1545-1563] to overcome the Protestants, a society of Jesus was formed, they were propagators trained in all possible arts of persuasion, these teachers were highly motivated men, they were put through a vigorous programme, their objective was to set up missionary schools at grass root levels, to stop the spread of ‘Protestantism’, and revive the communion with Vatican in Rome. It were these highly trained men who were sent to the Ottoman Empire under various modes.

Their aim was to start the Arab Nationalism, The Ottomans had within their Empire, out of Five old Episcopal See’s [Centers] Four centers of old Christianity namely; Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch with Jerusalem, and the fifth was Rome. The break had come in the first instance when Western Church [Rome] broke off from the Eastern Church which was composed of the four centers, as found in the Ottoman Empire, mentioned above.

The break came about over the ‘Iconoclasm dispute’ [726-787] with [814-842 AD] The four See’s followed the Old Covenant, based on Ten Commandments, which forbid to make and worship images, The western church had over the last centuries taken in its fold all old European Pagan rites, to increase the orbit of its influence and earn more, and had challenged the Eastern Church on adhering to, the old beliefs, as according to Vatican the changing Times needed change in outlook, so there was a need to make images of Jesus and Mary, as well of old saints with to worship them, Eastern Church had resisted. These moves. on the grounds that it was a revision to old Paganism.

After 1773, when Ottoman administration had suppressed the Jesuit Fathers from their propagation within the empire, the Vatican started a new move via the ‘Lazarist Order’. and with the blessings of the French monarchs, they now started their aims anew by starting primary mission schools within the Turkish Empire, It was just not the Vatican alone in this endeavour, by early quarter of 19th century American Presbyterian’s, were also active in Beirut, along with, yet, again French backed Marionette with Melikte orders, in Syria and they too remained busy establishing their schools, The Maronite with Melkite Church were part of the Vatican ,as had become the Greek Catholics, the cause of split from the Eastern Church being that of Language, as they spoke and wrote in Arabic and Not in Greek.

People like Eli Smith [1801-1857] a American missionary teacher, who was a product of ‘Andover Newton Theological School’, which specialized in creating teachers like the Jesuit Fathers, Eli Smith was posted in Beirut along with EdwardSherif-Hussein of Makkah Robinson [1794-1863] a fellow American[who later became the Father of Palestinology or Biblical Archaeology],,it was Eli Smith who had brought the first Arabic type printing press, in these regions i.e. Beirut and Syria, so started a revival of Arabic Language through print media, and writing of Literature, along with it came translations of old Greek thought works, Scholars were hired to translate these works which, had a value as per their well laid down plans to change the mindset of younger generations, by first creating the element of doubt.

Butrus al-Bustani [1819-1883] is a major figure in the Arabic Renaissance, Brutus was a Maronite Christian from Chouf [Shouf] a district within the Governance of Mount Lebanon, though a Druze region ,but inhabited as well by the Maronite ,and the Greek Catholics. Earlier the Maronites had established a College at Ayen Warqa [1789 AD],it was here that Butrus was educated, and he along with Nasif al-Yazji [1847-1906],the father of Ibrahim al-Yazji, who later was the editor of Arabic Newspaper, and Magazines ,’Nagah, Tabib with Diya.

Meanwhile the American University at Beirut had been established in 1866, Butrus and Nasif, both worked very hard to spread the Arabic language, and new ideas were spread through their networks. The aim was to hit the Turk over the Linguistic issue. Nasif, was deeply associated with ‘Al-Nahda’ or ‘Awakening’ movement that started from Egypt, and which had spread to Beirut and Damascus. That was the doings of Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt, who had broken away from Ottoman Empire and had his own Axe to Grind.

The focus of all subsequent movements that would be explained in this article was to put in the minds of younger Arabic speaking Generations,  that Arabs must learn from the West and challenge the old rustic values of Islam. On this issue all Christian Churches were united in their efforts, and themselves remained in shadows. The bible of the new Arabic Grammar was the works of ‘Jirmanus Farhat [b.1670 AD], who was born in Allepo Syria, and received his earlier education from a Maronite school, ‘al-Kuttab al Maruni’, and later joined the Maronite College at Allepo, established by a Butrus al Tolawi with funds from West.

Farhat was ordained a Priest, and later became an Abbot in 1698, and in 1725, he was made the Archbishop of Allepo; he was a highly intelligent man and a dedicated worker for his cause. It was his Arabic Grammar [revised] that became the standard work in all writings, subsequently, even by the Al Nahda movement, Farhat drew his work from the Holy Christian Scriptures; substituting Bible for the Quran, and used Pre-Islamic Arabic Poetry as the sources of his new Arabic Grammar. Farhat’s Arabic Grammar was re-published quite a few times in the 19th Century and was used as a standard text in all Lebanese and Syrian schools, as stated it was greatly appreciated and endorsed by Al Nahda movement writers like,al-Shidyaq-Malta,1836,Butrus al-Bustani-Beirut 1854,Sa’id al-Shartuni Beirut 1883, Abd Allah al Bustani-Ba’ahda 1900, and Salim Sadir Beirut 1914 AD.

Ottoman Empire in the 19th Century became a pawn in European Politics, because of her strategic position but with weakness. Even in the 19th century the empire was stretched from the Caspian sea, to the Adriatic Sea, and from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, including the Balkans and most of the North African Coastline. It had a central position situated as it was between the Asian and the European Continent.

The Age of European Imperialism was fast rising and the Ottomans held all the key routes, beside the fact that between 18th and 19th century the Empire had served as a Buffer state for the French, British and the Austrian Empires, against the designs of Russian empire. It was again the Vatican at its best when it sparked the Crimean War [1853-1856] which had started as a petty quarrel between the Vatican Jesuit Fathers and the Eastern Church over the custody of the Christian Holy places within the Ottoman Empire. The Turks in the weaker moments had given the French the right to protect the Vatican/Latin monks, and subsequently the Eastern Church had sought refuge under the Russians. The Crimean war was a pure Christian Schismatic war, fought between two churches and a Million soldiers died because of it.

The 19th Century saw a rise of specifically Arab Consciousness among Christian Arabic speakers as well as a segment of free thinking Muslim writers, primarily in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, which also saw the revolt of Colonel Ahmed Urabi [1879-1882] of Egypt.

In Egypt the most influential Arabic newspaper ‘Abu Naddara Zar’a’ was published by Yaqub Sanu [1839-1912], a Jew of Egyptian and Italian origins. It was Farhat’s Arabic Grammar which was used in the writings and not the old Classical Muslim era Arabic Grammar.

Secret Societies were founded first in Beirut, under different names, not to attract attention. In 1847, in Beirut we see one named as ‘Society of Arts with Sciences, Yazji, Bustani, Eli Smith with several other Americans were leading them; all were Christians. In 1857 emerges the, ”Syrian Scientific Society’, but here now we see that beside the Christian other minorities like Druze, Alwites with Ismailis joining them. By 1868 branches had spread all over the Empire even in Istanbul. They focused on lampoons and placards pasted on street walls, criticizing the Ottoman Administration, and demanding;

a] Restoration of Arabic Language.

b] Creation of an autonomous states of Syria with Lebanon [Egypt had already broken loose earlier under the Albanian, Muhammad Ali Pasha, another Champion of Arab cause.

c] Removal of censorship.

d] Recruitment of local military units/levies from Arabic speaking population.

Later when the Turks started hunting them down they all ran off to Egypt, and joined hands with British who had occupied Egypt after the revolt of Colonel Ahmed Urabi. Thereafter we see Cairo the hotbed of all secessionists; the British used them to destroy the Ottoman empire from within. In 1909 the Egyptians started yet another secret society, ‘al Muntada al Arabi’ with branches even in Iraq and other Arabic speaking regions of the Turkish Empire. Colonel Aziz al-Misri though not an Arab by any yardstick but being a Circassian [Cherkess/Crimean Tatar] who later organized yet two more Arab movements, Al-Qahtaniyya with Al Ahad, and later joined Shariff  Hussain of Mecca, who played a major role, for his own selfish motives,  in cahoots with T.E. Lawrence party. Yet another society was formed in France –Paris. In 1911,’al-Fatah’ from where it was shifted to Beirut, by 1913 they were putting forward demands for a Arab Home rule, in the same year the Arab Congress was invited by Al Fatah in Paris.

The British were perched all around the Turkish Empire, and like Vultures waiting to go and eat the Carcass of the Ottoman Empire. It was the outbreak of the First World War, and Turks joining the Germans that, the British made a declaration on 14 Oct 1914;

a] To Protect Grand Sharriff of Mecca.

b] Welcome and Patronize a Arab Caliphate.

c] Respect the rights and privileges due to the office of Grand Shariff of Mecca.

When the then Caliph of Muslims the Ottoman Sultan declared ‘Jihad’, the Shariff of Mecca perched on the shoulders of the British and countered it that it was not a ‘jihad’, thereby rendered the greatest service to the British Empire.