This important treaty on the Hijri calendar in Ottoman and Arabic languages was written by an Ottoman military leader, scientist and author Ahmed Muhtar Pasha (1839 – 1919). Published in Cairo in 1890, it calls for an uniform Islamic calendar for all the Muslims.
The book includes astronomical observations by the author and other sources in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, discusses the Islamic measuring of the time and Hijri and Gregorian calendars. Various measurements are presented on 45 charts.
Ahmed Muhtar Pasha: Scientist, Diplomat, Grand Vizier and War Hero
Ahmed Muhtar Pasha (1839 – 1919) was one of the most consequential and intriguing figures of the late Ottoman Empire. He was one of the most successful field commanders of his era, as well as a diplomat, politician, and highly respected authority on military technology and related sciences.
Ahmed Muhtar was born in Bursa, the son of a successful Turkish merchant. He attended the Ottoman Military College, where he was recognized for his exceptional intellect. Having gained his first field experience during the later days of the Crimean War, in 1862, Ahmed Muhtar led his own detachment in Montenegro, where he played a vital role in defeating the forces of Prince Nikola.
Upon his return to Constantinople, Ahmed Muhtar was appointed professor of engineering and artillery at the Ottoman Military College and was sent to France and Germany to learn about the most advanced European weapons systems. Acquiring a profound undertraining of ballistics and metallurgy, for the rest of his life he was a tireless advocate of the modernization of the Ottoman military. He was also involved in raising money for charities in the Constantinople, such that he possessed high level of popularity unusual for military officer.
During the same period, he became the tutor to Prince Yusuf Izzedin Effendi, the son of Sultan Abdulaziz, accompanying him on several trips to Europe.
In 1869, then Colonel Ahmed Muhtar was sent to Yemen to quell a long-running rebellion, an assignment that was perhaps the most difficult in all the empire. Brilliantly adapting the tactics of his forces to fight guerrilla warfare, by 1871, he scored major victories, extending Ottoman rule deep into the interior of the country for the first time. He was promoted to the rank of General and made the Governor of Yemen, extraordinary achievements for a man only in his early 30s. Ahmed Muhtar subsequently fulfilled senior staff postings in the Balkans, notably in Bosnia & Hercegovina.
His next great achievement was, as described above, saving Anatolia from being overrun by Russia during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8.
Following that, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha was recalled to the western front, where Ottomans forces were collapsing against the combined forces of Russia and her Greek and South Slavic allies. He commanded the last lines of defence of Constantinople at Çatalca and Bakırköy, until the Russians were compelled to back down under heavy Anglo-French pressure.
Having saved Anatolia from being overrun by Russia, and Constantinople from being quickly seized, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha became the greatest war hero of the Ottoman Empire, and a much beloved celebrity. Sultan Abdul Hamid II appointed him President of the General Staff and the Commandant of the Ottoman Munitions Works, whereupon he employed his great enthusiasm for science towards modernizing weapons systems. His efforts in this regard led the Ottoman military to enjoy much-improved performance in wars over the next 20 years.
In 1882, Britain made Egypt a protectorate, even as it remained a de jure part of the Ottoman Empire. While no longer subject to Constantinople, Egypt remained one of Turkey’s major trading partners, while maintaining its vital geostrategic position with respect to the Ottomans’ remaining possessions in Libya, Palestine and Arabia.
That year, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha was appointed as the Ottoman ‘Extraordinary Commissioner’ in Cairo (essentially the Ottoman Ambassador) and, remaining there for the next 16 years, he managed the Anglo-Turkish relationship in Egypt with remarkable skill.
In the summer of 1912, the Ottoman Empire was in a state of turmoil. The so-called ‘Savior Officers’ had successfully mounted a coup against the ‘Young Turks’, who had themselves taken over the country in 1908-9. Ahmed Muhtar Pasha, as a universally respected ‘father figure’, was appointed to lead the “Great Cabinet” (Turkish: Büyuk Kabine) to restore stability. Unfortunately, the chaos that reigned at the Sublime Porte caused the Ottoman army to be caught completely off-guard during the First Balkan War (1912-3), whereupon an alliance of Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Montenegro rolled over the Ottomans. Frustrated by the situation, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha resigned as Grand Vizier in October 29, 1912, after holding the post for barely four months. Nonetheless, he was not blamed for the disastrous outcome of the war, which was clearly due to the unpreparedness of others.
It was in the is context that Ahmed Muhtar Pasha published the Sergüzeşt-i hayatımın cild-i sanisi, which he had clearly been preparing for many years. In telling the tale of his victories of 35 years before, accomplished against all odds, he hoped to inspire a new generation of Turks to rise and achieve new victories.
Ahmed Muhtar Pasha died in 1919, but his legacy survived him. He had published numerous works on military affairs and sciences, which are still cited even to this day. Moreover, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later Atatürk, the founding President of the Republic of Turkey, revered Muhtar Ahmed and ensured that his example was honoured.
References: OCLC 464314041, 283797987, 745305373, 956980987. AEKMK – BDK – ÖZEGE; 8163; TBTK; 1886.
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