Ottoman political and social organizations and non-muslims in the pre-modern era
The non-Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire, governed by Muslims, have been a subject of interest for researchers since the 19th century. In this study, the status of non-Muslims among the Ottoman subjects has been examined. The study examines the status of non-Muslims among the subjects, focusing on their status during the classical period and the changes in that status. The study aims to evaluate the claims made by European states in the 19th century regarding the Ottoman Empire's inability to govern its non-Muslim subjects and the alleged second-class status of non-Muslims. Islam, unlike Christianity and Judaism, which maintained an assertion of universal dominion, allowed non-Muslims to become subjects of the Islamic State through the concept of the zimma. The Ottoman Empire was able to integrate the non-Muslim populations in the regions it conquered into its subjects through the mechanism of the zimma contract, thereby granting non-Muslims the same fundamental rights that were accorded to Muslims. Through the zimma contract, non-Muslims who became subjects of the Ottoman Empire were brought together in the status of re’âya alongside Muslims as part of Sultan's subjects. The re’âya status served as a higher identity for both Muslims and non-Muslims. Ottoman Sultans regarded their non-Muslim re’âya subjects as entrusted to them by God, known as vedâyi-i hâlik-i kibriya. In the study, mühimme registers and qadi court registers have been utilized as primary sources. Additionally, due to the extensive nature of the existing literature on the subject, secondary sources have been meticulously examined. Based on the documents and insights from secondary sources, it is concluded that within the Ottoman administrative perspective, non-Muslims were not differed from Muslims, under the possibilities provided by Islamic law, and were regarded as vedâyi-i hâlik-i kibriyâ, similar to Muslims.