The last of the sultans.

Just as the ruler of England is also head of the Church of England, so the Ottoman sultans had also been heads, or caliphs, of Islam.  Following the abolition of the sultanate and the last sultan’s exile from Turkey, the General National Assembly (GNA) voted to install Abdül Mecit, who would have succeeded to the sultanate, as caliph only.

He was fifty-four when he became caliph and, by all accounts, was a cultured gentleman, an amateur painter and musician of some talent, content with his ceremonial role as the religious leader of Islam.

The Allied occupation of Istanbul came to an end on 2 October 1923 when the final British troops embarked.  Four days later a division of the Turkish Nationalist army marched into Istanbul.  On 13 October the GNA passed a law making Ankara the capital of Turkey.  On 29 October the assembly adopted a new constitution that created the Republic of Turkey, and on that same day Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later known as Atatürk, was elected president, choosing Ismet Pasha as prime minister.

On 3 March 1924 the GNA passed a law abolishing the caliphate, thus severing the last link that connected the new Republic of Turkey with the Ottoman Empire.  Abdül Mecit and his family were exiled to Switzerland initially then moving on to France.  He died in Paris in 1944 just as the Allies were liberating the city from the Germans.  The Allies gave permission for his burial in Medina where he was revered as the last of the Ottoman caliphs, a moribund title that died with him.

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