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Part I | The Decline of the Ottoman Empire

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Part I | Part II

Empires can be likened to complex kaleidoscopes which change colours through time. For this reason it is difficult to see if an empire is steadily weakening or reforming by changing colour. Hence there is much debate over when the Ottoman Empire began to significantly decline. Historians such as Dan Smith, Edward Freeman, Albert Hourani assert that the empire began to steadily decline after the death of Sulayman the Magnificent in 1566.[1] Others such as Donald Quataert claim that the reformations in the late 17th and 18th Century “should be seen as transformation but not decline”.[2] Some such as Stanford Shaw traced the starting point of decline from “midway in the reign of Sulayman and continuing almost without pause until the end of 18th century,” however the Europeans only noticed this decline in the 17th Century.[3]

Despite the disagreements, the majority agree that it was during the reign of Sulayman that the Empire reached its zenith. Therefore this paper will deal with the major events which took place after Sulayman. I will look at the four sources of power claimed by Michael Mann; military, economic, political, ideological[4] and show how the Ottomans steadily lost power in each of these areas.

Military

Firstly, from a military perspective the Ottomans began to be defeated in battles and despite a few victories, overall they lost and subsequently began to contract. The Ottomans, who began as a warrior state against the Byzantine Empire, were known for their military edge. However with the discovery of the New World and thus the wealth which flowed into Europe, they advanced technologically and militarily and so the balance began to tip. This was exasperated, as Hourani says, by the end of the 16th Century as rulers who were weak in character and intellect came into power.[5] This stopped military progress as this curtailed the constant quest for better and more effective military strategies.

The Ottomans lost many battles and signed many treaties but four incidents marked as major milestones in the Empire’s decline. The first were the Ottoman-Habsburg wars. In 1683 they were defeated by the better trained and technologically advanced Habsburg army outside Vienna. This was followed by a further defeat in 1687 at the battle of Mohacs which freed Hungary from Ottoman control.[6] In 1697 they were again defeated by the Habsburgs at the Battle of Zenta which was the impetus for the Treaty of Karlowitz[7]. This treaty signified the end of Ottoman power in central and south Eastern Europe and the beginning of the Habsburg dominance.

The second was the Ottoman-Russian wars in 1768-1774.[8] The war which was a decisive Russian victory culminated with the Treaty of Kukuk Kaynarca in 1774. This treaty had devastating effects. Crimea, where the population was mainly Muslim[9], became independent (later annexed by the Czarist state[10]), which meant the Ottoman lost the Crimean Khan’s military forces. This force was particularly important as it had supported the Ottoman army since the revolt of the Janissaries (more on this below). The Ottomans also had to lose their monopoly over the Black Sea. Moreover the Russians now had the right to protect the Christians in the Ottoman Empire which marked the first time another power ratified their authority. [11] But later, as Quartaert who denies the decline in the 18th century points out, some of these agreements were revoked as the Ottomans won a few other battles where they regained the Black Sea monopoly and Russia withdrew from the principalities.[12] Yet overall the Empire did not territorially expand.

The third major turning point was the invasion of Egypt, the jewel of the Empire, by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798.[13] This effortless victory shattered the illusion of the powerful Ottoman Empire and hence this gave Europe more confidence to divide and conquer in the later years. When the French left, Mohammad Ali came into power in 1805 and modernised Egypt. He destroyed the Mamluks who were against reform and created a modern army and navy trained by the French. His increase in power decreased Ottoman control in Egypt and from that point on Egypt’s revenue no longer went to Istanbul.[14] However they did collaborate when they had the same interests for example the extermination the Wahhabi movement in Arabia.

The fourth major turning point was the Greek revolt in 1821-1830. In Romania and Greece they wanted independence and supremacy to lie with the Greek Orthodox rather than the Turkish Muslims. At first the Ottoman army were unable to subdue the revolt but were successful with the help of Mohammad Ali’s new army and navy. However with European intervention their army was defeated and in 1830 at the Treat of London, Greece was declared an independent state. This was an inspiration for other Christians to gain independence and use the European powers to their advantage.[15]

Economic

From an economic perspective, the Empire was also suffering by the international development in trade, industry and finance.  In the 16th Century Europe was on the hunt for gold and so they focused on the navigation of the seas to find new trade routes. As early as 1580 Ottoman geographers warned the Sultan of this new trend. Omer Talib wrote, “Now the Europeans have learnt to know the whole world; they send their ships everywhere and seize important ports. Formerly the goods…used to come to Suez and were distributed by Muslims to the entire world. But now these goods are carried on Portuguese, Dutch and English ships…the Ottomans must seize the shores of Yemen and the passing trade…otherwise Europeans will rule.[16]

Exactly as Talib predicted, the world trade which used to flow through the Ottoman Empire decreased sharply in the 17th Century. The Europeans traded directly with Asia leaving the Ottomans in the middle. Moreover the Ottomans had a silver based monetary system and with the new found metals from Americas it caused the sudden flow of cheap and plentiful silver which had a catastrophic financial impact. The price of silver fell and that of gold increased. Turkish raw materials became cheap for European traders so they bought in great quantities. The industrial revolution in Europe led to the creation of new industries especially in textiles and metallurgy. Hence with the cheap raw materials from Turkey these products were developed and exported back to the Ottomans competing with their own indigenous craftsmen. The European products were cheaper and at times better quality which undermined local businesses.[17]

Continued inflation meant that prices quadrupled and the devaluation of the coin. In 1584 the asper was reduced from one-fifth to one-eighth of a dirham of silver. Twice in the 17th Century the government tried to curtail inflation by introducing new silver currency; first the para in the 1620’s which was a silver coin and then the piastre in the 1680’s, an imitation of the European dollar.[18] In the mid 16th century, Egypt had been a major contributor to the state revenue but by the 18th century no revenue or military people were conscripted. In 1789 the Ottoman revenue was a pitiful £3.75 million compared to £16.8 million for the British and £24 million for the French. It is estimated at this time that more than four fifths of the states’ revenue stuck to the hands of the local elites which shows how decentralised the system had become.[19]

Furthermore, unlike in England whose technological advancements had revolutionised English agriculture, in Turkey they were still primitive. Not only were they not advancing, but farmers abandoned their villages and fled to the towns, known as the “Great Flight”[20]. This was firstly because of the decrease in feudal siphasis, a tactic used by Mehmed the Conqueror during the monetary crisis, namely paying the soldiers with fiefs rather than money. However; since warfare had changed in the 16th and 17th Century this was no longer feasible as the use of firearms and artillery necessitated the maintenance of even larger paid professional armies.  This led to tax farming and land-owners that did not care for peasant welfare or land conservation but just immediate taxes. Due to the decentralisation of power, regular land surveys and population censuses were abandoned, leaving it to the tax farmers, lease holders and bailiffs.

The result of the “Great Flight” in the late 16th Century was that agriculture shrank, hence the supplies of food diminished and increased prices hit the trade routes while Europe traded elsewhere. The influx of peasants in the urban areas caused issues with housing, employment and food. Many found jobs in the lowest level of urban society as cleaners and servants. Schools were inundated with poor boys that saw education as their only outlet. However with the falling standards of education, the system could not cope and became centres of idleness with students participating in social anarchy.

The ruling class reacted with trying to bring about social reform by rooting out corruption. While they enjoyed little success they could not reverse the steady decline. The system needed to be revamped and modernised, but with no finance, an angry population and a decentralised government the task was insurmountable.

To be continued in Part II…

Bibliography

Freeman, Edward. The Ottoman Power in Europe
Smith, Dan. The state of the Middle East
Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age
Quartaert, Donald. The Ottoman Empire
J Shaw, Stanford. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey Vol 1
Mann, Michael. The Sources of Power
Lewis, Bernard. The Emergence of Modern Turkey
Lieven, Dominic. Empire
Marcus, Abraham. The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth century
Barkey, Karen. Bandits and Bureaucrats: Ottoman Route to State Centralization


[1] Edward Freeman, The Ottoman Power in Europe, page 139
[2] Donald Quartaert, The Ottoman Empire, page 37
[3] Stanford Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, page 169
[4] Michael Mann, The Sources of Power
[5] Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, page 34
[6] Dan Smith, The state of the Middle East, page 16.
[7] Donald Quartaert, The Ottoman Empire, page 38
[8] Ibid page 40
[9] Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, page 39
[10] Donald Quartaert, The Ottoman Empire, page 40
[11] Ibid page 40
[12] Ibid page 42
[13] Ibid page 41
[14] Ibid page 41
[15] Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, page  44
[16] Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, page 28
[17] Shaw pg 173
[18] Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, page 29
[19] Dominic Lieven, Empire, page 140
[20] Stanford J Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey Vol 1, page 174

Hira Amin is a British muslimah of Pakistani descent. Despite originally being a mathematics graduate, after a few years inside the corporate world, she decided to change paths drastically to studying history. She completed her Masters in the History of International Relations and is currently undertaking her PhD at the University of Cambridge. Her focus areas are South Asian Muslims and their migration to the UK, Islam’s interaction with Western imperialism and modernity, feminism and 20th century international history.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umm Ousama

    December 20, 2011 at 1:05 AM

    While I was excited by its title, I am very disappointed by the article. All the sources are non-Muslims and thus do not take account of the religion. As Muslims, we should make a link between our actions and our condition, between our deen and our “political” state. SubhanAllah, there is only one lesson that I remember from my history classes, even though it was given in a Christian college as I was Christian back then and this lesson is:

    “Every empire that fell down was because of debauchery and the sins of its people”. Look at the Persian Empire, look at the Roman Empire (Pompei is a prime example), look at the Greek, look at Europe (isn’t it striking that all countries’ Independence happened just before the “sexual revolution”?) And this is why I can predict you that America is in its decline now. How long will it take? Only Allah knows but, as things seems to go faster, I don’t think it will take 250 years like for the Ottoman Empire.

    • Avatar

      Hira Amin

      December 20, 2011 at 6:23 AM

      Salam

      Jazak Allah khair for your comment. You are absolutely right- religious sources were not used as this was actually an essay submitted for my Masters course. Therefore it is an academic paper and not Islamic i.e. not intended for a Muslim audience. A few members of MM thought it would be a good idea to publish it on this site since little information is known about the Ottomans so every little bit helps. Insha Allah I do hope to rewrite this article with a Muslim audience in mind and focus more on the lessons we can learn as Muslims. Maybe this thread could start the discussion.

      With regards to your statement about sins being the sole cause of destruction, I would have to say in my short study of empires I have found their decline to be fascinating yet complex. While corruption does play a big part in their decline, I have found that almost ALL empires have corruption from its inception. Even the Ottomans during the time of Sulayman the Magnificent (most agree this is their peak) has signs of corruption. Therefore to say this is the sole cause, in my opinion, would be incorrect. This is definitely a factor, but many other factors are key reasons also.

      Allah knows best.

      • Avatar

        Fezz

        December 20, 2011 at 2:07 PM

        Nice article. I liked the detailing of the historical dates as these are often little known.

        Certainly perhaps mention of the excessive national debt (with punitive interest payments) of the empire doubled with its shameless and fradulent debasing of its currency contributed to part of its downfall. And you could relate this to the Ottomans aswell :p

      • Avatar

        Mustafa

        December 21, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        Assalaamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        I second her statement.

        We need to understand why Allah brought these nations down.

    • Avatar

      mofw

      December 22, 2011 at 12:11 PM

      The idea of “debauchery and sins” being the cause of the fall of a civilization is simplistic and unhelpful for serious study of history.

    • Avatar

      S F Shah

      July 25, 2017 at 4:06 AM

      jazak e Allah
      Interesting write up, specially for the students of history who are interested in the era of Ottomans’.
      I was also looking for the work of Muslim authors but could not found any.
      losing legitimacy in the Muslim population may be one of the reason of Ottoman’s decline.

  2. Avatar

    Siddiq

    December 20, 2011 at 1:25 AM

    Salaam alaikm,

    First, great topic. There is so much the current ummah can learn from the History of the Ottoman Empire (the multiculturalism, government, and religious diversity). The effort you put into writing this article is greatly appreciated. Your choice of books is also pretty balanced (Quartaert, for example). However, the amount of information you are trying to cover is just too much for a Part 1. If you were someone like Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick (which you may be) I would just end my comment here.

    I had a few issues with some of the statements made: “The Ottomans, who began as a warrior state against the Byzantine Empire,” , the notion that when Bonaparte invaded Egypt it was wholly united with the Ottoman Empire, and a lack of discussion on the tension between the sultan and the janiisaries/bektashi lobby. It would be great if you could focus on this time period a bit more and not move to quickly into the Tanzimat and The Young Turks Era, although I am interested in what you have to say regarding that era as well.

    Overall, great article. Maps of eastern Europe, Anatolia, and Crimea ,may be helpful for readers to look up. Definitely look up some books by M. Şükrü Hanioğlu for even more information about the topic. Lastly, does it matter if one spells the name Mehmet versus Mohammad, in this context? Whatever you plan to use, keeping it consistent will help reduce confusion in the following parts.

    Jazakallahu khairun for this beautiful addition to the site.

    • Avatar

      Hira Amin

      December 20, 2011 at 6:29 AM

      Salaam

      Jazak Allah khair for your comments. I agree with you- this topic is HUGE, which is why I could not focus on a lot of important areas. Subhanallah this essay literally scratches the surface. As Muslims we look back at the Ottoman empire as the “Golden era” and glorify this past. Whilst there is much to be proud of, it is important to see where and most importantly why did they fail, so insha Allah we do not make the same mistakes.

      Ws

  3. Avatar

    Hassan

    December 20, 2011 at 2:17 AM

    Man such long article, and just part 1. Would it not be easy to blame Saudis for it?

    • Avatar

      Hira Amin

      December 20, 2011 at 6:30 AM

      LOL…you have spoilt the conclusion!!

  4. Avatar

    Musa

    December 20, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    As salamu alaykum,

    Masha Allah – Jazakallhu khairan for the article – I am trying to learn some ottoman history but it seems there surprisingly is very few islamic lectures/books or even articles on this empire, So this was a nice and useful one…. May Allah reward you.

    I wanted to know one thing: if I have an article that I want to contribute an article, what is the procedure?

    • Avatar

      Hira Amin

      December 21, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      Salaam

      Jazak Allah khair for your comment.

      MM are always looking for new articles. Contact them via this site and insha Allah they should get back to you shortly.

      ws

  5. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    December 20, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    I stopped reading when I got to the ‘Wahhabi movement of Arabia’.

    Umm Sulaim

    • Avatar

      Bilal Mongra

      December 21, 2011 at 4:22 PM

      Why?? truth hurts?

      • Avatar

        Umm Sulaim

        December 24, 2011 at 10:38 AM

        If Truth hurts, I will not be a Muslim.

        Rather falsehood hurts. Blind repetition of erroneous appellations hurts. Wilful consumption of everything non-Muslims say about Muslims hurts.

        I have read several books on the Uthmani empire (and I might add on the ‘war on terror’), many of which were authored by non-Muslims. The difference is I WILL NOT repeat the same words with which they describe Muslims.

        In full support of Muhammad Ibn Abdul-Wahhab and As-Saud,
        Umm Sulaim

        • Avatar

          Gibran

          October 8, 2012 at 12:30 AM

          Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          Agreed. I don’t know about the house of Saud, but definitely 100% support for Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab.

          That man by the mercy of Allah renewed the religion. If Allah wills, he was a mujadid, may Allah make me mujadid as well.

          Ahmad, Ibnu Taymiyya, Abdulwahhab-may Allah exalt them for the efforts they took to preserve iman at such times they lived in.

  6. Avatar

    Leo Imanov

    December 20, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    bismi-lLah wa-lhamdu li-lLah wa shallatu wa sallamu ‘ala rasuli-lLah wa ‘ala lihi wa man walah

    assalamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatu-lLahi wa barakatuH

    well i found the articel is very pregnant and interresting though lacks of islamic view.

    i do believe that the decline every state lies in the corrupt of believe, once the believe is corrupted the in every way of lives will be corrupted as well, economy, politic and social.

    so i would be very glad if you try to find out whether islam is started being corrupted at that time since when and how.

    wa-lLahu ‘alam wa bi-llahi-ttaufiq wa-lhidayah

    wa-ssalamu ‘alaikum

  7. Avatar

    Nahyan

    December 20, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    Excellent article indeed.

    The part about being technologically and militarily surpassed rings a bell of the decline of Andalus. Each “regime change” from 1200s onward resulted in more internal conflict, then divided land and focus on architecture more than military tech. When the Christian army arrived 1480-ish the Muslims almost-literally brought knives to a gun fight…

    Something you can add for part 2 and onwards, to really get the picture, is to add maps to show what the world looked like at that time. Especially shrinkage of the empire during the decline.

    Jazkallahukhair

    • Avatar

      Hira Amin

      December 21, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      Salaam

      Yes exactly. The culture of constantly advancing and being ahead of the competition faded which was a key factor in its decline.

      ws

  8. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    December 20, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    Great article… waiting for the next parts!

    Of course, this is an introductory essay to a topic that would require many, many volumes of research. Such essays serve a useful purpose: those who have little or no knowledge of the field will be exposed to a basic introduction, and those who do know something will refresh their facts and be presented with alternative views.

    Keep up the good work, and we also want others to submit their article of a similar nature.

    Yasir

  9. Avatar

    mariam

    December 21, 2011 at 3:35 AM

    Absolutely enlightening! This is a subject we don’t often read abt in history books in detail but its important to know how the last Muslim empire fell. Its crucial to know history so we can learn from it,especially if its your own history Jazakallukhairun for your hard work on this

    • Avatar

      Hira Amin

      December 22, 2011 at 3:57 AM

      Jzk Allah Khair Mariam! Insha Allah will see you and Annie at the next Ilmsummit :)

  10. Avatar

    Iman Kouvalis

    December 21, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    Wow, ma sha Allah! Hira, I didn’t know you were studying this. No wonder you like my Greek-Turk jokes. :D

    Seems like we have quite a few criticizers on this thread. I loved how your article was a great summary ‘once-over.’ I agree it’s great for a site like this, where people don’t want to read hundreds of pages just to find out what were the factors of empire decline.

    Maybe at the end of part two, you can give us a small byline about you and what your Masters is on etc. Keep up the great work!

    • Avatar

      Hira Amin

      December 21, 2011 at 1:14 PM

      Salaam

      Jazak Allah khair for your comments and congratulations on your award! I bumped into Jabeen at the Twins of Faith conference and we were remembering you :)

      • Avatar

        Iman Kouvalis

        December 21, 2011 at 3:55 PM

        Wa alaikum assalaam Hira!

        Aww, thanks! I’m honored to receive the award! Alhamdu lillah the conference was a great initiative for women. It was practical and actually, now that I think of it, it was an extension of our talks at Ilm Summit about women’s role in society today and all of the confusion around that.

        And, it’s funny that you mention the following statement, “The culture of constantly advancing and being ahead of the competition faded which was a key factor in its decline,” because if we apply it to the 21st century, what are Muslim leaders doing to stay ahead of the prime issues of today, one being leading and advising society about the new role of women in the 21st century?

        I was excited to hear about Sh. Waleed’s new class. This is the beginning and we have a lot more to do. Now that I think about it, I feel like writing an article about that! :D

        p.s. If you want to catch my acceptance speech, you can find it on my fanpage:
        http://www.facebook.com/imankouvalis

  11. Avatar

    Zayd

    December 21, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Assalaamu Alaykum

    “Therefore it is an academic paper and not Islamic i.e. not intended for a Muslim audience”

    This is something I hear often today. Can you explain to me how the ‘reality’ of something changes for audiences, in such a way that an entire source set is changed to fit another people? Your statement seems to indicate that an absolute separation between the Islamic and Secular disciplines exists, with the later being distinctly Western.

    We are Muslims, therefore everything we do is Islamic. It doesn’t have to be ‘Islamically biased’, as you are inferring by this that Muslims cannot have a true academia, which they did and do, and also that the sources you used are themselves not biased. Surely ibn Khaldun is a fine example of how a great Muslim can also be a great academic in disciplines of a historical and social nature.

    The reliance on Western sources is one thing, but what really makes me uneasy is the underlying notion that when Muslims are studying what are now deemed ‘secular sciences’, they have to confine themselves to this mystical ‘other audience’, which subjugates them to the subjective Western framework.

    “religious sources were not used as this was actually an essay submitted for my Masters course.”

    Is everything a Muslim says a ‘religious source’? If so, then isn’t what every Christian says a Christian source, doesn’t everything a Western academic says come with the baggage of traditions and culture he is entrenched in? If Muslims want to do what is needed, they have to push boundaries, especially in challenging the set discourse if it is shallow, narrow and Western-centric.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a history student myself and I really enjoy reading Muslims writing about history, and I really long for them to fill the gaps in knowledge and academia, but many a time I feel the method we follow and the criteria we allow to be set for us is self-defeating and falls into pointless imitation, which only manifests as a sort of hollow game of catch-up to something we aren’t but feel we have to be. If a lecturer told me that I could only use Western sources, which are naturally going to portray something from their vantage point and ideas, I would tell that lecturer exactly how much chance there was of it- 0%

    Due to the gap, it may seem tempting to throw a quick easy overview, but that overview in and of itself changes depending on who’s interpretations and underlying narrative you choose to use.

    Likewise, it isn’t doom and gloom in and of itself to use Western sources, or even sources you completely disagree with, to use scholars of ‘a classical Western interpretation’ or slightly revised etc, but the problem is with solely using them, especially when it is an overview and there is no space for scrutiny and critical analysis, because it gives the illusion that they encompass the historiography.

    • Avatar

      Hira Amin

      December 22, 2011 at 3:51 AM

      Salaam

      Jazak Allah Khair for your comments.

      You are correct in saying the reality of something does not change, but the style and emphasis certainly does change. If it was solely for a general Muslim audience the focus would be on the lessons we can learn and sunnah of Allah with past nations. I don’t believe in separation between Islamic and secular disciplines – hence the post on this site  When I said “religious sources” I was referring to the Quran and hadith.

      Also I would have to disagree with you when it comes to Western sources being incorrect as it is from their vantage point. If that was true then nothing positive would ever be written about the East, and the West would be glorified in every western history book.

      ws

  12. Avatar

    Carlos

    December 22, 2011 at 1:15 AM

    This is an excellent article. The authors are true students of history. Good job.

  13. Avatar

    Sajjad

    December 22, 2011 at 1:55 AM

    As Salam alaykum warahmatullahi , wabarakatuhu,

    This article that has been posted has nothing to do with facts,but what some people who wrote the books that have been cited as sources ‘thought’ to be as facts from their perspective.

    For e.g. the sources which include Non Muslims books which have been written proves in itself that this these perspectives are nothing but the views of those individuals who have written the books with the mindset that they had , and secondly it also shows , how much Muslims are dependent on Non Muslims and their sources even if they talk about some issues relevant to Islam.

    Then those to get inspired , since they have find no alternative direction in many cases to find the truth of the matter , actually think that this can be true and then form an own opinion about it from the sources that they have gathered , just like the originator of this post has done.

    So again , the post does not have to do anything with facts, but just present opinions which are perceived as facts ,

    For e.g. the shia perspective that Hazrat Ayesha radiAllahu Anhi is a fornicator is not a fact but the Shias they perceive it as a fact does that make it a fact , no it does not , yet the sources that they have are considered genuine to be believed by the shia and their ‘scholars’ who have written it regardless of authenticity so that they come up with the views that they have.

    Similarly the opinion of the British and their opinions about the Indian subcontinents are just their views that they have written from their perspective thinking that it was the reality of the situation , but in fact if you ask those who were actually under their rule , they will know what was the real situation.

    Also among these people who will show the real perspective against the British will not be someone who will be among the people who were actually being oppressed by the British , but he had the means to write a book and he did it just for the sake of letting people know his opinion , so this is a very important point to consider before reading a book by a known ‘historian’.

    Again , this highlights the facts that history as it is presented , has nothing to do with the Deen , and Alhamdulillah that our Deen is not actually dependent on the Non Muslims and their views about Islam , else we would be having no way of reconciliation after being dependent on them to know about who were are and what our pious predecessors did.

    So articles like these have a great potential of being the reason behind a student scoring good marks in the exams , but when it comes to actually posting it on a website named ‘Muslim’ matters , it holds no weight and shows the dependency of Muslims on the curriculum of Non Muslims and how they see themselves and affairs relevant to them , from the eyes of the Non Muslims and the perceived ‘scholars’ from them , in different ages.

    As for the below statement , it proves in itself what I have tried to explain above,

    “Therefore it is an academic paper and not Islamic i.e. not intended for a Muslim audience. A few members of MM thought it would be a good idea to publish it on this site since little information is known about the Ottomans so every little bit helps. ”

    Thanks you so much for this clarification , but if something is not Islamic and Not intended for Muslim audience why should it be posted on a website which itself says ‘MuslimMatters’ and 99% of it’s readers/audience are Muslims? food for thought…. :)

    This is just ‘information’ , from the various Non Muslims sources that can be found on the topic (It’s important to keep in mind how many Anti Islamic books have been written against Islam and compare them with the perspective which comes up from these books which are cited as sources) that never consider it knowledge , because those who consider knowledge as information and start believing in it , they are deluding themselves and those who refer to them for information thinking that they will get some knowledge.

  14. Avatar

    Umm Ousama

    December 22, 2011 at 4:46 AM

    As this was presented for non-Muslims, it makes sense to draw those points. However, a Muslim can hardly take lessons from this to change today’s situation. I once read a book of the Crusades written by a famous Muslim historian. It made the perspective completely different. Before the Crusades, the Muslims were asking the Christians to help them against their own Muslims brothers. Salahuddin then came and conquered back al-Quds, not mainly because of his army but because he united the Muslims first and was putting his religion first. The same reason why Muslims lost Spain. They lost because the Muslims were fighting the Muslims because they wanted power instead of being an Ummah. So, yes, it IS important to get sources too from a Muslim point of view and not just from a non-Muslim point of view. A historian will only put the facts that he deems important and relevant and another historian, especially if his outlook is completely different, will find other facts and, maybe, draw other conclusions.

    Yes, as Muslims, we should prepare what we can of military force but this doesn’t give us victory. When Muslims were few in numbers and high in Imaan, they won; when at the battle of Hunayn, they praised their numbers and their strength, they lost.

    • Avatar

      Musa

      December 24, 2011 at 7:42 AM

      Salahuddin al-Ayyubi united Muslims and so he had access to a large army – which was why he was well prepared.

      Agree with your conclusion!

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    Abba Basheer

    February 2, 2016 at 5:55 AM

    I was really impressed with this article and your comments, may Allah reward you all with Jannah.
    However, it was said that “power can remain in the hand of an infidel if he is just and fair, but it will not remain in the hands of a believer if he adfair and unjust”,and History always repeat itself. Lets look at what is happening in all over the world or within the muslims countries, for instance the Israeli-Palestinians conflict in which many people were dead including women and childrens by the Israeli forces. What support did the Saudi Arabia render to the people of Palestine? and the other muslim nations. If “debauchery and sin” will brought a nation down therefore, is not only America that will came to an end. But the whole world.May Allah guide us to His rightouess path.

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#Society

Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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Were Muslim Groups Duped Into Supporting an LGBTQ Rights Petition at the US Supreme Court?

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Muslim organizations, Muslim groups

Recently several Muslim groups sent an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court to support LGBTQ rights in employment.  These groups argued“sex” as used in the Civil Rights Act should be defined broadly to include more types of discrimination than Congress wrote into the statue.

A little background. Clayton County, Georgia fired Gerald Lynn Bostock. The County alleged Bostock embezzled money, so he was fired. Bostock argues the real reason is that he is gay. Clayton County denied they would fire someone for that reason. Clayton County successfully had the case dismissed saying that even if Bostock is right about everything, the law Bostock filed the lawsuit under does not vindicate his claim. The case is now at the Supreme Court with other similar cases.

The “Muslim” brief argued the word “sex” should mean lots of things, and under the law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), LGBTQ discrimination is already illegal.  American law has developed to provide some support for this argument, but there have been divisions in the appellate courts. So this is the exact sort of thing the US Supreme Court exists to decide.

The Involvement Of Muslim Groups

In Supreme Court litigation, parties on both sides marshal amicus briefs (written arguments) and coordinate their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their advocacy, there are over 40 such briefs in the Bostock case. Groups represent constituencies with no direct stake in the immediate dispute but care about the precedent the case would set.

The Muslim groups came in purportedly because they know what it’s like to be victims of discrimination (more on that below). The brief answered an objection to the consequences that could come with an expansive definition of the term “sex” to include gay, lesbian, and transgender persons (in lieu of its conventional use as synonymous with gender, i.e., male/female). In particular, the brief responded to the concern that “sex” being defined as any subjective experience may open up more litigation than was intended by making the argument that religion is a personal experience that courts have no trouble sorting out and that, like faith, courts can define “sex” the same way.

While this may be interesting to some, boring to others, it begs the question:  why are Muslim groups involved with this stuff? Muslims are a faith community. If we speak *as Muslims* is it not pertinent to consult with the traditions of the faith tradition known as Islam, like Quran, Hadith and the deep well of scholarly tradition?  Is our mere presence in a pluralistic society enough reason to ignore all this and focus on building allies in our mutual desire to create a world free of discrimination?

Spreading Ignorance

In July of 2017, the main party to the “Muslim” brief, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), was expelled from the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention bazaar.  I was on the Executive Council of the organization at the time but had no role in the decision. The reason: MPV was dedicated to promoting ignorance of Islam among Muslims at the event. The booth had literature claiming haram was good and virtuous. Propaganda distributed at the table either implied haram was not haram or alternately celebrated haram.

For any Muslim organization dedicated to Islam, it is not a difficult decision to expel an organization explicitly dedicated to spreading haram. No Muslim organization, composed of Muslims who fear Allah and dedicate their time to Islam can give space to organizations opposed the faith community’s values and advocates against them in their conferences and events.  Allah, in the Quran, tells us:

immorality

Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows, and you do not know.

It would be charitable to the point of fraud to characterize MPV as a Muslim organization. That MPV has dedicated itself to promoting ignorance of the religion within the Muslim community is not in serious dispute.  The organization’s leader has been all over the anti-Sharia movement.

Discrimination against Muslims is bad, except when it’s good 

The brief framed the various organizations’ participation by claiming as Muslims, we know what it is like to be on the receiving end of discrimination. This implies the parties that signed on to the Amicus petition believe discrimination against Muslims is a bad thing. For at least two of the organizations, this is not entirely true.

MPV is an ally of another co-signer of the Amicus petition, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).  Both have records that show an eagerness to discriminate against Muslims in the national security space. They both applied for CVE grants. Both have supported the claim that Muslims are a national security threat they are somehow equipped to deal with. I have written more extensively about MPAC in the past; mainly, it’s work in Countering Violent Extremism and questionable Zakat practices.

MPAC’s CVE  program, called “Safe Spaces,” singled out Muslims as terrorist threats. It purported to address this Muslim threat. In June of 2019, MPAC’s academic partner released an evaluation Safe Spaces and judged it as “not successful” citing the singling out of Muslims, as well as a lack of trust within the Muslim community because of a lack of transparency as reasons why the program was a failure. Despite its legacy of embarrassment and failure, MPAC continues to promote Safe Spaces on its website.

MPV was a vigorous defender of MPAC’s CVE program, Safe Spaces.  MPV’s leader has claimed the problem of “radicalism” is because of CAIR, ISNA, and ICNA’s “brand of Islam.”

Law Enforcement Approved Islam

In 2011, former LAPD head of Counter-Terrorism, Michael P. Downing testified during a congressional hearing on “Islamist Radicalization” Downing testified in favor of MPV, stating:

I would just offer that, on the other side of the coin, we should create opportunities for the pure, good part of this, to be in the religion, such as the NGOs. There is an NGO by the name of Ani Zonneveld who does the Muslims for Progressive Values. This is what they say, “Values are guided by 10 principles of Islam, rooted in Islam, including social equality, separation of religion and state, freedom of speech, women’s rights, gay rights, and critical analysis and interpretation.” She and her organization have been trying to get into the prison system to give this literature as written by Islamic academic scholars. So I think there can be more efforts on this front as well.

Downing was central to the LAPD’s “Muslim Mapping” program, defending the “undertaking as a way to help Muslim communities avoid the influence of those who would radicalize Islamic residents and advocate ‘violent, ideologically-based extremism.” MPAC was a supporter of the mapping program, which was later rejected by the city because it was an explicit ethnic profiling program mainstream Muslim and secular civil rights groups opposed.  MPAC later claimed it did not support the program, though somehow saw fit to give Downing an award. Downing, since retired, currently serves on MPAC’s Advisory Council.

Ani Zonnevold, the President and Founder of MPV, currently sits on the International Board of Directors for the Raif Badawi Foundation alongside Maajid Nawaz and Zuhdi Jasser.

MPV has also been open about both working for CVE and funding from a non-Muslim source, the Human Rights Campaign, and other groups with agendas to reform the religion of Islam. It’s hard not to see it as an astroturf organization.

Muslim Groups Were Taken for a Ride

Unfortunately, Muslim nonprofit organizations are often unsophisticated when it comes to signing documents other groups write. Some are not even capable of piecing together the fact that an astroturf organization opposed to Islam, the religious tradition, was recruiting them to sign something.

There are many Muslims sympathetic to the LGBTQ community while understanding the limits of halal and haram. Not everyone who signed the brief came to this with the same bad faith as an MPV, which is hostile to the religion of Islam itself. Muslims generally don’t organize out of hostility to Islam. This only appears to be happening because of astroturfing in the Muslim community. Unfortunately, it was way too easy to bamboozle well-meaning Muslim groups.

Muslims are a faith community. MPV told the groups Islam did not matter in their argument when the precise reason they were recruited to weigh in on the case was that they are Muslim. Sadly, it was a successful con. Issues like the definition of sex are not divorced from Islamic concerns. We have Islamic inheritance and rules for family relations where definitions of words are relevant. Indeed, our religious freedoms in ample part rest on our ability to define the meaning of words, like Muslim, fahisha, zakat, daughter, and Sharia. Separate, open-ended definitions with the force of law may have implications for religious freedom for Muslims and others because it goes to defining a word across different statutes, bey0nd the civil rights act. There would be fewer concerns if LGBT rights were simply added as a distinct category under the Civil Rights Act while respecting religious freedom under the constitution.

Do Your Homework

Muslim organizations should do an analysis of religious freedom implications for Muslims and people of other faiths before signing on to statements and briefs. A board member of MPV drafted the “Muslim” Brief, and his law firm recruited Muslim nonprofit organizations to sign on. CAIR Oklahoma, which signed up for this brief, made a mistake (hey, it happens). CAIR Oklahoma’s inclusion is notable. This chapter successfully challenged the anti-Sharia “Save our State” law that would have banned Muslims from drafting Islamic Wills. Ironically, CAIR Oklahoma’s unwitting advocacy at the Supreme Court could work against that critical result. For an anti-Sharia group like MPV, this is fine. It is not fine for a group like CAIR.

CAIR Oklahoma is beefing up their process for signing on to Amicus Briefs in the future. No other CAIR chapter signed on to the brief, which was prudent. CAIR chapters are mostly independent organizations seemingly free to do whatever they want. CAIR, as a national organization needs to make sure all its affiliates are sailing in the same direction. They have been unsuccessful with this in the past several years. CAIR should make sure their local chapters know about astroturf outfits and charlatans trying to get them to sign things. They should protect their “America’s largest Islamic Civil Liberties Group” brand.

Muslim Leaders Should Stand Strong 

American Muslims all have friends, business associates and coworkers, and family members who do things that violate Islamic norms all the time. We live in an inclusive society where we respect each other’s differences. Everyone is entitled to dignity and fair treatment. No national Muslim groups are calling for employment discrimination against anyone, nor should they.

However, part of being Muslim is understanding limits that Allah placed on us. That means we cannot promote haram or help anyone do something haram. Muslim groups do not need to support causes that may be detrimental to our interests.  Our spaces do not need to be areas where we have our religion mocked and derided. Other people have the freedom to do this in their own spaces in their own time.

Some Muslim leaders are afraid of being called names unless they recite certain words or invite particular speakers.  You will never please people who hate Islam unless you believe as they do.  Muslims only matter if Islam matters.

If you are a leader of Muslims, you must know the limits Allah has placed on you. Understand the trust people have placed in you. Don’t allow anyone to bully or con you into violating those limits.

Note: Special thanks to Mobeen Vaid.

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A New Eid Tradition: Secret Gift Exchange

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Eid Al Adha, Eid Gift Exchange

Gift exchanges–they’re common traditions for many gift-giving holidays in America. I’ve participated in gift exchanges in religious and secular contexts and I’ve loved being a member and even a host of them in the past! This past Eid al Adha and Eid al Fitr, I organized a secret gift exchange (we called it “Secret Bakra” from the Urdu “bakra” which means goat) with my siblings, cousins, and their respective spouses who live all over the US and it was one of the most memorable and fun things I have ever done for Eid in my life! The best part of a gift exchange like this is that I don’t have to feel the pressure of gifting 13 people gifts every Eid, but I feel as if I have!

Here’s a quick guide and some tips to help you and your family or friends organize an Eid gift exchange!

Gift Exchange Basics

A gift exchange requires: 

  • a group of 3 to 40 people
  • a budget range for the gift
  • deadlines for sending/receiving gifts
  • an organizational system to assign members who they will be giving gifts to

Optional parts of a gift exchange can be:

  •  some sort of exchange party (in-person or virtual)
  • gift recommendations/interests for each person to help nudge the gift-giver in the right direction)
  • an anonymous/secret exchange system with a reveal during the party/after everyone has gotten their gifts

Why a (Secret) Eid Gift Exchange? 

Following the Sunnah and Bringing People Together

The most important motivation anyone can have to organize or participate in a gift exchange is taken from a hadith of the Prophet (S) in which he says, “Mutual gift-giving increases the love between people.” This hadith can be taken as advice for a way to bring people closer together and with the intention of following the teachings of the Prophet (S). 

Celebrating Eid and Creating Meaningful Traditions

Another important motivation is to celebrate Eid, as the Prophet (S) has mentioned is a main annual holiday for Muslims, and to also make Eid special for you, your family, a group of friends coworkers, masjid volunteers, etc. Not only is it important for individuals and families to establish Eid traditions that everyone can look forward to (Eid shouldn’t just be fun for kids!), but it is particularly important in communities in which Muslims are a minority. I’ve always been a firm advocate for making fun, memorable Eids with exciting, wholesome Eid traditions and festivities. 

Manageable Way to Give Gifts within a Large Group of People

A gift exchange is a great way to give gifts in a large group of people without breaking the bank and without exhausting yourself trying to think of gifts for a bunch of people and then buying or making them. My cousins and I have gotten closer more recently due to an upswing in family weddings, and I really felt like giving all of them gifts last Eid.  But realistically, I didn’t have $200 to get all 9 people in this group a decent gift, or the time to make 9 gifts that were meaningful and special for each person, or the energy to come up with different gifts for all 9 individuals. A couple of years ago, my husband and I sent ice cream gift cards and personalized Eid cards to each one of our cousins (allocating $5 per cousin per family). It felt great to extend an “Eid ice cream on us” gesture, but for $45, it didn’t seem like we really got much of a bang for our buck. By doing a Secret Bakra Gift Exchange, we both spent under $30 total for our gifts, but it felt like more of a meaningful gift.  It also felt like each one of my siblings/cousins gave a gift to everyone in the group–and that’s the magic of gift exchanges! Although we didn’t give and receive 9 gifts on Eid, we all came together to celebrate our family ties and Eid in a special way and everyone felt like they scored on Eid. Lastly, if there’s a dedicated group of people that you always do a gift exchange with, such as extended family in my case, theoretically everyone will end up giving everyone else a gift when you consider probabilities if you do a gift exchange every Eid for enough years, right?  

Bridging the Gap: Togetherness Despite Age, Distance, Financial Means, etc.

One thing that was super magical for my cousins and I this past Eid was having the feeling that we celebrated Eid together. We’re always lamenting the fact that we seldom get together and rarely with all of us or talking about how if we were closer to each other then we’d do xyz awesome, fun things together all the time. This gift exchange wasn’t just about giving each other gifts–it was also about making time for a video call in which we all made it despite being strung across three different time zones and having work/school the next day to unwrap our gifts and wish each other a blessed and joyous Eid. It was also about creating a more tight-knit group and welcoming the newcomers to our extended family (we’ve had two weddings in one year and we’re all still getting to know the new spouses and vice versa). We’re all different in many ways–age, gender, religiosity, personality, etc.–and we may interact with each other (and even be fond of each other) at varying levels. Doing an anonymous gift exchange is a great way to force a person’s hand into making a greater effort to connect with another person in a wholesome, beautiful manner. Lastly, we considered our budget range to accommodate our financially-dependent younger cousins in high school, our unemployed bunch, our students, etc. No one felt burdened by the price tag for the gifts and everyone felt like they made a meaningful contribution no matter what their lifestyle or financial means allow. 

eid gift exchange

Tips on Making Your Secret Gift Exchange Easy, Fun, and…Did I Mention Easy?

With the business of worshipping in Ramadan and Dhul Hijjah on top of daily life struggles, who has the time to monkey around with extra nonsense like a gift exchange for Eid? Following these tips will help YOU pull off a great gift exchange with minimal time, effort, stress, and hiccups! (These tips will be particularly useful for people conducting a long-distance gift exchange.) 

  • Use a self-generating exchange system like “Elfster.” Have one person do it (it only takes 5 minutes to set it up) and send out the sign up link. You can even take turns every time you do a gift exchange. This way, nobody has to sit out the game because the website takes care of matching people in the group and can also let an administrator get in behind the scenes in case a problem arises (like someone doesn’t send their match a gift.) For the rest of the participants, signing up takes less than 5 minutes if you’re a first-time user and less than 2 minutes if you already have an account. The site draws names, notifies everyone of who they received, provides your match’s address, etc. It basically takes out all of the headache stuff that would discourage someone from wanting to organize one of these exchanges.  It can also allow for anonymous messaging, which can be handy for contacting your match to inquire about clothing sizes, color preferences, delivery options/issues, etc.
  • Set a budget range that’s friendly for the people of less financial means in mind. Think of the spread of your participating group members and make the exchange accessible to those who have the least means. Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful and you don’t want to set a $80 budget if someone in the group is struggling to make ends meet every month. My recommendation is to choose a budget range so that each person isn’t busting their brains to try to get a gift as close to $15.00 as possible, for example. Determine whether or not you’d like to include shipping costs inside this budget. If someone is making a gift, then estimate how much you’d buy whatever is made if you got it from the store (this is probably a bit harder than just buying something that has a price tag associated with it.) Give a $3-7 range around a price point everyone seems comfortable with. Our budget for the last exchange we did was $12-17. Most participants bought gifts at the $14-17 range (which I think is better.) Some good budget range recommendations I have are the following: $14-17, $15-18, $18-22, $20-24, $25-29. For a higher budget: $28-33, $38-42, $48-53. 
  • Set a strict deadline for receiving the gifts before Eid and keep in mind your gift exchange party date/time. Make sure everyone knows that they need to have the gift delivered on or by a certain a date. Don’t have a “send by” date, that doesn’t really make any sense, and don’t have a deadline that spreads across a couple of days because it’s too confusing. My personal recommendation for the deadline is to have the deadline at least one or two days before the earliest day anyone in your group might be celebrating Eid (#MoonWars). This way, everyone can take care of their gift before the Eid madness sets in which can make Eid more enjoyable because no one is stressed out about their gift being delivered on time, and it gives a little bit of a buffer if there are any complications with delivery or fulfilling an order/shipment. 
  • Virtual exchange party: set it before Eid prayer. Eid day is just too crazy because people have a lot of things going on. Now take into consideration the fact that people celebrate Eid on different days…exactly. If you set your virtual exchange party for the night before the earliest Eid’s prayer, you’re nearly guaranteed to be able to catch everyone because no one will have an Eid dinner invitation for that night. Additionally, it will feed into the excitement for Eid which will be on the next day or two. 
  • Alternative virtual exchange party. You can have everyone send a video recording of themselves opening their gift on whatever day the gift deadline is or whatever day you want to have your “party.” This way, everyone can participate despite schedule conflicts. If there are a handful of individuals who can’t make the actual party, you can also have them send videos beforehand instead of joining into the party on the video call. This might also be helpful if you’re doing an exchange party in-person if you can have the one or two people who can’t make it video-call in or send video recordings beforehand (if it’s before, then that person would need their gift before the party.)
  • Anonymous gift-sending and guessing who the gift-giver is. Make sure that the person giving the gift does not reveal their identity in any way, whether that’s putting gifts in a dark room before the party starts or making sure that their name is not on the package being sent at all. What we like to do is to have the person guess who they think gave them the gift after they’ve opened it. Our rule is that if the person guessed correctly, then the gift-giver should confirm it was indeed them that gave the gift. This is one of the most fun parts of the exchange party in my opinion.
  • Have a code word in your package to signify that it’s a gift from the Eid exchange.  Let’s face it–online shopping is convenient and becoming increasingly so. It’s more likely than not that you will order something from online during the gift exchange, so in order to prevent confusion, include a code word in the name of the person you’re sending the Eid gift to. We chose to write “Bakra” as the middle name, so it’d look like “Muhammad Bakra Ahmad” on whatever package was intended to be their gift for the Eid gift exchange.

I hope all of these tips were useful! If you end up doing this Eid gift exchange in your family, let us know what the best gifts were this time around! 

Here are the gifts that we had in our Eid al Fitr gift exchange this past June!

  • Juvia’s Masquerade Eyeshadow Palette
  • NASA Worm Logo Shirt + The Great Wave off Kanagawa Tapestry
  • Jade Roller for Face
  • Music Record
  • Nose Frida
  • Campfire Mug
  • DSLR Camera Remote
  • Llama String Art Kit
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** + Knife Sharpening Stone
  • Philadelphia Eagles Sun Hat
  • Golden State Warriors Mug

May Your Eid Be Blessed!

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